One must care about a world one will not see. ~Bertrand Russell

When considering the differences in teaching today compared to as few as only five years ago, I know many of the “old timers” are singing…“times, they are a changin’.”  The continual improvement process of education has brought MSIP to our doorstep in Missouri.  At the local level, we see its impact through the implementation of data teams and teaching and learning 21st Century skills.  By nature, all these mandates for improvement cause us to evaluate our past practices.  It’s more than a little sCAREy to consider all  the changes being imposed upon us.  It’s left up to us to determine what “comes off our plate” from the past in order to add something new for the future.  What if we’re wrong?  What if the new isn’t as good as the old?  What if the new is better than the old, but we are not as good at implementing the new?   I ask myself these questions everyday as I walk through classrooms to see what is working well and what we can improve.

According to Saavedra and Opfer in their article, “Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching,” schools today operate primarily in “the outdated, transmission model of education, through which teachers transmit factual knowledge to students…” which in turn limits students’ ability to apply the knowledge to new contexts, communicate in complex ways, be creative, or problem solve.  The authors share information from learning scientists who taught nine lessons relative to teaching 21st-century skills that I feel would be helpful to pass on considering the upcoming digital presentations we are sharing this Wednesday.  The lessons are:

  1. Make it relevant.
  2. Teach through the disciplines.
  3. Develop thinking skills.
  4. Encourage learning transfer.
  5. Teach students HOW to learn.
  6. Address misunderstandings directly.
  7. Treat teamwork like an outcome.
  8. Exploit technology to support learning.
  9. Foster creativity.

The most interesting part of the lessons is when they claim, “Technology allows students to transfer skills to different contexts, reflect on their thinking and that of their peers, practice addressing their misunderstandings, and collaborate with peers.”  As we enter this week of sCAREy things, I want to ask you to consider how comfortable you are as a 21st century teacher?  Don’t mask your feelings.  Take hold of the lessons like you would hold onto a bag of your favorite candy, and challenge yourself to overcome your fear and embrace the change.  Move your transmission model off your plate and face your creative fear.  Exploit that technology – don’t let the students exploit your patience.  Teach the students how to learn.  That will lead to you a world of thanksgiving.

Week 11 – A Look Ahead

This week on our administrative walkthroughs we will look for and provide feedback on use of technology.  How many classrooms are accessing our Project Connect devices?  What are students using the devices for?  How are teachings working with and monitoring student use.  Are lessons being taught able to work digitally?  How will a student be able to archive a lesson if this is something chosen to save in the digital warehouse?

Tuesday – Winter Pep Assembly planning meeting.  7:00 a.m. in room 106.  All staff interested in winter assemblies should attend.

Wednesday – Digital Exhibition presentations.  Schedule to be emailed.

Sunday – Daylight Savings time change (fall back)

FYI – a look farther ahead:  Nov 5 & 6 will be departmental data teams reviews with each department.  Have your data teams cycle 1 & start of 2 ready to share.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available through CC on Flickr: “Eye of a Vampire” by Caitlin House; “10.25.10 298/365” by nineminutes.

  Saavedra, A.R. & Opfer, V.D.  “Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching.” Phi Delta Kappan. Oct. 2012.

Copious amounts of CARE

In caring, I experience the other as having potentialities and the need to grow.  In helping the other grow, I do not impose my own direction; rather, I allow the direction of the other’s growth to guide what I do, to help determine how I am to respond. ~Milton Maveroff

co-pi-ous  |ˈkōpēəs|   adjective   abundant in supply or quantity: she took copious notes.

A teacher stopped by my office last week to tell me, “It worked, Ma’am.”  “What worked?”  I asked, puzzled for lack of context.  “The ‘sidle up.’ It worked with one of my toughest students.”  I smiled.  I was so happy to hear that news. And I was ever so grateful this teacher took the time to stop in and share that story with me.  I knew what student this teacher was working with; this is one tough kid to reach.  Seven others of you have this child in your classes too.  He presses every one of our buttons, and he is good at it.  Todd Whittaker, author and educational researcher, has some very good advice and strategies that he said GREAT teachers follow in order to function in schools.  The sidle up was one of those tips.  According to Whittaker, I need to be sharing those tips with you; that’s what good leaders do.  I promise I will do better at researching and sharing those strategies and tips.

This week is parent conference week.  I learned that good principals help guide teachers in their interactions with parents.  I hope the script we offered Wednesday helped you some.  Here are three more quick tips about interacting with parents that I have read in Whittaker’s works:

  1. Always remember that our parents send us their best children.  I laughed out loud when I heard TW claim, “You know, parents don’t keep the best kids at home for themselves and send us the rest to deal with.”  I hadn’t really thought of it that way.  They do send us their best children, and often their most precious cargo.  I know my own sons are that to me.
  2. Parents want us to hear them.  Funny what you hear when you  really listen to people’s stories.  It doesn’t even matter if the child is honor roll or ISS.  And it’s so incredible what we learn when we take a minute to really listen to WHAT the parents are talking about.  Try this during parent teacher conference talks this week…ask your parents, “How can I help you?”  And then just listen.
  3. Great teachers stay positive.  TW explains that there are copious numbers of situations in our profession that pull us under and make us feel low.  Sharing those feelings with our parents (or even each other) rarely move one forward or upward.  He reiterates that the best way to reach parents (and students) is to understand the power of praise.  Find a way to praise your CAMPer when you talk with his parent.  Have you ever thought, “Gosh, I am praised too much?”  Probably not.  I am fairly certain our parents feel the same way about raising their teenaged children.

Praise and celebrations:  I don’t want to forget to thank you all ahead of time for your GREAT work on parent contacts.  I also don’t want to forget to ask you to praise and celebrate our students this week for their participation and success in their extra-curricular events.  Our successes are often far beyond a scoreboard or placement in a competition.  We have so many events where we measure students outside of school.  The work is rigorous even when it is fun.  Our students perform their best or at least as much as we are willing to train them to do or expect them to achieve.   We are in a time of district, regional, and state competitions.  From band to speech and debate to all our fall athletics – the pressure is on us to achieve.  I am proud of all our coaches, staff supervisors and students for giving their best.  I hope you will join me in sharing that appreciation.

Week 10 – A Look Ahead

Let’s continue to focus our administrative walkthroughs to look for and provide feedback on teacher behavior, especially after our JEPD last Wednesday.  What are you doing when we see you teaching?  Where are in the classroom? How are you interacting with your students?  Remember, do not allow our students to passively opt out of learning.  And consider the three tips above when you work with our students as well.

PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES – all week.  Make sure you complete your contact log and document your interactions with our parents.

Thursday – Pep Assembly schedule. This is the final fall pep assembly.  Let’s make it great!

Friday – three-hour early out for all students and faculty.

Saturday is the ACT test.  Please encourage all our testing students and especially those in ACT Academy.  Their best is our success as well. 

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images found in CC on Flickr: “Crayola Display #”1 by Bugsy Sailor; “Photonic Lattice” by Jervetson.



There’s No Place Like Home CARE

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. ~Theodor Seuss Geisel

The world is a better place today because of Benton High School.  If only I could share all the stories I heard or know of in this week alone about teachers helping students, students taking care of teachers, teachers being there for each other, and students standing up for what is right.  The stories are touching, humorous and providential. And the acts of caring and kindness made such a big difference in the lives of others.                      They are empowering.

Our students tell me that the Benton teachers and staff empower them to be successful.  I was touched when I heard that.  I am humbled when I see it in action.  As we continue along our journey to improve, I can see our CARdinal Excellence growing. Our passion is growing. Our results are gaining ground.  Your investment in our students is paying off in a big way.

I loved hearing a teacher defend a student because of how he connected with her in life as a child. I love seeing a student give up her personal time day after day to help teachers come together. I love walking into play practice and see students and teachers support each other when things get tough.  I loved hearing an Assistant Principal and Counselor share how they will commitment to making a student on the cusp of dropping out of school decide to stay because they CARE to make sure she does. I love seeing entire departments follow through on their CARE promise and join together at Homecoming for dinner and the game.  I love seeing teachers pull together to take CARE of each other when our lives at home are difficult.  Oh, I understand our world is not perfect.  October is the time in the school year when tempers begin to flare, pressure builds exponentially, and the students and staff alike start to think success is impossible, but it is possible because we CARE about each other and with that we will press through the tougher times and grow closer together. We will be successful. Yes, the world is a better place today because of Benton High School.

Week 9 – A Look Ahead

This week we will continue in our administrative walkthroughs to look for and provide feedback on teacher behavior.  What are you doing when we see you teaching?  Where are in the classroom? How are you interacting with your students?  This will be exciting feedback to share with you.

This is a big week for data teams.  On Tuesday, our UMKC Consultants will work with us each class period in the library to analyze our work and listen to your feedback.  I am excited for you to share all your work with them.  I anticipate a great session for each of you where you will leave feeling strong in your work and ready to tackle the next round of data collection.

Wednesday, we will have JEPD each hour.  I realize this seems like a quick turn about, but we will review your text complexity work and discuss parent/teacher conference protocols.  The sophomores will be out of the building for a large part of the day at My Success Event.  Also, a few students will be testing the PSAT.  Look for that list to be emailed.  Wednesday also marks the end of the first quarter.  Make sure you enter all your grades as quickly as possible.

Friday we will be on pep assembly schedule for our last home football game.  The students are excited to have everyone’s support in school spirit.  I am very proud of how well our Student Council has been leading the way.  I hope you will share your support with them as well.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Photos of “Spirit Stick,” PowderPuff Coin Flip,”  by JetWestfall and “Counseling and Math Departments” by Jenny Moore.


CARE Ought (pronounced car-rot)

We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think.  Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. ~Swami Vivekananda

I find myself wondering sometimes what makes students WANT to do something.  What’s the “carrot” that entices them?  I think about what motivates a high school student. What makes them want to succeed?  What makes them CARE?  What makes them smile when they see us? I ponder about their relationships, activities, classes, teachers and grades.  What really incentivizes a student to be the best he can be?  What is it that makes a student feel good about herself?

I know that we always feel good when we invest in others.  I also know I feel strong when I “get something right” after struggling with it.  I know I always feel relieved when I get things done.  As teachers, we have the opportunity day after day to break down our classroom agendas to give even the most difficult child a chance to think better of himself.   We absolutely control the most variables in our classroom each hour.  Do you create opportunities for “CARE Oughts” to the students who need them (the most)?  A student rarely gets “off track” when a teacher really sees inside them and takes the time to find out what makes them tick (vs get ticked off).  Try it this week.  What CARE Ought can you use to make a difference with one of your students?

Week 8 – A Look Ahead

This week in our administrative walkthroughs for the next few weeks, we will look for and provide feedback on teacher behavior.  What are you doing when we see you teaching?  Where are in the classroom? How are you interacting with your students?  This will be exciting feedback to share with you.

It’s HOMECOMING!  And with that we have several students and teams headed to Sectionals! We play our Softball Sectionals on Wednesday afternoon, so I will move our Staff Meeting after school to JEPD during the day Wednesday.  Thanks for understanding.  Feel free to share in the festivities with the students…they LOVE IT when teachers share in their dress up days.  It shows you CARE, and they notice!  I want to give a shout out to StuCo for the great planning and preparation to make this week successful.  Go #CardNation!

Monday – Josten’s SR Meeting during CAMP

Tuesday – Data Leadership Team (DLT) meeting at 0700

Wednesday – JEPD (schedule and locations will be emailed); LUNCH in the cafeteria – let’s show our support for our kids and Nutrition Staff and eat together!

Thursday – Fire Drill @ 1:15

Friday – Homecoming Assembly (50 minutes long, schedule will be emailed); Staff rally at FB game vs Cameron, Homecoming Royalty presentation before the game, Homecoming dance (9-11) – all FRESHMAN SPONSORS are required for supervision.

It’s going to be a great week!  Go Cardinals!

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available by CC on Flickr: “Farmer’s market, Jul 2009-11” by Ed Yourdon;  “Its Just Carbon” by Vermin Inc.