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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

More great books on classroom management and teacher evaluation... not miss out on!

1. Classroom Management that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Every Teacher
By Robert J. Marzano with Jana S. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering

2. Discipline with Dignity, 3rd Edition: New Challenges, New Solutions
By Richard L. Curwin, Allen N. Mendler, and Brian D. Mendler

3. Managing Diverse Classrooms: How to Build on Students' Cultural Strengths
By Carrie Rothstein-Fisch and Elise Trumbull

4. Teacher Evaluation that Makes a Difference: A New Model for Teacher Growth and Student Achievement
By Robert J. Marzano and Michael D. Toth

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

6. Teacher Evaluation to Enhance Professional Practice
By Charlotte Danielson and Thomas L. McGreal

7. Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners, 2nd edition
By Jane D. Hill and Kirsten B. Miller

8. Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners Facilitator's Guide
By Jane D. Hill and Cynthia L. Bjork

9. Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners Participant's Workbook
By Jane D. Hill and Cynthia L. Bjork

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New ASCD Books to check out!

Need some new March titles? Check these out!

1. Memory at Work in the Classroom: Strategies to Help Underachieving Students
By Francis Bailey abnd Ken Pransky

2. Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking
By Erik Palmer

3. Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding
By Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

4. Engaging Minds in the Classroom: The Surprising Power of Joy
By Mary Jo Fresch; edited by Michael F. Opitz and Michael P. Ford

5. Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy
By Eric Brunsell and Michelle A. Fleming; edited by Michael F. Opitz and Michael P. Ford

6. Engaging Mings in Social Studies Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy
By James A. Erekson; edited by Michael F. Opitz and Michael P. Ford

7. How Teachers Can Turn Data into Action
By Daniel R. Venables

8. Using Data to Focus Instructional Improvement
By Cheryl James-Ward, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp

9. How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading
By Susan M. Brookhart

10. Affirmative Classroom Management: How Do I Develop Effective Rules and Consequences in My School?
By Richard L. Curwin

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Moon ruminations....

I don’t know if anyone has shared this before, but I saw it for the first time this weekend, and thought of my moon ruminations in a grad class at Harvard.
It is an animated short from Pixar, nominated for an Oscar in 2011, kind of charming.

PARCC Assessment March Updates

Great information to know moving forward!

March PARCC Assessment Update

We have some useful information about the PARCC assessment below. We also have two pieces of exciting news: 

  1. We released pricing for our PARCC solution (math, grades 3-8).
  2. We're offering FREE PARCC Pilots.

The PARCC Field Test: What Do Educators Need to Know?

Whether you are directly administering the PARCC field test in the next few weeks or will begin administering the Common Core-aligned assessments next year, this spring's trial run represents a very important step for many educators across the country. 

Get a breakdown of what you need to know about PARCC Field Testing in our featured blog post!

Featured eBook: "Preparing for PARCC: 10 Key Online Testing Terms"

This eBook details ten must-know online testing terms that your students will encounter on the PARCC Math Assessments, including:

  • vibrant images of online assessment types
  • explanations of what to expect from the new tests
  • online assessment tips and best practices for educators and students

Click here to download your free copy!

Featured Webinar: "Preparing for PARCC - Addressing Online Testing Challenges with your Students" (Presented by Wowzers)

Date: Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Time: 4:00pm CST (5:00pm EST)

Topic: This 30-minute webinar will cover important PARCC-related topics, including:

  • New online question types
  • New vocabulary and terms
  • Testing duration and preparation

Monday, March 24, 2014

What Do Jay Z And Shakespeare Have In Common? Swagger!!

Saw this article today and thought it may be interesting for introducing Shakespeare in the 4th quarter…or for introducing the 8th wonder of the world! :)

What Do Jay Z And Shakespeare Have In Common? Swagger

by Lakshmi Gandhi

NPR - March 17, 2014

"No one on the corner has swagga like us," sang rapper M.I.A. in her global hit "Paper Planes." The song was later sampled by T.I. and Jay Z in their hit song "Swagga Like Us." A few years before that, it was Jay-Z who declared "I guess I got my swagger back" on his 2001 album The Blueprint....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Need more hope?

Here's another awesome student clip!

"This is what my teachers said" by student Blessed Sheriff

Friday, March 21, 2014

What about the students whodon't come to school?

Knowing how to handle chronic absenteeism is an ongoing challenging for K-12 schools across the country. How can we help ensure kids get to school regularly? How can we maximize the time we do have with students inside the classroom when they are here? At a high poverty (with over a 70% FARMS rate) middle school with one of the highest mobility rates in the country, regular student attendance is a regular concern, especially for our ineligible and failing students.

This article cites some tips and best practices to use to help get students to school and be engaged on a regular basis. Read on!

Full article link available at:'t-Show%C2%A2.aspx

What If They Don't Show?

By Glenn Cook
Each year, as many as 7.5 million students miss at least one month of school. Yet districts struggle to identify chronically absent students, who are often missing from the data.
In most education circles, a 93–95 average is considered excellent. But in Joe Vaverchak's world, that figure has come to represent a path to failure for a significant number of students.

"Like every district, we looked at average daily attendance," says Vaverchak, attendance director for the Consolidated School District of New Britain, Conn. "Over the years, we've been at 90, 92, 93 percent, and we have some schools at 95 to 97 percent. You think that's great, until you start looking at data."
Two years ago, Vaverchak did just that, examining attendance data from the district's 10 elementary schools and breaking the numbers down by individual students. What he saw was shocking: 30 percent of kindergarteners were "chronically absent," which meant they missed at least 10 percent of the school year. Among 1st graders, 24 percent were absent for at least 18 of the 180 days on New Britain's calendar.

Chronic absenteeism has long been a predictor of dropouts. According to Attendance Works, a national advocacy group based in San Francisco, by 9th grade, being absent 20 percent of the school year is a more accurate dropout predictor than test scores.

This is especially alarming considering the statistics. The Importance of Being in School, a 2012 study by Johns Hopkins University, reports that as many as 7.5 million of the nation's 55 million students miss a month or more of school each year.

Although absenteeism at the secondary level is linked to a high dropout rate, the problem cuts across all grades. A growing body of research points to the need for early intervention. In the same Johns Hopkins study, researchers Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes found that students who miss an average of two days a month in kindergarten and 1st grade are more likely to struggle with reading and other academic subjects. Preschool Attendance in Chicago Public Schools, a study released by the University of Chicago, showed that students who miss 10 percent of preschool face academic, social, and emotional delays and are five times more likely to be chronically absent in 2nd grade.

"Part of the challenge, particularly for low-income kids, is that we're waiting too long to look at this," says Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works. "By the time they're in middle school, they're three years behind, and that's too late."

Turning the Tide

The good news is that, with some creative thinking and diligent work by administrators, teachers, and student services staff, districts can turn the tide. After focusing on the problem, Vaverchak's district has; and another report released by Balfanz and Byrnes reveals promising results from an effort undertaken in New York City. Meeting the Challenge of Combating Chronic Absenteeism showed that tracking individual student attendance, along with establishing a large network of mentors, support services, staff training, and community outreach helped curb chronic absenteeism in a cohort of high-need schools.

"It seems so simplistic, but we have to track how many kids attend school regularly," says Balfanz, codirector of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins. "It's not part of the DNA of schools right now, but average daily attendance (ADA) doesn't tell you how many kids are coming regularly or not. You can be in the 90s on ADA and still have 20 percent of kids missing more than a month of school."

Relentless tracking has helped New Britain's 10,500-student district. Every 10 days, Vaverchak says, the district's elementary school principals receive a detailed attendance report that notes when students are missing significant time in class. Additionally, two family intervention specialists have been hired to work with principals and staff on lowering absenteeism in the early grades.

"We want them to look at [absenteeism] and discuss what they can do about it," Vaverchak says. "Should they go to classrooms and talk to the teachers? If it's age appropriate, should they talk to the kids? Do you go meet with the parents in the homes? Every case is individualized."

Many districts engage local law enforcement and the court system in their truancy programs, but some schools resort to what could be considered extreme measures. At Learning Works, a charter school that serves 400 at-risk youth in Pasadena, Calif., founder Mikala Rahn developed the concept of "chasers," a group of 12 former dropouts who track down students who miss school. The chasers, who include several Learning Works graduates, develop relationships with the kids and help them find what they need to get back into class.

"In our school, you're really at the end of your rope," says Rahn, whose independent charter accepts students who have dropped out or face expulsion elsewhere. "We are reengaging students who have dropped out and come back. The chasers are on 24/7. If you have an emergency at 8:00 a.m. or midnight, you call them and they jump in."

In both cases, the efforts have proven successful. In the Pasadena school district, the dropout rate has fallen from 24.6 percent to less than 13 percent since Learning Works opened in 2008. Meanwhile, in the first year of its new program, New Britain saw its chronic absenteeism drop by double-digit percentage points in kindergarten and 1st grade.

This year, New Britain moved to a neighborhood schools program, cutting back on busing students across the district. Vaverchak believes that making it easier for students to walk to school will help reduce absenteeism.

"There are so many roots to the problem, and every case is different," Vaverchak admits. "So far, we're ahead of last year's [attendance] numbers, and a big part of that is that schools are so aware of all the things we're trying to do. We just have to remain consistent in our efforts."

What Can You Do?

Maintain a consistent approach. Use data to drive decisions. Look at each case individually. All three principles apply in a variety of education situations, as do tried-and-true measures such as community engagement and working with local partners, including civic and business groups and nonprofits.

In New Britain, for example, schools host biweekly meetings with parents to address their child's excessive absences. Where appropriate, the meetings also include representatives from organizations that address sexual abuse, domestic violence, health, and mental wellness. The district also partners with the Truancy Intervention Project, in which attorneys provide pro bono assistance to families to make sure students stay in school and out of the court system. At the middle school level, the district works with outside groups such as the Boys and Girls Club to keep at-risk children involved in school-related activities.

What else can be done to reduce chronic absenteeism?

Talk to parents early and often: "Regular school attendance really matters in the early grades, but many parents still view it as daycare," Balfanz says. "It's important to let them know that students are learning foundational skills that build off each other, and you have to ask families, 'What can we do together to make that happen?'"

In San Francisco, Chang says chronic absenteeism affects 8.5 percent of the district as a whole, but 53 percent of students who live in low-income housing. Reaching and educating parents is critical in that type of environment, she says.

"You have to give people a sense of hope, and you really have to make sure schools don't screw up their sense of faith," she says. "You have to get it right, and that only comes by asking questions and knowing what the family's hopes and dreams are for their kids."

Make school relevant: "Schools are boring," Rahn remarks. "I don't care what anyone says. We don't look for students' passions. If you can connect them to what they like, you have relevance. You have something to connect them to school."

Sheila Cahill, director of the Foundation School in Montgomery County, Md., says relevance extends to families, too. "What often drives absenteeism at our school is that our kids come from family systems that don't see the value of an education," she says. "A lot of our families are on public assistance and on food stamps. They don't understand the difference that an education can make."

Balfanz says schools must do more to create a welcoming environment. "You've got to have someone who can talk to the student in a supportive and not punishing way and figure out what is going on," he explains. "Kids live in the moment. They don't know that missing a couple of days of school a month is a problem, but it adds up."

Think outside the box: Nancy Rappaport, a Harvard University psychologist, says schools must work on "adaptive response"—identifying what motivates students and addressing the issues on the fly. In many cases, she believes, teachers and administrators move to "all or nothing thinking," which drives students into shutdown mode.

In one instance, she says, a 1st grader started avoiding school after being physically restrained four times over a two-month period. The child was fine once inside the building, but fought entering the front door. A behavioral intervention specialist said the child identified arriving at school with being restrained, and recommended using another entrance. That solved the problem.

Find out why a student is trying to avoid school: "Kids avoid school for any number of reasons, whether it's math homework or bullying or some relationship issue, and getting to the heart of it early is critical," Rappaport says. "Once you get a pattern of avoidance, it's very hard to intervene. Kids who are determined to avoid something will do it."

Chang likens chronic absenteeism to a car's check-engine light. "When it goes off, I don't know what it means," she says. "It could mean huge problems. It could mean little problems. But if you ignore it, it probably will become a bigger problem. We too often ignore chronic absenteeism. We have a ready indicator that we could be using to determine whether we need to intervene. We just have to use it."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Need some hope?

"On the definition of hope" by Blessed Sheriff, with Phylicia Rashad.....

This poem was written by Blessed Sheriff, a student at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD (in my county). She read it at the NEA Foundation Gala, and Phylicia Rashad loved it so much she asked to read it with her.

Friday, March 14, 2014

We all need better teacher effectiveness!

ASCD Teacher Effectiveness Within Reach 

Teacher Effectiveness Is Within Reach.

Now that your school or district has adopted a teacher evaluation framework, how do you ensure educators know how to apply the research-based best practices in their instruction?
ASCD can help you take the next step. These resources will help your staff gain practical strategies to enhance their professional growth and increase student learning.
Qualities of Effective Teachers 
By: James H. Stronge

Understand the specific teacher behaviors that contribute to student achievement by focusing on what educators can control: their own preparation, personality, and practices.
Buy Now
Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching
By: Robyn R. Jackson
Learn the seven principles of mastery teaching and how to apply them to your practice.
Buy Now
Building Teachers' Capacity for Success
By: Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral
Administrators and instructional coaches will get a straightforward plan on how to collaborate to bring out the best in every teacher, build a stronger and more cohesive staff, and achieve greater academic success.
Buy Now
Ensuring Effective Instruction (ASCD Arias)
By: Vicki Phillips and Lynn Olson

Get practical ideas on how to measure effective teaching, ensure high-quality data, and invest in improvement.
Buy Now

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

For MD Area Educators!

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!  April Educator Reception

            Saturday, April 12 at 1:30 pm


Enjoy a 25% discount * Stock up on Easter and Passover purchases!

Educator Appreciation Week: April 12 - 20


Teachers with kids 5-8 are invited to bring them along for some activities.


RSVP needed. Please let us know how many kids you are bringing.


The first 20 teachers who arrive will draw for a gift card from $1.00 - $20.00!



If you do not have an educator discount card, please bring some proof you are an educator in Pre-K - grade 12 for the application




* Certain restrictions apply. 25% off now also applies to DVDS, CDs.

Esther Simmonds
Community Relations Manager

Barnes & Noble, Inc.
12089 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
B&N/NOOK logo

o (301.881.2361) m (301.881.0237)
(301.881.2832) |
If you would like to be removed from our mailing list, please reply to this e-mail with the word REMOVE in the subject line.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Are you an educator of color leader?

If so, definitely consider applying!

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) announces the 2014 Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award Program.

2013 Early Career Educators of Color Winners - Stacey Thomas, Sherry
Franklin, Virginia Valdez, and Kristy Girardeau

This award supports up to six educators who are in the first five years of their careers (pre-K -college level) by providing the following benefits:
  • involving travel and lodging for two consecutive NCTE conventions
  • connection to an accomplished mentor
  • collaboration with peers and NCTE leaders
  • opportunities to serve NCTE in key volunteer roles
  • targeted professional development
  • opportunities to present during an annual convention
  • special award recognition
And NCTE covers all the costs!

Learn more and apply online.

All applications are due byWednesday, April 30, 2014.
Please contact us with questions!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Need a great way to honor your best teachers?

Check this out!

Here is a great way to honor a great teacher(s) in your school:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Why we need the Common Core!

This is hilarious! I LOVE Xtranormal videos. Enjoy!

Check out First Book!

This is a fantastic way to purchase new books cheaply -- and even get many for free -- for those of you who work with low income families and children. Check it out!

Every study confirms it; reading skill is the strongest predictor of success in school, and the presence of books in the home makes all the difference.

Sadly, kids from low-income neighborhoods rarely have books of their own. Growing up in a house without books is often a silent problem: leaders like you can see when children are hungry or when they don't have appropriate clothes. A lack of books can be harder to spot and grow into a lifelong challenge.  

With your help, we're changing that. You're already doing heroic work every day. We want to help you break down the barriers that so many children in need face when getting access to books. That's why First Book offers books for free and near-free to leaders like you.

As a member of the First Book community serving children from low-income families, you now have access to free and near-free books from First Book. To start receiving books, log onto First Book and visit the First Book Marketplace to see our collection of thousands of award-winning titles for readers of all ages, all at up to 90% off retail prices.  

While you're online, check the First Book National Book Bank to look for free books donated to us by publishers.  

Happy reading,

Kyle Zimmer
President and CEO, First Book

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Awesome moon journal!

This was sent to me from an old Harvard classmate. We took a course together on teaching in 2007 where we had to keep track of the moon's size, position, and angle in the sky every night.

Enjoy her amazing reflections!

Making this moon journal made me think back to T440.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hope is never far behind!

Check out this touching story from one of my colleagues. We could always use a little more hope this time of the year, especially when spring seems so far away!

Sometimes putting one foot in front of the other is the hardest thing to do, especially at this time of the year when the snow won’t leave us alone and spring feels like it is so far away and never mind how far away the end of the school year feels.  On another day of bone-chilling cold and an endless horizon of snow, I wanted to share with all of you amazing people a posting from my friend, Laura Lynn Smith Benson, who lost her 12-year brother on March 3, 1974, when a Turkish Airlines plane crashed shortly after taking off from a Paris airport…and her words while tinged with sadness; sparkle with hope and possibility.  I hope that each and every one of you realizes the importance of what you do and the difference that you make, each and every day.  Thank you!

“Forty years ago today, I was called. Forty years ago today, I learned that reading can save your life. Forty years ago, I knew I had to help give children - all children everywhere - the light of literacy. To save their lives. To save the lives of those they would serve. You see, a French man gave me my path. My life's mission.

Over a deer forest outside of Paris, my brother's airplane broke open. 364 beloved souls - mamas and grandfathers, soccer pals and sisters, daughters and baby brothers - were violently tossed to the Earth. The right rear cargo door had not been latched properly by the French mechanic assigned to this task. He could not read the directions for closing the DC 10's cargo door. And because of his reading void, I lost my best friend, my brother, and, for a while, my energy to live. Because this French man could not read, thousands of us became orphans, childless, widowers, or half selves.

I think of this French man now. I think of the guilt he has endured and hurdled over as he tries to go about the daily tasks of his life. The toxic swill of shame eating at his spirit every day. For forty years. All because the gift of reading was not given to him. All because the words were mysterious symbols rather than clarifying messages.

Taking this journey has not been easy. I share what I believe is part of the French man's journey. Learning to read was elusive and hard and shaming for me. Whether it was because I was the very youngest kid in class, or because I moved over a dozen times, or because I struggled with undiagnosed learning difficulties, or all of these, reading felt like trying to hold my breath under water. The words were hard to hold on to and even harder to understand. Stringing together beads of words was a ssssllllllooooowwwww process.

I could see everyone in my class flying through books. I could see my classmates run through all the SRA kits. They got to the aqua, silver, and even the gold levels. I was stuck in the potty colors. Stuck in the mud of black ink on a page. Forever.

Luckily forever turned into Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and Charlotte's Web. Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller. If You Could See What I Hear. Words turned into joy and light and laughter, too.

The path took longer. I knew that. And now, as a literacy teacher, I can see the wisdom in giving me that long journey. Because I struggled, I can come to students with a knowing heart. I can share ideas with colleagues with compassion and hope. I can give my students my brother's Tigger sense of humor. And I fuel every step with the French man's legacy in my life.

For Ronnie, for the 17 souls of our school, the American School in London, for the 364 passengers and crew of that Turkish Airlines flight, for that French man, all of us who lead and guide and nurture the awakening of words in our students' minds and spirits, thank you from a full and grateful heart. You are saving lives. You carry my love and awe with you forever. You save lives with your teaching. Never forget that.”