PBL Requires Leadership

We know that the successful implementation of any change, including Project-Based Learning (PBL), depends on the support and encouragement that teachers receive from their leaders. In order to lead the implementation of PBL, there are fundamental ideas that are important to keep in mind – PBL is different than the teaching and learning that we’re used to seeing in our schools. PBL isn’t new, it precedes Dewey, but the robust and thorough implementation of PBL is different. At our regional principal meetings, we’ve been reviewing the fundamental characteristics of PBL:

It is important to work backward, beginning with the end in mind. What do we want our graduates to know, be like, and be able to do? Continue reading

Do You Fear or Embrace Change? Do You Feel You Can Grow Smarter? It’s Time for New Hope

Let’s take a little quiz. Answer Yes or No to the following questions:

  1. Do you avoid challenges?
  2. Do you embrace challenges?
  3. Do you give up easily?
  4. Do you persist in the face of setback?
  5. Do you ignore useful negative feedback?
  6. Do you learn from criticism?
  7. Do you see effort as fruitless or worse?
  8. Do you see effort as the path to master?
  9. Do you feel threatened by the success of others?
  10. Do you find lessons and inspiration in the success of other?

Why these questions? Well, Continue reading

Responsive Classroom® Practices Foster Listening and Speaking

Although it’s possible to think without talking – and to talk without much thinking – each can strengthen the other”, says Elizabeth A. City in November 2014’s edition of ASCD’s Educational Leadership. If you haven’t read Educational Leadership in a while, I cannot encourage my fellow educators enough to take some time out of your busy holiday season to take a look at this issue. The whole issue focuses on the importance speaking and listening skills play in student-focused learning. City, in her article called “Talking to Learn” asks the question, “Why bother with student-driven discussion? Your answer to this question is important. If you answer ‘because it’s a Common Core skill’ or ‘because you (or someone else) said so’ that’s probably not sufficient.” She continues, Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies = Comfort with Discomfort

Change is hard. Change is good (and inevitable), but change is hard. We are in the midst of change in Social Studies in New York State and it is both exciting and difficult. I have seen reactions ranging from indifference to cautious optimism to outright hostility about the new Framework and Field Guide and the work that is being done on the Resource Toolkit. Information (and misinformation) circulates like wildfire or is impossible to obtain. There are still many unknowns and not knowing makes people uncomfortable. I think we have to get comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing exactly what/when/how things are going to happen, because the reality is that we will never know anything for sure, especially when it comes to changes in education. Margie Warrell uses this graphic in her blog, “Why Getting Comfortable with Discomfort Is Crucial to Success”. (Warrell 2013) Although Warrell is discussing business, not education, I think the graphic seems to capture the essence of where we are right now in Social Studies. Continue reading

Standing Up, Standing Out

Recently something happened which made me think I am losing out on lots of inspiring and educational material by not subscribing to and reading blogs. On November 21st I attended a workshop entitled Creating Supportive Schools for Our Transgender Youth which was funded by the Q Center at ACR Health and the CNY Community Foundation. The opening speaker for the workshop was a local man named Todd Panek who (in addition to his professional work in the insurance industry) writes a blog at TMPinSYR.com. In his blog he has written pieces about his youngest son (the Goon), someone who does not follow the gender stereotypes in terms of choices of toys, clothes, and behavior. Todd’s short speech was funny, heart-breaking, and ultimately challenging. The story I most appreciated was the one in which Todd showed active support to his son by buying and wearing a pair of pink sneakers. I’d like to quote part of it here: Continue reading

Project Based Learning: How the Courtyard Rejuvenation Project Made My Day

Students plantingI have been a staff developer at OCM BOCES for more than 14 years now. I reflect on all the work I have done over the years with schools, classrooms, teachers and students with a certain amount of pride knowing that work I do with Responsive Classroom®, Standards Based Planning, and other work has changed practice in the classroom and ultimately student achievement. My passion and beliefs are what drives me to inspire other educators not only in Central New York but across the country to prepare this new generation of learners to take on the world they will eventually inherit. I have such strong convictions that educators need to create strong relationships with their students and design classrooms that are developmentally appropriate, effectively managed, and where there is positive community and engaging academics. Continue reading

Engaging Students with a Balance between Support and Challenge

bookLast month, my colleague, Randi Downs, wrote a blog about clarity and relevance as two keys to capture true engagement in the classroom. I also read Robyn Jackson and Alison Zmuda’s article, “4 (Secret) Keys to Student Engagement” in the September 2014 issue of Educational Leadership. As a classroom teacher, and now, a trainer and coach, I am always thinking about how to engage students in their learning. Teachers are always asking the question, “How do I engage ALL of my students in ________?” (You fill in the blank). For me, I think about the balance between challenging students to do their best work and supporting their learning. How do I push them to take on a challenging assignment or task while also providing the right amount of support so they don’t get frustrated and give up? Continue reading