Comprehensive CARE

One of our greatest strengths of caring as an ethic is that it does not assume that all students should be treated by some impartial standard of fairness.  Some students need more attention than others… ~Nel Noddings

What a special week this is for all of us.  In addition to it being Homecoming Week with all the exciting celebrations we will engage in, it is also time to begin talking with our students and their parents about progress grades.  As you approach the presentation of grades for your classes, it’s good to consider research-based strategies – even about grading.

Ken O’Connor, an educational author about grading systems, reminds us that, “’fair does not mean equal; yet, when it comes to grading, we insist it does.’ Fairness is much more about equity of opportunity than it is about uniformity (p.7).”  If a student needed to wear glasses, we would not ask him to test without them or ask everyone to wear glasses in order to fair.  Connor suggests that classwork, testing, or even make up work, you take a “positive, supportive approach that directly affects student behavior, leaving the scores and the resulting grade as pure measures of achievement (p.27).

When you begin to talk with your students in CAMP about their academic progress in the next week, make sure you ask them to create a plan to maintain or improve their current grade status.  Make sure their goals are measurable and achievable.  Help the students set deadlines for their goals.  Write the plan down and check with the students on their deadlines to see what needs to be adjusted or to celebrate.  The students should own this process, but you will need to help them manage their plan and help them be successful.  As they see success in their goals, you will see a higher level of motivation and CARE-ing from the students.  One of the greatest cures for student apathy is personal success.  It’s good to celebrate every step of the way.

Finally, as you approach talking with students and parents, here is a great professional piece entitled, “Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say and Do,” that will help guide you in your process. For many of you, this article will just be a great reminder of how very skilled you really are in your actions each day, but it may stir ideas from years past.  For our newer teachers, this is a great read and provides a list to create your own goals for your personal professional development. 

Week 22 – A Look Ahead

Monday – Ugly Sweater Day; Hillyard Tour for registered Sophomores (see list)

Tuesday – Mustache Day; Assembly Schedule – Intro Homecoming Candidates

Wednesday – Red Carpet Day

Thursday – Black and White Day; Intruder Drill @ 1:15 p.m.

Friday – Spirit Day, Special Assembly Schedule (will be emailed Thursday); Homecoming Basketball Game vs. Chillicothe; Homecoming Dance (Sophomore Class Sponsors Supervise) 9-11 p.m.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available CC from Flickr: Pink Heart photo credit available here; Hands photo credit available here. 

O’Connor, Ken. (2011).  A repair kit for grading: 15 fixes for broken grades. Pearson Education, Inc., Boston, MA.

Health CARE

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. ~Siddhartha Gautama

The season of influenza is upon us.  It is during this time that a myriad of students will come and go from our classrooms with various levels of cough, sneezing and full blown flu.  Part of our CARdinal Excellence is taking CARE of our students – even when they are not in our rooms and especially if they are ill.

If you have students who record as HEA on your attendance, consider taking a moment or two to touch base with them.  A phone call or email will go a long way with a parent.  Also, create a folder, or several folders with one designated for each hour, and place handouts, tests or notes into the folders with the names of each student missing.  Then when the student returns, you can just have him go copy the work and cross off his name.  It’s an easy way to keep track of who has accessed the missing work and help stay organized amid the chaos of students who are absent.  As easy as it is to claim the students must be responsible to ask for and make up their work from their absences, it is good to remember they are, after all, kids.  All kids need help and guidance to create good habits.  What an excellent way to show how much you CARE.

Week 21 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday – JEPD in Library (UMKC Site Visit) – bring your next PS and your whiz wheel

Wednesday – BLT at 0700 in Room 106

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC from Flickr:  “Achooo!” (View License Agreement here) and “A Very Belated Bless You” (View License Agreement here).

Noting our CARE

If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it. ~William James

Walking through classrooms this week, I noticed something empowering the success of our teaching – students taking notes and documenting their learning.  It seems so simple of an action, yet it is so powerful.  We are a school district that relies on research-based instructional strategies that work, and we often turn to Marzano’s work to remind us of tools to add to our draw out of pedagogical toolbox.  I thought this time of year  — the start of the new semester — offered us a great opportunity to encourage and remind everyone to break out a few of these great instructional tools for greater gain in your own classroom.  Marzano lists “Nine Essential Instructional Strategies” that show documented gain when used in a classroom.  Try one of these in your lessons this week.  Also the use of Advance Organizers can be used very simply and effectively in almost every lesson and are especially helpful to add to your close reading and vocabulary studies when bringing your reading in line with your content learning.  If you were to Google “Marzano’s Instructional Strategies” or “Advance Organizers,” you will find not only content specific ideas to add to the link I’ve provided, but you will also find strong theoretical information behind why these strategies work and how to utilize them for the greatest instructional gain. 

Good job to all the teachers who I saw using these differentiated techniques in their classroom this week.  Thank you for holding our students accountable for what you share with them or ask them to discover.  From learning how to take notes, to reorganizing the materials you are learning on a graphic organizer, these activities solidify knowledge to be learned by our students.  It is effective and you will see a huge learning curve from the process.

Week 20:  A Look Ahead

During our walkthroughs, we will be looking for students utilizing strategies to retain their learning from your direct instruction and small group work.  Our admin goal for this week is to provide feedback to every teacher who is found utilizing a Marzano strategy or advance organizer. 

Monday-Friday:  Department chairs visit with me about scheduling and courses for the 2013-2014 school year.

Wednesday – Upward Bound Meeting during CAMP for students registered

Friday – Pep Assembly Schedule

~Excellence is journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC on Flickr:  “Taking Notes” by ocherdraco; “Tapping a Pencil” by Rennett Stowe.

Resolute CARE

My guiding principals in life are to be honest, genuine, thoughtful and caring.  ~Prince William



The New Year always brings the thought of New Year’s resolutions.  Year after year, I find myself resolving to improve many of the same areas in my life.  What I realized after considering this for a moment is that resolutions are really about commitment.  I’ve read numerous action research books and many of them claim that, “what gets measured gets done.”  I find this to be true in my own life.  The more precise the goal and the more often I measure it, the better I am at sticking to it and accomplishing my goal.  It was easier to stay committed when my goals were tangible and more achievable – or more likely in my world — they were easier to get back on track when I missed one.  For example, my goal to exercise more has now become my goal to walk 100 miles each month and not to miss more than one day per week walking.  In our world of data teams, we call these SMART goals – S: specific, M: measurable, A: achievable, R: relevant, T: timely.  Oh sure, I’ve missed monthly mile markers, and I’ve gone more than one day missing, but not often.  My resolution this year is to get back on track quickly and not allow missing a measurement to keep me from my commitment.

When I think about what resolutions and commitments we have made at Benton, I realized there are a plethora of parallels to reaching our goals as a school.  We make almost the same goals each year.  I realize now, that where we get smarter each year is when we continue to make the goals more achievable and timely.  I think our New Year’s resolution this year needs to be to make sure if we get behind or miss a weekly goal, we put that behind us and get back on track.  It’s tough to stay the course and finish strong.  That really does take commitment.  So think about this in your classroom.  Where can you set more timely and achievable goals in order to finish strong?  Make that commitment to yourself and for your students – and ultimately, for our school.  And if you resolve to stay committed to the end – that really shows your CARdinal Excellence!


Week 19:  A Look Ahead

Administration has our EOC courses observations finally on a schedule, so we are going to start up with our building walkabouts again.  This week, we will walkthrough looking for vocabulary implementation in your lessons. 

Monday – WHITE DAY FINALS (regular bell schedule); pass out Semester 2 schedules in CAMP

Tuesday – (WHITE DAY) Start of Semester 2 classes

Wednesday – Benton Leadership Team Meeting @ 7:00 a.m. room 106; Hillyard visits with sophomores in auditorium during CAMP (students report after roll is taken); JEPD that was added for today is moved to Friday.

Friday – JEPD for 30 minutes each period (schedule will be sent out as a Thursday reminder)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC on Flickr: “resolution” by New Oxford American Dictionary;  “Diet – new year’s resolutions” by neeravbhatt