Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Check out our 6th graders in the media!

Check out tthis link!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Patience is power!

The idea of "patience is power" is something my students grapple with daily, as they are impulsive middle schoolers. But how wonderfully relevant for us all! I hope you enjoy the below article as much as I did!

Monday, October 28, 2013

More intriguing titles to explore!

1. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom
By Carol Ann Tomlinson and Tonya R. Moon

2. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners
By Carol Ann Tomlinson

3. Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom
By Carol Ann Tomlinson and Marcia B. Imbeau

4. The Differentiated School: Making Revolutionary Changes in Teaching and Learning
By Carol Ann Tomlinson, Kay Brimijoin, and Lane Narvaez

5. Teaching With Tablets: How Do I Integrate Tablets with Effective Instruction?
By Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Alex Gonzalez

6. Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day
By Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

7. Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd edition
By Howard Pitler, Elizabeth R. Hubbell, and Matt Kuhn

8. Grading and Group Work: How Do I Assess Individual Learning When Students Work Together?
By Susan M. Brookhart

9. Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom: A Guide for Instructional Leaders
By Connie M. Moss and Susan M. Brookhart

10. How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom
By Susan M. Brookhart

Friday, October 25, 2013

New books to check out!

Just in time for the fall!

1. Succeeding with Inquiry in Science and Math Classrooms
By Jeff C. Marshall

2. Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom
By Mark Barnes

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

4. Engaging Teachers in Classroom Walkthroughs
By Donald S. Kachur, Judith A. Stout, and Claudia L. Edwards

5. Protocols for Professional Learning
By Lois Brown Easton

6. Building Teachers' Capacity for Success: A Collaborative Approach for Coaches and School Leaders
By Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral

7. Strengthening and Enriching Your Professional Learning Community: The Art of Learning Together
By Geoffrey Caine and Renate N. Caine

8. Teaching the Critical Vocabulary of the Common Core: 55 Words that Make or Break Student Understanding
By Marilee Sprenger

9. Vocabulary for the Common Core
By Robert J. Marzano and Julia A. Simms

10. Teaching Basic and Advanced Vocabulary: A Framework for Direct Instruction
By Robert J. Marzano

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We need to grade differently!

This is a fascinating article and well-worth the read!
October 2013 | Volume 55 | Number 10
How We Got Grading Wrong, and What to Do About It Pages 1-6-7

How We Got Grading Wrong, and What to Do About It

Laura Varlas
Rubrics hold a mirror up to your objectives for an assessment task. Matt Townsley remembers well the day he looked into this mirror and didn't like what he saw. "I realized my criteria were mostly about how neat the project looked. It hit me that students could do well without knowing a whole lot about the learning objective."
Townsley, who taught high school math for six years before becoming Solon Community School District's director of instruction and technology in Iowa, conveys a common folly in grading. "We tend to reward working, instead of learning," explains Cathy Vatterott, author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs (ASCD, 2009). "Do the pile of work and you'll get the grade. Don't do the work—and even if you demonstrate mastery of the skill or content—you won't get the grade."
Grades are meant to report student progress toward learning goals—giving students, their families, and teachers useful information on where to make adjustments to achieve these goals. But instead of a formative process that can be educative, Vatterott says we tend to look at grading as a "one shot, either you know it or don't" event. This fixed outlook invites punitive measures that distort an accurate picture of what students know and are able to do. Problems with grading can be so entrenched in the status quo that teachers like Townsley are often surprised to realize the ways they've perpetuated a broken system.
"Once you start rethinking grading, you have to rethink a lot of other things," Townsley acknowledges. For Townsley and others, a shift to standards-based grading (SBG) has clarified what's needed to keep rubrics true to intended learning objectives and make grades meaningful again: providing clear learning targets, eliminating punitive grading practices, grading less, and assessing better.

On Target

Standards-based grading involves measuring students' proficiency on well-defined course objectives, or learning targets tied to the standards. (Check out, an excellent resource for teacher-made videos explaining SBG implementation.)
For Myron Dueck, vice principal and teacher in School District 67 in Penticton, British Columbia, focusing assessment and reporting practices on these goalposts crystallized when he was exposed to the work of Rick Stiggins and Ken O'Connor. Stiggins frames assessment with three questions he says all students should be able to answer, in terms of their coursework:
  • Where are we going?
  • Where am I?
  • What do I need to do to close the gap?
Focusing on closing the gap between students and learning targets "changes the conversation," says Townsley, "from 'why am I failing this class' or 'what do I need to do to go from a B to an A' to 'I still don't understand how to find the area of a regular polygon; could you help me with that?'"
We will miss the mark on learning targets, however, if we don't eliminate a lot of nonacademic criteria from our assessment and reporting practices. "When grades reflect everything—participation, homework, attendance, extra credit, neatness—they mean nothing," says Vatterott.
"Kids get graded on following directions, as much as the content or skill they're learning," says Susan Brookhart, author of How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading (ASCD, 2013).
Penalties for late work, zeros, and points off for appearance can trade measures of learning for measures of compliance. Possibly worse is the message sent by grading homework. "There are all sorts of professions where you have opportunities to receive feedback without being penalized," says Townsley. "When we grade homework, we're rewarding students who learn the first time." Vatterott elaborates, "We grade kids while they're learning, and that penalizes kids for taking risks. It's demotivating and institutionalizes failure."

Grade Less

Traditionally, all homework, quizzes, and tests go into a grade book. Townsley admits it was an uneasy shift to see homework—and eventually, quizzes—as practice, not points toward a summative score. He thinks about it in terms of a sports team or a band—how well you practice never ends up in the paper. "If you have a bad week practicing, you don't show up Friday night with minus five on the scoreboard."
Teachers using SBG often keep a record of whether homework is completed and focus substantive feedback where students struggle. Homework carries no weight except in its worth for practicing for the assessment.
Once Dueck changed the motivation from compliance to getting better at something, he saw struggling learners doing homework and making cue cards for a test, when before, they wouldn't have even considered it. "Kids find intrinsic motivation," notes Dueck, "because they are able to take risks, self-assess, adjust, practice, and find what works best for them, to learn something." Vatterott adds that schools giving feedback for homework instead of points have seen a decrease in cheating because "there's no point to it—it's not going to help you pass the test."
"Not grading homework freed me up to focus on feedback, instead of factoring grades," says Townsley. He adapted his quizzes to be better vehicles for feedback by adding a Likert scale. Students would rate their level of knowledge of a standard before a quiz. Then, after students took the quiz, Townsley would add qualitative feedback and rate where he thought students were on the continuum of learning so that they would know before a project or test what they needed to work on. "There were fewer numbers going in the grade book, but I was getting the right information to the right students while there was still time for learning."
If quota requirements or just personal preference push you to enter homework or other formative assessments as grades, Vatterott recommends entering them as no-weight scores—evidence of what a student is doing—to be informative, not punitive.

Assessment Refined

After Dueck constructed unit plans with clear learning targets and eliminated punitive grading practices, the next logical step—admittedly a terrifying one—was to overhaul his tests so that they would be much more amenable to retesting. He organized tests by topics nested in the standard that was being assessed so that he knew exactly where students were struggling and could focus reassessments in those places.
Townsley also organized tests by standard or topic and gave back multiple scores tied to each section of the test, which allowed students to see their strengths and weaknesses. This provides powerful information to guide both student practice and instructional adjustments from the teacher.
"When you offer retests, you might be surprised who shows up," says Dueck, recalling his 11th grade class of struggling learners. "I saw incredible things from these kids, and it came from them, finally, having some power over their education." For Townsley, reassessment is about acknowledging that "it's more important what you learn than when you learn it."
Teachers wary of being trapped in an endless cycle of reassessing might want to start small, by allowing one retest, says Dueck, citing advice from standards-based grading advocate Thomas Guskey. Townsley adds that clearly communicated policies for reassessing make this practice successful. Because reassessing requires extra work from the teacher, students should have steps to earn reassessment—for example, redoing homework, attending tutoring, completing online learning modules, or creating their own lesson on the topic to be reassessed.

Getting It Right

Townsley, whose school is in a multiyear implementation where all teachers are using SBG, thinks of the old grading system as "assessments-based," while SBG puts students and learning at the center. Vatterott believes that standards-based grading is going to change the whole education paradigm. "In the past, time was fixed and achievement varied. Now we're saying, we want achievement to be fixed, but time [to demonstrate mastery] will vary."
Dueck sees an opportunity for social justice. "We can do an awful lot to alleviate the effects of poverty by what we do with grades. It's time to consider to what extent our grading rules and assessment practices work to alleviate stressors and support students, rather than measuring, measuring, measuring."
Be prepared to rethink everything once you open the door to grading reform, says Townsley. From the warm-up at the beginning of class to final grades, everything in Townsley's classroom became formative-minded, or about finding out "how well do my students know this? How might I change my instruction to improve that?" In the end, Townsley says, "It revolutionized my perspective on classroom instruction, assessment, and education in general." 

Online Tools

Several software platforms support standards-based grading—ActiveGradeSBGradeBook, andBlueHarvest, to name a few.
Currently, however, there's no easy data bridge between SBG programs and student information systems such as PowerSchool or InsideCampus. Some districts, like Van Meter S.D. in Iowa, have shifted weekly progress reporting to SBG reporting software but still issue final grades through traditional student information systems.
Other classroom technology, like MoodleQuiaQuizlet, and Google, can help teachers easily design skill-based reassessments that provide instant feedback to students.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Great connection between STEM and the Arts!

I found this interesting indeed!

Learning and Teaching
Sponsored By
Schools: The arts can increase student engagement in STEM
The focus on science, technology, engineering and math has expanded in some schools to include the arts as well -- an approach that educators say engages students who might otherwise have no interest in STEM. Educators at some schools with STEAM programs, including Alabama and Virginia, say hands-on art and music lessons appear to suit many students who might not otherwise be reached with traditional academic lessons. T.H.E. Journal magazine (exclusive preview for SmartBrief subscribers) (10/2013)
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How students can improve their writing with ungraded work
Writing in ungraded practice sessions can help students organize and solidify their ideas before working on the assignment that will be assessed, writer and former teacher Lily Jones suggests in this blog post. Jones offers three examples of using this writing-to-learn technique using videos from Educate Texas. "By teaching writing as a way to develop understanding, you can help students learn to see writing as neither product- nor process-driven, but thinking-driven," she writes. Teaching Channel/Tchers' Voice blog(10/16)
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Other News
§  N.J. students show off their talents on public Halloween art projects Asbury Park Press (Neptune-Asbury Park, N.J.) (10/16)
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A Cure for the Common Core.
Unlike most other programs, Imagine Learning version 12 has 500+ new activities built specifically for the Common Core. Our language and literacy software solution is empowering kids everywhere to read at grade level, succeed on high-stakes tests, and prepare for a successful life outside of the classroom. Watch video preview.

School Leadership
Sponsored By
Teachers learn reading instruction in Conn. co-teaching program
The Hartford School District in Connecticut turned one of its elementary schools into a model campus where recent college graduates spend at least a year learning literacy instruction through co-teaching with master educators, observing model lessons and receiving coaching advice. The program, which cost $400,000 and utilizes video cameras to watch instruction, is intended to increase the expertise of reading teachers across the district. PBS(10/15)
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The premier PLC event of the year
Register now to learn with experts like Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker, and Rebecca DuFour—the architects of PLC at Work™. Whether you're just beginning to build a PLC or need to regroup for your next steps, the 2014 PLC at Work™ Summit provides practical knowledge delivered by the experts who know the process best. Learn more!

Technology in the Classroom
Sponsored By
What will happen when MOOCs enter K-12 schools?
Massive open online courses are slowly making their way into K-12 classrooms, with Michigan Virtual University and Kent State University announcing the launch of a MOOC for high-school students. "Some people say MOOCs are the future of education, others say they will ruin it," said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Michigan Virtual University. "We've got to dip our toe in the water. If this is a complete crash and burn, we will still benefit because we'll be able to learn from this experience." Education Week/Digital Education blog (10/16)
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Other News
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Earn an Online MS in Instructional Technology
With classes in multimedia production, instructional design, emerging technologies and more, this program arms you with the theory and experience to bring technology into the classroom. The Instructional Technology Specialist Certification will prepare you to take on an important and growing role in the K-12 environment.

The Whole Child
Sponsored By
Social-emotional learning becomes the norm in NYC school
Students at Public School 24 in Brooklyn, N.Y., are building self-awareness and emotional vocabulary as part of the school's social-emotional curriculum. Educators hope the 4Rs program -- reading, writing, respect and resolution -- will help students feel safe and secure during the school day and give them tools to resolve some conflicts on their own. Education Week Teacher (premium article access compliments of (10/14)
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Fla. district makes push for student wellness
A Florida school district is doing more to bolster student wellness. One school has brought in new staff members to increase the school's focus on nutrition and wellness at school and home. Another school has introduced a wellness program that includes cooking and fitness. Tallahassee Democrat (Fla.) (tiered subscription model)(10/16)
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Understand the Critical Role of Oral Language in Reading for your Title I and ELL Students
Oral language is a predictor of future academic success. Learn how researchers suggest approaching oral language instruction, particularly in ELL and Title I populations where socioeconomic status and home experiences result in a growing academic gap. Read more.

Policy Watch
Sponsored By
NCLB's deadline for 100% proficiency approaches for 8 states
Forty-two states, the District of Columbia and some districts in California have been granted waivers from No Child Left Behind, but for eight states, this is the school year when they are required to meet the federal education law's requirement of 100% proficiency. California, Illinois, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming previously have missed the benchmark, which has been looming for 12 years, by between 17% and 74%.Politico (Washington, D.C.) (10/15)
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Are you a young volunteer? Do you know a young volunteer who's making a difference in his or her community?
We want to hear their story. Apply for The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards by November 5th. And help celebrate the spirit of young volunteers.

ED Pulse
Sponsored By
How important is it to receive CEUs (continuing education units) or college credit for the education professional development in which you participate?
Very important
Somewhat important
Not very important
Not at all important
What is your preferred frequency for receiving promotional or informational e-mails from one company or organization? 
Several e-mails a day


2 to 6 e-mails a week


2 to 3 e-mails a month

Monthly or less frequently

Do not want any e-mails

Get 23 practical strategies for teaching informational writing.Nonfiction Notebooks will help your students leverage mentor texts, try out different ideas and angles, write better first drafts, confidently explore topics across many genres, and become more independent writers.Preview the entire book!

Faculty Lounge
Pa. teachers motivate students to succeed using "Blurred Lines" parody
Three high-school math teachers in a Pennsylvania district developed a parody set to singer Robin Thicke's hit song "Blurred Lines" that encourages students to get good grades. Teachers said the idea for the parody came from a parody of Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" called "Gettin' Triggy Wit It." The teachers used GarageBand recording software and a MacBook laptop for the video, which includes the lyrics, "That's why you're gonna get those good grades/ I know you want it." Montgomery News (Fort Washington, Pa.) (10/16)
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The Buzz
When Writing with Technology Matters shows how to take advantage of students' affinity for technology to change and improve the writing process. Includes detailed descriptions of elementary and middle school literacy projects that teachers can follow step-by-step or use as a guide when planning their own technology-based projects. Preview the entire book!
Technology is the Ticket to Common Core Success: FREE Webinar! Join Lori Elliott, Ed.D. as she explores methods to help students use technology both strategically and capably in their learning. Technology is no longer an option, but a necessity in the Common Core world. Oct. 24, 4-5 PM EDT Space is limited. Register here

8 questions for emerging leader PJ Caposey
"All students deserve to learn and to have excellent educators, especially those typically underserved; my role in the world is to help see that gets accomplished," writes ASCD Emerging Leader PJ Caposey. In a recent Inservice post, Caposey talks about his role as an educator, his major influences, and how he intends to make a change in education. Read on.
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Teaching under the influence
"It's obvious that students and teachers are all under the influence ... of the internet/technology," writes ASCD EDge community member Jennifer Davis Bowman. In her recent EDge post, Bowman presents three ways teachers are under the influence of technology and explains the consequences of each. Her first point to teachers is that not all students have access to the internet. Read on.
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Who's Hiring?
Position Title
Company Name

International Schools Services (ISS)
Multiple Locations, International

The International Educator
Multiple Locations, International

Gwinnett County Public Schools
Suwanee, GA

97209, OR

Albuquerque, NM

Baltimore County Public Schools
Towson, MD

Oklahoma City or Tulsa, OK

Atlanta, GA

Denver, CO

University of Massachusetts Boston
Boston, MA

Alexandria, VA

American Institutes for Research
Chicago, IL

American Institutes for Research
Washington, DC

Alexandria, VA

Alexandria, VA

He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it."
-- Seneca,
Roman philosopher
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