The [undramatic] Story of Standards

7thGradeAlthough it’s been nearly six years since I worked at a middle school, I’ve been having the feeling that we’re all back in middle school again. I should know – I spent nearly 30 years in middle school either as a student, teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Lately, it feels a lot like seventh grade: drama.

The Common Core drama that has enveloped education in our state and nation reminds me of middle school (and seventh grade, in particular) because of all of the name-calling, misinformation, disinformation, confusion, shouting, and general misbehavior. It’s time that we do what we do in our middle schools to reduce the drama: consider the facts and get our story straight. Since the shouting and invectives frequently use the Common Core as the rallying cry, the reduction of the drama depends on setting the record straight about standards in education. Continue reading

Responsive Classroom® and the New York Teaching Standards

A blog series: Part 4 of 7
Standard 4: Learning Environment

KidsHeadphonesIn the last three OCM-RC Blogs we have looked at the connection with NYS Teaching Standards 1 – 3 with the Responsive Classroom® approach and practices.  In this fourth blog of seven we will focus those same connections with Responsive Classroom and standard 4: Learning Environment.

NYS Teaching Standard 4.1 states that teachers “create a mutually respectful, safe, and supportive learning environment that is inclusive of every students.”   Responsive Classroom teacher develop this environment on the first day of school.  Our belief comes from the philosophy and teaching of Alfred Alder and Rudolf Dreikurs that all human behaviors are driven by our basic human needs to belong, to be significant and to be engaged and have fun in what we do.   Children in Responsive Classrooms will often times (especially during the first six weeks of school) wear name badges so that everyone in the school can learn their name and feel known.   Continue reading

Emotions matter!

Emotions matter!  I was reminded of this when I attended the RULER training at Yale University.

R – Recognizing emotions in self and others
U – Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
L – Labeling emotional experiences with an accurate and diverse vocabulary
E – Expressing emotions in ways that promote both intra- and interpersonal growth
R – Regulating emotions in ways that promote both intra- and interpersonal growth.

Visit the website and hear the testimonials on how RULER has changed classroom culture and the school environment. 

There’s more…This really works in real life.  I was moving furniture with my husband in a snow storm with below zero wind chill (don’t ask).  As I was struggling to hold up my end of the couch, I began to feel frustrated that we hadn’t hired the furniture store to deliver the furniture (another long story).  So, instead of taking it out on my husband (I’ve done that a few times), I envisioned my “best self.”  I saw myself working hard, not complaining and enjoying the challenge.  IT WORKED!  I actually received compliments from my husband about how hard I worked without complaining.  This was an approach that RULER encouraged when dealing with stressful situations.  Wouldn’t this be a great tool for our students when they are working through some challenging emotions?

So, stay tuned for chances to receive further training on the RULER approach.  This approach is practical, easy to apply and low cost to implement.  Send me an e-mail if you would like to know more.


Youth Development Coordinator

Historical Thinking = Writing Critically about Historical Stuff

Remember August? Warmth and sunshine? Shorts and T-shirts? Iced tea on the porch? Now in the depths of winter cold and dark, let’s revisit and reframe some of those August ideas about the relationship between historical and critical thinking. I have been reading and synthesizing a lot of information about writing in different disciplines in preparation for some work with teachers on improving students’ writing in content-area classrooms. Through all of this reading and thinking, I have come to this conclusion:


So if historical thinking = critical thinking about historical stuff, then: Continue reading

Instructional Coaching Part 2

ClassLast month I wrote about the research supporting coaching and how critical the role of coaching is for the application of new or refining practice in the classroom.  Research indicates (Joyce and Showers 2002) that instructional coaching is critical for application into classrooms.  In fact, when demonstration and practice with feedback (coaching) is added to the theory (traditional workshop), application in classrooms goes from 5% to 95%.  So what does coaching mean and how does this approach accomplish such a significant shift? Continue reading

Math Strategies that Work in ALL Math Classrooms

MathThe Common Core Learning Standards and the modules that were written to support those standards in New York have shown me new ways of helping students become real mathematicians.  As a former middle school math teacher, I saw students come with either a love of mathematics or a deep “I just can’t do math” attitude.  I also had colleagues and friends who would readily admit their dislike of mathematics, but never say they hated reading!  I could never understand how one could dislike a content that I loved.  Over my teaching career, I often looked for ways to help my students get to know math and to love it.  Continue reading

Project-Based Learning: Managing the Project

The Project Wall

PBL_WallSince becoming a staff developer in 2001, I have had the privilege of being trained by some of the most influential staff developers in our country.  I have learned so much from people like Bob Garmston, Art Costa, Bruce Wellman, Rachel Billmeyer, and Eric Jensen.  They continue to influence me and helped me become the staff developer that I am today.  One other person I feel that has influenced my practice is Michael Grinder (, who is known nationally for his work with group dynamics, leadership, and corporate and educational non-verbal communication. Continue reading