Guest Post: Teacher Growth: Helping teachers open their gates from the inside

recite-boo5k4The global education community tends to agree that better teaching equals better student achievement.

Schools, districts and nations have taken this notion and used it in attempts to improve the quality of teachers through professional development and teacher evaluation systems.

There is a long continuum of possibilities for developing teachers and teaching, but it seems that many systems sit solidly at the teacher-evaluation-for-improvement end.

When I visited the USA I was surprised at the quantitative, and at times punitive, approaches being used to score and evaluate teachers. Eric Saibel’s recent post questions whether all the work and time put into teacher evaluation has made a difference to teaching or student learning.

In this thoughtful video conversation Eric talks with Starr Sackstein about ideas for meaningful teacher feedback and growth. (more…)

They care when we notice


Sometimes when I’m dealing with a really gifted child, who can’t get out of his/her own way… this is how I feel inside

It was evident he was smart from the first day he walked into my room in 10th grade.

He always carried a book and chip on his shoulder.

He made it very clear, “School is not for me.”

But I saw his challenge and I took it.

This was one kid I was not going to give up on (unlike many others I suspect had).

As time went on and Nick continued to take up space in class, it was evident he could write very well, as a matter of fact, I would even call it a gift. But he still refused to do the “work” that was assigned to him and subsequently failed. (more…)

Guest Post: An Administrator’s Perspective on Teachers Throwing Out Grades


Administrator Beth Graham

My journey: Mile One.

by Beth Graham

When Starr asked me to contribute to her blog, I wasn’t really sure what I had to contribute, but took the challenge; we all need to start somewhere.

I am an assistant principal.  I lead. I inspire. I support. I empower.  I care about teachers. I care about students. I care about learning.  WE are in this together.

When I was a student in grade school and high school, I was a learner who struggled.  It took me longer than the “smart” students to learn what I needed to get that A.

There were so many times that I received a grade that I worked hard for only to see a B or C+.  I remember feeling deflated.  Over time, I stopped trying out of fear of failing.

I was never going to be an A student anyway.


Teaching kids to accurately self-assess

By the time students get to 12th grade, the last thing they want to do is have to readjust to a new and complicated system that expects them to be involved in their own assessment.

Instead, they prefer the passive method of merely accepting whatever a teacher places on their report card, all the while reserving the right to be angry if they feel unjustly graded.

But what if that wasn’t an option?

This year, I’ve forced students into the driver’s seat, responsible for their own learning as well as their own assessing.

Traditionally, reflections have been a hallmark of the classes, asking students to examine their learning closely and align the specific skills with the standards we are working on. (more…)

Blogging for Educators – Are you Ready to Start Blogging?

It has been a life’s ambition to be a published author and I’m really excited to share my Blogging book, Blogging for Educators with all of you.

We all have our reasons for not starting something, but blogging is something educators need to do if they want to improve their practice and model excellent digital citizenship for their students.

So if you want to blog, but you don’t know where to start, check out the book.

Or if you just want to try it out, how about you write a post for this blog? I’d love to help.

What has kept you from blogging? What would it take to get you to try? Please share

It’s unpopular to admit, but I have a favorite

IMG_8054.JPGSo the headline of this post is a little misleading.

I’m not talking about students or people or anything like that.

I’m talking about how I prioritize my classes.

All of my classes are NOT created equally.

Without a doubt, the most amount of my attention and affection is centered around the AP Lit and Comp class. The planning, the conferencing, the ideas… the commitment of my students.

There is nothing better.

The vast majority of them end up staying through their lunch period which is the period that immediately follows our class. (more…)

Students interpret Fitzgerald

Students perform excerpts from Great Gatsby to better understand author's craft and purpose.

Students perform excerpts from Great Gatsby to better understand author’s craft and purpose.

The Great Gatsby descended upon room 333 as groups acted out chapters worth of Fitzgerald’s prose and then discussing directorial choices and perceived meaning of text.

Rather than go the usual route with us reading the text and simply answering questions or mining the text, students were assigned a chapter and asked to write it into something visual.

Exploring the importance of specific elements, they needed to make choices about what to keep and what to omit in order to elucidate the meaning of their chapters.

Once they finished performing for the class, they were expected to lead a class discussion about elements of their chapters.