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Friday, December 31, 2010

7 Strategies To Engage Students

A thoughtful repost from Justin Tarte - Life of An Educator:
1.  Don't just care...really care!

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own little worlds, but we have got to remember that whatever is going on in our world, is 100 times simpler and less complicated than that of our students.  If a student is having a bad day, or if a student is having a great day, give them the opportunity to tell you about it.  Be interested and actually listen to their stories, because if you can show the students you care, they will trust you, and when they trust you, magical things can happen in an educational setting.  Take an interest in their music, their hobbies, their triumphs and struggles, and use that information to help them.  IF THE STUDENTS DON'T THINK YOU CARE, YOU WILL NEVER MAKE A MEANINGFUL CONNECTION WITH THEM!!

2.  Speak to every student at least once every class period - the more the better!

I have tried very hard to make sure this is common practice in my classroom.  Even if it is a simple "hello" or "how are you doing?" it can mean a ton to the student.  Additionally, making that early connection in the class period allows that student to feel more comfortable, which as we all know, students must be comfortable for learning to take place.  STUDENTS DON'T LEARN WHEN THEY ARE STRESSED AND UNCOMFORTABLE!!

3.  Meet your students where they are; not where they are supposed to be, or where you want them to be...

This strategy can be really difficult, but if you can master it, it can pay huge dividends in the long run.  Every year I start with new students, with different ability levels, different learning styles, and different attitudes toward education.  We have got meet each student on their level.  Their level means their ability, their learning style, and their attitude toward education.  If we treat every student the same, we CANNOT expect the same results!  Just as a doctor evaluates all of a patient's symptoms and treats the patient accordingly, we must evaluate each student and approach the learning process in a manner which is best suited for that individual student.  FORGET ABOUT USING ONE STRATEGY TO TEACH ALL OF YOUR STUDENTS!!

4.  Have high expectations, and expect the best from every single student every single day!

I can honestly say, this has probably been my biggest strength in terms of increasing student engagement.  I have found that when you push the students and they know you are pushing them, they engage themselves and respond at a much higher level than if you were giving them review work over and over.  Human nature is to enjoy a challenge and a task that requires more than the minimum.  If your students are disengaged and non-attentive, perhaps they are bored, and they need a challenge to get them going.  Let your students know you have high expectations for yourself, and consequently you expect the best from them too.  NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A CHALLENGE WHEN IT COMES TO STUDENT ENGAGEMENT!! 

5.  Do whatever it takes to get your students out of their desks, and give them every opportunity to use their arms and legs! 

Organized chaos would be how I would describe my classroom.  Students need to move, and sitting for 7 hours a day is frankly torture.  Would you want to sit for 7 hours a day and listen to people talk at, I think not.  I try to get my students up and moving at least 2 to 3 times a week.  I am talking about relay races, group work, activities that require building things with their hands, an activity whereunused fly swatters are used, and lastly skits and reenactments that make everybody laugh.  THE HUMAN BODY WAS NOT DESIGNED TO SIT ALL DAY!!  

6.  Focus on the three R's - rigor, relationships, and relevance... 

I already talked about rigor (4) and relationships (1), but I wanted to keep all three R's together.  If the students see no relevance and value in education, then how can we expect them to learn?  We have got to make sure what they are doing in school is practical and relevant, because if we don't we have no shot at engaging them.  In my classroom I have shown them the connections to what we are learning and the world in which they live.  Also, I have used resources to make what they are learning applicable in their current lives, and have shown them ways to use what we have learned in class.  IF THEY SEE NO VALUE, THEY WILL NEVER BE TRULY ENGAGED!!     

7.  Most importantly...give your students a voice and involve them in the educational process!

Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult things to do in an educational setting, and because it is one of the most difficult, it is one of the most important.  The students know how they learn, they know what they like and dislike, and they hold the key to getting them interested and engaged.  Every day I see 140 students, and my goal is to use them to help me do my job more effectively and efficiently.  Students are a free resource that most educators ignore.  Include them in making assignments, teaching lessons, designing rubrics and writing quizzes and tests.  What do you have to lose?  They will provide you with a wealth of knowledge, and most importantly, they will be engaged because they are a part of the process.  They now have a voice in how they are educated, as well as how they are assessed...STUDENT INVOLVEMENT = AWESOME!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The $2 White Board

In Case You Missed It

Thursday's Rock Hill Herald had an interview with a former Northwestern High School Student, now doing research at the University of Virginia. He had an interesting comment which is work repeating:

What advice would you give current high school students who would like to follow a path similar to yours?
Do not be afraid to try. Success in math, science and engineering fields does not come easily, but I would not be where I am today if I had chosen only to do the things I was sure I could do.

Read more:

Wednesday's New York Times had the following comment about schools in Shanghai China:

The Shanghai students performed well, experts say, for the same reason students from other parts of Asia — including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong — do: Their education systems are steeped in discipline, rote learning and obsessive test preparation.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bloom's Taxonomy?

Short Videos on finding Meaning in a movie.

More Rock Hill School Board Members on The Web

The Rock Hill School Board is made up of Seven members, 5 representing districts and two at-large. However, all decisions are "district-wide", so it is important to follow and communicate with all board members. There are now two more board members communicating with blog type activities, Ginny Moe and Jane Sharp, newly elected members to the board.

Subscribe to their blogs to find out what they are thinking or to find out what is going on with the board. Click the links below to access their blogs.

Ginny Moe

Jane Sharp -- Rock Hill School Board Seat 4

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Power In The Teacher's Hands


Changing Grading Practice to Give Students the Power
to Succeed
By Linda Love
Schools in the High Schools That Work (HSTW) and Making Middle Grades Work (MMGW) network are learning about a new initiative – the Power of I – that offers options in grading. The Power of I initiative allows teachers to take a different approach to grading that helps students become more productive and successful in their school work.
“Schools need to make the effort to support students to re-do or revise work until it meets standards….it is not okay to fail,” said Toni Eubank, director of MMGW State Network, an initiative of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). Eubank shared her expertise on the Power of I with HSTW and MMGW staff from Tallwood and Bayside high schools as well as Bayside and Independence middle schools during in-service week in August.
Eubank points out that “Giving students zeroes does not teach them responsibility. It teaches them that they don’t have to do their work. The most important school rule that schools can communicate and reinforce is that school is a place where students have to do their work.”
Eubank talked to teachers about re-thinking their grading practices and urged them to consider embracing the Power of I, a grading philosophy that sets
high expectations and holds students accountable to re-do work until it meets standards. Teachers award an “incomplete” or "I" for work not submitted or sub-standard (D or E) work and provide interventions to help students accomplish the work required to meet set standards. “We’re grading a behavior [not their work] when we give students a zero for not completing an assignment. It lets students off the hook for learning,” said Eubank.
Schools that implement a Power of I [program] or [something similar such as] A, B, C, Not Yet grading establish grade-level or subject-specific teams who work together to draft a written grading policy that staff members can support. Teachers consider standardized grading procedures (which may include a homework policy) and reach consensus on weight of grading in same-course subjects. They also establish schedules during which students can get academic help and/or make up assignments.
“The Power of I won’t work unless teachers plan academic interventions for students who are not doing the work,” said Eubank.
Eubank recommends an array of interventions that give students many opportunities to complete or revise school work. For example, schools can provide extra help sessions for non-performing students conducted by individual teachers, departments, or tutors. Teachers can devise classroom procedures to bundle homework for periodic grading; establish protocols to facilitate student make-up work; give re-tests or alternative assessments; and devise rubrics and other assessment tools to show students what A, B, and C work looks like before students start working on graded assignments.
Parents get involved, too, to help students complete or revise work to meet standards. The process includes teachers communicating with parents when students are not turning in major assignments and failing tests. Teachers ask that parents help their children get to extra help sessions and provide support for them when they re-do or practice work at home. Eubank even provides a scriptfor teachers to use when calling parents to solicit their support in encouraging their children to complete assignments. (see the Power of I Calling script)
Eubank advises teachers to collect accurate parent email addresses and phone numbers for every student during the first weeks of school. She also suggests documenting every parent contact and discussion when students are not turning in work or demonstrating proficiency on major assignments and tests.
“Teachers need ongoing support to pull this off. It helps when teachers meet periodically with colleagues and school leaders to share challenges and successes of grading practices,” said Eubank. She added that teachers and administrators need time to talk about revising grading policies to work out the snags, determine how to record and remove “I” grades, and share examples of high-quality assessments.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

How Do You Decide The Good Teachers?

Is this an example of good teaching?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Learning First Alliance

I'm reposting a recent addtion to the Learning First Alliance blog because it has some points worth considering:

The Vital Equation

obriena's picture
Last Friday, teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron embarked on what she called a “webquest of sorts,” simultaneously posting three articles that address three key components of the “vital equation” she believes must exist in order for a student achieve.
Family + Student + School + Policymakers/Voters = Student Success
At the Huffington Post, she offers the top ten things she believes family/home life must contribute to this equation. Among them: getting a student to school on time, fed on something other than Snickers, having received the proper medical care. And communicating with the school, being accessible and being honest with what the student has a tendency to do socially/academically/behaviorally.
On her Edutopia blog, she shares her top ten suggestions for the responsibilities that students must own in order to achieve. They include: being their own advocates, asking lots of questions and communicating struggles to teachers. She also suggests surrounding themselves with other students who can help, and dressing for success.
And at TweenTeacher, she proposes ten responsibilities of teachers to avoid student failure. Among them: being experts at content and communicating that content. Being a role model, including modeling collaboration and modeling lifelong learning. And importantly, enjoying the job and the clientele.
On all three blogs, she closed with the important role of voters and policymakers in ensuring that students succeed. Her challenge to all of us is to make education a priority in the voting booth and in campaigns. The voters must send the message that public education is important – and policymakers must do what is best for children.
I believe Heather's equation to be right on, and I hope that education advocates take this message to heart. It is so easy to blame teachers and school leadership (or evaluation procedures that some believe allow ineffective educators to remain in the system, or pay scales that some believe serve as a disincentive for talented individuals to join the profession). But the best educators in the world cannot do it alone – we know that.
At the same time, it is also easy to blame a parent who is not supervising homework or afterschool activities, or not attending parent-teacher conferences, for not ensuring their child reaches his or her potential. Or to blame a student who would rather be the class clown – or not in class – for not succeeding. But the best parents and students in the world will obviously have a hard time achieving in a school that pushes them away.
And even if you combine great teachers, engaged parents and eager students, without adequate resources and external social services to offer assistance when necessary, you will not get a student ready to succeed in the flat world.
So yes, I think that Heather's got this equation right. Does anyone disagree? Can we, as a nation, start advocating school improvement strategies recognizing the role of all stakeholders?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday season. The picture above is from a lawyer friend of mine - very appropriate for a lawyer.


Comments and Questions on Proposed Grading Changes

The Friday, December 24, 2010 Herald has an interesting post for former Teacher of The Year Bryan Coburn concerning Grading Policy Concerns. You should pick up a copy. Below are  questions and/or comments I have received from staff and community concerning the discussion on possible grading policy changes:
  • District Three has a South Carolina Teacher of The Year on Staff.  Why is he not involved with this process? This would go a long way toward achieving buy-in.
  • How were the teachers picked for the grading evaluation team? What was the average attendance for meetings and did any of the teachers drop off (or stop going to meetings)? Why were the teachers told not to talk with the news media?
  • With a concentration on retest and a mastery of content, would an expected outcome be no one entering high school at less than an 8th grade level in reading and/or math? Will this be one of the middle school measures?
  • Would  grouping of students by ability make it easier to implement a grading policy such as this?
  • The administration suggested that only 10 to 20% of the teachers have problems with the proposed changes and we shouldn't be held captive by such a small group. Would you share those poll results and explain how you conducted the poll? Has a similar poll been conducted with parents? 
  • Why don't we have parents and local business/education leaders on the committee? Student Leaders?
  • Good team dynamics would say the committee currently set up is too big to be functional. Why has the team/committee not be divided up into highly functioning groups of 5 to 7 people?
  • There is a big difference between middle school and high school. Why are the two groups lumped together?
  • Brain studies suggest that executive function is a better determining factor for success than IQ and is more likely the reason students don't turn in work on time than different learning styles. What are we doing for this? When and how often do we evaluate?
  • The block schedule is not good for these "slow learner students", are we having a discussion about dropping the block schedule and, if not, why not?
  • How many students fall into the category of slow/late learner? We have said that we cannot afford to apply everything at all schools. Should we put our best teachers on the new grading at Saluda Trail and South Pointe and make those schools of choice for grading?
  • Montgomery County Maryland, a district mentioned in the studies, tracks their graduates through college and measures progress. Are we doing this? Are we going to start, if not, why? Wouldn't this be a good measure to see if grading changes would make any difference?
  • If zero % of a grade can be class participation, then why limit the number of absences for a student who has mastered material?  What's the difference between a student who is present and not participating and one who is not present at all (other than the dollars that student brings to the district budget)?
  • Our Mission:  Rock Hill Schools will provide all students with challenging work that authentically engages them in the learning process and prepares them for successful futures.  How does the no grade for class participation aspect "authentically engage them in the learning process?  How is this  approach to cheating, late work without penalty, and retesting "prepare them for successful futures?" 
  • What specific outcomes have been measured at the pilot sites before implementation that will be remeasured after implementation, and what change is the district looking for to determine success at the pilot sites? What will be the results that will drive further implementation or stop the trial?
  • Will the district consider exempting AP and IB classes since  dual credit classes are already exempt because of York Tech Requirements? 
  • We need to make the "non-academic" penalty for cheating much harder (clean bathrooms for a week) since the academic penalty would be reduced.
  • The district penalty system uses removal from academics as punishment. When will an alternative school, or alternative school within a school become a reality and who on staff has this as an assignment?
  • You mentioned a time limit  for homework, was that total for all subjects or for an individual subject? If for all subjects, how do you propose for this to be managed at the high school level?
  • If this is a recommendation from "High Schools that Work", would you give us a list of districts that have implemented this and the % of schools using "High Schools That Work" that have implemented it?
  • Students who do the work, do it well and do it on time should be rewarded. Life is not fair. Regardless of whether you go to college or not, students will not be rewarded or given numerous chances in the real world if work is not done well or  timely. It is not fair for students to turn in work whenever and to  take a test over with such a small penalty or no penalty. 
  • We will be doing for the regular students what we've been doing for special needs kids for years.
  • What kind of support will teachers have  to be available for tutoring and retesting opportunities?
  • High school is  preparation for the real world and this system  contradicts what parents are trying to teach their children.
  • Only someone without a life  has the time to put into assessing “half” of the semester’s work in the last week or so of school.  I don’t know how a young teacher with a new spouse, maybe a young baby, a new house, etc., could possibly do it. Retesting, or rework is inefficient. A company would go out of business based on this policy.  How are you going to  get buy-in from these teachers?
  • There’s no way a person  can keep up with (or maybe better, should be expected to keep up with) 70-90 students turning work in one day (that’s 5%), two days (that’s 10%), three days (that’s 15%), etc., late and getting their grades adjusted accordingly. How do you propose for this to be managed?
  • Mastery should be a go/no-go decision.  Have we considered  grades  without time-lines.  You work with a concept as an 8-year old until you master it – whether that happens at 8 years and 2 months or 9 years and 3 months.  Children learn (and master) at different rates.  Why expect them all to master  grade material in one year?
  • The biggest variable, after the student, to mastering content, is the teacher, not the grading policy. Why do you think this will make any difference? If content is mastered - why doesn't the data show it (other than grade inflation).
  • When will retesting be done and who will administer the test (teachers now have morning and afternoon duty)?  If before or after school, will the district provide transportation for the students?
  • Being accountable/responsible is one of the qualities the community expects the district to reinforce. If we don't hold the student accountable for all their work, when/how do we reinforce this skill? 
  • Where will the money come from to print the extra tests? What will teachers be allowed to "give up" to provide the extra work/tests?
  • The retesting policy, in its present form, takes accountability away from the student and places it on the teacher.   We should not  give  students any reason to work less diligently. The policy takes away a teachers ability to use  professional judgment. What type of student would you like to teach? One that is going to try and give their best effort  or one that decides when he wants to achieve? Students will do the minimum they have to.
  • It's time for the district staff to go back into the classroom for awhile!
  • I believe in expectations. I also believe that students will rise to the occasion and will be a better citizen because they know that they have had to work to achieve and succeed and haven’t just had it handed to them! Do you think the Northwestern coaching staff expects less than the players best effort? If they did, do you think they'd be state champs?
  •  If the students take another test on the same material, is the retesting showing learning or have the students only improved their test taking skills? Since high school is on a block schedule when does the retest take place?  Is it fair for the retest to take away from instruction time?  Is it fair to ask teachers to stay late or come in early to accommodate retests?  
  • Can the teacher set a certain time for the retest and if the student does not come, then the first grade stands?  Bottom line, how can a grading policy apply to all disciplines at all grade levels?  
  • Should  a rule  be applied to all subjects? For example, class participation should not be a part of the grade. What about for; Physical Education; Chorus; Band; Art; Public Speaking; Home Arts; and/or Foreign Language to name a few. Wouldn't class participation be integral to these subjects? If not, why?
  • Setting how much certain grades should be worth. In subjects where skills build upon themselves, such as math, foreign language, and science - shouldn't tests toward the end of year  count more?
  • They say teachers are abusing the system now. How many teachers? How do their students perform on required state testing? Why can't our Principals manage this? If they can't, how will they manage a new grading policy?
  • They say students should  have limited penalties for cheating, late work or no work. Is this the real world? Is that the way we operate our district? If an employee puts down wrong information on a time sheet, what do we do? If a teacher always turns grades in after the deadline, what do we do?
  • Wouldn't all this discussion be better served with  Professional Development? If not, why?
  • The world is not fair.  Adults showing children  they can be rewarded for being irresponsible is very wrong.  It is also a  poor lesson for the children who work hard and do the assignments on time.  They are being given a backhanded lesson that they skim on their work and it just won’t matter, so hard work doesn't have its own rewards. 
  • This is an example of how we are dumbing down our society and teaching our children  they do not need to be responsible for themselves and their actions don’t have consequences.  We need to teach our kids that setting the bar high is a good thing.  Striving for something is a good thing.  We also need to teach our kids the world is a competitive place.  Instead, we are teaching them that laziness will be rewarded.  
  • Sometimes failing is the only way to teach a kid to do the right thing.
  • It takes away almost every purpose of giving students a deadline on work because kids can turn in work at anytime. 
  • You have to include the community. Parents are involved whether you want them to be or not.  You can't just assume that Parents don't know what's good for their children.
  • For some, the notion of a policy which allows students caught cheating to get away with it amounts to undermining the ethics and values which parents are trying to instill at home,  reinforces the culture of cheating  and renders good parents insignificant.
  • Reducing the possibility of outright failure gives teachers less leverage while also giving students unrealistic expectations about the adult world they soon will enter.
  • This takes away one of the very few tools Teachers have to get kids to learn. The possibility of failing is a motivator. Now kids are under the impression they can do the work whenever they want to, and it's not that big of a deal. It's an out. The root problem is motivation (lack of a developed executive function). The root problem is not that we're not teaching them.
  • What about the conscientious student who keeps up with class, studies until 2 a.m. and pulls an A on a math test? Should a peer who skipped class and flubbed the test twice or three times get an equal grade? With the new policy, the ultimate grade on a student transcript could be the same, even though the two students took very different paths. 
  • What is a grade  going to mean now? What does an A mean now? Does an A between different teachers ever mean the same thing?
  • When will teachers find the extra time to work with students who have in-completes? What about students who game the system? How can learning continue sequentially if makeup assignments remain undone?
  • If students don’t get at least 50 percent on their  final, they should have to retake the course. It would also dramatically change the culture of the school and put the pressure on the students, where it should be.
  • Teachers are being blamed for lax student performance when it is the student who should be held more accountable.
  • Why not hold students accountable for the first test scores (initial learning)? (Example, give an average of the two grades.)
  • Can we put a cap on the first test grade obtained?  If they make an 85 or above then they are not allowed to retest (The higher scoring students are protected if the grades are averaged).
  • How will GPA and class rank be obtained when students are allowed to retest?
  • Will the teacher be allowed to set the deadline  for projects, make-up work, and retest so there is  not a burden of ungodly work load at the end of the grading period?
  • How are we deterring students from cheating with such a small repercussion?
  • With classes on such time constraints in regards to teaching the standards, how are we going to have the time to reteach and retest?
  • What is your plan to get buy-in from parents?
  • Because of the subjective nature of rubrics, will the new grading policy eliminate the use of them?
  • Teachers use grades as a penalty for class conduct because administrators will not discipline students for misbehaving in class. If you take this ability away, a disruptive student will affect the learning environment of the students who are there to learn.
  • Why don't we drop the 0 to 100 scale and go to a 4 point scale?
  • If grading is already 61/50, why change to a lower value?
Comments From The Herald Online:
  • As a teacher in the Rock Hill School District, I understand the need to help students achieve success. We need to re-mediate our students when necessary, we do not need to allow students to re-take and re-take tests. Teachers know which students are struggling to understand the concepts being taught and which students are not succeeding due to poor work ethic, laziness etc. It is not fair to those students who study, work hard, and are responsible enough to do the right thing the first time. We are setting our students up for failure. Unfortunately, the district has already implemented a new report card/grading system in the elementary school that takes away any competition or motivation to succeed. 
  • The idea is great, and I partly encourage it, but as a recent high school graduate, I have to say that eliminating zeros in high school will do nothing but hurt them later when they are in college. They need to understand NO WORK , NO GRADE and how zeros can really affect ones grade. It's excellent that teachers want their students to learn the material, but "sugar coating" things is doing them a disservice. Something I now realize being that I'm in college. Just my opinion.
  • The "new" grading process is nothing more than the continued dumbing down of society. 
  • I agree with the posts about the poor work ethic of our youth, I also work in staffing, my favorite quote of this year is "I did not know I had to work in order to keep my job". I think they should explore the current system of 1hour 50 minute classes, and using in-school suspension, and then the child loses that entire time of education for one sometimes 2 days. This generation is "soft", and we did it through self-esteem building and electronics. 
  • We need to give the power back to the teachers.
  • This doesn't make any sense to me. If the only problem is "re-learning" and "re-taking" test, why don't the teachers teach more thoroughly, give a practice test, review the practice test then give the real test once and only once. This is just the history of not focusing on the real problem repeating itself all over again. Very few educators will openly discuss or address the real issues, which are lack of parental involvement/support and a culture, both among black and white, of not valuing education. If the parents value education, students perform better. Not having to do homework and receiving a 40 for doing nothing are both just bad ideas. Why do we always seem to fall to the lowest common denominator. This system will penalize the good students and reward the bad students...pretty soon we'll have all bad students. Based on the comments in the article from those pushing this system, we better get ready for a battle.
  • If you can recognize most of the letters in your name go to the next grade. We don't want to make it too hard for our kids. After all America is far ahead of the rest of the world, especially in math and science. We need to sit back and let the rest of the world catch up. It isn't fair for us to be so far ahead. Do we want to be responsible for giving the rest of the planet a bad view of themselves.
  • Sounds like an incentive to give everyone an "A".
  • So the district can't get the students to achieve the grades desired and the solution is to rewrite the rules to make it easier to score higher? I wish I had this when I was in school. I could really B.S. my g.p.a.! A student can sleep through the first test and then get two retakes to make it up. I can imagine how hard this is going to be on students who listen in class (the 1st time like they are supposed to), do their homework (which is a large component that should get more than 10%), and have a hard work ethic (a few and far between occurrence). I remember how tight some of my classmates were attempting to score as high of grades possible and now this system negates that work ethic. School is not only about book knowledge, but a preparation for college and the working world. I would love to tell my boss that I put forth zero effort but deserve 40% of the pay. I would love to tell him that I cheated but it is not a big deal; just take 20% off the top. 
  • I understand fairness and wanting to make a level playing field for all of the schools and students, but these suggestions are a way to bring up the bottom performers (whom most give little to no effort) and inflate grades. With new age garbage like this and No Child Left Behind, we can rename high school diplomas. They will become participation certificates.
  • Another question I have is what are the kids that get it the first time going to be doing while teacher re-teaches and re-tests the underachievers? There are some kids that are naturally bright and will get this the first time around. So do we just forget about them because they happen to be intelligent and motivated? Aside from being taught at home personal responsibility and pride in doing something well, what is their motivation to continue to do well? 
  • Being in Human Resources for over 40 years, I have found the trend to be, especially during the last 10 yrs or so, "...its not my fault that I did bad work on that piece of equipment and I should not be disciplined because I miss a day of work every week..." It is a trend that is increasing almost on a daily basis. The young men and women who are going into the workforce from the high schools have no work ethic, feel the Company (world) owes them a living, should be able to work when it is convenient to them (not when the company needs them) and no concept of being held responsible for their work output (quality is a thing of the past). I direct this in part to parents but even more so to the schools.  This proposal will just add to the "dumbing down of America" and will provide more training for students to get the doesn't matter if I do it right the first time, I will have one or two more chances to do it better...and it's not my fault that and I have no responsibility to do it right the first time. I see the surprise in their eyes each time I unfortunately have to terminate one of them for violations of the work rules. For example, we had an employee who missed either Friday or Monday every week for the first 8 weeks he was employed. When I asked him why he only worked 4 days a week, he looked me straight in the eye and told me he couldn't afford to live on only three days of work so he had to work four.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    Learn From Failure

    From Znet

    The wisdom to learn from failure

    By Michael Krigsman | December 3, 2010, 8:40pm PST
    My buddy, Peter Kretzman, a CIO for hire, is wise in the ways of technology and business. Coming across a recent blog post of his, I was struck by a brazen, yet common sense, remark:
    Here’s a shocker: none of us has failed to fail at times.
    Shocker indeed, and something we should all remember. Peter also offers a bunch of great ideas to prevent failure, achieve success, and manage gracefully along the way.
    In no particular order:
    • Let people own their projects/efforts/tasks.  Even if you could do it better. Even if the result is not exactly, precisely, perfectly what you thought you wanted.  Most of the time, if the result is 90% of where you wanted it (completeness, style, content), it’ll do.
    • Don’t take people’s work output and tweak it unless it’s absolutely necessary.  You don’t always have to visibly “add value” to be legitimate or respected.
    • You need to be a collaborator at least as much as a critic. Solve problems together with your team.  That doesn’t mean do their work for them, but it means actively being there, understanding the issues, and helping figure out course corrections, not merely waiting to evaluate results.
    • Don’t suck up all the oxygen in the room. Let others talk, shine, steer. There’s no rule that says that the most senior person in the room has to run the meeting, for example.
    • Most people need regular shots of both thanks and praise. Thanks and praise are not the same.
    • Not everyone is motivated the exact same way. Your approach to a situation can and usually should differ, depending on what motivates the person you’re dealing with.
    • It’s helpful to assume that your team is collectively and individually smarter than you are, but that they’re possibly not as aware of or focused on the big picture. You’re there to confirm (and guide) that what they’re doing corresponds to the larger goals.
    • Each of your team members has ideas and experience and expertise and smart things to say. Listen, don’t just talk.
    • Keep ever mindful of the following: you will (almost) never have a team member who doesn’t at heart want to excel in their role.
    • Remember: as an executive, you’re there (almost solely) for three basic things: to set the fundamental direction, to allocate resources appropriately, and to make the tough decisions that others won’t or can’t.  People are looking to you to do those specific things, reliably and well. Don’t let them down.
    • Give people a lot of rope, whenever you can. Particularly when they have passion and excitement.  Find ways to say yes to their approaches and initiative, to every reasonable degree.
    • Embrace and exemplify continuous improvement as a philosophy and approach to all things.
    • Celebrate successes. Guide people past their failures, and make those into positive learning experiences as much as you can.  This one sounds easy, but was among the hardest for me to absorb.
    • “Managing upwards” and sideways (peers, CEO, board) is every bit as important as managing your team. But it’s not an either/or. Depending on the circumstances, there will be times when you focus more on one than the other; both are equally deserving of your energy.
    • Admit your mistakes. Don’t stonewall or rewrite history about them.
    • Speak positively of your team members, of peers, of management, of vendors. When you don’t, people notice, and they extrapolate.
    Sadly, the people who most need this advice will ignore it.

    Flash Mob In Charlotte

    It was posted on Twitter and Facebook in advance. A large crowd came to watch.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    The Power of A Teacher

    I can't remember many people who were in my early elementary classrooms.  Oh, I can look at yearbooks and remember - but nothing major comes to mind. However, I remember every one of my teachers, and hopefully, I'm still using the lessons they taught. Even teachers don't realize the major influence they can be in the life of a child - and later an adult.  Drop a note to a former teacher, or one of your children's teachers and tell them.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Early Years Education - Sweden

    Below is one of three video's comparing Sweden's Early Years Education to the UK. I'm not convinced just the difference in their programs is the reason for success. When I visited Sweden some years ago, I was impressed with how well the young people could speak English (as good or better than me), how physically fit everyone was (they bike or walk everywhere), that there was more diversity than I expected (although still way less than the US), and the lack of a visible lower class (seemed like a society of middle class). Anyway, their process is different than ours and worth a look.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Age of Mother And Education

    A British Study found that the older the mother at the time of birth, the greater chance for the child's success - even more so than poverty.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Grading Policy Discussion

    There are many reports on changing the grading system, Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading and The Power of the "I" to name two. As Rock Hill's Superintendent has stated, this is something we should talk about. The Charlotte Observe received student comments which you can read by clicking here.  Education has changed a lot over the years, and there have been folks all along the way wanting to keep from making changes. This 7 minute video shows some of the changes:

    But there are other issues to discuss. Should the question be a discussion of grading, or the root causes for students not performing. Is a grading policy change the equivalent to using a band-aide for a broken bone? Could we be making the root problem worse? The next short video talks about a marshmallow test - one to evaluate executive function. Shouldn't we be evaluating this? If we still have problems at the high school level, wouldn't this mean we should go back to the earlier grades and do more for executive function?

    One aspect of proposed changes is to minimize the chance of failure by eliminating penalties and giving multiple chances - but - throughout history - there are examples of  people who have made great successes after failure. Would they have made those successes without the failure? Watch the short video for examples.

    And lastly, I have referred to some of the discussion as putting a square peg into a round hole. Why does one side have to lose for another to win the argument? This short clip from the movie "Apollo 13" should serve as an inspiration.

    This doesn't mean I support all the proposed changes. Students should be held accountable for  their actions and work. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be opportunities for limited recovery. There are problems with  some classroom grading systems. Students shouldn't be given extra credit for bringing supplies to class. The penalty for cheating, if it becomes non-academic, should be much more severe. We have an obligation to reinforce society and community standards. That's my opinion.

    As a board member, I don't have to agree with all aspects. In the absence of data, and we were told not to expect much from our school trials, I want to be sure there is  teacher support (ie: no one being forced to drink the cool-aide) and  parent support before I can approve the changes.

    The 2010 EDUBLOG Award Winners

    If you are interested in keeping up with the latest in Education trends and information, check out this years Edublog winners by clicking here.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Flash Mob @ A Middle School

    The students of  Florida's Ocoee Middle School show there is more to school than Grading Policies.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Notes From The Rock Hill Schools December Business/Work Session

    The Rock Hill School Board conducted an unusual December Work Session in that there were several Business Meeting items taken care of - that is - several action items were addressed. The Board took the following action:

    • Approved 7-0 the resolution above to be sent to our local legislative delegation
    • Approved 7-0  the following policies for final reading; IKE; IKD, KHB
    • Approved 6-0 with Brown abstaining, the appointment of Ozzie Ahl as the new Principal of Rock Hill High School effective the start of the second semester (pictured below).

    Photo from The Rock Hill Herald
    During the work session portion the Board heard: 
    • a brief update from the Facilities Master Planning Committee - either Walter Brown or Bob Norwood will be joining the committee as Board member representatives.
    • an update on the kick-off of Parent Portal during the High School Open House for the second semester. The Administration was asked if the downtime for back-ups for Power School could be done during non-school hours so staff and teachers would not be affected (they said they could comply).
    • Ann Reid gave an update on the recent State School Board meeting
    • Walter Brown reported that new state House member Tommy Pope visited Rock Hill High School and the Applied Technology Center and that state House member John King would be visiting later this week.
    • heard a presentation from district staff, teachers, and students on proposed grading changes for the school district. The Superintendent reported they would not be coming back with a recommendation this year, that is was important to continue the discussion and asked for two board members to serve on the 40 person committee. Dr. Jane Sharp volunteered and will be one member. The Board was asked to submit questions to be answered. Chairman Norwood requested the questions and answers be posted on the web site. Parent Tim Templeton asked that there be an improvement on communications to parents because the previous parents meetings were not well known.

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