Connected Educators


Sometimes the questions we ask of the learner are more important than the answers. I know this may seem counterintuitive at first, but please allow me to clarify. 

One of the expectations of all learners in Forsyth County is outlined in the FCS Learner Profile as being able to “Utilize Creative and Critical Thinking.” Both of these expectations include skills which are applicable for the learner in the classroom as well as in the workplace and beyond. 

We understand that the learner must be taught how to be a creative and critical thinker and a solution-oriented individual.
One of the ways to develop these skills is through asking questions that cause the learner to think beyond basic recall or rote responses (lower level responses). Instead the learners should be asked questions that require depth of thought and knowledge (higher level responses). A resource you can use is the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

As you ask your child questions about what he/she is learning, intentionally include questions from the “Analyze, Evaluate and Create” categories. Over time, your child will become more comfortable with these types of questions and should be able to explain his/her thinking about the topic. 

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We realize that we are truly fortunate to live in a community whose primary goal is the same as ours: to create a learning environment that provides atypical experiences for every Colt. 

This is only possible through open and consistent dialogue between home and school.
As we continue to explore ways to partner with home as a support around reading, we wanted to share some easily understood and readily implemented ways you can increase your child’s level of understanding.

You have asked about how to find age appropriate and level appropriate books for your child to read. The following lists provides some ways to access them. Additionally the Public Library System in Forsyth is well aware of the leveling systems like Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) that we use as well as information about the Lexile Levels. So, they would be glad to assist as well. 

This certainly is not an exhaustive list, in fact, one of the best ways to select a book for your child to read is to have your child talk about what interests him/her and provide multiple ways for your child to have access to readings about the topic of interest. (i.e.- magazines, newspaper articles, fiction and non- fictional books, etc.) there are children’s version of some of the more popular magazines such as: Time For Kids, Sports Illustrated For Kids, Weekly Reader, National Geographic For Kids, etc.

You can help your child by reading out loud with them so that they hear:

  • How the reader stops at punctuation, uses voice inflections, 
  • Reads fluently, 
  • You can also have your child tell you three things they learned about what they just read 
  • Ask them to create three questions that can be answered after someone reads the passage, chapter,
    etc. 
  • Have them draw a picture of what they read. (This strategy can also provide insight as to what
    your child actually got from the reading. Lots of specifics shown in their drawing indicate a
    higher likelihood of student understanding, while the reverse might be true. 
  • Let your kids see you reading while they are reading, 
  • Point out careers that require some type of reading to be done that requires strong reading skills,
  • Have your child talk a lot as they are reading so they can hear and often clarify any misread words,
  • Ask your child if what they read makes sense,
  • Have they read or heard anything that matches what they read/learned?
    Notice that the suggestions listed do not include questions like “Who’s the main character? Where did the story take place? What’s the problem in the story?” These are basic questions that give an insight to your reader and knowing these pieces are important, but we must be intentional about asking questions of more
    depth and require the learner to provide answers of more than one word responses,
  • Why did the author write this book?
  • How would you have changed the ending?
  • If you were the character in the story how would you change the setting, and would have the
    problem be the same?
  • How would the solution have changed if you were the main character? If the setting had changed.? The goal is to begin getting readers to make connections and problem solve in a variety of ways.
     

As you can readily see, there are many ways to support your child in reading without requiring that you have read their selections or have a deep level of understanding on your part as to specific reading skills.

EIP, IEP, SST, RtI, EBD, BEH, AIMS, SIP, 504, EL, GT, SE, SWD, LD, OHI, TAPS, TKES, LKES, RT3. If you are an educator, you probably know many of these acronyms. We do have a “language” all our own in the school setting. Truth be told, it seems that we add more of these each year. But, there is one that I think needs to be used and heard the most. The word? J-O-Y.

I was fortunate to hear @shareski this past summer at @DiscoveryEd Principal Institute. His topic, “Whatever Happened to Joy?,” was a great reminder of the power of finding joy in every aspect of life. It was a powerful reminder as I thought about how having joy translates to being a better person and thus, a better educator.

It directed my own thoughts toward the lyrics of a song that I had recently heard. The song, Wonder.

May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child…

The lyrics remind me that finding joy can come from anywhere, everywhere, and at any time. Finding joy often starts with a sense of wonder. In our schools, our children find joy in most everything and on most every day. THAT brings me joy! I hope not to forget that.

I posed the question, “What Brings You Joy?” to my staff upon returning to school this year. With all of the other acronyms and words that exist, let’s not forget the importance and power of this one as well. So, “What Brings YOU Joy?”

Experience Doesn’t Make You Better, Only Evaluated Experience Makes You Better. (Dr. Howard G. Hendricks)

I recently heard this quote in a series by Andy Stanley. As I began to think about this statement, I continued to see its application within the educational setting and mentoring aspects of leadership and leader and teacher development. Educators know that providing descriptive feedback to the learner is a critical element for learning and growth.

Marzano and others have long researched the benefits of consciously providing feedback to the learner.

W. Fred Mizer stated, ‘Feedback is an objective description of a student’s performance intended to guide future performance.’ Teachers have long understood that the more specific they are in their feedback to the student, the higher the ensuing achievement of the learner. No longer are ‘Good Job’ or Smiley-Face stickers appropriate for providing feedback about learning. Feedback is specific and non-judgmental. It is merely a statement of what was observed and what can be done to improve the next time.

The same goes for educational leaders responsible for providing feedback to the instructional staff. No longer are comments like ‘Good Job’ or ‘I enjoyed the lesson’ appropriate as end conversations about the teaching and learning that has taken place in our classrooms.

With the renewed interest in teacher evaluation systems and the emphasis on learner outcomes, it is important that current educators realize that our emphasis is also on the input. As Dr. Hendricks stated, it is ‘evaluated experience’ that improves practice. We must embrace the benefits of descriptive feedback that we can both provide and receive from colleagues. Too often we simply reflect on our practice by answering, ‘What worked? What needs to be improved?’ Please do not misunderstand me. These are valuable questions to ask, but we also need to utilize the benefits of having someone else provide feedback to us in the course of our daily practice in order to effectively answer these questions.

As building leaders, we must continue to provide the kind of descriptive feedback to teachers of all levels in order to promote growth and the best instruction for all of our learners, student and adult.

The next time that someone says ‘Experience makes you better,’ remember that only ‘evaluated experience’ makes you better.

 

Ron

I just ended one of the most energizing two days with my staff @KellyMillES. The energy and enthusiasm truly filled the room. The staff willingly came together during their own time to continue our journey to become the best staff we can be and attain our great moments.  We met new people, had lots of laughs, collaborated with educators @shiraleibowitz and @S_Blankenship in a Google + Hangout, had lessons on fly fishing, pottery, phone photography, sacred harp (shaped note) singing, and weaving.

We spent time learning about ourselves (directionality) in order to learn about interacting and collaborating with others. We resolved to practice three concepts:

  • Commit. We understand that unless we all commit to each other we will not commit to do the right work for students. In absence of a commitment, the action becomes merely a task to be completed. It is the commitment, or connection, to the person that results in the highest levels of achievement. We commit.
  • We don’t have the answers. In an era within education where information multiples at an unimaginable rate and knowledge abounds, the work of educators is more complex that it has ever been. Progression of standards (Common Core), intense scrutiny on assessments, and other demands cause us to realize that having ‘the’ answer is an archaic mindset. We do; however, realize that having lots of questions is more important and allows for true learning to take place. We don’t have the answers, just lots of questions.
  • Listen to Learn. As part of the human race, we understand our nature is to teach those most like us in terms of personality, learning style, etc. As such, we miss many opportunities to reach our students who are not like us and collaborative interactions with others who can help us become better and connected educators. So, we choose to listen with open minds, not having a preconceived idea of what the other person is going to say or what they should do. We consciously listen in order to learn. We listen.

At the conclusion of an amazing time together, I shared a quote that, in flipping channels, I heard from a TV commercial.

You’ll never get to the next great moment if you don’t keep going, so that’s what I do, I keep going.

If we are true to the three concepts @KellyMillES, I think that we will get to our ‘next great moment.’ In doing so, the students and adults connected to KME, will have their next great moment.

I can’t wait…

~Ron