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Isn't summer wonderful?  Sleeping in, re-acquainting with long lost family members, sipping iced beverages pool side, and attending professional development. Does one of these things not look like the others? Although the professional development may not be what some teachers might consider a highlight of summer, those who know actually look forward to the opportunity to learn ways to improve professionally. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The summer is where many of the solutions to problems of the previous school year are found and many of the potential problems of the next school year are prevented. There are many places to look for opportunities. A good place to start is at the USBE website with MIDAS. Summers off? Sort of.

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When provisional teachers obtain their Level 2 license, many ask a similar question. “I have my Level 2, now what should I do?” As lifelong learners, it is important to continue seeking opportunities to grow.

There are various ways to continue learning once you have upgraded to a professional license. Here are some ideas:

Endorsements: Jordan District offers many endorsement opportunities such as: ESL, Reading, Math, Technology, Gifted and Talented. In addition to providing new skills and strategies to use in your classroom, credits earned from endorsement classes can be used to increase your step on the pay scale! Also, some endorsement credit hours can be used towards a Master’s Degree at local universities.

Mentor Training: Have you felt a desire to help new teachers? Our district provides mentor training every year to help teachers be prepared to help mentor new teachers to our buildings. These classes are typically offered in the fall, and you can register on JPLS. Mentoring is a great way to build relationships with other teachers, as well as provide yourself opportunities to reflect. If your administrator assigns you to mentor a provisional teacher, you will be paid for your services!

National Board Certification: Have you wanted to push your teaching to a new level? National Board Certification is a rigorous program that helps you reflect on your teaching practice and pushes you toward recognizing how your efforts impact student learning. Through writing, video, and reflection, you spend one to three years working to earn this honor. The district also provides a stipend to National Board Teachers of  $2400 a year, and you can apply for an extra stipend with the state office if you are a classroom teacher. To learn more about the process, check out their website: https://www.nbpts.org/

Fellowships and Leadership Opportunities: There are groups that provide leadership opportunities and chances to advocate for teachers on a state or national level. UT Teacher Fellows is one group that works to build relationships with stakeholders and helps collect information from teachers on issues impacting our state for USBE. They accept new applications every two years (and are currently accepting applications right now). To learn more about this program, check out their site: https://hopestreetgroup.org/teacher-fellows/utteacherfellows/

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Beginning your first year of teaching can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Getting a classroom ready and planning those first few weeks can be all encompassing. Here are a few suggestions to make your transition to teaching in Jordan District a little easier:

1. Create an account in JPLS:

Here’s a new acronym for you to learn: Jordan Professional Learning System (JPLS). This is the district portal to find professional development classes offered in the district. To set up your account, you will want to contact the Help Desk at (801)-567-8737. The link is: https://jpls.truenorthlogic.com/U/P/Channel/-/Guest/Login

2. Sign up for a JPAS class:

JPAS (Jordan Performance Appraisal System) is our district evaluation system. Each year the JPAS department offers classes to help new teachers and veteran teachers learn how to work through the evaluation. New teachers even receive a stipend for taking the course if you attend the face-to-face version. Now that you have an account on JPLS, you can sign up for a class! Here’s their course schedule: http://jes.jordandistrict.org/educators/trainings/

3. Become familiar with Employee Access:

Do you know where to enter a sick day? Employee access is where you can find out how many days you have, what your current salary is, and even get a check estimate for what your next paycheck might look like. If you need help figuring this out, your mentor may be a great resource. (Have you met your mentor yet?)  Here’s the link for Employee Access: https://skyfin.jordan.k12.ut.us/scripts/wsisa.dll/WService=wsFin/seplog01.w

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 How Can Students Learn From Failure?

Responding to Failure

The way we respond to failures and mistakes depends on our our mindset. When students consciously take the opportunity to learn from all of their errors, they will approach the unsuccessful task in a new way or with more effort.  If students learn more about their brains and how it works, failure is an easier pill to swallow.  Students who internalize the understanding of the plasticity of the brain and the functional changes in the brain that occur when we learn can deal more constructively with setbacks.

Some students have a "Bring it on!" approach and embrace challenges with enthusiasm .  These students realize that they may not be successful and might even fail at a task or two, but want to take the risk and stretch themselves.  It is imperative that teachers develop a climate in their classroom where failure is celebrated and students learn to reflect and redirect so that they can approach a challenging task in a new way with more effort

Motivation

Social scientist Bernard Weiner (1974, 1980) is best known for his work with the attribution theory. Weiner's theory focuses on motivation and achievement and he considers the most important factors affecting achievement to ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck.

attribution theory
a theory that suggests that successful people will often attribute their success to effort (an internal factor) while those who are unsuccessful tend to attribute their lack of success or failure to the difficult of the task and/or to just having bad luck (external factors)

Our goal is to encourage students to internalize the belief that their own actions and behaviors, not external factors, guide them to achievement or failure.  In Daniel Pink's 2009 book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he presents the case for intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards.

How are you motivated?  Is your classroom motivating for all students?  Do you have a balance of both types of rewards?

intrinsic rewards extrinsic rewards
the personal satisfaction of a person feels when something is accomplished outside incentives provided to a person by another individual or source, such as money, certificates, or prize


Video about Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

 Changing How Students React to Failure

Every time teachers help students with an error, they should seize this opportunity to help students interpret the errors as "data" that will help them later, rather then looking at themselves through a lens of low ability.  One way teachers can help students reflect on failure is to introduce them to a more positive outlook on failure, perhaps by sharing others' attitudes toward failure.

Michael Jordan, summed up failure in a 1997 Nike Commercial:

"I've missed more then 9,000 shots in my career. Iv'e lost almost 300 games.  Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot...and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed."

 

The next chapter in Mindsets in the Classroom, 2013 will review ideas to help schools share information with parents to help create both a mindset environment at home and school.

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Why is critical thinking important in a growth mindset class culture?

Daniel Willingham (2008), professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, shared the three types of critical thinking: reasoning, making judgments/decisions, and problem solving.  Everyday we reason, problem solve, and make decisions, but they do not always require critical thought.

Critical thinking is a process that must be infused with the content; it is not something that you can just check off a list once it is mastered. We want to start thinking about critical thinking as a process of strategies that can be applied to a myriad of situations rather then a set of skills. Providing students with opportunities to develop their cognitive abilities through critical experiences impacts the child's view and contributes to a growth mindset.

Chapter 4 describes a project that was conducted to improve critical thinking experiences in schools with high poverty and low achievement.

The project involved six Title 1 schools, a total of 53 classrooms in 2nd and 3rd grade and their teachers.  Professional development highlighted places where critical thinking processes were already embedded in their curriculum (Common Core State Standards). Professional development for the first year of the project focused on ways that teachers could build students' reasoning abilities.   The teachers learned instructional strategies that included deductive, analogical and quantitative reasoning, as well as concept attainment and concept formation strategies.

As part of  the project,  they introduced engaging nonverbal reasoning games into the classroom.  The games increased the level of challenge as the children made their way up through each level. The addition of the games demonstrated to both teachers and students that critical thinking is possible at all ability levels.

5 Strategies for Critical Thinking

 

Critical thinking and a growth mindset culture go hand in hand. We can expect students to embrace challenge only if we make it available to them on a consistent basis.

Chapter 5 will discuss how students can learn from failure.

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The mindset of a teacher contributes greatly to his or her ability to see the needs of students.  It you view a child through a deficit lens, the  child will not be given opportunities to grow.   Deficit thinking is making assumptions about a child's ability based on perceived deficits such as race, income status, or English language acquisition.

What is your definition of  " Differentiation?".  Ask several of you colleagues and you will likely get five different responses.

Differentiation
the way a teacher responds to a student's needs so that each  student is challenged at the appropriate level

What instructional structures are in place to guarantee a responsive learning environment in your classroom?

Step 1: Preview and Pre-assess- find out what students know about a particular skill, or concept, or topic planning for instruction. Previewing provides an opportunity for students to activate background knowledge and previous learning prior to a pre-assessment so that results will be a better reflection of what they understand. This should take 5 minutes or less. Pre-assessment respects a student's time and prior knowledge. Front-ed differentiation allows for teachers to provide an opportunity for students to accelerate within the content topic at the beginning of the learning sequence.

Step 2: Curriculum Compacting- was originally developed by Joseph Renzulli and Linda Smith.  This  instructional strategy streamlines grade-level curriculum by eliminating content that students have previously learned.  Compacting buys time for students to go deeper and wider into the content and /or accelerate to above-grade level indicators. The pre-assessment plays a major role in determining students who would benefit from curriculum compacting.  Look for other behaviors in the classroom that may give you a clue that a student needs to be moved into a deeper understanding of the concepts.

  • show great interest or motivation in the area of study
  • finishes work early and accurately
  • expresses interest in in pursuing advanced topics
  • create their own diversions in class( filling their time with less productive behaviors)

Step 3: Flexible Grouping-maintaining flexible small groups across content areas is an essential component of a differentiated, growth mind set class culture.  Evidence of grouping should be found in an any content area and at any grade level.  It may not be an everyday occurrence at the secondary level, but it should be an important component of the class structure and used routinely.

Step 4: Management- having clear expectations are the single most important aspect of managing multiple groups in the classroom.  Carol Ann Tomlinson, author of How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms, suggests the use of anchor activities.  These anchors should enrich the learning of the content being studied.  They are similar to centers but are typically available for the duration of a unit of study, a quarter or semester.

Step 5 Acceleration and Enrichment- Every child deserves to learn every day. A growth mindset on the part of the teacher and the student is necessary.

Acceleration
moving faster through the content, allowing students who have already mastered content or who master content quickly to move into above-grade level content
                                                Enrichment
learning with greater depth and breadth;going deep and wide into the content

Whether acceleration/an or enrichment occur, it is important to look carefully at instructional experiences to make sure they are laden with opportunities to think critically.

Step 6 Formative Assessment-formative assessment, or checking for understanding, is  non-negotiable in a responsive, growth mindset classroom.  It is a reflective tool for a teacher to keep groups fluid and flexible. Formative assessment improves teaching and learning, and it allows growth for all students.

Step 7 Summative Assessment-the assessment must match the learning that has taken place for each group or, in some cases, an individual student. Grades should be based on mastery of the content that was tailored to the student.

Mindsets in the Classroom

Provide opportunities for students to be challenged from the beginning. Be responsive to their needs and the potential of all they can accomplish. With practice, effort, motivation, and yes a growth mindset, differentiated, responsive instruction  can become the heart of instruction. Responding to the needs of all learners is a responsibility that we all have as educators.

The next chapter in Mindsets in the Classroom, will look at why critical thinking is so important in a growth mindset class culture.

 

 

 

 

 

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I DO, WE DO, YOU DO, YALL DO

Many times as teachers we want to get to the student practice too quickly. We know the powerful influence a teacher can be on his or her students. Make a GREAT impact with the Gradual Release Model in your instruction this month.

  1. "I Do It" - teachers are deliberate in demonstrating exactly how to complete a task, skill or strategy
  2. "We Do It" - challenge and support the students, clarifying understanding, ask questions that take then to the next level
  3. "Ya'll Do It"-  one more step that deepens understanding- before you do it, have students pair, and practice with a partner
  4. "You Do It"- independent practice
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This is something that often eludes me as I work through my day. Where does the time go?

One of my all-time favorite pieces on Tchers’ Voice is Sarah Brown Wessling’s blog post, A Letter to My Children: What it Means to be a Teacher. Throughout the post, Sarah shares the struggles and sacrifices that we all make as we attempt to meet the needs of not only our biological children, but also all of the smiling faces that walk through our doors every day. As a single father, coach, and teacher, this piece really hit home. Being a teacher is a balancing act. And that’s especially true if you’re a teacher leader.

Whenever I’m asked why I became an educator, my answer is short and sweet: “Because I want to change the world.” Not that I’m naïve enough to believe that my work will achieve world peace, but I have faith that there are enough like-minded souls spread throughout the globe to make a significant difference. Some of us are blessed with the opportunity to possess a leadership role within our profession. And it’s tough! Not only do we have to ensure a quality education to our own students, but we also have an obligation to provide support and resources to our colleagues.

So how do we find balance? Well, when you figure that out, please let me know!

While I do joke about it, there is truth to my previous statement. Even those of us that have lived a dual life for several years struggle at times. That being said, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with you.

Classroom First

Even though I may wear multiple hats, my greatest daily professional responsibility is to the young people that enter my classroom every day. While it may not be the most glamorous aspect of my workday, their future is, in small part, directly in my hands. My 80 13-year-olds have faith that I’m going to bring my A game every day, regardless of last evening’s webinar or this afternoon’s board presentation. I’m a teacher first, a “leader” second.

Myopic vs. Global View

My first personal conversation with Sarah Brown Wessling centered on what it meant to be a Teaching Channel Laureate. I had to accept that I would have a direct impact on fewer students throughout the day as I’d have other responsibilities. However, she also mentioned that if I was a successful teacher leader, I would indirectly impact an exponential number of students outside of my classroom. There is a trade off.

Smart Scheduling

During my first year as a Laureate, I tried to see 120 students every other day. On my “off” day, a cooperating teacher was with the students. It proved to be horribly inefficient and forced me to creatively look at how I could maximize my time as a classroom instructor. I worked with the counselor to build a schedule that allows for me to see four groups of students every day. I come to school, teach four consecutive periods (no prep plan or lunch), and then work on external projects for the remainder of the day.

Technology Is Your Friend

Using an online classroom in conjunction with your brick and mortar classroom is an awesome way of remaining in touch with your students. In the past, I used Moodle to collaborate with my middle school students. Today, I use a variety of Google Apps to collaborate with my classes in real-time when I’m away from school. My students aren’t left dangling in the wind and I’m reassured that things are good back home.

Classroom Content: Leverage One Against The Other

As you find and/or develop tools for other educators to use within their learning spaces, don’t forget to keep your own classroom in mind. As a teacher leader, you have likely had additional training, as well as time to explore curriculum, practices, and other resources that apply to your own setting. Develop a system to catalogue these resources for later use.

Networking: Leverage One Against The Other

Once you have a title or have worked on a couple of projects, people will come out of the woodwork seeking to speak to you, especially if you choose to utilize professional networking websites, like LinkedIn. While many are looking for a sale, some are looking for an opportunity to partner on a project. See my blog post “Shifting Your Professional Network into the 21st Century,” to learn more about some wonderful opportunities that have come my way as a result of networking.

Find Time To Be A Lifelong Learner

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead quite a few professional development experiences over the past few years. While this is great and I’ve had many wonderful workshops, I’ve found it difficult to make time for my own PD. To help mitigate this deficiency, I’ve developed a skill of opening up part of each workshop so the participants have an opportunity to share out on a given topic. Not only do their ideas help my thoughts evolve, but the teachers participating share exemplar resources that I note for exploration at a later date. Additionally, learn to take advantage of your position. Leverage your role within the educational system to open the door for amazing opportunities. See my blog post “Prepare for NGSS: Immerse Yourself in Authentic Science Research,” to learn more about potential avenues for high quality professional development.

As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences as a teacher leader. If you have any questions, suggestions, tips, or tricks, please feel free to post them below.

I’m looking forward to “getting better together.”

Tom Jenkins teaches both middle school science and STEM in Enon, Ohio. He is a NASA SOFIA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador, Manager of Special Projects at the Dayton Regional STEM Center, and is the Boeing Science Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel. 

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Isn't summer wonderful?  Sleeping in, re-acquainting with long lost family members, sipping iced beverages pool side, and attending professional development. Does one of these things not look like the others? Although the professional development may not be what some teachers might consider a highlight of summer, those who know actually look forward to the opportunity to learn ways to improve professionally. Remember, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The summer is where many of the solutions to problems of the previous school year are found and many of the potential problems of the next school year are prevented. There are many places to look for opportunities. A good place to start is at the USBE website. Summers off? Sort of.

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cdeff75a7f7ecaec0df6ea3911d1fcd7

 

Executive functioning skills allow a student to control impulses and emotions, be flexible, plan and organize.  These skills are needed for learning and day-to-day behavior. The term" executive functioning" has become a buzz word in schools and psychology offices.  It begins to show up in students in the elementary and can affect them into adulthood. Executive functions are a diverse, but related and overlapping, set of skills.  Listed below are some abilities that are covered under the umbrella term of  executive functioning.

•  Inhibition

•  Shift

•  Emotional Control

•  Initiation

•  Working Memory

•  Planning /Organization

•  Organization of Materials

•  Self-Monitoring

Additional Resources and strategies:

http://specialed.jordandistrict.org/files/All-Exec-Function-TIA-B.pdf

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/prioritizing-a-critical-executive-function-judy-willis

http://www.ldonline.org/article/24880/

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