Friday, January 31, 2014

5 keys to success in education... (51)

Being asked before being judged is something we all want and expect in life... great educators will seek clarification before assuming one thing or another when it comes to the actions of others.

Accepting and acknowledging that failure and success go hand-in-hand... great educators know failure is not a long term solution, however they recognize that in the short term, failure is what makes success a long term possibility.

Finding that source of inspiration and motivation can happen when we least expect it... great educators don't just capitalize on unlikely sources of inspiration, they help to foster and create the conditions necessary for others to come across sources of inspiration and motivation.

A person helped off the ground is a person who does the same for someone else... great educators understand that 'life' happens, and when life happens it's not always pleasant, and sometimes the best cure is a dose of empathy and a helping hand.

Using the saw dulls the blade... great educators take pride and full ownership of their learning and their growth and maintain the same expectations for those around them as well.

What kind of 'DIRT' are you using in your classroom? 

What's best for students may not be what's most comfortable or most convenient for adults... via @unfoldthesoul - Ken Williams

Consider this question... if coming to your class or coming to your school was optional, would students still show up?

Friday, January 24, 2014

What strikes your fancy this week? ... (50)

1). Averaging your grades and the 'B' student:

2). Do you think students should be allowed to use their notes during an assessment? Read this blog post for a great perspective:

3). Need 5 simple questions that make it impossible for your students to remain at lower DOK levels? Try these out:

#1. What do you think?
This question interrupts us from telling too much. There is a place for direct instruction where we give students information yet we need to always strive to balance this with plenty of opportunities for students to make sense of and apply that new information using their schemata and understanding.

#2. Why do you think that?

After students share what they think, this follow-up question pushes them to provide reasoning for their thinking.

#3. How do you know this?

When this question is asked, students can make connections to their ideas and thoughts with things they've experienced, read, and have seen.

#4. Can you tell me more?

This question can inspire students to extend their thinking and share further evidence for their ideas.

#5. What questions do you still have?

This allows students to offer up questions they have about the information, ideas or the evidence.
via @edutopia:

4). We need to make sure this shift doesn't happen on our watch...

5). If you plan on hosting a super bowl party, you should do this:

Friday, January 17, 2014

6 myths in education that need a debunking! ... (49)

Myth 1 - Students will abuse and take advantage of a situation if we treat another student 'differently.' We all believe in differentiating, personalizing, and customizing the educational experience for our students as much as possible. Having said that, many believe that if you do something perceived to be 'easier' for one student or you 'cut them slack,' then other students will exploit and use this situation to their advantage. Here's the deal, what's fair isn't always equal, and what's equal isn't always fair, and a majority of students aren't going to take advantage of a situation just because you treated another student 'differently.'
Myth 2 - Students learn from 'zeros.' When a student receives a zero for not completing an assignment (this could be for numerous different reasons), the student deserves a zero because in turn they will learn from this zero and learn not to repeat this behavior. For the record, I'm still waiting to find the kid who gets a zero and says 'I have now seen the light and I will no longer commit myself to such atrocities and hence forth all of my future assignments will be turned in completed and on time with a little pretty bow on top...'

Myth 3 - Teachers need lots of 'summative' type assessments and excel spreadsheets to determine if a kid has actually mastered the content/skills. Teachers work with their kids on a daily basis and they know their kids really well, both academically and personally. For some kids, they see their teachers more than they do their own parents. It's unprofessional and degrading to educators to think they have to give their students a formalized 'test' just so they can prove what they already know. Save the time, save the aggravation, and focus on continuing to learn...

Myth 4 - If a student has an 'A' they've obviously mastered all the content/skills for that particular course. Far too often we get lost in what grades really mean, and unfortunately, we are finding more and more that a grade really isn't very aligned with actual content/skill mastery. Pressure from students, parents, and society, make it difficult to transition away from grades, but the closer and closer we look at grades the further and further away we get from actual definitive proof of learning.

Myth 5 - When we offer rewards and incentives to get kids to perform at higher levels we are going to get a sustainable and long-lasting positive difference in their effort and overall performance. We live in a society where saying 'what do I get' is far too commonplace. Kids and adults always want to know what's in it for them. This strategy and mindset of using extrinsic motivators and rewards to get better and higher performance is short-term at best. Perhaps you get a boost in performance for a couple weeks, but eventually that 'reward' is going to wear off and the current reward will no longer be enough to warrant that level of performance. True reward is born out of intrinsic motivation and a self-driven interest in doing whatever the task may be. Rewards and incentives are a dangerous game to play and I fear the game has been spinning out of control for a while now...

Myth 6 - To be a good and 'tough' teacher, you need to give out tons of homework and do lots of pop quizzes. Parents hate to see their kids at home without any homework because without any homework they assume the students aren't learning anything, thus the teacher must not be teaching anything. This couldn't be further from the truth. Aside from the negative effects of homework and the fact that many students are missing out on what really matters as a young kid growing up, homework is becoming a 'love of learning' killer.

Far too often homework is used to replace a lack of class time and kids are expected to teach themselves and learn on their own. Many kids then struggle and end up doing the work incorrectly anyway. If the kids can already do the work, then homework becomes a simple task of compliance. Lastly, pop quizzes should be avoided. If you trust the validity of your assessments, you shouldn't fear the kid knowing your expectations and knowing the exact time and place of the assessment. Pop quizzes shift the focus away from the content and skills, and put the focus on kids being stressed and pressured... neither of which are good for academic performance.

Friday, January 10, 2014

20 thoughts to kick off the 2nd semester... (48)

1). If you allow re-do's & retakes for full credit, extra credit becomes obsolete & irrelevant...

2). An 'F' at the top of the paper means the kid is off the hook; an 'NTY' on the top means 'not there yet.'

3). How did you learn to teach & be an educator? You probably had some re-do's & retakes... why can't we allow this for kids in school?

4). A D is a coward's F. The student failed, but you didn't have enough guts to tell him.

5). If you trust the validity of your test/assessment, you shouldn't have any problem with re-do's for full credit.

6). Kids can learn without grades... but they can't learn without descriptive feedback.

7). Next time a kid says the wrong answer, ask them to 'tell you more about it.' They will work through their error & not get defensive.

8). Knowing what you are learning is important; knowing where you are in relation to what you are learning is more important.

9). How quickly do you throw a life preserver when a student struggles? Don't let your impatience get in the way of allowing kids to struggle.

10). We need to focus on better ways of 'priming' students' brains before asking questions before any learning experience.

11). Teaching is not adversarial... it's not about 'getting' them before they 'get' you. It's us and we.

12). During your plan period, take a few moments to visit other classes where your students are; see them learn in a different setting.

13). When we refuse to accept an assignment late and give a zero instead, we undermine our content and say it has no value.

14). Your classroom walls are merely a suggestion, not a limitation on learning.

15). Whoever does the editing does the learning... stop giving students the answers and let them own the learning process.

16). Schools should not be a constant reminder of student deficits; we need to allow students to taste & experience success.

17). If a kid never does any of the work you assign but does wonderfully well on your assessments, then it's time to evaluate the work you assign AND your assessments.

18). Just because something is mathematically easy to calculate doesn't mean it's pedagogically correct.

19). Grades are communication... not compensation.

20). As educators we need to let students go beyond our level of comfort... just because we don't know, doesn't mean students can't.