Connected Educators


I’m convinced!! We really do underestimate what kids can do, but they always find ways to remind us that with the right amount of guidance and choices in their learning, they can do more than we think.

Our journey this year has been one of helping kids understand and apply concepts of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication – 4Cs. These are life skills not just “school only” skills. We must realize that the learners now need us to challenge them to think, not tell them what to think.

I hope you get a chance to either see the recent results of creativity in person or by visiting our Facebook page with the Junk Art Challenge. When adults sometimes ask, “How can we?” our kids answer with, “Let me show you.” These truly are lightbulb moments.

I’m convinced…that they can!!

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Even now with only 11 days left in the school year, I find myself asking where this year went? Is it my age? Business of life? Whatever the reason, there is always more to be accomplished to help us serve our Colts than what time permits. For example, our staff heard from a licensed therapist this afternoon who discussed ways to help reduce anxiety in children. We will be offering parent meetings on this topic in the future.

Even now as we end another year we continue to learn of ways to improve what we provide to our Colts. As I share with potential members to the Colt Family, we aren’t perfect, but we certainly try hard to do our best…even at the very end of the school year.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance.

Thank you,

Ron

We fall victim to the need to occupy our time, money and other resources in getting more. Schools are notorious for looking for the “next thing” that they often forget the power of the moment. Look around you and celebrate that there are more students learning than not, there are more parents satisfied than not, and there are more outstanding teachers than not.

So after all is said and done and we hear the question. “And Then What?” the answer might just be to stop and notice all of the good than not.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ron

 

 

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. 

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

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