August 2011 Archives

"When it comes to deep divisions, resolution and empathy must be combined if change is to occur (Fullan, 2011, p.50)." Recently, I had a conversation with internationally known educational leadership expert Dr. Michael Fullan. Dr. Fullan has a new book entitled Change Leader, and our conversation focused on how educators could use Change Leader to better meet the needs of students. Although it is primarily written for school leaders, I strongly believe that many of Fullan's core practices can be transferred to the classroom as well as a school building or district. One core practice that Dr. Fullan focuses ...


When I taught first grade, I introduced a new book to my students during calendar time. The book was entitled First Snow by Caldecott Award Winner Emily Arnold McCully. It's a wordless picture book that I had never used before but I loved the illustrations. Pauline, the school librarian suggested I use it with my students. I decided to use it for a "picture walk" one morning, which is a good literacy practice to do with students before you actually read the book out loud to them. A "picture walk," although I'm sure it's called something different now, is a ...


"You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." Christopher Robin As our new school year approaches, I inspect the building to make sure everything looks fresh and clean for our students and teachers. My custodians, Maggie, Mary and Garry, work hard during the summer cleaning, painting walls, stripping the floors, waxing the floors, and working on countless other jobs. A school right before the school year begins is a very exciting place. This summer, many teachers spent countless hours (on their own time I may add) to get their classrooms ready for the new ...


"When I was young, the snow was deeper and all the hills seemed so much steeper. The crusty ice I walked upon Would never once give in, And every sled race that I ran Would surely be a win. Its' good to see the snow again From a child's point of view, Because what you see is different When you're a bigger you" (Moira Fain, Snow Day). This summer, I attended a training for school leaders at Questar III Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). BOCES offers many resources to educators in New York State. We have Questar III and ...


"The first gave you a need for love; the second was there to give it" (Masse, 2007). A few weeks ago a reader told me to stay away from diversity because schools use it as a catch phrase and should avoid it because it is not our business. So in an effort to go where I do not belong, I wanted to write about families and diversity. In the public school system, and this blog which focuses on the social and emotional growth of children, I do believe that families and diversity are very much our business. Some conservative groups ...


Note: Erik Palmer, an author from Denver, Colorado is a guest blogger today. Haphazard. That word best describes our approach to teaching speaking. Yes, every teacher at every grade level in every subject has oral language activities: discussions, book reports, research presentations, Socratic seminars, dialogues, read alouds, debates, and many more. But very few teachers specifically teach students how to do those activities well, and every teacher seems to have a different idea of what it takes to be an effective speaker. I worked with a team of four fourth grade teachers who all planned language arts activities together. They ...


"Speak up, be a leader, set the direction - but be participative, listen well, cooperate" (Bennis, 2003). Sometimes I wake up feeling brave and when I find myself in social circles I out myself as a school administrator. The reactions are often mixed. Some people are scared. Some are impressed. Others don't know what to say. Some of the more friendly people will talk about their memories of their school administrators and I often wonder how my students will describe me in the future. There are always a few who say, "I wouldn't want your job." The latter statement is ...


Once a month I do parenting segments with Subrina Dhammi and education segments with Elaine Houston on WNYT which is the NBC affiliate in Albany, NY. Subrina approached me a few weeks ago about new legislation being introduced in New York State and wanted to do a news segment on it. It was entitled Drop Outs Don't Drive. Students drop out of high school through a couple of different mechanisms. One way they can go through the process of dropping out is through a meeting with their parents, guidance counselor and school principal. Parents are allowed to "sign them out" ...


"The high stakes test culture runs almost totally counter to what we know about how people learn. It causes us to engage in professional malpractice on a regular basis." Carol Ann Tomlinson There is nothing better than watching high-quality instruction. Seeing students engaged with their teacher, doing hands-on activities, or debating about an issue is very exciting. Great teachers easily float from a planned lesson to a teachable moment. If you are fortunate enough, you may get a chance to capture the first moment a student falls in love with a subject that will guide them to their first career. ...


"Approximately 1 in 20 children experience the loss of a parent before they reach the age of 18" (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). We have many students who are confronted with the loss of a parent, whether it's through drugs, alcohol, accidents, suicide, disease or war. Although it is a sad subject to focus on, it is important that as educators, we understand how to help students get through this very difficult situation. They will remember where they were, who they were with, and how the adults around them helped them deal with the loss of a parent. ...


The other day I took a trip down to New York City to meet up with three of my friends from the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Having coffee with Joseph Kosciw (Ph.D.), Senior Director of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Robert McGarry (Ed.D.), Director of Training and Curriculum, and Daryl Presgraves, Communications Director is an enjoyable experience because all three have a wide variety of knowledge and approach their work in diverse ways, which is very healthy. We learn so much through conversations with others. A good conversation can get us to expand out thinking patterns and perhaps ...


After the blog I wrote about safeguarding LGBT students a few weeks ago I heard from many readers. However, Christine, a special education teacher from Minnesota said, "Many of my students are also ostracized because of their behavior, socialization style or lack of style, and/or learning difficulties. It is not ok to treat anyone disrespectfully. It is amazing to me that this is 2011 and we as a society are still struggling with this concept." After Christine's e-mail I reflected on the past sixteen years I've been in education and the stigma I have seen that is attached to ...


We live in an increasingly complicated world. Some of us have a moral compass that is shaped by our experiences. We all have our own opinions on what truth, beauty and goodness means. However, we also meet people who have diverse opinions of those three virtues and thus problems ensue. Our society has changed a great deal. The implementation of technology and the need to remain connected 24/7 has many implications for all of us. In addition, in order to meet the demands of mandates and high stakes testing, some of what we taught to students that offered a ...


"Students should certainly think about what they read, but they should read something worth thinking about" (Ravitch, 2010, p. 20). 21st century skills is a common topic of discussion these days so I decided to use my 21st century skills and do a search on career and college readiness. The search garnered 21,800,000 hits. From college reports to consultant and businesses offering unique ways to meet the career and college readiness goal, there is certainly a great deal of support and research out there. However, not all of it is very beneficial. Although we are educators and it ...


"Atheism is a non-prophet institution" (Fletcher, 2010, p.43). I'm a huge fan of children's literature. Some of my friends get star-struck when they see celebrities but I get tongue-tied when I meet children's authors that I admire. I met Tomie dePaola at a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference and couldn't speak. I love cracking open books written by Phil Bildner, Mark Teague, Loren Long, Emily Arnold McCully and Moira Fain, just to name a few. In Albany, where I live, I am surrounded by awesome nationally-known children's authors such as Coleen Paratore, Eric Luper, Peter ...


As a former struggling learner, I know that there are factors that interfere in a student's academic progress. Those factors cover many different areas and some students can have more than one of the factors working against them. However, for educators to know how to solve the puzzle for struggling learners, they need to be able to indentify them. The factors are: Medical Social Emotional Behavioral Home environment/stressors Learning style Learning impairment Medical is fairly easy to take care of if the parents bring their children to the doctor for regular check-ups. So many times the solution to a ...


The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt's Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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