Meet Chris Shriver-Edcamp Baltimore Co-founder

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Edcamp Baltimore (@EdcampBmore) will be held Saturday, September 27th on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.  Co-founder, Chris Shriver (@ccshriver) sat down with #mdeschat to discuss her passion for technology, teaching, and the edcamp movement.  Chris will guest host #mdeschat on Twitter this Thursday, September 18th, 8PM EST.

You serve as a Digital Learning Specialist at Garrison Forrest School.  What are the roles and responsibilities of your position?

As a Digital Learning Specialist, I work directly with students and faculty in the lower division of my school.  My main responsibility is teaching a class called Imagineering (a hands-on STEM class with a focus on building and problem solving) in grades PK-5.  I also work with teachers to help implement technology in their classrooms.  We are a Google Apps for Education school with a 1 to 1 program in grades 4-12, so we have many opportunities for collaboration and curriculum enhancement using digital tools.  I also often help with faculty training during our in-house professional development days.

How has technology changed since you began your career?

This is a tough one to answer, at least succinctly.  My teaching career has had two phases, one before children and one after.  The first phase ended in 1996 with the birth of my oldest daughter.  At that time, I was teaching English to non-native speakers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the world of edtech for me consisted of not much more than word processing and email, all of which was accomplished in a lab, students and teachers alike.

When I re-entered the classroom (at my current school) in 2006, I found myself at a 1 to 1 school where every teacher was assigned a personal computer (a big change from 1996!).  There was a lot to learn, but fortunately, I consider myself a life-long learner.  After a few years as an assistant teacher, I became the Digital Learning Specialist for the Lower School.  I was fortunate to have a classroom that was technology-rich (I was in a Mac lab with an interactive whiteboard, and we were piloting the classroom use of iOS devices in our younger elementary grades).  However, as I look back even these short 4 years, I realize a lot has changed.

In 2010, I taught technology in isolation in a lab.  Students came to me, and we learned tools for the sake of learning the tool.  Sometimes, what we did in the lab was an extension of what was happening in the classroom, but that was often not the case.  Two years ago, we decided to close the lab (we needed additional classroom space) and move my work with the students into the homerooms.  This allowed the projects to be directly tied to what the students were doing in class.

We were successful because now my class time with students deals very minimally with websites and tech tools.  That is part of what happens now in the homerooms (with my support as needed).  My role has been re-imagined once again as the STEM teacher, and with it, I have a new classroom.  I teach a class primarily focused on building and creating with our hands, aided and enhanced by technology when it is the best tool for the task.  When we do have computer time, rather than websites and software, we often find ourselves learning programming.  I would say the biggest change in how we as a school view technology is the realization that we cannot simply teach our students to be consumers; we must also teach them to create.

You are a co-founder and member of the organizing committee for Edcamp Baltimore (September 27th at JHU).  How did you get involved with edcamps?

I met Shannon Montague (@montysays) in January 2012 at a Photoshop workshop at Calvert School.  We recognized one another from Twitter.  Coincidentally, she and I had plans to both attend EduCon in Philadelphia a few days later.  Although we didn’t really spend our time together at the conference, we both came away with similar experiences.  As you may know, attending EduCon is three days of meeting and connecting with the Who’s Who of Twitter.  There, both Shannon and I heard a lot about edcamps (most of the current Foundation board was in attendance).

A few months later, we found ourselves having coffee at the Starbucks in Pikesville discussing the steps necessary for putting together an edcamp for Baltimore (Shannon is a master organizer).  The excitement of what we had heard about at EduCon was contagious, and we knew we wanted to bring it to Baltimore. November 10, 2012 was the first Edcamp Baltimore.

What do you think it is about edcamps that appeals to so many educators?

Edcamps put educators first.  We become the students, so our needs come before that of our schools or districts. We have a voice in what we want to learn.  This is so exciting because I think educators enjoy learning; after all, we have decided to devote our careers to being in the classroom.  So when we find ourselves surrounded by others like us, dedicated, passionate teachers who voluntarily give up a Saturday to learn, the feeling is pure joy.

What would you tell someone who has never been to an edcamp to encourage their attendance?

I think the biggest hurdle for most is the idea of giving up part of the weekend.  However, every edcamp I have attended has brought me into contact with some of the most amazing educators I have ever met.  I truly believe the decision to attend an edcamp will be a decision no educator will regret.   For anyone who is in need of refueling (often the reason we are reluctant to give up the weekend), edcamps are the opportunity to rediscover the joys that brought you into the classroom.  You will leave with far more than the day you donate.

What are you looking forward to most about Edcamp Baltimore this year?

I am looking forward to the people!  This has been a year of unbelievable excitement and anticipation for Edcamp Baltimore.  In the first two years, we had to do a lot of selling of the event.  This year, our loyal attendees have done all the heavy lifting.  They have tweeted and contacted colleagues, and the response has been tremendous.  We are in a very vibrant community, full of exciting innovation, and I am really looking forward to learning from and connecting with all of these dedicated educators.

A BIG thank you to Chris for sharing her knowledge and passion!

14 Ways to Promote Culturally Responsive Teaching

The Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla.  While it is a holiday that many Americans enjoy, it also inadvertently reinforces cultural stereotypes.  Let’s take the opportunity this Cinco de Mayo to think about how we can foster culturally responsive teaching in our schools and classrooms.

Eileen Whelan Ariza, author of Not for ESOL Teachers, shares the following culturally responsive teaching strategies that are based on recommendations from Brown University’s Education Alliance for Culturally Responsive Teaching:

  1. Get to know the culture of your students.
  2. Try to make home visits.
  3. Attend neighborhood and local cultural events.
  4. Use inquiry-based teaching that is culturally relevant.
  5. Scaffold for students by activating prior knowledge.
  6. Call on students regardless of English proficiency, modify your questioning strategies.
  7. Integrate multicultural views into daily instruction.
  8. Learn about diverse learning and teaching styles and culturally appropriate behaviors.
  9. Incorporate the students’ native language within class learning situations.
  10. Seek to understand parents of English learners.
  11. Use a variety of learning strategies and have high expectations for all students.
  12. Use cooperative and collaborative learning on a regular basis
  13. Aim to increase academic language proficiency, orally and in writing.
  14. Be conscious of your own ethnocentric attitudes.

Effective strategies for English learners are effective strategies for all students.  While it is impossible to be fully aware of all of the nuances associated with every culture, it is possible to care about how culture impacts teaching and learning.  Culturally responsive teachers have a natural interest in the lives of their students.  They use this interest to motivate students toward success.

Culturally responsive teachers recognize that stereotypes don’t define the children they teach.  While they recognize that stereotypes exist, they strive to learn more about the culture of their students in order to dispel the myths and clarify reality.  As with any school, or classroom, great teaching is about relationships.

So, feel free to enjoy and celebrate Cinco de Mayo today.  Just don’t forget that it’s only one small part of Mexican culture.  Maybe you can celebrate by asking your students to share a few others.

Meet Kelly Reider, English Language Leader

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Kelly Reider will guest host #mdeschat this Thursday, April 3rd at 9PM EST.  She is the Coordinator for English Language Acquisition and the International Student Services Office for Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland.  Kelly is passionate about supporting schools in their efforts at meeting the needs of English learners.  We sat down with her for a Q&A on current issues impacting the ESL field.

Tell us about yourself.

This is the start of my 21st year in education.  I have two teenage sons, an 8th grader and a high school senior!  Our office is responsible for registering international students, screening students for English language services, writing curriculum, and providing professional development.  In addition, we supervise English Language Acquisition teachers, conduct local and state language assessments, and coordinate interpretation and translation services.  Prior to AACPS, I taught in Onslow County, North Carolina as well as Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland.  I’ve been an ESL teacher, elementary classroom teacher, professional development specialist, and elementary assistant principal along the way.

The English language acquisition field comes with a plethora of acronyms (ESOL, ESL, ELA, TESL, TSOL, ELL etc.).  Can you clarify some of the terms and let our readers know which are politically correct?  

We certainly like our share of acronyms!  ESOL and ESL are used pretty interchangeably.  Both refer to instructional programs for English learners.  When you add the “T”, this usually means “teachers” and refers to the professional groups.  English language acquisition (ELA) and English language development (ELD) can refer to instructional programs, but they also refer to the field of research and science behind the process of acquiring/developing language.  English learner (EL) is the most current term used to refer to the student.  Many still use English language learner (ELL) as well.  R-ELL/R-EL refer to “re-classified” students who have exited the instructional program and are monitored for two years.  No English Proficiency (NEP) is a dated acronym that is not used very often these days.

What is the role of the ELA teacher in your district?

We have been working for the past two years to redefine the role of the ELA teacher.  In the past, ELA (then ESOL for us) teachers functioned more as an instructional support.  The ELA teacher is now expected to take on the role of a language acquisition teacher who has the primary responsibility of delivering and assessing the ELA approved curricula.  ELA is a content area, just like science, math and language arts.  Our ELA teachers are also expected to be language development experts who are a resource for the language development for ALL students.

What are some of the challenges that a large district faces in meeting the needs of English language learners?

Most school systems struggle with the allocation of staffing and other resources across a variety of programs and initiatives.  As our English learner enrollment continues to grow quickly (approximately 40% over the past 4 years), we have not been able to maintain a student-teacher ratio that can meet the wide variety of educational needs of our students.  We continuously work to improve our curricula and pedagogy to make the best use of every minute we have to teach students.

Over the past year, our system has experienced a sizeable increase in the number of English learners enrolling with significantly interrupted formal education and limited native language literacy.  The number of students over 16 years old enrolling as 9th graders has more than tripled in the past 4 years. Many of these students enter school with limited academic background.  Many are arriving as unaccompanied minors who are also working to support themselves while attending school. Balancing the various needs of students, graduation requirements, mandated assessments, and the social-emotional arena can be quite overwhelming for schools.

Equally important is the need to build every teacher’s capacity for providing the best instruction for English learners.  Language development needs to take place all day, every day in order for us to close the academic language gap.  Coordinating language development with the other district initiatives competing for teachers’ time and attention is an ongoing challenge.  We are continually looking for new ways to provide professional development to as many teachers as possible.  It is important that every teacher is prepared to differentiate for language and make content accessible to all students.

What instructional tips do you have for classroom teachers with ELL students?

Many teachers are uncomfortable with newcomers and feel helpless when the student does not understand any English.  Just remember this is temporary.  The most important thing is to include the students and insist that they remain engaged and involved.  Language is developed through listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  While students may need a bit of time to watch and take things in, it is important for the student to be engaged and active.  Using visuals, providing organizers, restating in simplified language, and hands-on learning are all helpful.  I encourage all teachers to use their English language acquisition teacher as a resource to review the students’ language proficiency data and discuss what are appropriate developmental expectations and goals.

Is there one book you would suggest we read to better understand the important issues in English language acquisition?

There are quite a few depending on the topic – cultural awareness, instruction, language development…..  The best I’ve found for practical instruction is “Differentiating Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners – A Guide for K-12 Teachers” by Shelley Fairbain and Stephaney Jones-Vo.  This book looks at instruction by proficiency levels in a very practical way.

Thanks, Kelly!  We appreciate your efforts in supporting schools with their English learner needs.  Kelly can be followed on Twitter @reiderkelly.

Meet Erin Simpson, NDP

Erin Simpson, principal at Overlook Elementary in Wadsworth, Ohio, will serve as a guest host for #mdeschat on Thursday, March 6th at 9 p.m. ET.  Erin is a 2012 National Distinguished Principal.  She was nominated for the award by a fourth grade teacher who stated, “I have been in this building for 11 years and I have never had a principal who has had such a good rapport with kids.  She brings the most out of every student and every teacher and every parent involved with the school.”  We sat down with Erin to find out what’s happening in Ohio.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a very proud mom to two elementary age daughters, a first grader and fourth grader.  This is my ninth year as a building principal, sixth in my current building. Prior to becoming a principal in Wadsworth, I taught in a neighboring district for eight years. I live in the community in which I work and love the community pride in our school district.  Every day I am very proud to be a Wadsworth Grizzly!

You are a National Distinguished Principal.  What was that experience like for you?

Being named a Distinguished Elementary Principal by our State Association, OAESA, and a National Distinguished Principal by NAESP was humbling.  The NDP celebration in Washington, D.C. was an amazing weekend to highlight our profession and I was so proud to be included with and meet all of the other honorees.  I made connections that will last a lifetime and I was proud of the honors bestowed upon our profession.  I truly believe every principal deserves to be honored in that manner.

There are five elementary schools (K-4) in your district.  What major instructional initiatives are going on there?

Currently in our district we are transitioning in many areas. We have a new teacher and principal evaluation system in our state, OTES and OPES. We are implementing the Common Core while still tying in our previous standards because our state assessments have not yet changed.  We have new report card indicators which have changed from a performance measure to a growth measure. We are also facing a new Third Grade Reading Guarantee in Ohio and are required to retain any third grader who does not achieve a set score on the spring reading Ohio Achievement Assessment.  All of this makes for a very busy year and uncertainty in many areas.

What are the biggest challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?

My biggest challenges center around time.  I love being in classrooms, in the cafeteria, on the playground, and greeting children as they arrive each day.  These become priorities, so much of my other work takes place after school hours and I am not the best at balancing work and family time.  Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband who is also an educator!

The new evaluation system has placed demands on my time with timelines and summaries to complete.  I love the conversations that have resulted from the new system, it is just a very time intensive process. From start to finish, observations take about 3 hours between the pre and post conferences, the observation, and the write up.  Almost every morning is committed to a meeting of some type, yet I feel there are so many times we start a great conversation and then the bell rings at 8:55 a.m. and the conversation halts.  I am always looking for ways to make this better.

We are also facing large class sizes due to budget constraints over time and reductions in staff. This year my kindergarten classes have 30 students in them.  First grade is the lowest with 24 in each and the others all range between 28-30.  This is a challenge as we allocate resources and support and try to be sure that we have all our students on track so that we do not face the retention element from the Third Grade Guarantee.

How has teaching changed since you entered the profession?

The changes I have seen in teaching over my nine years in the role as principal are monumental.  The pressures on our students and teachers alike have grown immensely.  The inclusion and development of technology has advanced opportunities for students and teachers.  I can only imagine what the future of education will hold for us in ten years.  Teaching is much more focused on the individual student.   I often tell my teachers that I could be a great teacher if I returned to the classroom because I have learned so many wonderful techniques and approaches from them.

Can you describe the qualities you look for in a new teacher?

Something that I always keep in mind as we interview and hire new teachers is that a critical piece is to hire good people because they will make great employees.  I can always coach to improve instructional skills and strategies, but I can’t instill that spark or passion or love of children and commitment.  I also believe that there has to be a right fit for the school and the new teacher.  I look for the candidate who has the spark, energy and enthusiasm … the “it” I hear many people refer to.  We have a very rigorous hiring process and truly find the best candidates.  Since implementing the new process we have not had a bad hire.

What is one book every educator should read?

Wonder by R.J. Palacio should be read by every educator.  This book will make an impact on how you approach your job and every child you are blessed to be in contact with.  The theory to “Choose Kind” is one that our school has embraced and would make the world a better place if everyone embraced it as well.

Thanks, Erin!  We appreciate your involvement and commitment to the profession!

Erin Simpson can be followed on Twitter @ehuthsimpson.

A Primary Years Programme Primer

The Primary Years Programme will be featured on #mdeschat Thursday, February 6th at 9 p.m. EST.  I sat down with three PYP school leaders to discuss the benefits of using International Baccalaureate strategies at the elementary level.  Their strong knowledge of PYP pedagogy should be helpful to all schools that are seeking to meet the needs of today’s learners.

Jason “Jay” Graham is a PYP Online Lead Facilitator, a PYP Workshop Leader, and a grade one teacher at Badung International School on the island of Java in Indonesia.  Rachel Amstutz is principal of South Shore Elementary in Crownsville, Maryland.  Walter Reap is principal of Germantown Elementary in Annapolis, Maryland.

1.  When and how did your school become a Primary Years Programme school?

Jay:  Bandung International School in Indonesia became a PYP in 2007. We went through a pre-authorization phase before I was at the school.  The process is outlined here:  http://ibo.org/become/authorization/ 

Rachel:  In December 2010, I was invited to attend a PYP training to investigate the program as a possibility for our district.  I attended and LOVED the philosophy.  I lobbied for months afterward for my school to be considered for PYP implementation.  I also began the long process of introducing PYP to my staff and parent community to build buy-in.  Since my school did not feed directly into a MYP school, we could not be identified in the first round of schools.  However, we were selected for candidacy in the 2nd year and have been on our journey to authorization since then.

Walter:  We were officially authorized as a PYP school this year (2013-2014).  This was a three year process that included creating synergy and getting stakeholder buy-in.  I would say this continues even now, but began seven years ago.

2.  Can you share how the Primary Years Programme addresses the “whole” child?

Jay:  The Learner Profile which is at the heart of all 3 programmes (PYP, MYP and IB/DP) is paramount here. Check this document 

Rachel:  PYP encourages educators to be cognizant of the whole child at all times—in planning, in teaching, and in assessing.   The Learner Profile reminds us to develop students who are well-rounded, caring, thoughtful, and capable of exploring topics from multiple perspectives.  More than most other initiatives, PYP keeps the development of the whole child at its forefront and trains educators to be mindful of the social, emotional, spiritual and cogitative experience the child has in learning.

Walter:  I believe the whole child is addressed through the programme of inquiry which looks to address intellectual, social, and emotional learning as well as personal skills.  This is done by placing the learner in the center of the learning and building the learning experience (taught curriculum) around the learner.  Students look to demonstrate learning both in and outside of school.  Action is therefore the goal of the IB learner.

3.  What is the role of formative and summative assessment in a PYP school? 

Jay:  In general formative is ongoing; summative is the ‘final’ showing of understanding.  Each unit in Primary Years Programme (there are 6) has a summative assessment.  I think the role of each is to gauge understanding throughout and then gauge understanding at the end.

Rachel:  Assessment, both formative and summative, is clearly outlined in a PYP school.  It may not look any different than any other school, but the school must develop an assessment policy to tell how assessments are used in the school.  This document is a comprehensive explanation of all types of assessments, the frequency at which assessments are administered, etc.    Therefore in my school formative and summative assessments are used constantly to assess students’ learning.

Walter:  Formative assessment shows the progression of the learner through the unit planners.  These assessments monitor student progress of the teaching and learning.  Summative assessments provide opportunities for the learners to demonstrate their learning through the lens of one of the seven themes around the five essential elements.

 4.  Can you explain how the Primary Years Programme distinguishes between the written and taught curriculum?

Jay:  Well I can point you to here if you haven’t seen it already. But the basic difference to me is the written is concerned about WHAT we want to learn and the TAUGHT is more about HOW we will learn the written.

Rachel:  Certainly not any better than the IB can!

Written: http://www.ibo.org/pyp/written/index.cfm

Focusing on what students will learn and the 6 transdisciplinary themes, skills, etc….

Taught: http://www.ibo.org/pyp/taught/index.cfm

The written curriculum in action, focusing on HOW students best learn.

Walter:  The written curriculum is the district-designed and planned curriculum including the scope and sequence of the documents developed by the content coordinators.  In our building, teachers have flexibility when using the district’s curricular documents to develop the programme of inquiry.

5.  How is your school addressing the transdisciplinary themes that are central to the Primary Years Programme?

Jay:  In my opinion, not well. I wrote about how the homeroom teacher (me), music, Indonesian and Art teacher made explicit connections to the key concepts and central idea in this unit here.  It is challenging  though  and it comes down to directed collaborative planning. We do have stand- alone planners for math etc. when needed.

Rachel:  Our program of inquiry has been developed to ensure that a child who advances from K-5 at my school will experience all elements of the 6 transdisciplinary units.  We’ve organized our program of inquiry to ensure that at each grade level the way in which they address the transdisciplinary themes is distinct from the way in which other grades address each theme.  See our POI here:

http://www.aacps.org/applications/billboardmanager/southses/upload/SSES%20PoI%2013-14.pdf

This document includes each theme’s central idea, lines of inquiry, and key concepts.

Walter:  We are using resource monies from Title One to provide additional planning days with substitute coverage to write and reflect on unit planners.  This means that teachers have a built in day each month to come together as a grade level team and look at how students are progressing through the unit planners.  As grade level teams are becoming more knowledgeable about the students in their classroom and how to structure/align learning, the planners are more cohesive as well as are a better fit for learning.

6.  What has been the biggest plus of being a PYP school?

Jay:  Inquiry based learning, freedom to learn, differentiation is promoted, non-standards based (no tests). I love how kids have freedom to learn, explore.

Rachel:  The biggest advantage in being a PYP school is that the process has made (is making) my staff and me much more aware of our instructional decisions and more intentional about what we do.  The process makes you really think through why you do what you do, what’s best for children, how to make learning meaningful enough to encourage students to take action, and it makes you ensure that students think about the world, the global community and their responsibility for it.  Also, instructionally, PYP encompasses everything we know to be the best practices for promoting effective learning.

Walter:  This programme has changed the culture of our entire school community.  Nine years ago managing behaviors was the biggest challenge as a high poverty school.  Our enrollment continues to be increasingly diverse, but there are more families who traditionally were sending their children to private schools who are now sending their children to their neighborhood school.  The building culture is changing to one of learning and we have been able to align the use of Title One funds to promote a spirit of collaboration.

Thanks so much to Jay, Rachel, and Walter for sharing their passion and knowledge of the Primary Years Programme!  We can all benefit from applying those good PYP strategies in our schools.

You can find Jason “Jay” Graham on Skype at jason.graham84, on Twitter @jasongraham99 and on his blog http://thelearningjourney.org/

Rachel can be followed on Twitter @rachelamstutz and on her blog at:  http://excursionsineducation.blogspot.com/

Walter can be followed on Twitter @WalterReap

Meet Peter DeWitt, Ed.D.

Author, speaker, and school leader, Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) will guest host #mdeschat on January 9th at 9:00 p.m.  Peter is a NY principal currently on sabbatical.  He is a great resource for educators who are seeking to understand many of the national issues currently affecting schools.  I sat down with Dr. DeWitt for a Q&A to find out more about him and his professional pursuits.

You are currently on sabbatical.  What are you doing with all that “free” time?

Not sure I would call it free time! Seriously, I’m working on a variety of projects. First and foremost I’m a Visible Learning trainer for John Hattie. I will be working with schools around North America on his approach to learning, which I will get into a little more in the next question.

Secondly, I’m co-authoring a book with Sean Slade, the Director of the Whole Child Initiative (ASCD). He and I are writing a book for ASCD that focuses on school climate. Sean and I are both on the National School Climate Council (I’m the co-chair) which is the steering committee for the National School Climate Center.

In addition, I am writing a book for Corwin Press on flipped leadership which is something I did a great deal of as a school principal, and I’m working as an independent consultant working with schools on flipped leadership, school climate and teacher evaluation.

I’m very fortunate because, although they are all great projects, it was a hard decision because I love my school community. I work with great teachers, kids and parents. I’m thankful my school district offered me the leave of absence.

One of your current interests is “visible learning.”  How do you define visible learning?

Visible Learning comes from Professor John Hattie. Hattie is a Professor of Education and the Director of Research at the University of Melbourne. He did the largest meta-analysis in education which involved over ¼ billion students.

Although it’s a huge amount of research, I would quickly define Visible Learning as the teacher and student working together on a combined goal that they both can see at all times. Three questions to ask, whether you are the teacher or the student are:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going?
  • Where am I going to next?

What have you learned from writing your Finding Common Ground blog for Education Week?

This is such a great question because I feel that we should always learn something as we go through the writing process. Writing for Education Week has really changed my life. I’ve gotten the chance to get to know the people that I have long admired like Michael Fullan, Todd Whitaker, Diane Ravitch and Carol Ann Tomlinson. I have also had the opportunity to connect with educators around the world which has been a great experience.

Over all, as I write I am usually questioning something. I may not be questioning another person’s ideas as much as I’m questioning my own long held beliefs. Education is really complicated and it’s often the adults involved who complicate everything. Everyone has strong ideas on what they believe works.

One of the areas that I’m passionate about is making sure every student has a place at the table when it comes to decision-making. I did my doctoral work on how well school leaders safeguard LGBT students, which became my first book for Corwin Press called Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students. I found that in too many schools we have marginalized populations that are not treated very well and that needs to change. I believe writing Finding Common Ground has helped me find my own voice so that I can speak for students and teachers who don’t have the power to speak for themselves.

New York is ahead of many states in implementing and assessing the Common Core.  What lessons can you share with the states that are a few steps behind?

The New York State Education Department, under the leadership of Regent’s Chair Merryl Tisch and Commissioner John King, has done a deplorable rollout of the Common Core to the point that parents want to see the Common Core go away. Before schools were ever provided with the proper resources King and Tisch made sure the 3rd – 8th grade high stakes assessments were tied to the Core, which were ultimately tied to teacher and administrator evaluation.

What’s worse is that the state assessments only provide schools with a number of 1,2,3 or 4 which is based on a cut point. They do not provide an item-analysis of where students did well and where they faltered.

All of this came when they were rolling out the Common Core and now school leaders are scrambling to try to differentiate between the Core and high stakes testing. There is absolutely no trust between the public school system and the state education department which is really sad because it wasn’t always that way.

I think if I could offer any advice to states is that they should see what NY did and do the opposite. I typically try to find common ground but I can’t where this situation is concerned.

How do you balance your personal life with your professional commitments?

Not very well! It’s always been one of my biggest issues. I get so passionate about education that it is hard to turn it off. I love learning and thrive on the connections that I have made with people in my life as a school leader, workshop facilitator or speaker, and through my connections I’ve made on Twitter.

When I was young, my grandparents had all passed away by the time I was 7, my dad passed when I was 11 and I was retained in fourth grade. I struggled academically throughout my school career, was a sub-sophomore because I lacked the credits to be a full-fledged sophomore and graduated fourth from last in my graduating class. I dropped out of two community colleges and was working at a liquor store. Fortunately, I was a long distance runner and I went to a community college for my last attempt, because that school had a X-country team. My coach encouraged me (forced…) to go to the Learning Assistance Center. That semester my grades went from a 1.7 to a 3.86 and they never went down again.

Something clicked with me, due to the family, friends and teachers around me, and I became successful in the very thing I failed at so many years ago. It’s hard to turn that off when you know there are many kids in that same position.

Can you give us 5 “must follow” people on Twitter?

Uh oh…the pressure is on! Only five??? This is not an easy question because there are so many great educators out there worth following. Besides two powerhouses, I’m going to have to go to a few of my New York friends for this one.

Todd Whitaker – Everyone knows Todd but he wrote the single best book I ever read as a leader. That book is What Great Principals Do Differently and it’s a must read for any school leader. Besides that he is an outstanding speaker and has some of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard.

Eric Sheninger – Eric is doing tremendous things when it comes to connected leadership. I’m in the middle of reviewing his new book for Corwin and it is going to be a huge success.

My NY Colleagues:

Tony Sinanis – https://twitter.com/TonySinanis

Vicki Day – https://twitter.com/VictoriaL_Day

Lisa Meade – https://twitter.com/LisaMeade23

Thanks, Peter!  We appreciate your support of #mdeschat and the example you set for school leaders across the country.  To learn more about Peter DeWitt, visit his webpage:

http://www.petermdewitt.com/

Meet Cybraryman- Jerry Blumengarten

Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1) is guest hosting #mdeschat this Thursday, December 12th at 9 p.m. ET.  We “sat down” with Jerry to learn a little more about him and his awesome website:  www.cybraryman.com.

1. What would people be surprised to know about you?

I have a Maryland connection.  My daughter attended the University of Maryland – College Park.  She met her future husband (who is awesome) there. He is from Perry Hall.  They were married at the chapel on the campus and the reception was held at the Alumni Center.  Our Friday night gathering was at our favorite restaurant- Sir Walter Raleigh Inn in the Maryland Sports room.

We owned a townhouse in College Park during her years there.  Not only did I teach, but I wrote for a company (30+ years) that provided educational materials for the utility industry.  I did research at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt and at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

2.  What year did you start using Twitter? How has Twitter changed since you began using it?

I signed onto Twitter in May of 2009, but did not start using it until that summer and I stumbled on #edchat.  The first people I followed were @coolcatteacher @web20classroom @shellterrell @tomwhitby

The biggest change, aside from more educators using Twitter, is the explosion of chats that now cover most subjects & grades as well as states.

3.  What would you tell people who say they don’t have time for Twitter?

First you have to introduce Twitter without saying the name: “Do you know about “The Free Educational Support & Discussion Media System?”  You cannot force anyone to take the time to go on.  Show them the advantages.

4.  Why did you start your website?

After being a classroom teacher (grades 6-9) for 20 years (mostly Social Studies) I was asked to take over the library.  I decided to start a library website for the students, parents and school staff. I wanted a one-stop educational place where they could find useful information in all subject areas.  After I retired I expanded the site to include all grade levels and subject areas.

5.  Who inspires you?

My greatest idols before Twitter were Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa who gave their lives to help others.  Today, I have so many educators and those interested in education on Twitter who inspire me.

6.  Can you share 5 great resources for teaching the Common Core?

My Common Core page: http://cybraryman.com/commoncore.html

My Common Core Math page: http://cybraryman.com/commoncoremath.html

My Nonfiction and Common Core page: http://cybraryman.com/nonfiction.html

My Common Core Argumentative Writing page: http://cybraryman.com/commoncoreargumentative.html

My Keyboarding page: http://www.cybraryman.com/keyboarding.html

7.  You retired after teaching in NY for 32 years.  What advice do you have for new teachers?

  • First, get yourself in the best possible physical condition.
  • Observe other teachers.
  • Form a PLN in your school and online.

My New Teachers page: http://cybraryman.com/newteachers.html

8.  What advice do you have for people who are new to Twitter?

Find and then follow the educational hashtags for your grade level or subject area. It is okay to start out by lurking.  Do not be afraid to ask for help or share on Twitter.  The Twitter educational community care, share and support one another.

More about me can be found here:

All About Cybrary Man http://cybraryman.com/cybrary_man.html

Thanks, Jerry!  We appreciate your contributions to the Twitter-verse and beyond!

A Shifting the Monkey Primer for #mdeschat

Key Ideas from Shifting the Monkey

Here are a few takeaways from Shifting the Monkey.  While the book is not written specifically for educators, it has great value for anyone seeking to cultivate and reward organizational excellence.

  • There will always be workers who shirk their responsibilities
  • These shirkers constantly seek to shift their responsibilities, duties, and problems to others
  • The shifting of these “monkeys” creates stress on organizations
  • We give negative, poor performing employees, too much time and attention
  • Leaders can reward good, hardworking employees by shifting monkeys off their backs
  • Tier 3 leaders hold ineffective people accountable so that they behave themselves even when the boss isn’t looking
  • Effective leaders treat everyone well
  • Effective leaders don’t accept excuses from marginal employees, they don’t sympathize, and they don’t argue
  • Ineffective employees need to be handled on a one/one basis
  • Good leaders are constantly reflecting on what they’re doing and how things are going

This should be enough to get you started, buy the book to get the full picture.

Here are some additional resources for Shifting the Monkey:

Book Review by B. Curran:

http://www.engagingeducators.com/blog/2012/07/31/book-review-shifting-the-monkey-by-todd-whitaker/

Blog about Todd Whitaker and Shifting the Monkey:

http://drspikecook.com/2012/07/17/shifting-the-monkey-with-todd-whitaker/

Jason Fountain blog about Shifting the Monkey

http://jasonfountain.blogspot.com/2011/07/shift-monkey.html

Todd Whitaker’s Website:

http://www.toddwhitaker.com/

Danny Brassell Discusses Reading on #mdeschat

Thanks to Danny Brassell for joining us on #mdeschat tonight!  Here is an expanded version of Danny’s responses to our questions and some ways to connect with him below:

What are some ways to engage reluctant readers?

Two rules to engaging reluctant readers:

Rule #1 Find books based on readers’ interests

Rule #2 Remember rule #1

What are the top three things that great teachers do when teaching reading?

1. Great reading teachers love to read themselves and their students feel their passion.

2. Great reading teachers read aloud to students every day, no matter how young or old.

3. Great reading teachers provide students with time to read and plenty of reading choices.

How do we involve parents in teaching their children to read?

Remind parents that they are their children’s most important teachers.

Communicate simple reading tips for parents: read aloud every night, provide lots of books at home etc.

You wrote the book Bringing Joy Back Into the Classroom, give us some advice on making learning joyful.

Start by taking your two index fingers, putting them on the sides of your mouth and pushing up. SMILE!!!

Incorporate your passions and interests into your teaching.  You and your students will be happier and more productive.

Simple phrase I use to remember Maslow’s Social Hierarchy of Needs: “P.S., I Love You.”  Different needs include:

P= physiological needs

S=safety

I= “eye” above pyramid on back of $1bill- self-actualization

Love= love and belonging

You= self esteem

Fulfill these needs and reach the top of the pyramid, and you will truly make learning joyful to your students.

What are other countries doing better than us when it comes to reading instruction?

Not testing every other day.  Not labeling kids at an early age.  Not allowing their federal government to bully their educators.

Danny’s final thoughts:

The Gladstone/Disraeli Paradox

Queen Victoria was asked about the difference between Prime Minister Gladstone and Prime Minister Disraeli.  Her answer provides an important life lesson.  She said that whenever she spoke to PM Gladstone she thought he was the most interesting person she had ever met.  Whenever she left a meeting with PM Disraeli she thought she was the most interesting person he had ever met.  The lesson?  Everybody wants to feel important.  What do we do to encourage reluctant readers, weary teachers, and frustrated parents?

Other Ways to Connect with Danny

YouTube Videos Starring Danny:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll7Va0V4mJQ

http://www.youtube.com/user/Speaking247

Danny’s website:

http://www.dannybrassell.com/

Danny’s books:

http://www.amazon.com/Danny-Brassell/e/B001IXO8JM

Get FREE cool, short book recommendations
at: www.lazyreaders.com

“Like” his Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/dannybrassell

Connect on LinkedIn:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/dannybrassell

Follow him on
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DannyBrassell