Author Archive for sblankenship

Technology: A Catalyst for Learning

Technology may not replace teachers, but teachers who integrate technology as a catalyst for learning will probably replace teachers who do not. Think about that for a moment. During a recent chat regarding technology integration, a few tweets sparked my…

Leading for Growth

Great leaders don’t spend time trying to change people. They spend their energy creating the conditions in which people want to change. Discussions move beyond “why” as educators begin thinking and planning for “how” and “when.” Don’t misunderstand, it’s important…

Storms Happen

The following is an excerpt from “Have a Little Faith” by Mitch Albom, page 93, from a sermon by Rabbi Albert Lewis. “A man seeks employment on a farm.  He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer.  It…

What You Ignore, You Permit.

In a recent post titled, Nuggets of Wisdom from Mentors Around the World, many influential educators including Todd Whitaker, Eric Sheninger, Pernille Ripp, Scott McLeod and Lyn Hilt contributed valuable advice passed down from their mentors. One particular nugget of…

A Window Into the Classroom

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Many times, grading papers and student projects is something a teacher does in isolation.  In other words, no one other than the teacher sees the student’s work.  What if analyzing student work became a collaborative process in your school?  How would looking at student work provide a clear window into the classroom?  As we transition to more rigorous standards in my state, we have been collecting student outcomes to analyze the quality of lessons and units intended to address these new standards and expectations.

After our first semester of collecting and analyzing student outcomes, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • Teachers are spending more time planning and preparing each lesson.
  • Teachers are hoping to learn about the effectiveness of their own instruction.
  • Teachers are gaining a better understanding of how students learn.
  • Teachers are developing more effective assessment types that also measure application and conceptual understanding.
  • Teachers who assign the highest quality work get it from their students.
  • The amount of trust is increasing among teachers and school leaders.

Principals play a critical role in setting the expectation and must monitor the process and most importantly, recognize a successful student outcome when they see it.  The questions you must prepare yourself to address include:

  • How often do you expect these teams of teachers to collaboratively plan and examine evidence of student learning?
  • What do you want the end product(s) to look like?  How do you communicate this to teachers?
  • How can teachers demonstrate that they have used this information to make the kinds of instructional decisions that would result in improved student achievement?

Viewing teacher lesson plans provide teacher intentions, however, analyzing student work will unveil what was actually learned.  This is one of the first steps in shifting the focus from teaching to a focus on learning.

We are using the Tri-State/EQuIP Rubric to evaluate the quality of lessons and units intended to address the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and ELA/Literacy.

What Is and Is Not Fair

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Throughout my many conversations with teachers, I have heard time and time again how they feel it’s not fair for the rest of the class that they have to spend much time and energy on just a few disruptive students. These teachers are correct, it’s not fair.

According to Michael Linsin, “When you attend to poorly behaved students more often, you’re communicating to them in a subtle but clear way that they’re different, that they don’t have what it takes to control themselves like other students, so they need extra attention.”

So, why exactly do some teachers warn, argue, escalate and interrupt instruction to repetitively lecture more often to misbehaving-prone students or give them more attention than other students?  I believe these teachers are doing the very best they know how. Therefore, it’s time to reveal the secret strategy to creating conditions conducive to learning. The solution is to simply treat them just like everyone else. Allow your most challenging students to feel what it’s like to be a regular student.

Michael Linsin states, “To do this, you must follow your classroom management plan to the letter. Stick to it no matter what, and acknowledge your students when they do something well. Stop pulling them aside to explain this or that, stop lecturing or trying to get assurances from them, and stop telling them how wonderful they are because they sat quietly for 15 minutes during a read aloud.”

Simply acknowledge them for the same things you would for any other student. Remember, students have a distinct sense of what is and what is not fair. You must act fairly for all students if you expect to be respected.  Make sure that if your best student does something wrong, they too are treated like any other student.  Once you lose your student’s respect, you also lose their attention and their desire to please you.

“And resist the urge to discuss their behavior-related issues with them. If they’re angry or upset, don’t speak to them or let their anger bother you. It’s not personal. They have every right to be angry. It’s not your issue. Otherwise, smile and talk to them about the same things your other students like talking about—sports or movies or whatever feels right,” says Linsin.

In my experience, this strategy of treating your most disruptive students like everyone else only works if you set high expectations and have a solid classroom management plan that you follow precisely and every single time. No more lectures and short-term successes. It simply isn’t fair to the rest of the class.  Instead, lets set the bar high for every student and hold every student accountable from August till May while treating all students with kindness and respect.

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” – Somerset Maugham 

So What?

As the new school year approaches, many principals around the country will be implementing a new teacher evaluation instrument.  As you visit teacher classrooms looking for specific indicators, I encourage you to ask the simple question, “So What?”  These two…

Assisted Learning

Recently, Tom Whitby wrote a provocative article called Hypocrisy in the Profession of Education. I ask that you take the time and read and share this article. In fact, if you are short on time, stop reading my thoughts and click here.…