Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Friday, December 16, 2011

What does it mean to be committed?

I'm so sorry for not posting since Monday.  Two weeks ago, we switched to a new cable/internet company so the guys in the house could get some new cable stations.  It was also to be more stable/faster internet.  Unfortunately, the service (including our home phone and even my mobile) has not been stable for 12 days now.  However, I'm hopeful today.  They have us up for 24 hours under test mode, and a district manager is here supervising all techs. Have you heard the traditional song, The 12 Days of Christmas?  Here's my version:

12 days of no service
11 one to two hour phone calls to tech support
10 minutes to visit, says one tech.  He never showed.
9 on site technician visits
8 on times my son hasn't been able to get on Facebook or YouTube
7 times 3 equals the number of times I've gone somewhere to get access
6 times we've explained the entire problem to someone here
5 times for outside, 5 for inside of techs blaming the other side
4 times 4 tweeting social media tech
3 times they responded with no result
2 days I said "tell them to take it out and give me back cable"
1 district manager who is committed to solving it no matter what!

One thing I've learned from this--all the excuses (even valid ones) don't matter.  All it takes to make a difference is someone committed to making it happen.  For us, we can have all kinds of reasons a student isn't learning.  Many of those are valid and true.  But a committed, persistent teacher/principal can make a difference, even if you don't see immediate results. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Goals...and Next Steps

On a visit to Reid Ross Classical School, I stepped into a seventh-grade classroom. A series of t-shirts caught my eye, and the students wanted to share their completed projects with me. A short conversation quickly turned into a modeling session with students wearing the shirts and showing off their dreams. Mrs. White explained that, as part of a celebration of Martin Luther King’s life, she discusses his dream for all people. Students are given project guidelines, and they have approximately a month to complete their shirts. On the front of the shirt they illustrate their dream using fabric paints, computer design graphics or any type of embroidery. On the back, students write the steps to achieving their goal, which is based on their own research. It was an excellent way for students to learn the next steps required to achieve their goals.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can Resources Help with Student Motivation?

My first year teaching at-risk students, I asked my principal if we could use USA Today for reading. My students didn’t like carrying a different textbook, because other students knew if you carried the green book that meant you were in the “dumb” class. At that time, USA Today was new, and it was the only newspaper to print in color. My kids were excited to read “real stuff.”

Lennie was one of my most reluctant readers. He did not see the value of reading until he turned 15 and needed to take the test to get his driver’s permit. He discovered he needed to be able to study the manual to pass the test, so he asked me to teach him how to read the driver’s manual. I agreed, and that evolved into some effective lessons with all students. I talk to many teachers who don’t want to use anything other than a textbook, but that limits you and your students. Online sources, videos, blogs, tweets, magazines, newspapers, and even graphic novels can supplement and enhance your instruction.

What resources tap into the intrinsic characteristics of value and success for your students?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Social Proof--Negative or Postive (Guest Post from Bryan Harris)

One of Eye on Education's other authors, Bryan Harris, is a great resource for classroom management and engagement.  Here's a sample: 

Social proof is the tendency of individuals to look to others' behavior to help determine their own behavior. When we see others doing something or taking a course of action, it has tremendous influence in our own decision-making process. We see examples of social proof around us every day. Most of us want to see the latest movie everyone is talking about and drive with the flow of traffic regardless of the posted speed limit.

As educators, we sometimes resort to the use of negative social proof in an attempt to guide and influence student behavior. We lecture classes about missing homework, coming to class late, uncooperative behavior, or apathetic attitudes. We do this in an attempt to clarify right from wrong and acceptable from unacceptable. However, the practice of highlighting the negative behavior of a few students can actually backfire.

For the rest of the blog (thanks to ASCD), click here!
Bryan Harris is director of professional development for the Casa Grande Elementary School District in Arizona. He is the author of Battling Boredom. More information can be found at http://www.bryan-harris.com.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ratcheting Up Reviews

Looking for some new ideas for reviewing content for your students?  My December newsletter is out and there are strategies and resources for teachers, and a special plan for principals.  Sign up using the button on the right--I'll be resending it throughout the week to new subscribers.  Also, if you haven't seen the earlier issues on motivation and engagement as well as Rigor and the Common Core State Standards, click "View Our Archives" to check them out.  Have a great day knowing that you are making a difference for someone today!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Partnering with Parents

I'm often asked for the best strategies for working with parents.  One of my foundational beliefs is that it must be a true partnership, not a one-way street.  There are three questions that should frame your actions as you form partnerships with the parents in your students’ lives:
**For simplicity, I’m going to use the word parents, but these strategies apply to any of the caring adults in the student’s life.

1.  What can you learn from them to support your student better? This might include information about how the child learns best or any special interests and needs.

2.  How can you help them? Daniel enjoyed working on the school newspaper, particularly drawing editorial cartoons. His math teacher was a friend of mine, and she shared that Daniel did not always complete his homework, which caused him to fall behind. The three of us agreed that if he didn’t do his math homework, she would let me know about it and he would leave my class to go catch up his homework in her class. This worked especially well because journalism was an elective course, but the main reason it worked was that he wanted to be in my class, so he finished his homework.

3.  How can they help you? Several of my struggling readers played on our junior varsity football team. The students and I talked with their coach about what they needed to do in my class to be successful. He then monitored their progress in class, and checked in with me regularly to offer additional support. It was a turning point for those boys.

What are strategies that have worked for you?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Relevance of Teamwork

When I was teaching, I wanted my students to work together in groups. I have always believed that we learn more together than we do alone. But my students weren’t convinced. I heard more complaints about group work than anything else I did. One day, I shared a newspaper story that reported the number one reason people are fired from their job is because they can’t get along with their coworkers. My students didn’t believe it. They were convinced that people were fired because they couldn’t do the work, so hearing that getting along with others was an important part of working was new information to them. After that, I met less resistance to group activities.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Series of Posts on Rigor

I've been guest blogging over at Eye on Education.  My posts come out two Tuesdays a month.  Here's the start of a year-long focus on rigor:

Rigor, Vigor, or Rigor Mortis
Rigor and the Common Core State Standards
High Expectations, Really?
High Expectations, Don't Leave Me Out!

Enjoy, follow their blog, and leave me feedback!