OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: Administrators Can Use Responsive Classroom Practices School-Wide

My work this year has given me the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time in the East Syracuse-Minoa School district. Recently, I was spending my day at Park Hill Pre-K where I had the honor to be part of the Principal, Carol Feldmeier’s Whole-School morning meeting. Mrs. Feldmeier had recently attended the 4-day Responsive Classroom Course that was offered here at OCM BOCES and was already applying all she learned throughout her building as an administrator. We encourage everyone from a school, especially principals, to come to the RCC (the Responsive Classroom Course) training. There is always time given to participants to reflect how they could use the Responsive Classroom practices they are learning about in their role or setting.

A beautiful crafted morning message, written by Mrs. Feldmeier greeted her students as they filed in and followed the school rules for entering the gymnasium. There was a murmur of excitement as these adorable 4 and 5 year olds entered. A school-wide quiet signal was used to gain attention and I watched as they reminded each other what to do when they hear and see the signal.

Mrs. Feldmeier greeted her children with a warm smile and encouraged them to take a moment to say good morning to the friends on each side of them. Mrs. Feldmeier uses her whole-school meeting as a way to focus on the teaching of social-emotional skills that are important to create a safe, challenging and fun school like Park Hill.

Today’s focus was teaching children voice levels to use in the classroom and throughout the school. The teachers from Park Hill took part in the teaching. Mrs. Feldmeier discussed the differences of the 4 levels of voice and gave purpose as to when they should be used. For example a level “0” voice is used when there is no talking such as during fire drills or during quiet reading time. A level 4 voice would be the voice we use on the playground or maybe when we are asked a question in a large room like the gym.  She used the interactive modeling practice of Responsive Classroom to model for the children what each sounded like and invited them to offer “what they noticed” about each model. She gave them an opportunity to practice the levels with their elbow partners.

Once modeling, practice and discussion was completed, a few fun songs were sung as a whole school focused on a themed letter they were all learning about. As I sat there I was struck by how much joy and laughter was happening in this room. There was energy of warmth and welcoming to all. Everyone felt noticed and valued. I thought how I wish every principal would take the opportunity to spend this time at least once a week or even once a month with all the students in their building. It truly builds such a feeling of true community.

Later, I sat with the teacher at lunch in the teachers’ room and noticed that Mrs. Feldmeier also had morning messages to her teachers hanging around the room. She discovered during her RCC training the importance the morning message is to not only greet and welcome the children in her school, but also her teachers and the adult community in the school.

Often, there is a misunderstanding that the Responsive Classroom practices are only for classroom teachers, but we learn that these practices are just as important to build the adult community and can be used by the school principal.

In a July 2014 Center for Responsive Schools Newsletter, Suzie Cook offers “11 Tips for Successful School-Wide Gatherings”( Click to read whole article )

Tips for Great School Gatherings

  1. Assemble a Planning Team
  1. Choose a Reasonable Gathering Size
  1. Decide on a Schedule
  1. Establish Traditions
  1. Focus on Clear Connections to Academics
  1. Use a Familiar, Simple Format
  1. Balance Familiar and New
  1. Provide Ample Time to Prepare
  1. Prepare Students Through Modeling and Practice
  1. Provide Procedures for Entering and Leaving the Gathering Space
  1. Follow Up with Reflection

Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
OCM BOCES – Staff Development Specialist
Certified Responsive Classroom® Trainer by the Center for Responsive Schools (Developers of the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching and learning)

Being Deliberate about Instructional Leadership

It’s easy to say that instructional leadership is important for educational leaders; it’s far more difficult to actually do it. Sure, the literature about effective educational leadership consistently promotes its importance. So, too, do the NCATE and ISLLC Standards emphasize instructional leadership. In fact, the ISLLC 2008 Standards display Standard 2 (Leadership for Teaching & Learning), at the center of the six-standard framework indicating its importance and centrality to effective leadership (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2008). Research clearly shows that principals of effective schools emphasize instructional leadership (Jenkins, 2009). Cotton points to hundreds of research studies that place effective principals at the center of instruction in their school (2003). Continue reading

A Time for Reflection “We don’t learn by doing, we learn by reflecting on what we’ve done.”

What a year and it is only April! If you have been following any of the recent special education blogs, you’ve noticed a consistent theme – news and changes within the field of special education. There have been changes in exiting options for students with disabilities, information regarding least restrictive environment, a field advisory regarding the key principles governing special education, and so much more.

It is time to take a minute to reflect upon the consistent messages that are within all of these memos, regulations, and changes.

  1. Special Education is a service, not a  Continue reading

Culturally Responsive Teaching-Why Is it Important?

Linda Vaught, ENL teacher

This month I interviewed Linda Vaught, a seasoned ENL teacher from the Solvay Union Free School District, about her views on culturally responsive teaching.

Q1. Please give me a short biography of your education and experience.

A1. I have been teaching ENL for twenty-two years at Solvay Union Free School District, currently at Solvay High School. I previously taught ELLs at West Genesee School District for one year. I also worked at OCC and OCM-BOCES for a year. I obtained a B.A. in English Literature from Le Moyne College and an M.A. in English Literature from SUNY Cortland. I received ENL certification and completed 27 hours toward School Administrator Certification from Le Moyne College. Continue reading

Developing Scientific Understanding: The Importance of Misconceptions

“There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand.”
– Charles K. Kettering

Charles Kettering was a prolific engineer and inventor who clearly put his understanding to use in the almost 200 patents he holds. His quote provides us, as science educators, a point of reflection when considering the learning experiences we provide students. Is our goal to facilitate understanding, or add to the list of things students know? The Framework for Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Idea (NRC, 2012) clearly articulates a vision of science learning built around students developing an understanding of core science concepts: Continue reading

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates

Hippocrates was right on the money, even some 2,400 years ago. I try to remember this ageless wisdom when making everyday food choices; however, the truth is that when under stress all bets are off. We’ve all been there. You’re working extra hours at work to finish a project or get report cards done, and the thought of going home and cooking a meal exhausts you even more, so you go through the drive-through at McDonald’s. You’re having relationship difficulties, so dinner consists of a box of cookies or a bag of chips. Or, maybe you’re caring for a sick family member, and you forget to eat altogether. Of course this is not the “medicine” about which Hippocrates spoke. Food often becomes a relaxation technique to quell our anxiety, comfort us, and/or increase our emotional pleasure when what we really need are nutrient dense foods (aka Continue reading

Figuring Out Problem Based Learning

Let me set the stage for you: I’m in a Project Based Learning (PBL) coaching session with a High School math teacher who is in her 3rd year of implementing PBL. She has created and implemented at least four PBL experiences for her students each year. Her students are engaged in her content, motivated to take on challenges and solve authentic problems, and, she’s at a point where she wants to do PBL all the time! Oh, and did I mention she teaches in a Special Education program for high school students? So she asks me, “How can I get my students interested in the rest of the standards but on a smaller scale than PBL? I still want to use real-world problem solving in my class, but I don’t want to always do long projects!” Eureka! This was a coaching moment that felt…well…transformative. Continue reading

Shift Happens

Several years ago, the ELA/Literacy Shifts were introduced to teachers in school districts across New York State with the anticipation that all teachers, regardless of grade level and content area, make these shifts in pedagogy in order to develop the necessary literacy skills students need to be successful in college and career. Did the anticipated shifts happen?

Let’s use the following questions as a self-assessment to determine where shift happened – or didn’t: Continue reading