Friday, November 30, 2012

Can My Bad Day Can Be Good For Teaching & Learning?

I had to remind myself recently that sometimes as a leader, it is often our job to take on the bad days so that others are able to have good ones.

This is not to say that we should take on everyone's problems (especially those of their own creation), but there is something strangely satisfying when, after dealing with a difficult situation or day, others might say "I had no idea that happened" or "my class was great, we were not interrupted at all" or "today was a great day".

When we take on big problems/distractions that are often unrelated to teaching & learning we free up others to focus to do the real hard work... the teaching & learning.  If my tough day contributed to that happening, it is worth it.

(Lets just not make a habit of it!)

Like a goalie needs to protect the net so that others can score...

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Latest Incarnation From a Culture of Fear

"We need to stop treating people as if they are bad", this was the advice of Todd Whitaker at last year's  NASSP conference, as well as during his keynote at the RIASP summer conference the summer before.  Immediately, I agreed.  Intrinsically, I knew.  I knew that in far too many places, in our culture, in our institutions, in our politics, in myself; a unjustified culture of fear had disconnected us from one another.  Sadly, I also knew that it had also had its effect on me as an educator.  "Kids are up to no good, people not doing their part, things are going to go wrong, etc..." these thoughts pervaded my consciousness.  The worst part- there was no evidence to suggest that any of it was true.  Actually, when I looked: 99.9% of my students were doing the right things, my faculty and staff were (and are) committed to excellence, the community overwhelmingly supported and celebrated our school.  Thanks to Mr. Whittaker's advice, I recognized the grip the culture of fear had on me, and I am pleased to say it has slowly loosened.  I am that once again I am able to see what is the reality in my school; GREAT KIDS, GREAT TEACHERS, GREAT COMMUNITY.

Unfortunately, I cannot help but see that the culture of fear is invading again.  The assumption that people are bad, and need to be proven good (in spite of existing data) has come to education in the form of evaluation systems based on standardized testing.  Now I believe that everyone, every position, every school, should be evaluated (I am one of those leaders who looks forward to NEASC visits and measuring myself and my school against world class standards).  However, educators across the nation are being asked to spend countless hours making sure that other educators (regardless of level skill, previous evaluations, student input, portfolio of evidence, or other existing data) spend countless hours documenting to prove that they are indeed good enough.  And even if the evidence collected proves best practices are in place with outstanding levels of student engagement, it might not matter if the test scores are not up to par.

How many hours/days/weeks/months have you lost succumbing to the latest incarnation of the culture of fear?  Time to shift that monkey...

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Test's Answers vs. The Right Answers

As those who are participating as evaluators in RI's new Evaluation System already know, we need to take an assessment based on the Charlotte Danielson model (vehicle used is Teachscape).  For those who are unfamiliar with the test, the test can take up to 5 &1/2 hours and contains video segments that have to be observed, then with the evidence collected, scores are assigned to the segments according to competencies.  Additionally there are multiple choice questions, select all that apply questions, and select those that don't belong questions. For more info see

There are many issues that keep swirling in my head since taking (and thankfully passing) the test.  The list below are a few of those thoughts.  The list is in no particular order with the exception of #1 (can't get that thought out of my mind).


  1. How I answered questions- I consciously changed my answers based on what I felt the "test" wanted as an answer, not what I knew I could prove or what I know to be best practice in education.  I think I can't shake it because it makes me wonder "to what extent do we do this to our students through our existing assessments?" (Especially those that are "high stakes")
  2. Don't Model This...How this test/assessment is implemented does not follow best practice in regards to assessments to measure learning- No pre-assessment data to determine if my existing knowledge or the video training led to my "success".  Also very limited feedback about how you score and/or how to improve.
  3. Who are these "Master Scorers?-How many times did they get to watch the videos before assigning scores? Did they change their answers to match the assessment?  Do they have superhero vision & hearing (See #4 below)? HOW DID THEY THINK THAT IS A 4?!? (Upon reflection this is a great thing to have pop into my mind, because it makes me realize how lucky I am to see level 4 teaching every day)
  4. Surprising Lack of "Standardization"/The Bias of the Multiple Cameras- For a tool that is looking to standardize our evaluation practice, I was very surprised that the videos in the module are not standardized.  Each video had a different camera view.  Some were panoramic, some followed the teacher, some used multiple cameras & angles, some had good sound some, you could barely hear, some the volume was too high when certain people spoke.  This had an enormous impact on what and how I could observe the lesson.
  5. When Will the Student's Views Become a Factor?- Just because I think a lesson went well, or matched up with what I am trained to see as "good teaching", or because I learned by observing the lesson, does that mean it was effective? Is the lesson personalized to the students? Is the lesson connected to the students' interests, other classes, or past experience? Do the students feel a teacher cares about them? Any tool that does not look to provide a measure of the student's voice as at least a potential indicator of educator effectiveness, is missing a key component of an effective tool. (Side note: Useful tool to incorporate this idea is
I'm sure more will pop into my head this weekend.  For those who have taken the test I'd love to know what has stuck with you after completing it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Oops!?! Keep the Tweet or Delete?

As an educator who is trying to model best practices and proper citizenship (lets not call it digital citizenship anymore) I am curious what other educators do when you have regrets about tweeting something?  This can be for a variety of reasons- realize that you missed something in the link you sent out, having second thoughts, not promoting the values you hold dear, etc.  What to do?  Do you delete it (and other associated links)? Do you keep it up and mea culpa?  Ignore and just keep going?

Or blog about it to see what others do?