Friday, July 8, 2016

10 things students want all teachers to know

1). Students want you to actually spend the time to get to know them...

Get to know your students by name as soon as possible. Learn something unique about them and find out what makes them tick. Students know when teachers don't know anything about them, so make getting to know your students a top priority.

2). Students want to have a voice in the learning process and want to share 'their' way of doing things...

Students want learning to be done 'with' them... not 'to' them. Schools are idea factories with a seemingly limitless amount of new and fresh ideas, so it's time we start tapping into that potential. Also, students bring unique perspectives and ways of thinking about life, so let them move up from passenger and let them drive the bus from time to time.

3). Students want to be treated with respect and dignity...

Students don't magically become motivated when they are embarrassed. They also don't appreciate it when you call them out to make a point and use them as an example. If you wouldn't like somebody doing it to you, then don't do it to your students.

4). Students want to be 'appropriately' challenged with meaningful and relevant learning experiences...

Students learn pretty quickly the differences between meaningful and productive work and mindless busy work. Students want you to push and challenge them with learning that provides them the skills to succeed. Additionally, students want and need the necessary supports as they struggle and navigate these more challenging learning experiences.

5). Students want educators to know that they too have bad and off days...

We all have bad days, and students are no different. Also, some students have quite a lot occurring in their lives outside of the education world. With that, education is at times understandably just not a top priority for them. Empathy and understanding go a long way in the classroom.

6). Students want their interests and passions to be infused into the learning that occurs in the classroom...

All students have interests and passions that go beyond the traditional school setting. It's these interests that students want you to integrate and combine with the learning that occurs in your classroom. When students are able to explore and further develop their interests while simultaneously meeting classroom learning objectives, great things are possible.

7). Students want educators to be truthful and honest...

When students feel you are being truthful and being honest, they can start to trust you. When students trust and respect you there are few things they won't do for you. This two-way street takes time to develop, but will yield significant dividends in the long-run.

8). Students want to be partners with you when it comes to the learning process...

Students don't want a 'teachers' vs. 'students' mentality in school. Students are looking to you for partnership and camaraderie in regard to learning and growth. It's this shift in traditional mindsets that really strengthens trust and collaboration between teachers and students.

9). Students want to know the work they are doing and the time they are committing to school will actually make a difference in the world...

Students spend a significant amount of time in school as they grow up, so it's only fair and appropriate that the time they spend and the work they do actually goes toward making the world a better place. The disconnect between doing something that makes a difference in the world and simply just doing something, makes all the difference.

10). At the end of the day, all students want to know their existence matters and that they are important...

Don't we all...?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

5 ways to gauge student engagement: #edchat

Student engagement... a topic that is commonplace in schools and school districts around the world. The goal being that we want to have highly engaging classrooms where our students are intimately and passionately engaged in whatever task they are working on.

Engaged classrooms are where learning occurs and one of the defining characteristics of a great teacher is the ability to have his/her students engaged in learning.

But...I find student engagement to be a tricky and slippery slope at times because how we define student engagement can vary from educator to educator.

For example, when looking at a student who is working and doing what they are supposed to be doing, can we automatically assume they are engaged? Are they cognitively engaged or are they merely compliant and obedient? What about the kid who is passionately doodling and completely ignoring whatever the rest of the students and class are doing? Do we assume the student is not cognitively engaged because the student isn't compliant and obedient?

My point is simple... student engagement and the gauging of student engagement really aren't as easy or straightforward as some would think.

Also worth noting... I believe most of our kids are truly engaged at most times during the day. The question is... are they engaged in what we are wanting them to be engaged in...

Having said all that, here are 5 ways I feel pretty confident about in terms of knowing if your students are truly cognitively engaged in the learning occurring in your class.


1). Your students are asking in-depth questions that are specific and relevant to the learning occurring in your class and the questions go beyond simple yes and no answers.

2). Your students are curious about the topic and are expressing an interest in exploring the topic further beyond even your original intent.

3). Your students are taking the initial and baseline information and are creating and designing something completely different and completely new.

4). Your students are able to explain the purpose and reasoning behind learning what they are currently learning and see how it relates to their lives and the bigger picture.

5). Your students can clearly explain and articulate where they are in terms of their learning progression... they know where they are doing well and they know where they are still struggling.


What other signs and indicators would you say constitute true student engagement?


10 questions every teacher should ask themselves: #edchat #ntchat

1). What percent of your students are going beyond just compliance and are actually cognitively engaged in deep self-driven and relevant learning?

2). How often are students in your class offered the opportunity to move around and get 'the blood' flowing with some type of physical activity?

3). How often are kids in your class able to work in teams and work collaboratively on some type of group learning activity?

4). When was the last time you read a professional book or article and you tried something new as a result of what you read in the book/article?

5). If you had to describe the perfect and ideal classroom, what would be your top three most important characteristics?

6). How confident are you that your students could tell someone who doesn't teach what you teach specifically where they are struggling and where they are succeeding in regard to their learning?

7). Let's assume audio was recorded for an entire week in your classroom. Of all the voices that are heard during that time, whose voice do you believe would be heard the most?

8). If you eliminated all the grades in your classroom, do you think students would still actively participate and continue learning?

9). If a group of teachers from another school district who taught a similar content/grade came and observed your classroom, what do you think they would say in their post-conversation?

10). If you were the principal for the week and you got to observe every classroom in your building, what would you want to see in all the classrooms?

BONUS: What's the ratio of consumption to creation in your classroom when it comes to the work students are doing?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Subjectivity in grading ... #sblchat


Take a moment to read this excerpt below from a Tom Guskey article:

If you're a student, are these results realistic to what you experience in your classes with your teachers?

If you're a teacher, would you agree with these two studies based on conversations you've had with your colleagues?

If you're an administrator, how could you ever truly support and defend your teachers in an environment like this?

If you're a parent, how confusing could these levels of subjectivity be in understanding what your son/daughter actually knows?

This level of grading subjectivity is plaguing classrooms all over the world...

Maybe this 100 year old study should be 'refreshed' and reintroduced.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

10 reasons why it's a great time to be in #education

As many of us are ending a hopefully successful school year, it's a great time to reflect on where we are as educators. Additionally, it's never too early to start looking toward next school year. Having said that, we have much to look forward to and much to be excited about. Here are 10 reasons why I believe it's a great time to be in education:

1) - Global competition is increasing and the pool for career opportunities is becoming more fierce. As the world seems to get smaller, students are being forced to compete with an even larger pool of applicants for colleges, for jobs, and for life in general. It's my belief that through this increase in competition, both schools and students will rise to the occasion to ensure all kids are prepared to be successful regardless of what path they choose in life.

2) - Everyone thinks they know what is best for education. Now, some would argue this is a bad thing, but the reality is, everyone and their mom (I love you mom) seem to think they are an expert in education. On the positive side, this has brought education to the forefront as one of the most important and pressing issues facing society. The fact that everyone has a past education experience means education will always remain a top priority.

3) - Technology is changing the way the world does business. Technology is enabling things to happen that were never before possible. This has huge implications for education as a whole. Education systems are no longer limited to what they can or can't do; they are limited to their creativity and their ability to think innovatively.


4) - Students are bringing more and more knowledge and experience into the educational setting than ever before. When in history have students been able to teach the teachers and be an instrumental part to the educational process as much as they are now? This shift has continued to push the mindset that educators are no longer simply dispensers of knowledge; but rather are facilitators and instigators of self-directed learning by students. In this environment, educators can learn just as much from their students as the students can learn from them.

5) - College education programs are getting better and better. Now, I'm not saying we can't continue to improve here, but I believe college education programs are doing a better job of preparing young teachers to be successful in an education career. This includes moving education programs away from just theory and approach to actual hands-on learning alongside mentor teachers. More college education programs are getting future teachers into classrooms earlier on and pairing them with more experienced mentors. Not perfect yet, but definitely getting better.

6) - More and more districts are collaborating with local businesses. This is a very exciting aspect of education now. Local businesses and the overall business industry have a vested interest in seeing kids who are prepared and are ready for the work force. The more partnerships that are formed between school districts and the business industry, the better prepared our kids will be upon entering the job market.

7) - We are learning that money is not the single determining factor for student success. It's easy to believe and often misleading when people say that money is the most important factor when determining overall student success. First off, we need to discuss what 'student success' means, but secondly, there are countless examples of schools and districts that are finding success who would not be characterized as 'wealthy' schools or districts. Of course, money does help, but don't assume if you don't have money you can't find success. Success may not be easy to find, but I assure you it comes in more forms than just the green type.

8) - Schools are once again becoming the center and hub of the community. Too often there is a disconnect between the schools and the communities in which they serve. This is slowly but surely changing. Our schools in our districts are becoming centralized hubs of not only student learning, but also learning for parents and people within the community. If schools aren't there to serve the community, then how could we ever say we are truly serving our students?

9) - Innovation and creativity are all around us. Keep your eyes and ears open because there are a lot of great things happening in education. As schools and districts continue to do a better job of telling their stories, the positives of education are becoming more and more prevalent. What once was a story dominated by all the negatives, is slowly shifting toward a story that emphasizes the positives and the opportunities around us.

10) - Every single day educators get to impact, influence, encourage, support, guide and help students become the best they can be. If this doesn't make you feel that it's a great time to be in education, then perhaps it's best you make room for someone who does...