Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
Photo courtesy of

Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Give Quality Feedback

We all know the importance of quality feedback for our students, especially for their writing. That said, how often do we truly give MEANINGFUL feedback that does not just praise students but shows them exactly what they did right and what they need to work on for next time?

The following article gives some quality tips on doing just that, which will only help our students grow more as learners and writers. Read on!

Quality Feedback

What Is It and How to Give It

Katie Rapp
Writing "Nice job!" on the top of a student's paper is encouraging, but is it helpful feedback? Experts offer advice about how to give useful and usable feedback.
"The most common pitfall is thinking that giving personal praise is the same as giving feedback," says Helen Timperley in the article "The Power of Feedback" in the Review of Educational Research.
Although praise is much appreciated and extremely valuable in its own right, it doesn't necessarily provide information that will move a student toward a specific learning target.
"Feedback is value-neutral help on worthy tasks. It describes what the learner did and did not do in relation to her goals," Grant Wiggins explains in the article "Assessment as Feedback," for the Johns Hopkins School of Education website. "It is actionable information, and it empowers the student to make intelligent adjustments when she applies it to her next attempt to perform."
On his blog, Big Ideas, Wiggins offers examples:
  • "'Good job!' is not feedback.
  • 'You used many interesting details to make your characters come alive in this story,' is feedback.
  • B– is not feedback.
  • 'Your thesis is an interesting one, but you have not provided sufficient evidence to support it' is [feedback]."
Susan M. Brookhart, author of How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students, says that feedback should appeal to both the mind (cognition) and the heart (motivation), because it gives students information they need that helps them understand where they are in their learning and what to do next.
"Once they feel they understand what to do and why, most students develop a feeling that they have control over their own learning," Brookhart says.

What Is the Goal?

Feedback must be tied clearly to a stated learning goal. Rick Stiggins, of the Assessment Training Institute, describes feedback as part of an assessment system that is completely open, with no surprises.
Teachers should present students with a list of achievement standards that they must master to be successful in the course of study. And students should understand that, at some point, they will be held accountable through a rigorous assessment, which will allow them to demonstrate their mastery of these standards. This summative assessment, which might culminate in test scores and grades, is completely separate from the formative process, which is assessment for learning, Stiggins says.
Assessment for learning includes feedback for learning, and feedback should focus on a learning target. For example, when students are developing writing proficiency, a learning goal may be to understand writing with the proper voice. Instruction begins with a student-friendly description of the learning target accompanied by examples of writing that uses the voice both well and poorly so that students understand the continuum of how their writing will progress.
Feedback tells students where they are on the continuum, Stiggins says. They understand how they are progressing toward the goal and where they need to improve so that they can continue to progress. In this way, students generate their own feedback and become partners with teachers in setting goals for what comes next in their own learning.
Stiggins says that this kind of high-quality, descriptive feedback turns the "keys to the kingdom" over to students and shows them that they are in control of their learning.

Make the Time

Giving quality feedback, frankly, can take a lot of time. Carolyn Hood, a master trainer at the Learning Headquarters in San Diego, Calif., recommends that teachers prioritize the feedback that they give students by selecting bite-size chunks and focusing on big-picture learning goals.
Another way for teachers to find time for quality feedback, Hook says, is to set a goal of talking to each student perhaps once a week, rather than daily. A two- to three-minute miniconference can provide a great deal of usable feedback.
For example, a student struggling with defining a clear story line might benefit from this kind of brief, focused feedback that confirms success and then involves the student in a conversation about how to improve. She offers an example:
I can see that you are learning how to develop your story and draw a clear line from the conflict to the resolution. As a reader, I became a little confused in the character's second attempt to solve the problem. The twist seems to create another plot line. Writers try to connect new information back to the central idea for the reader. Is there a way you can clarify this idea? If it doesn't tie in smoothly, you may want to modify it. So let's talk this through. How could you connect the part about the character finding the highly confidential space vessel?
Stiggins suggests allowing students to lead conferences with their teachers as a way of helping them take control of their learning and demonstrate how they are working toward meeting the learning target.

Quick Tips

  • Tie the feedback to a specific learning goal. Feedback should tell students where they are on the continuum, says Stiggins.
  • Provide information that students can use to improve their performance. What actions do you want students to take? What are the growth areas and places where additional skill-building should take place?
  • Deliver feedback on student work in a timely manner. Students need feedback while they are still working on the learning goal, not after they have moved on to something else.
  • Provide opportunities for students to participate in generating feedback rather than acting as passive receivers. Brookhart suggests asking students questions that allow them to think about what they need help with. For example, she says, "Rather than telling the student all the things you notice about his or her work, start by asking, 'What are you noticing about this?' or 'Why did you decide to do it this way?'"
  • Feedback doesn't always have to be tied to a grade. "When feedback is given along with a grade or evaluative comment, most students just hear judgment," Brookhart says. Look for ways to work feedback into the process before you hand out grades.
  • Help students self-regulate. Jane E. Pollock, author of Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning, recommends having students create goal-accounting templates so that they can track their daily effort toward meeting that goal and generate their own feedback.
  • When giving students feedback, take the time to think about what will help students actually improve. "To be effective in supporting learning, feedback needs to focus on something the student did well along with suggestions for how to do better next time. If a teacher cannot find something positive to say, then feedback is not what needs to come next. Additional teaching needs to come next," Stiggins says.

Additional Resources

  • Accountability for Learning: How Teachers and School Leaders Can Take Charge by Douglas B. Reeves
  • Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom: A Guide for Instructional Leaders by Susan M. Brookhart and Connie M. Moss
  • Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston
  • Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert J. Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock
  • Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, 2nd edition by Ceri B. Dean, BJ Stone, Elizabeth Hubbell, and Howard Pitler
  • Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning by Jane E. Pollock
  • Giving Effective Feedback to Your Students (ASCD, DVD series)
  • How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan M. Brookhart

Feed Up, Feedback, Feed Forward: Making Formative Assessment Come Alive
Watch Nancy Frey's webinar about using feedback to increase student achievement.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What IS the Purpose of Education?

Clearly, the role of schools in society continues to rapidly change. How do we best educate the next generation, who are daily consumers of technology and social media? How do we best prepare them for the complex demands of employment in modern-day society?

This article provides an insightful look back on the beginnings of education in this country and what we can best do moving forward. Enjoy!

What Is the Purpose of Education?

Willona M. Sloan
"What is the purpose of education? This question agitates scholars, teachers, statesmen, every group, in fact, of thoughtful men and women," Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in the 1930 article, "Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education," inPictorial Review.
If you were to ask even a relatively small group of teachers, administrators, students, parents, community members, business leaders, and policymakers to address the question of purpose, how difficult do you think it would be to reach a consensus?
You might have better luck asking, "What is the meaning of life?"
In the United States, historically, the purpose of education has evolved according to the needs of society. Education's primary purpose has ranged from instructing youth in religious doctrine, to preparing them to live in a democracy, to assimilating immigrants into mainstream society, to preparing workers for the industrialized 20th century workplace.
And now, as educators prepare young people for their futures in a world that is rapidly changing, what is the goal? To create adults who can compete in a global economy? To create lifelong learners? To create emotionally healthy adults who can engage in meaningful relationships?
"There are many different points of view on this topic," says Jonathan Cohen, cofounder and president of the National School Climate Center. "I think that my view, and most people's view, is that the purpose of education is to support children in developing the skills, the knowledge, and the dispositions that will allow them to be responsible, contributing members of their community—their democratically-informed community. Meaning, to be a good friend, to be a good mate, to be able to work, and to contribute to the well-being of the community."
Not only should children learn civic knowledge—how the electoral college works, the history of political parties, and so on—but they also need to master civic skills, which include respecting others, working collaboratively, acting in a way that is fair and just, and being an active participant in the life of the community, Cohen says.

A Disjoint Between Ideals and Actions

Are we on track to fulfill this vision? "We are not on track," says Cohen, who believes that the No Child Left Behind Act's narrow focus neglects social and emotional learning, although they are interrelated with intellectual learning. Cohen's National School Climate Center is an organization that helps schools integrate crucial social and emotional learning with academic instruction.
In his Harvard Educational Review article "Social, Emotional, Ethical, and Academic Education: Creating a Climate for Learning, Participation in Democracy, and Well-Being," Cohen looks at the disparity between where we are and where we say we want to go.
"There is a paradox in our preK–12 schools and within teacher education. Parents and teachers want schooling to support children's ability to become lifelong learners who are able to love, work, and act as responsible members of the community. Yet, we have not substantially integrated these values into our schools or into the training we give teachers," Cohen says.
Cohen hopes to see greater support for state departments of education to establish school climate measurement systems. He says states and districts also need guidelines, tools, and resources that would help them engage educators, students, parents or guardians, and community members in creating safer, more supportive, engaging, and challenging schools.
James Harvey, a senior fellow at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, holds a similar opinion about education's purpose. "K–12 education should prepare students for life—for college, for work, for living within a family and within a community, and for participating effectively in the democratic process," he says.
Although future employment is probably necessary for most young people, K–12 education is more than just job training. "Schools have always been about developing students for life and work—and life is much more than earning a living; it is also living a life," Harvey says.

To Each His Own Definition

Cohen and Harvey are but two voices in a much larger ongoing global debate.
To engage the global community in a debate around the question, "What's the purpose of education?" Doug Belshaw and Andy Stewart founded Purpos/ed, a nonpartisan, location-independent organization. Launched in 2011, Purpos/ed fosters dialogue through activities such as the 500-word campaign, which encouraged people to take a stab at defining the purpose of education and then leading conversations on their own individual blogs.
Earlier this year, Adam Burk facilitated a rousing discussion on (which is now closed to new comments) asking, "In your opinion, what should be the purpose of education?" When Burke closed the discussion, there were as many different opinions as there were respondents.
"There are 365 comments and 365 distinct articulations of what the purpose of education should be," Burk said. "The process to develop a consensus on this is beyond the scope and purpose of this conversation. However, I do hope that it is understood that this question and its answer are the shapers of education systems and, in turn, cultures."
Despite any dilemma that varying opinions and perspectives pose, healthy debate tends to inspire innovative ideas. However, as we face the challenge of educating young people for life in the 21st century, we also know that some things will remain constant.
Dr. Gene R. Carter, chief executive officer and director of ASCD, explains in the Good article "What's the Purpose of School in the 21st Century?" that good teaching never goes out of style.
"We know that there is one education reform movement that works, and unsurprisingly, it's the same formula that has worked since we had those old textbooks, chalkboards, and red apples in the classroom. Research, policy, practice, and common sense confirm that a whole child approach to education will develop and prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow," Carter says.
Harvey agrees that there's no need to scrap what has served us well in the past: "The most significant skill [young people] can develop in the 21st century is the same skill that served them well in prior centuries: a mind equipped to think, the most important work skill of them all."
There still may be hope for our future. 
Copyright © 2012 by ASCD

Monday, July 16, 2012

MORE new great books to check out!

The list continues!

11. The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out
By Mike Anderson -- A must-read for new teachers!!

12. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon
By Diane Ravitch

13. Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning
By Mike Schmoker

14. Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success
By Harvey Alvy and Pam Robbins

15. Minding the Achievement Gap One Classroom at a Time -- Great read!
By Jane E. Pollock, Sharon M. Ford, and Margaret M. Black

16. Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving from Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap
By A. Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera

17. How to Support Struggling Students
By Robyn R. Jackson and Claire Lambert

18. Classroom Management that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Every Teacher -- A must-have for new teachers!
By Robert J Marzano with Jana S. Marzano and Debra Pickering

19. Managing Diverse Classrooms: How to Build on Students' Cultural Strengths -- I need to read this!
By Carrie Rothstein-Fisch and Elise Trumbull

20. Managing Your Classroom with Heart: A Guide for Nurturing Adolescent Learners
By Katy Ridnouer

Sunday, July 15, 2012

New great books to check out!

Let the awesome summer reading continue with these titles!

1. Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
By Connie M. Moss and Susan M. Brookhart

2. The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core
By Harvey F. Silver, R. Thomas Dewing, and Matthew J. Perini

3. Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, 2nd Edition
By Howard Pitler, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, and Matt Kuhn

4. Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me, Then Who?, 3rd Edition -- A great find!
By Vicki Urquhart and Dana Frazee

5. Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction, Grades K-3
By Sharon Vaughn and Sylvia Linan-Thompson

6. Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction for English Language Learners, Grades K-4
By Sharon Vaughn and Sylvia Linan-Thompson

7. Taking Action on Adolescent Literacy: An Implementation Guide for School Leaders
By Judith L. Irvin, Julie Meltzer, and Melinda Dukes

8. Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day -- Highly recommend this!
By Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

9. Brain-Based Teaching in the Digital Age
By Marilee Sprenger

10. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World
Edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Friday, July 13, 2012

Books for effective leaders!

All current and future school leaders and administrators MUST read the following new books!

1. Effective Supervision: Supporting the Art and Science of Teaching
By Robert J. Marzano, Tony Frontier, and David Livingston

2. The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction -- I want to read this!
By Robert J. Marzano

3. A Handbook for the Art and Science of Teaching
By Robert J. Marzano and John L. Brown

4. Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, 2nd Edition
By Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, Howard Pitler, and BJ Stone

5. Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success -- On my reading list for sure!
By Bryan Goodwin

6. What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action
By Robert J. Marzano

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cool new jobs available!

These are definitely worth checking out if you are interested!

Achievement First charter management organization is looking for an individual for the role of:

Associate Director of ELA Achievement, Middle and High School
Team: Teaching and Learning
Location: New Haven, CT or Brooklyn, NY
The Associate Director of ELA Achievement is an integral part of the middle and high school ELA team that works with principals, academic deans, and teachers to craft and drive the vision behind an exemplary literacy program. We work closely with these cohorts to ensure that they develop the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to navigate a changing landscape with the introduction of the Common Core State Standards through professional and curricular development, core skill building, classroom observations and data analysis. Reporting to the director of ELA achievement, 5-12, this position offers the opportunity to be at the forefront of this instructional work.
 Responsibilities of the Associate Director of ELA Achievement Include but Are Not Limited to:
Program Vision and Implementation
Managing Core Literacy Program Systems
Professional Development
Curriculum Development  
Classroom Observations and Coaching  
Candidate Profile:
We are looking for someone with experience as an effective teacher, department chair or dean; this person should also have deep content knowledge and pedagogical expertise in literacy.  Our hope is that this person also has strong communication and writing skills.  This job is a neat balance of curriculum, professional development and school support; the opportunity to work with deans and teachers to build a cohesive literacy program is really powerful. 
Cover Letters and Resumes can be send directly to:

Lauren Bassi
At Teach For America, we all know being an executive director anywhere is a very big, hard – but incredibly rewarding – job. Being the ED of a region growing to take in at least 500 incoming teachers next year, needing to raise nearly $30 million in the next three years and managing a phenomenal team of soon to be more than 50 people – in the midst of a pivotal transition at the mayoral/chancellor levels - is a really great opportunity although incredibly big and complex. We need the right person to do this and to get there, we need to build a very strong and diverse pool of candidates to consider.  To do that, we need MVPs (you or someone you know):

  • Mature: commands a level of respect and confidence among highly sophisticated – and experienced – internal and external constituents including staff, district/CMO stakeholders and donors.
  • Visionary: must be able to inspire and motivate others to bold action and outcomes.
  • Passionate: must hunger to learn and continuously improve.
  • Urgent: must want to pull off something big, quickly, including rebuilding a board and raising almost $30 million.

Position Summary
We are seeking an executive director to maximize Teach For America's impact in the region, both in the short term as we work to achieve our ambitious growth goals, and in the longer term to drive the vision and plan to end educational inequity in New York City.  The work of the executive director is grounded in the ability to invest and engage local stakeholders as vital partners in this work and to effectively hire, manage and develop a team of high performing individuals to accomplish measurable results against ambitious outcomes.

Teach For America's 46 executive directors are a part of the national senior leadership team at Teach For America and operate at the forefront of ending educational inequity in this country; impacting the life trajectories of thousands of children.  The New York executive director is supported by a local advisory board, reports to a senior vice president of regional operations, and manages a team of nearly 50 staff members.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Set overarching regional vision and direction and work to establish Teach For America as an integral partner in the New York education reform community
  • Be the face and voice for Teach For America in New York
  • Chart our course in the region, to maximize our impact in the short and long run, and to take our region from good to great by maximizing the power of our alumni, increasing corps member performance on student achievement, and building sustaining partnerships with others in the fight for education equity 
  • Build staff capacity and infrastructure and manage relationships with key stakeholders to grow from an $14.5 million entity to a $27 million one by 2015
  • Build political capital to ensure Teach For America becomes part of the social and educational fabric of the region
  • Work effectively with local media outlets and national communications team to elevate our presence in the New York region 

Engage and cultivate stakeholders
  • Grow and maintain a sustainable, diversified state-wide funding base that will include gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations; district and  public funding
  • Cultivate and ensure the ongoing engagement and support of a portfolio of influential individual, corporate, and foundation donors
  • Develop and evolve a strategy for maintaining and growing our public support, from district, local, and state sources 
  • Values and builds relationships with community leaders and members to ensure our work is informed by the local perspective
  • Cultivate strong relationships with current partner school districts to place corps members and alumni leaders  with an eye toward maximizing scale and sustainability
  • Help build relationships with new districts and geographic areas in line with the regional 2015 growth plan
  • Continue to engage and enlist board members that will help us maximize our impact in the region. This includes seeking a diverse group of board members who have the influence and networks necessary to support the effort to reach our goals, ensuring we maximize each board member’s potential contributions, and that the group as a whole is strong
  • Support teacher leadership development by coaching team to create a larger force of transformational teachers impacting thousands of students throughout New York on their path to and through college
  • Establish relationships and communications with corps members, alumni and staff members across teams to build a strong culture and inform our plans

Build and manage a team
  • Build a strong team and ensure staff members are maximizing their individual potential as organizational and regional team, with explicit professional development priorities
  • Steward a strong culture based on our core values and reflective of our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness
  • Cultivate and seek the talent we need for staff positions in the New York region and throughout Teach For America

Manage region towards ambitious goals
  • Set annual goals that are in line with our strategic plan and balance the need to be ambitious and yet feasible
  • Ensure strong strategic planning and execution of the Teach For America program continuum of matriculation, placement, orientation, and ongoing professional development for all corps members to meet goals
  • Ensure strong strategic planning and execution of
    • a strategy to accelerate the engagement and leadership of our alumni as a force for change
    • development operations to ensure continued growth, diversification, and sustainability
    • efficient office operations as staff grows

Candidate Profile and Experience Prerequisites
Skills and Mindsets
  • Demonstrates a deep commitment to and belief in Teach For America’s mission and theory of change
  • Consistently operates with the organization’s core values in mind (transformational change, leadership, team, diversity, respect & humility) and guides the regional team as an organizational leader
  • Desire and orientation to navigate complex situations; desire to understand people dynamics, and networks
  • Possesses enthusiasm for and a commitment to our classroom work and impact, as well as a deep passion for the New York community
  • Demonstrates excellent judgment, and operates with a high level of personal responsibility, optimism, and entrepreneurialism
  • Gets results by managing through others and across multiple layers of an organization
  • Enjoys and is skilled at coaching others and playing a role in their long-term professional development

  • School, district and/or CMO-based experience strongly preferred
  • Proven ability to set an inspiring vision and motivate others to reach ambitious goals in support of that vision
  • Management experience highly preferred
  • Bachelor’s degree required

Benefits and Salary
Salary for this position is competitive and depends on prior experience.  In addition, a comprehensive benefits package is included.

Director, Talent Recruitment
315 W 36th St| New York, NY 10018
One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Curious about creating a solid PLN?

I am too! I am beginning  a new position in a magnet middle school for technology and digital design, so I am eager to learn all I can about the latest tech tools, gadgets, apps, and resources available. PLN stanmds for personal learning network, which more and more teachers and students are using and taking full advantage of.

Here are some excellent resources to help get you started:

1. This article explains/defines PLN and terminology:

2. Super article on how a hs teacher uses PLNs:

3. This link has a whole bunch of brief introductory clips on different types of web tools available free online to supplement learning:

Monday, July 9, 2012

An enjoyable clip for you!

A 5 year old and a 3 year old explain a 'hairdressing debacle.' :)

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Power of Baboons...

Don't doubt the power of the baboon! Perhaps they can be our literary partners one day? J/K!

Baboons can recognize written words, study finds

The monkeys don't assign meaning to them, but learn what letter combinations are common to real words, the study authors say.

April 12, 2012|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
  • A baboon from the study performs a word recognition task.
A baboon from the study performs a word recognition task. (Joel Fagot )
Baboons don't read, don't speak and perhaps can't understand language at all. But scientists have found that they can learn to recognize writing on a computer screen, identifying correctly most of the time which combinations of letters are words ("done," "vast") and which are not ("telk," "virt").
The discovery may help explain how reading evolved in humans, researchers said, bolstering a theory that the skill first arose from animals' ability to distinguish objects, rather than from the uniquely human demands of verbal communication.