Friday, December 10, 2010

Slowing Down for a Change

Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying "While good things come to those who wait, it's only what's been left behind by those who hustle." While I admire and respect all that the 16th president of the United States stood for and accomplished, I feel that we often inappropriately apply such sayings to specific instances in our everyday lives.

Our society has become so focused on instant solutions and immediate response that we fail to see how Patience truly is a virtue, and how necessary it is to slow down at times. We constantly are trying to make things happen now. For example, I can buy instant microwave popcorn, instant oatmeal, instant rice, instant mashed potatoes, and the list goes on and on. We instant message, and have instant updates sent to our phones. Is there any reason we would expect change to also be manifested instantly? But the reality is change does not occur instantaneously. In fact, change is often so slow we never see it happening. The results are evident as seasons change, styles change, and popularity changes. But change has often taken place and we recognize it after the fact.

When dealing with change we often have a major obstacle in our way - impatience. Our inability to wait for things to develop and occur causes us to make hasty decisions and neglect to see the consequences that may arise from those decisions.Whether it be decisions that take place on the national level, for example, RTTP (Race To The Top), or whether we are just trying to change things within our class, district, or community. Why are we so focused on speed and racing to get someplace? I don't know about you, but every time I read about the tortoise and the hare the racing rabbit seems to lose. We attempt to teach the formula of "Slow and steady wins the race", but fail to live it out. The fallout of our speed and quickness also has damaging affects to our demeanor and attitude. We don't see the immediate results we believe we should, and become discouraged, disheartened,and want to give up. If we focus on the reality that not all things in life are instantaneous, change being one of those things, we will be much better off. So take some time to slow down. Stop and smell the roses. Remember that slow and steady does win the race. Keep working for the improvements and change that are necessary and that you want to see. But remember, you'll probably never see the change happen only the results after it does.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Strategies for Juggling Involvement and Life

by Leah MacVie

Today’s students have crammed schedules. They wake up early, shove food in their face, jump in the car, run from class to class, go to band practice followed by soccer practice, get their homework done while eating, and then off to bed. If you think that is stress inducing, imagine their parents, who work full time and juggle schedules for 3 kids.

As a parent, you have to choose your priorities. Here are a few strategies for balancing life and being involved in your child’s schools.

Support your Child

Coming up with a consistent schedule during the week will definitely help students to nail down a routine. Show an interest in not only what your child is attaining in school, but also what they are learning and interested in. When adults keep asking about the grades, students begin to believe that’s all that matters. There is more to school than grades. There are experiences, friendships, open minds, innovative ideas, and current events.

Meet the Teachers

For younger students, contact your child’s teacher a few weeks after the start of the school year to say you want to stop by and introduce yourself. For the older students, you may have this opportunity at an open house.

Stay up to Date

Some teachers will send out newsletters. While you don’t always have the time to comment face to face on these newsletters, you can e-mail questions and comments at any time of day. Also, check the school Web site, and contact the webmaster if you notice it is out of date. If you can, attend school board and PTA meetings, even if for a short amount of time.

Volunteering Time

If you are lucky enough to have a flexible employer that supports families, then it’s definitely a great idea to ask your child’s teacher when an extra pair of hands will be needed and to schedule it in advance. If you don’t have daytime hours to spare, then ask your child’s teacher how you can volunteer in other ways, like baking or assembling handouts.

Juggling involvement and life isn’t easy, but being consistent with these simple strategies will help you to maximize the time you have.

Leah MacVie blogs about educational choices at She loves contemplative comments from bloggers like Rob Griffith and appreciates helping faculty that think online learning is an interesting choice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Shades" of Influence

Have you ever wondered how much you influence others, particularly students? And I'm not just talking about the students you directly teach. I was caught off guard yesterday in that regard and it had to do with a pair of "Shades". Let me take a moment to explain.

I have the unique privilege and opportunity to not only teach in my district, but also to be a full-time bus driver as well. I have posted about that before and discussed the positive benefits that it provides (The Value of Pupil Transportation). Yesterday however was a day that touched me emotionally, and here's how the story unfolds.

The number one priority as a bus driver is student safety. As the sun begins to get lower and lower on the horizon during the Autumn months I always put on my sunglasses for the afternoon bus run making it easier to view the road and traffic conditions. For the past week there has been a Pre-k student that I transport home in the afternoon who has also been wearing sunglasses. I noticed him wearing them, but did not think anything unusual about it. While exiting the bus his sunglasses shifted and were about to fall off. I made a comment about not wanting to have them fall and break to which he smiled, re-adjusted them, and continued up his driveway to his waiting mother. She took his hand looked at me and said "You know why he has those glasses don't you?" I replied that I did not. Her response was "Because you do!" As she said this the young boy stood by her side looking at me and beaming from ear to ear. Three words that packed so much power I had to stop for a moment to process their significance, "Because you do!"

Never would I have guessed the reason the young boy was wearing the glasses. I spent the time during my commute home to reflect on those three words. I began to realize and recognize just how much influence we have on the lives of students. We shape their lives in so ways without ever thinking about it or realizing it.

I spent the evening reflecting upon the chances we have to both encourage and discourage the students we are around each day. I woke up motivated and inspired to take every opportunity, no matter how small, to make sure that each student I come in contact with will see the positive aspects of my life.

Little eyes are always watching, what do they see in you?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

PaperlessPosters EdTech Workshop

I had the wonderful opportunity and privilege to be part of the Lancaster EdTech Conference hosted by Lancaster Middle School. My role as a workshop presenter was to present GlogsterEDU to session attendees. The title of my workshop was PaperlessPosters, and I put together a Wiki to assist in the introduction, interaction, and inspiration of GlogsterEDU.

I first introduced GlogsterEDU and Glogs by showcasing a Glog I had prepared for this event. It was created to provide an example of the functions of Glogs, and to introduce those in attendance to the uses of Glogs as well. They were able to see the different way to use text, graphics, videos, images, and audio in the creation of a Glog.

Those in attendance were also given the opportunity to explore, on their own, the functions of GlogsterEDU. Hands-on assistance and instruction was available as teachers took the time to familiarize themselves with Glogster, and brainstorm ways that they would be able to incorporate Glogs into their instruction.

The participants were also shown various other resources dealing with GlogsterEDU and Glogs. Visiting the Paperless Posters Wiki participants were able to explore more on their own the various aspects of creating a Glog and using GlogsterEDU.

The Conference experience was exciting and enriching for me as presenter and educator. Being able to share my passion for learning and introduce others to methods and tools I use in classroom was truly rewarding. A big thank you to Heidi Chaves and Lancaster Central Schools for affording me this opportunity.

Glogs - 2 Ways

If you are unfamiliar with Glogs let me begin by describing what a Glog is. A Glog is a digital multi-media collage style poster created using GlogsterEDU. A Glog can include audio clips such as music and narration, video clips, digital images, web links, text, and graphics. Glogs can be created for any topic, and to display multiple forms of information. Here is how you can use Glogs in your classroom, 2 ways!

1-Content Presentations: The following Glog was created and presented in my US History classroom. The Glog was to be a simple Glog to introduce students to what a Glog is, and what a Glog can do. It was the lesson material for the day, and provided students with an interactive learning approach to content material surrounding the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist vs. Antifederalist debate over ratification. I was able to put multiple links, images, and information into a single Glog and present the material in a creative format that students enjoyed

This type of content instruction that a Glog provides allows a teacher to take lessons from ordinary to extraordinary with a little creative thought and planning. This is one of the ways that you can create excitement in your classroom by using GlogsterEDU

2-Creative Products: A second way to incorporate Glogs into your class is through student created projects. Below is an example of a student project. The project was to research and present the Economy of of a particular country. Students were to include multiple images, audio components, and links to additional information as they constructed a Glog to depict aspects a countries economy.

Utilizing Glogs in this manner enables the teacher to tap into student creativity and generate student interest. GlogsterEDU has numerous images, graphics,and text components that give students the opportunity to complete assignments while expressing themselves in a creative format. This gives them control over presentation functions and features, while maintaining class consistency through the use of a Glog as a product for learning.

Additional resources for exploring and utilizing
GlogsterEDU -

PaperlessPosters Wiki

ButlerTech Wiki

Sample Glogs to view -

Civil Rights

Food and Nutrition


Blogs about Glogs -

Using Glogster in the Classroom by Jonathan Wylie

GlogsterEDU for Teaching and Learning by Kelli Erwin

6 things you should know about GlogsterEDU by Danny Maas

Check out the GlogsterEDU website by clicking below.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Where to Turn?

When facing a difficult situation or adversity one must begin a process of determining what course of action will change the circumstances and remove the hardship. The question I often ask myself is "Where to turn?" . For help, advice, encouragement, or support, we all need some assistance when faced with challenges, particularly in the field of education.

So where can you go to quickly find the aid that will enable you to remain resilient in your efforts to improve and learn? In three simple letters, PLN. Here you can find the help, relief, and encouragement you might desperately need and it is right at your fingertips. Being linked and networked in a Learning Community across the world affords you an opportunity to be exposed to numerous ideas, concepts, and guidance.

More than just a network of friends and colleagues, a PLN can provide the following for you;

A Staff for support - When reinforcement can validate you ideas!

A Compass for direction - When guidance can align your outcomes and objectives!

A Flashlight for illuminating ideas - When your creativity seems nonexistent!

A First Aid Kit for wounds - When opposition attempts to wipe out enthusiasm!

A Map to help get you "There" - When another's experience can route you to success!

I wish I could mention and showcase ALL those who have assisted me in these ways, but time and space will not permit. I can say that my PLN has proved to be the most valuable resource for personal learning, assistance, and motivation, and Twitter is the most valuable tool. From participation in #edchat, to asking advice/opinions, to viewing displays of work, Twitter brings so many together for a common goal - Improvement!

So, to each and everyone of you who have contributed to my improvement and challenged me in my education, for your willingness to collaborate and for all the resources that you have shared, I say Thank You! You are the ones I turn to

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

30 Seconds....

In my attempt to focus attention on personal improvement I have been accessing a number of resources from the local library that deal with communication and efficient business techniques. I was fortunate to come across an older book (copyright 1986) by Milo Frank entitled "How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds - or less"

The title was intriguing. Immediately I began to think about numerous questions. How long does it take me to make my point? How much time SHOULD it take? 30 seconds, can it be done? Certainly seems feasible since advertising does it all the time, but can you take an advertising strategy and apply that principle to general communication.

I found this book and the approach used by Frank to be delightful. The basic ideas were simple and straightforward. The concept is to focus, specifically on 3 main ideas.

1) Your objective
2) Your audience
3) Your approach

The example that Frank used that made the biggest impact to me was the story of Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ.

Her Objective - Get Home

Her Audience - The Wizard

Her Approach - The Yellow Brick Road

After being introduced to this example in the text, I really understood the main principles Frank was trying to relate.

So while this post has taken longer than 30 seconds to read, and attention doesn't change for the written word, here is the main idea in 30 seconds or less...

There are numerous compelling reasons as to why 30 seconds has such importance and significance. The shortness of time and inability to remain focused are two of the most important. The 30 second message is a tool. It can quickly become a regular way of communication if you simply put forth the effort to think and prepare what you would like to be heard. Know the three basic principles, and allow them to become ingrained into your thinking and you will find yourself preparing 30 second messages all the time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Came To Mind

Today I was asked why it took me so long to publish a new blog post. As I responded I thought maybe this would be good time to share that answer with others, and let you see how that question has spurred me to new perspectives on learning. What initially came to mind was Time. I felt that my time was better spent and more valuable when I read more blogs and gain understanding, rather than generically addressing some issue that another has probably already addressed in a more thorough fashion.

I find inspiration in the visions and words of others. The eloquence, and analysis of the blog posts that I read often cause me to feel better served spending my time reading posts, rather than writing them. The ways in which others challenge my thinking is remarkable. I would like to take a moment to share three of the influences and how they shape my thinking.

First, I am Challenged to Change.
George Couros, a principal in Stony Plains Alberta, challenges me to discuss and contemplated learning. His blog, The Principal of Change, reflects creative ideas and commentary that bring about personal reflection about educational strategies and instruction.

Second, I am Inspired to Incorporate. David Truss is a principal of a PreK-9 Foreign Nationals School in Dalian, China. His blog, Pair-a-dimes for your thoughts, inspires me to look beyond the classroom. To initiating contact with parents and those around me in an attempt to promote outcome and achievement. His focus on student challenges and success are the driving force behind my planned outcomes.

Third, I am Compelled to Confront.

Susan Carter Morgan is a PLP Social Networking Strategist. Her blog, scmorgan learning in open spaces, compels me to view education through the 21st Century mindset. Confronting the reality that change is inevitable, and the more open and receptive we are to accept change will enable us to lead rather than follow. I must always create instead of react, and be excited rather than anxious when learning something new.

These were the thoughts that were going through my mind after being questioned. But alas, then a revelation struck...

Reflecting about my blog silence, I was afforded opportunity to pause and consider my motives. This question served as an avenue that provided me with a quality insight regarding networking and communication. I began to think about how I have been influenced by others, and was challenged in my thinking that maybe I influence others too. We all play a part in the collaboration of ideas. Sometimes as the taker, and sometimes as the giver, and sometimes we fill both roles simultaneously.

By thinking in this manner, I am faced with the choice to become less selfish in just my reading and learning, and more challenged in my sharing and distribution of thoughts and ideas. Ultimately it is the sharing that will further increase the knowledge rather than just data acquisition. So I challenge you as well as myself, make an opportunity to share something with someone. You may feel it is insignificant, but to them it may be extremely relevant and needed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Scholar Club

In an attempt to promote and reward academic excellence and achievement at the High School level I have created the Scholar Club for the social studies students in room #63 at Hinsdale Central School. This program has been created to motivate students to strive for quality in their work, to go beyond the everyday expectations, and to demonstrate the leadership capabilities of someone who cares.

Our format for inductions is as follows, each month the students who meet the required criteria for membership will be inducted into the Scholar Club. In order to become a member students must meet class avg percentage requirements, must have one of the top five grades on a project, must have completed one voluntary community service project, have not been issued a detention, and must have no unexcused absences. If these criteria are met the student will automatically become a Scholar Club member and receive the rewards associated with membership.

Here is what being a member of the Scholar Club provides. First, the student will be showcased in the newsletter with a descriptive narrative describing their academic achievement. Next, the student will be recognized on the website and their project will receive special display format. Students will also have the option of dropping a low grade from their homework or a quiz. Finally, they will be granted special privileges for visiting either their locker or the library, and using the restroom during class time.

I often feel that high achievers are overlooked in a small rural environment and felt that this initiative would benefit those who aspire to achieve more. Due to the fact that I am limited in my authority, I was attempting to provide rewards that would viewed as special privileges from the students.

I am curious to see how this progresses in the coming months, but have already heard a buzz around the hallways.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Learning - Part #2


I often use many of my fathers quotes while teaching, and thought of one of his sayings while putting together this post. Dad used to say "No man is an island". I feel that his sentiment and instructions can be taken alongside a speech given by the character Jack in the now completed LOST series which aired on ABC.

Downloads: Views: 108

The "Live Together Die Alone" comment that sets the premise for the series LOST is easily carried over to PLN and collaboration. How so? In that every person touches another through their life. People do not fully realize the impact that their life has on other individuals, nor the comments and suggestions they may make to others.

If we fully realized this concept could you imagine how much could be accomplished by everyone working together to achieve a common result? Take this thought a step further. Is this not what education is all about? If we as educators are attempting to achieve the same results with our students, then why do we battle over new or different ideas, concepts, and strategies?

I had the wonderful opportunity earlier this month to conduct a workshop in my district. It was the first time in a number of years that I have had a chance to lead and introduce material, concepts, and technology. Our overall theme for this workshop was T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More). The initial focus was on how even a small number of individuals can impact the learning environment through working together and collaboration for achievement.

This T.E.A.M. concept was an effort to explore and examine the needs of our students, Internet best practices, and individualized instruction methods utilizing technology. I was appreciative of the thoughts, comments, ideas, and input of the wonderful colleagues I am able to work with.

Furthermore, I was thankful many of you took the time to answer the 3 Simple Questions in our GoogleDoc. (Feel free to continue to add more as we will keep it open through September). This real world collaboration demonstrated so much more for the workshop participants through the real time collaboration than I could ever have attempted to explain.

I am learning how effective collaboration can be, particularly when the ideas are shared by the entire team. I am also learning to be patient as the PLN, PLC, & PLT ideas need to be developed to be effective. As stated so well on twitter by Andrew, a.k.a. @crudbasher.

Wisdom in a Tweet! Thanks for the simple but profound statement. It is so true, particularly as I look to focus on collaboration this upcoming school year as a way to increase student achievement. A big thank you to all who have helped me see the power of working together.

Learning - Part #1

Coaching -

I spent a number of years coaching at the varsity level and walked away from the sidelines of the game I love almost three years ago. I was realizing how fast time goes by and the importance of family over work. Little did I realize that I would be called to return to the sidelines and facing an entirely new challenge, youth soccer at the U6 level.

This time however, I would have the opportunity to being coaching a team my son plays on. This would not be the challenge to create a learning opportunity, the challenges would come from the five-year-old perspective of fun and the game.

My new goals would not be to win a Section VI title, but rather to instill a love for the game into the heart of each player. This was more challenging than I could have imagined. My competitive drive pushed me to focus too much on poor performance and was overshadowing the joy they were receiving from being on the field.

Their first GOAL was a groundbreaking event. It was followed by a chorus of cheers, "high fives", group hugs, and more joy than you could imagine.

The learning I received from this experience was immense. I had to learn to focus on small rewards that brought tremendous intrinsic value. I found out that accomplishments and achievement can come in many different ways. My sense of purpose had changed from just coaching in a way that promoted my perception of achievement to coaching in a way that brought brought personal levels of achievement and happiness to those who were participating in the sport.

Thank you RYS for the opportunity to learn new ways to love the game.


Monday, July 19, 2010

reNEWable sources

Burned Out or Dried Up?

What's the difference?

It took some personal discouragement and a campfire to initiate the following thoughts.
Watching a fire slowly go to ashes I couldn't help but question how many times the phrase "burned out" had been used in the educational field to describe an educator. Not that I know the answer specifically, but needless to say I am sure too many.

I have been questioning some of my own energy levels in recent weeks and began to focus on the energy release taking place while the wood was burning down. In the initial stage the fire was hot and beautiful, but that quickly dispersed with very little to remain at the end. Taking the personal perspective of the wood, I began to question myself. Was I consumed with little left to offer but ashes? I contemplated if there could be a better way to describe and identify my emotional state.

It came to me later while looking for a cleaning tool. I saw an old sponge. It lay crusty and hard on the bottom on the drawer, but quickly regained life once it was applied to water.

It struck me then. I could be the sponge. Not burned out with nothing left to offer, but dried up and in need of a NEW soaking.

We all on one occasion or another have felt dejected, discouraged, and probably down. But in what condition would you place yourself at this juncture? Burned Out? or Dried Up?

The key would appear to be finding a way to become exhilarated again and feel reNEWed.
To prevent further drying one must immerse themselves into a source of reNEWal.

For me it was to begin learning again...

Friday, June 25, 2010

FUNdamentals of learning

While wrapping things up for the 2009-2010 school year I came across the projects files from the “Money Scavenger Hunt” activity conducted by the spring Economics class. I recalled how activities that are FUN can also provide simple avenues for instruction, and allow for students to break from the norm and be themselves.

This activity coincided with our money and banking unit and was a simple one period activity where students could visit individuals of their own choosing within the school building. Students were put together into teams of three with each team receiving a digital camera. They were then given a checklist of the different currency denominations utilized in U.S. currency. After receiveing their instructions and materials they were then dispersed to inquire as to whether or not individuals they came into contact with had in their possession a specific currency piece. If so, the teams were to take a picture of two team members, the person they met, and the currency.

After they had acquired all the photos from the checklist they were to create a VoiceThread utilizing the pictures they had take. This was the instructional aspect of the task. I had modeled the creation of a VoiceThread earlier in the year with a project of my own, but this was the first time for many of these students to utilize this technology. What transpired was fantastic. Students, who were normally shy, reserved, and distant suddenly became outgoing, sociable, and engaging. There was a laughter and electricity surrounding the teams that had not been there at any other point during the year. We were able to view all the VoiceThreads the following day in class, and the mood from the previous day continued. What a refreshing simple activity.

I was challenged however with comments directed to the content acquisition of such an activity and here is where the FUN from FUNdamentals comes from. While this assignment may have done little to introduce new ECONOMICS content, I consider it a huge success in developing technological and group skills. Furthermore for the students involved it was FUN! Isn’t that what learning is all about? Enjoying the experiences of education and allowing for students to have a pleasant learning experience.

Please view the following two projects and share YOUR thoughts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Value of Pupil Transportation

As I delivered students to their homes for the final time this school year I reflected on the impact that bus driving has had on me. Teaching in a small rural school with a total enrollment hovering around 450 students, I have an opportunity to do much more than teach in a classroom. One of those opportunities is having a full time morning and afternoon bus run which travels 37 miles on a daily basis picking up and dropping off 63 students between Pre-k ages and Seniors. This has been a daily routine for me for the past five years. The more I thought about this bus driving occupation, the more Valuable I believe pupil transportation is to me as a teacher. Granted, I am speaking from the drivers seat,
and the view from here is much different than from behind a desk or at the front of the class, but I quickly came to two key conclusions focused around this job.

First, there is a tremendous Value in getting to know more than just the students you teach. I know this is not possible in larger districts, but listen to how impacting it can be in a small one. I have been privileged with my position to be able to develop a rapport with students years before they sit in my classroom. This has had a tremendous influence on classroom management. Students come into the classroom having a full knowledge of expectations. I also have an understanding of the personality and behavior of some students and do not have to worry about putting forth as much effort in getting to know them. Names are already known, interactions have already taken place, and relationships already developed which all provide for a better learning environment. This is a Valuable aspect of my job

Second, there is a great Value of getting to know the district in which your students live. In a rural district, or a district where teachers do not live in the community in which they teach, I feel there is a huge disconnect between teacher and pupil. When you see the challenges some of your students face everyday due to the home environment they are from, you can’t help but be emotionally moved to be a little more patient, a little more understanding, and a little more supportive in some situations. The Value here is immeasurable. You are better prepared to identify ways to connect to prior knowledge, you can recognize what vocabulary will be the most beneficial, and you can determine which strategies will probably be the most effective. All of these becoming Valuable resources to an educator.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vocabulary Difficulties

Social Studies vocabulary can create serious difficulties and challenges for students. The culture of the day causes even more problems with the increased use of IM’s, TXT language, and abbreviations. I find that many of my students generally are not familiar with the words that we study and they fail to have an understanding of word meanings that are essential to historical study.

One obstacle is word sounds. Students who may lack a precise annunciation ability will unknowingly cause other students to become confused because what was meant to be spoken is not what was heard.

Another obstacle is word difficulty. While this is not unique to the social studies content area it poses difficulty to a specific group of students, struggling readers. Theses students might lack ability to use phonetic strategies, or just may be unable to decode it.

So, how to overcome this hurdle? If research indicates that experience is what enables a learner to build a repertoire of topic related knowledge then I need to find ways of allowing students to do this. I believe this may be one objective for personal development over the summer.

I think we often feel that other teachers have taught something or introduced something that may not have been completely grasped or instructed. Therefore, I must determine to personally bring the experience to students in order to build the vocabulary crucial for student achievement.

Looking to incorporate some new technology strategies to overcome this obstacle. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Monday, June 21, 2010


As an educator, communication is vital to compel productive student achievement and success. One manner of communication readily available and implemented most often is that of grading. Grading affords teachers the opportunity to provide students with feedback, and feedback is the most vital robust learning strategy. Since proper effective communication is vital to any relationship, it is easy to conclude that this would also apply to relationships educators have with students, their parents, administration, and colleagues.

The question I ponder today is; Does the grading procedures and system that we incorporate into our teaching reflect real student achievement, or does it prepare them for standardized assessment?

I personally desire to provide my students with quality assessments that will exhibit student work in relation to state standards. The grades my students receive should both communicate achievement and intelligence, and prepare them for assessment. I find this increasingly more difficult as I move toward a more technological approach to instruction and the state exams remains traditional in its assessment format.

Generally speaking evidence that is collected for grading purposes will either be an original student created piece of work, such as a project, or will be student created work in response to teacher created assignments. In either case the grade received will be indicative of the correct manner in which the work was created and compiled, not necessarily a true measure of student learning. Through teacher created tests, the grade received is based on the correct number of responses or skills that each particular student was able to achieve, match, or meet. When dealing with an original student created work the grade received will be the result of how the piece created by the students matches to the corresponding criteria and mastery level of a rubric.

According to the New York State Standards, students are required to be able to use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of geography, the history of the United States, the world from multiple perspectives, and the development of economic systems. As educators we are to teach so they have the ability to demonstrate multiple intellectual skills regarding these standards. but are they a true measure of achievement?

A look at my students Regents grades causes me to question many things. Things which I will address in the near future...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Assessment and Identification of Knowledge

As commencement ceremonies approach I find myself looking to the New York State Standards as a way to evaluate and reflect on my past year of instruction. I find that this introspection allows me to document many suggestions and generate multiple ideas in preparation for the following year.

At this particular time I am examining New York State Social Studies standard five. This standard addresses civics, citizenship, and government. According to this standard the student is to be able to explain what citizenship means in a democratic society, how citizenship has changed over time, and explain the role of an informed citizen in today’s changing world.

In order to identify and determine if I have enable my students to achieve this standard I must first break down the components of the standard and how they relate to both education and instruction.

First we must contemplate what type of knowledge this standard is assessing. The ideas of this standard can be divided into two different levels. The first consisting of terms, details, and facts. The second consisting of principles, generalizations, and concepts.

This standard incorporates information and ideas from both of these levels of knowledge. A student attempting to achieve this standard must have prior knowledge and understanding of what a citizen is. This illustrates the first level of knowledge, identified as “terms”. Since the term citizen is prevalent throughout the entire standard it is imperative that students know and understand this term.

Another example of the knowledge within this standard is exemplified in the concept of democratic society. For a student to demonstrate citizenship within a democratic society, they must understand what a democratic society is. Without the knowledge of this concept, students would be incapable of demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the term.

So I ask myself if I have instructed in such a way as to ensure that the student learning experience assisted them in achieving this goal? Did I allow them to not only utilize their prior knowledge in my classroom but also impart to them the knowledge necessary for meeting the standard? There are multiple avenues to explore, understand, and employ when I instruct students regarding this standard. Here are two considerations I reflect on regarding the instruction surrounding this standard.

First, a student must possess the necessary vocabulary to meet the standard. Since this standard deals with terms and concepts, which are both different levels of understanding, it is essential that the student first be cognizant of the terms. Research has shown that a student must be introduced to word in context more than once in order to learn it. Since this is true, I must ask myself if I implemented on multiple occasions the word or term I desired my students to learn? This introduction could have been either verbal or through a reading activity, but the focus needed to be on introduction and implementation of the term.
This instructional methodology relates directly to the standard by ensuring a student can identify and understand the term citizen. Through a repetitious introduction students will have had a greater chance of applying that term to the concept aspect of the standard, which brings me to the second aspect of reflective consideration.

Students that achieved the standard being discussed must have grasped and have an understanding of the concept of a democratic society. This idea can be, and often is, interpreted in many different ways. The purpose here is to help students see the concept in light of the American idea of a democratic society. My instructional strategies will enable the students to not only develop a knowledge base, but also organize and prepare more readily to different situations. My role in instruction regarding this level of understanding is to provide the students with multiple opportunities to apply the concept to specific situations. A specific avenue that I implemented here was role-play and simulation. By offering the student an opportunity to put the concept into practice and use I was able to measure the understanding. This performance assessment greatly increased comprehension and understanding.

By taking these things into consideration and recognizing the level of understanding that was achieved, students were assisted in obtaining and utilizing the necessary knowledge to become successful in the academic world, Thus meeting the commencement expectations placed on them by New York State.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Student Model Of Learning

Understanding how students learn is an important task educators must comprehend and be aware of. Once an educator has identified and recognized a student’s ability to learn, they are more likely to use the resources at their disposal to increase a student’s awareness of a subject and enhance student achievement.

As educators, it is our responsibility to recognize and be aware of student learning. This can be accomplished through multiple strategies and methods being implemented. But, the implementation of those methods and strategies will only work once a student model of learning has been identified. This initial step takes into consideration the various learning styles and intelligences used by students to learn new material.

One of the most easily recognized models is Thinking, Recognizing, and Doing. This model identifies the initial step to student learning as the Thinking step. If a student does not first think about the material presented to them they will never learn it. Many teachers never comprehended what actually takes place during the thinking process, but always desire to get their students to think. It is imperative to understand that thinking is not enough, but work must be relevant to students.

Once a student is thinking about the subject matter, the next step in the process is Recognition. The use of recognition can be carried out in a number of different ways, such as; Looking for inaccuracies, finding a pattern, combining two or more concepts or ideas that share similarities. These are some examples just to name a few. Through Recognition a student is stimulating their thinking to a point where understanding can take place. This concept is often referred to as Retrieval when discussing the Cognitive System.

The third aspect of this model is Doing. By Doing a student is asked to perform or demonstrate their understanding and recognition. Doing could be a simple task such a labeling, or be a more complex task such as creating a graphic organizer or diagram. By Doing a student would demonstrate whether or not the learning process was a success. Development is facilitated by experience and procedural practice, and Doing allows this to occur.

This learning model is beneficial because it considers and honors student diversity through the use of the various forms of doing that can be implemented. The tasks that students are required to perform in the doing phase of learning can easily adapt to meet the needs of the multiple intelligence theories of learning.

Your thoughts?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Personal Teacher Assessment

An overwhelming majority of educators today have the desire to be effective in their classroom. They would, if asked, demonstrate willingness and longing to help students reach objectives and become academically proficient. It should be the desire of a teacher for all students to not only learn while in my classroom, but to become life-long learners as well. In order to accomplish this task teachers must be able recognize what effective teaching is and understand their role as an effective teacher and how it relates to student achievement.

An effective teacher has a greater impact on student learning than a school does. Educators must acknowledge two key tools in the teaching profession that can assist any teacher in becoming effective. Those two tools are time and energy. Furthermore there are four key areas that, when mastered, will enable any teacher to become effective. The four areas necessary to become effective are, Instructional Strategies, Classroom Management, Classroom Curriculum Design, and the Use of Assessment as a feedback tool.

By taking time to evaluate teachers in each of these four categories we should easily see how effective a particular teacher is, and identify where an educator is lacking in terms of professional development, growth, and effectiveness.

One tool to assist teachers in personal identification and growth is a simple self-assessment survey, like the one below. This is a generic listing of questions that challenges teachers to reflect and ponder their instruction, assessment, and curriculum implementation and perform the hardest evaluation of all, personal evaluation.

Please take the survey below and ponder the assessment implemented in your classroom.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

True Teacher Evaluation

Educators are often the first to be blamed for the downward spiral of student failure. Often the initial criticism that is offered by the public usually references how a teacher teaches. I submit that this is the symptomatic issue of a more destructive and underlying disease. The focus ought first to be on the reasons why they teach, then proceed to inspect the aspects of how they teach.
Consider why an educator enters the teaching profession. If you were to conduct a survey of teachers, I have found that an overwhelming majority will respond in one of three ways.

The first response is they become educators for the benefit of themselves. They enjoy the educator life. They feel entitled by the prestigious positions they hold. They are so enamored with their degree and have a sense of entitlement as to what that degree represents and stands for that they are disconnected from the student body and fail to see the team effort necessary for achievement.

The second response would focus on the fact that they teach for students. These people become so emotionally drawn into student conflict and difficulty that they neglect their duty and responsibility as an educator. They as constantly trying to solve problems, change individuals, and improve the self-worth of students. They are unaware that they do very little to help students see the actual problems the students create for themselves. The students are misled into thinking that failure is not their fault, but the system has failed them. This leads to student outcries and aggression towards all aspects of the district and can become a dangerous and unsafe problem for all.

The final response received would spotlight service, and those who feel teaching is a calling not a job. These are the people who are the risk takers, the cutting edge educators willing to make a difference in the lives of students by instructing them in both content and life. These people allow students to realize that they need to become self-monitoring, self-motivating, and self-modifying if they truly expect to succeed in all walks of life. Only be realizing that all aspects of life affect each other are students going to truly learn and achieve. These educators have a huge impact on the outlook and atmosphere of the school campus. This is the type of educating that is necessary through the school environment to promote student develop and student growth.

It can be very difficult for educators to meld practical strategies with a desire to learn. By anticipating challenges, recognizing problems, and being aware of practical solutions, a new teaching culture can overcome the obstacles that the present society has created.