Recently, I came across a Ted Talk by John Hattie entitled “Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful.” While almost anything we do can potentially increase achievement, certain factors produce greater results than others. In the talk, Hattie discussed factors schools often focus on that do not produce high yielding achievement. Instead, he proposes items schools should be focused on using his research-based ranking list. He uses .40 (the average of the effect size of all 252 influences) as the hinge to determine which factors produce the greatest results and encourages educators to spend their time looking at items above the .40. This does not mean that we ignore items under .40 or that they do not matter, but those above .40 certainly have more influence on achievement.
The high yielding influences are exactly what we have been discussing these past two years with Creating Cultures of Thinking and The Innovator’s Mindset. Many of you have testified to the difference it has made in your lessons when you change the way you word questions, how you engage students, and how strategies are strategically used to get results.
As the 18/19 school year winds down, we are beginning to plan for the 19/20 school year. More and more of the issues we face in the classroom are from outside influences and with that in mind, our focus for PD will be split between academics and mental health. Please help us plan for PD that you need by adding your input to the Google survey. What can we do to support you? Your team? Your students? While we cannot promise everything, we do want to offer rich PD that is beneficial to all.
Thanks for all you do in the lives of our students!
What's your passion? Take a moment and fill in this sentence.
My passion is _____________.
If we took all of the answers to this question, I think we would find the range of answers would be quite extensive and unique. Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate, shared that the passion you chose falls into one of three categories: content passion, professional passion, or personal passion.
Content passion is the excitement you have about the content you teach. If you were to take all of your standards and pick the ones you most enjoy, these would be your passions that relate to your content.
Professional passion is why you decided to pick a career in education. What is it about being an educator that drives you? While content passion excites you for specific topics, professional passion is what sustains you through difficult days (and fills the gaps of standards you don't find that exciting) as it serves as a reminder of the important work you do in the lives of students.
Personal passion is what you enjoy completely outside of your job. Bringing your personal passion into the classroom increases engagement (for both you and your students), increases your sense of fulfillment as an educator, and creates powerful lessons because you are teaching from your strength.
So which is the most important? All three play a role! But, while personal and content passion may not be able to be included in each lesson, consciously remembering to include your professional passion every day in every lesson allows you to become, "...absolutely relentless in the pursuit of excellence." (Burgess, 2012, p. 10). Burgess (2012) goes on to state:
With a focus on professional passion, teaching is no longer about relaying the content standard...it's about transforming lives. It's about killing apathy. It's about helping the next generation fulfill their potential and become successful human beings. It's no longer about memorizing facts; it's about inspiring greatness. When you are passion filled, you also become more personally fulfilled as an educator. It's fun and exciting to share what is uniquely "you." Doing so makes your presentations and personal charisma almost magnetic in nature. Being in the presence of people who are engaged in fulfilling their major life purpose is almost hypnotic. There is a certain "juice," an electricity, that emanates from those who truly love what they are doing or discussing. Others may have no particular interest in the subject at hand, but they are magically drawn to a person because of the sheer power that permeates the presentation. Passion is like an intoxicating drug without the dangers and side effects. Use it as much as you want. Once you get a taste of it, you'll always want to come back for more (p. 10).
No textbook, resource, or piece of technology can replace the excitement you bring to the classroom or the relationships you build. Be bold. Be daring. Be passionate!
The midpoint of the year is almost here! Throughout the last few months, we have had great discussions at the district book study, relevant professional development to strengthen what we do, and powerful conversations at grade, department, and building meetings. Thank you for being forward-thinking and rising above the status quo to provide the best learning opportunities for TVLS students! Soon, we'll be completing midyear diagnostic assessments, departments/teams will be sifting through data, and plans will be made that allows us to continue being an innovative and go-to district. Tusky Valley excels because of the team approach, collaboration, and insight each person brings to the table; what you do matters! George Couros states that just one educator can influence thousands (if not more) of students over a lifetime. Imagine what that number is when we are all working together.
And while many wonderful things are happening in the lives of our students and staff, the work you do everyday is also exhausting. Break is almost here, and I hope you find time to relax, enjoy being with friends and family, and enjoy "you" time! Best wishes to each of you as you celebrate the holidays!
It’s hard to believe the first nine weeks is over and that we are headed towards the holiday season! While the school year is in full gear, student engagement is a topic discussed by many teams. How do we keep students engaged and motivated? Recently at a conference, a speaker shared that students are disengaged because of lack of interest, low self-confidence, fear of failure, negative experiences in school, or their home situation. While we can’t solve home factors, there are aspects to students’ lives that we can work on including five key factors we can control:
Author Angela Meiers often states in her books and seminars that, “If you don’t first secure students’ hearts, you don’t have a shot at their brains.” That sounds great, but how do we do that? First, we have to think about our own expectations. Do we believe every student CAN and WILL learn? Do we believe every student will participate and not allow opt-outs (versus just giving 0’s and not really knowing if a student understands the content)? Do we hold every student accountable for being a part of the classroom and promoting socialization?
Next, we need to use strategies that engage students. Many great strategies were shared last year through Cultures of Thinking and this year’s book study, Innovator’s Mindset. These include:
I encourage you to continue posting to Twitter with exciting happenings from your classroom with the hashtag #wearetuskyvalley. George Couros challenged us in September by saying, “What if every teacher tweeted one thing a day they did in their classroom to a school hashtag and took five minutes a day to read each others’ tweets? What would that do for learning and school culture?” Some of you are already doing that and it is exciting to see the great things you are doing!
As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m thankful to be a part of TV Schools. Even when we have a bad day, are faced with a difficult student, or our plans don’t go the way we think they should, this is a great place to be. I am thankful for the wonderful staff, students, and community members that make TV what it is. You are making a difference!
I hope you enjoyed our 9/21 PD day with George Couros! It was great to learn (and laugh!) and discuss how we can implement our learning in the classroom. As we turn to the October PD day, you might question why we would spend one day talking about innovation and then another talking about data. You'll also notice there is a session about "Stepping Away from the Phone." Doesn't that contradict what we just learned from Mr. Couros?
As a district, our focus is still on students and quality instruction that is student-centered, engaging, and relevant. But we have to know where our students are to know where we need to instruct. For most, there are a lot of standards to cover in a limited amount of time. We can't possibly provide opportunities for students to make youtube videos or create other in-depth projects for every standard. MAP can provide you with information on what students already know, what needs to be reinforced, and what they are ready to learn next. This information provides you with insight into what you need to cover, but not what to plan or how to do it. That is where innovation comes in. We cannot just simply copy lesson plans from year to year. We need to know our students' strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. That is when our instruction becomes student-centered, exciting and in-depth lessons take place.
Why a session on phones?
The session in October is to provide you with legal updates on what you should and should not be doing on your phone. What texts to fellow staff could be used in a courtroom if necessary? How about comments about students? Remember, Mr. Couros emphasized not adding students on social media and stated several times that you should never put anything online that you would not put in your classroom. On a side note, we have seen awesome things happening in classrooms that have been posted on Twitter with #wearetuskyvalley as well as pretty cool, innovative learning opportunities. Thanks to those of you who have put your learning into action!
We continue to strive to make sure every student is growing. Our curriculum maps outline how each standard is taught and how deep we go with it (DOK). Innovation, as George Couros stated, is a way of thinking that creates something new or better. What better time to review our curriculum maps and vertical alignment charts to see how deep the standards are taught. Do our lessons and assessments only measure level 1 (recall) or do we take students to level 3 and 4 where they are asked to think? Take a look at the chart below and review your own map. How can you be innovative to create something new or better that increases thinking?
I'm looking forward to our next book study on October 4th and our PD day on October 12th. More information on each of these opportunities is listed below. I continue to be amazed and inspired by the wondering things you do for TV Students! Best wishes as we finish out the first nine weeks!
The 18/19 school year is here, and it seems that the throttle is already at full speed! Across the district, students are getting acclimated to new faces and new names. Diagnostic assessments are being given to all students in K-12 to measure reading and math abilities. The point of these tests is not to predict how a student will perform on state tests or to obtain a teacher rating, but more importantly to obtain valuable information on each individual student to provide the curriculum, strategies, and resources necessary to ensure all students succeed and become "all that they can become!"
While state standards drive our instruction, the skills we teach and the strategies we utilize while covering the standards are invaluable to the success of our students. Last year we spent a lot of time talking about Cultures of Thinking and realizing how small shifts in strategy often can result in a big difference in student outcome. This year we are continuing the district conversation by focusing on The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. The author of the book states, "If we are going to help our students thrive, we have to move past 'the way we have always done it' and create better learning experiences for our students than we had ourselves. This does not mean replacing everything we do, but we must be willing to look with fresh eyes at what we do and ask, "Is there a better way?" We would expect the same mindset from our students, and as educators, that question is the first step on the path to a better future for education."
Throughout the year, we will be discussing the idea of innovation and staff will have a chance to share high caliber strategies and success stories as well as have the opportunity to "take a chance" and try something new, all with the sole purpose of providing the best educational experience for our district students. The Ohio Department of Education states in the Ohio Strategic Plan for Education that:
...a recent study predicts that nearly half of the state's workers hold jobs that are
expected to be automated in the future. Future workers are expected to change jobs
more frequently, interact with technology more regularly, and learn new and more
sophisticated skills to advance careers or keep up with change. Future conditions will
favor entrepreneurship and innovation as more commercial activity is customized.
In addition, the World Economic Forum released the following jobs report listing the job skills necessary by 2020 (see below).
Many of these 2020 skills are prominent in our hallways, classrooms, playing fields, and school buses. Yet, we continue to push forward and set goals to do even more. We owe it to our students and ourselves to continue to evolve within our practice and lay a strong foundation for students to be successful in life. I hope this year's book study, building meetings, and professional development provide opportunities for reflection, collaboration, and affirmation that you are making a difference.
I'm excited about our upcoming PD day on September 21 with George Couros. He will not only share from his book and challenge our thinking but also provide opportunities to collaborate and grow as learners. Please see the below section about our 9/21 PD for important information!
Best wishes for a great school year! If there is anything that OSS or I can do to assist you, please let us know!
Our Creating Cultures of Thinking book study has been a great opportunity for staff from all four buildings to learn and grow together! Over the course of the 17-18 school year, 34 district employees have met monthly for a culminating 306 hours of professional development. That is over two work weeks of time the group has devoted to professional learning and that doesn’t include the time spent actually reading the text or sharing with staff at building meetings. In addition, many staff members across the district have gone out of their comfort zone to try new thinking strategies. For each one of you who helped and participated, thank you!
The last topic we are studying during the month of May is the environments of our buildings and classrooms. George Couros asks:
The displays on the walls, materials utilized during lessons, and even the arrangement of desks send a powerful message to students about learning and classroom expectations. As we finish the 17-18 school year, imagine that you are a student in your own classroom. Would you want to spend your day there? As we clear out our spaces and prepare to leave for summer break, what might you be able to change for the 18-19 school year? How can you rearrange your space? How can you display student work? Several of our own district teachers have scraped their teacher desk and more and more classrooms aren’t even using traditional seating. We spend a lot of time here…make it an exciting space!
Finally, as we celebrate teacher appreciation week, thank you for your time, talent, effort, and always going above and beyond (even when you don’t feel like it!) to do what’s best for kids. I feel fortunate that I received a Tusky Valley education and several people reading this are responsible for shaping who I am today. The days may be long and you may be excited to start your summer, but don’t ever forget the important role you play and the difference you are making in countless lives.
Best wishes for a strong finish to the 2017-2018 school year! Enjoy your summer!
Last night was our monthly book study for Cultures of Thinking. We spent the afternoon talking about relationships and interactions both with peers and with our students (See attached file). The middle school team did an excellent job presenting great strategies and activities that foster relationship building, and members of the book study had a great time getting to better know each other. I wanted to share one of the lines from the reading that struck me and that our middle school staff emphasized:
"Do not think that because a child cannot read a text, he cannot read you. Children can tell right off those people who believe in them and those who patronize them. They can tell once they come into the room" (Ritchhart, 2015, p. 202).
Mrs. Knowles went on to challenge us to think about our most challenging student, and over the course of the next week, spend 2 minutes daily talking and getting to know that student. I'd like to pass that challenge on to you. Think of one (or more) student(s) and spend two minutes each day being present in their life and getting to know who they are. Then, share this experience at your next building meeting and discuss how behavior, attitudes, and actions changed. John Hattie's work emphasizes that expectations and relationships are powerful influential factors in a child's academic achievement and growth.
Thank you for continuing to "show up" each day for our students and your continued work in doing what's best for the kids we serve!
Happy Friday, and Go Trojans!
Ritchart (2015), citing Ravitch (2009), states, “The single biggest problem in education is that no one agrees on why we educate. Faced with this lack of consensus, policymakers define good education as higher test scores" (p. 15). April kicks off a slew of state tests to measure how well our students are performing. Although they are something we are required to do, they are not our focus, and they do not tell our story. They don’t tell the hours of lesson planning, out of the box thinking, or the creativity that you pour into your classroom each day. Students won’t remember the assignments in your class, but they will remember the relationship you built with them. They will remember how you challenged their thinking, made them apply their learning, and if it was an environment where they wanted to be.
We don’t need to focus on test scores, but we do need to ensure our practice, “...changes learners in deep, profound, and lasting ways” (Weimer 2013, p. 25). George Couros states, “If students leave school less curious than when they started we have failed them” (p. 6). When we focus on doing the right thing for our students, not on test scores, everything else will fall into line as students grow, achievement rises, and we have graduates prepared for the world in which we live.
What are students curious about in your class?
Read through the following scenarios:
When we talk about “teaching to the test,” the initial focus is on the “score.” Serve the learner by helping them do well on the test. But what if the student did well on the test, but none of the content was remembered or understood a week later? The “score” trumped the learner, and ultimately, the learner didn’t benefit.
The test still lingers there. But you understand the learner in front of you, start personalizing some aspects of the learning to what they are interested in, and they started to dive deep into the content that they are “tested” on. The learner can do well on the test AND understand the learning on a deeper level.
Which scenario describes your classroom? We are in the last nine weeks of the 17/18 school year. What is one thing you can do differently? What new strategy are you willing to try? How can you change the next assignment or assessment to take student learning to the next level?
Take a risk. Try something new. Make students curious. Tell your story.
Every Student Succeeds Act
Stay in the loop about ESSA! Visit the official ODE ESSA page to see Ohio's draft plan!
As a district, we encourage you to provide feedback about the state plan.
Mr. Derek Varansky is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Federal Programs for Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools. He can be reached by calling 330-859-8801 or firstname.lastname@example.org