Tag: Teaching

Nourishing Teaching and Learning-Today, Tomorrow and Always

The purpose of education seems to have different meanings when you ask other groups. If we look through the political accountability lens, the goal is to increase standards and raise requirements for test scores to reflect passing levels. Students may see education as just going to school, following the rules, and turning in their assignments. Families look at it as a way for their children to build a solid foundation to prepare for college and careers.

As we look at Teaching and Learning, we will discover more of how our teachers build lessons daily to empower students for today, tomorrow, and all of the days following. Many aspects of teaching and learning support all of the needs of learners.

Students begin learning the first day they enter a classroom. Each day they are present, they must know and take the learning with them. Students need to understand and value the teaching they are doing. This foundational learning from today carries to the skill building of tomorrow. This promotes the growth required to progress.

Each lesson taught must build on what students already know and guide them to the next level of learning. The purpose of this teaching is to help students feel the growth with their knowledge. To understand the engagement and ability in their influence around them as they continue to embrace learning. Our teachers and education system provide a precise direction grade level by grade level.

It is not just about building blocks for a foundation and following a blueprint of construction as we connect the levels of learning. As teachers, we nourish our students ultimately. The whole child is provided with needs to promote enrichment, physical wellness, promoting a moral compass, and overall conditions for well-being.

I hope as I lead others, they will always gain the knowledge and practice: “Education is something we do with children, not to them. We need to nourish our children with the gift of enriched education, physical wellness, promotion of a moral compass, and always engage in ways to think in the abstract while finding better ways to do things. Our job in education is not to teach children how to think, but to provide opportunities to think, ask questions and consider solutions.”~Yoho

Monday Matters!

What Matters?

In education, we measure, collect data, and report on students’ performance at grade levels. However, what matters in the big picture of learning? Accountability of the test scores reported on the school, district, and the teacher in the evaluation process plays an important role. Teachers are asked to set growth goals; schools do the same, and districts are told to keep up. So what matters to student achievement?

“In reality, it is through classroom assessment that attitudes, skills, knowledge, and thinking are fostered, nurtured, and accelerated-or stifled.”

-Hynes

For the last decades, the measurement of what mattered to the standardized test scores did not equal the results in the overall learning capacity. These measurements lead to increased test scores in areas but without increased learning. Students could memorize information but not apply skills. Students need to have a clear understanding of the content and the skills. The instruction and measurement must have a balance between content and skills.

Transferring knowledge to other areas requires students to have a high-level understanding of the skills and content to apply in various contexts. In measuring this level of expertise, it moves beyond multiple-choice and short answer questions. Students will need to demonstrate through problem-solving, analyzing data to conclude, matching learning to a rubric with other anchor papers, or testing a hypothesis.

The critical solution as a takeaway is this: The meaning, purpose, and values students see in what they are learning will play the most significant role in the retention of learning, motivation to use the teaching, and the interest to continue to learn.

I had written before about excellent teachers who were the best storytellers to hook students into learning and those who were so creative! I believe in students being in charge of their knowledge as they lead themselves in goal setting and explaining where they are regarding the learning standards journey. Student lead conferences are the very best as students take charge of presenting their progress.

As you hold conversations with your team on what matters keep these questions in mind:

  • What steps do you need to take to align learning measurement tools and practices in your classroom? School? District?
  • Making these changes would impact students how?
  • What measurements do you have in place? Do you utilize all of them, and how? Do some measure the same thing? Do you have too many, not enough, or not the correct measurements?

Keep in mind the title of the post. What Matters! Student Achievement is the purpose of education. Along with achievement are learning, discovering, asking, inquiry, and stretching minds. It is in finding the love of learning. In addition, it is the character, hopes, inspiration, relationships, understanding of acceptance, dealing with difficulty, mistakes, overcoming trauma, and so much more that matters. Life is complicated, and unfortunately, it starts young with all of its trials. Know your children, families, staff, and community. There are supports for what matters! If you need help finding them let me know. We will be the solution daily for what matters.

Forward Teaching, Self-Paced Learning

Covid-19 placed all of us in the circumstances we did not expect. The approaches to recovery look different in the realms of the business, industrial, and education worlds. Education is faced with an overwhelming challenge to help students at an even more comprehensive range of learning levels than they have ever met before. The approach of plowing ahead expecting students to keep up is not going to work. Now is an excellent time to create flexibility that allows students to progress at a pace that supports their learning. One speed does not fit all, but individual pacing avoids students being left behind or held back. When students can learn at a rate that matches their readiness, they almost always are more successful. I understand, some students may not be exposed to as much content, but learning is much better than mere exposure. The problem we face is the loss of learning time. The solution is to provide an individual learning pace to acquire the foundational learning needed to continue to succeed in the progression of knowledge.

My philosophy of education remains the same as it has always been. Education is something we do with children, not to them. We can choose to be part of the problem or the solution; the choice is always ours to make as students, families, educators, and communities. The learner is not passive. Therefore it has always been my belief they should be in control of their learning. I need to explain this more deeply. provide guidance, curriculum, standards, and expectations. If learners can deeply learn what they are taught, they will be more successful. We need to provide the essentials in our priorities of skills. Our children need to understand how to learn, what interests them in education, apply knowledge to everyday life, and establish goals.

It is an excellent time to consider how students can become more fully engaged in and committed to their learning. Traditionally, schools have relied on compliance as a key driver of student learning and performance. Compliance has worked for some students; it has not been for too many learners. In a remote learning setting, compliance is a low-leverage strategy. We control far too few variables to force compliance. We need to nurture the skills and habits necessary to succeed in a learning environment where learners are co-investors in the teaching and learning process.

The stakes are high as we continue living with the pandemic. It is not time to lower standards but to look at our strategies to help with learning.

Create the roads, Clear the Path

Friday Focus-Leadership

Each day we are reminded of the importance of many things, but leadership is essential in every aspect of life. Leadership is the deciding factor of accomplishing the work, goals, and delivery of success to every component in our chain of command.

Make people feel important who work for you, with you, or come in contact with you. Leadership is about motivating others. Show genuine concern for and interest in the lives of your team members, as well as those you serve. Thank them for a job well done – even if it’s a small job.

Validation, respect, and compassion are ways to let your team know you appreciate them. I took time to explore comments made on a Twitter feed from a question posed to a teaching group. The question was: What else can be done to help stop the rapid burnout for teachers? Covid is responsible for the changes of instruction, shutdowns, mandates imposed by the government, but it was not part of all the answers given. The responses were to: Give us more support, value us, show us compassion for our losses, and it continued with similar statements. I heard similar pleas a few years ago in my position as Director of Education Support Programs. The addition of the stress from Covid-19 has added a layer to an already stressed system

What can you do to help your staff or coworkers?

Tips to Help and Support

  • Listen-take time to actively listen to others. Seek them out in their comfort zones and ask, “How are you doing, and what can I help with?”
  • Don’t make a promise- We want to help, but some things are not in our control. Do not make promises you cannot keep. Listening is always a significant first step. There are always a few things we can do.
  • Drop little notes of encouragement on desks after you have visited.
  • Write personal thank you letters and mail to homes.
  • Please get to know what their favorites are and place one on their desk when they need a pick me up.
  • Know their birthdays and send cards.
  • Speak to, say hello, learn everyone’s name and display it as you greet them daily.
  • Notice everything! “Love your haircut!” “Great smile today!”
  • Partner with others- People are willing to help each other when there is a need. Brainstorm ideas together of things to do and people who can support. Here are a few things to think about:
    • Date night for families- Host an evening where child care is taken care of so families can have a few hours together. A rotation within your organization can accomplish this by trading off who participates. One family enjoys date night; the other is helping with the child care activities in a central location.
    • Wellness Weekend- Work with area businesses to gain free access to massages, nail care, workouts, yoga class, or healthcare checkup.
    • Book study group-Professional of Personal fun books
    • Let’s talk-Groups get together to have conversations about work, home, and life
  • Do not fake! Please do not try to fake any of these connections and emotions. Be authentic in your delivery of all of these supports for staff and those you serve. If you are not, it will have the opposite result for you.

Together we travel the road of life. As the road receives many travelers, we need to support each other on these worn-out paths to clear the way for a successful journey. Life is a journey, not a destination. We need each other for continued support to our final destination.

Safe travels to each one and blessings to those seeking to be the solution daily on the road to success.

Tuesday Teaching

As students enter our classrooms, we hope they will be ready and engaged in learning. Academic success is the outcome we want for each student in our classroom, but we know it can not be just our want.

Students need to have a foundation of academic skills, a character of perseverance, and a sense of curiosity. As I make a statement like this, what do you do to spark curiosity in your classroom?

Did you know that research shows “brain chemistry” actually changes when we become curious? A change in our brains has an impact on how we learn and remember information. So we need to pay attention to research to provide the best learning environments.

Tip #1 for helping to build curiosity in the classroom is:

Let’s not start our lessons by telling everything! “Today we are going to learn how to make water!” or “Today we are going to combine some elements and see what happens!”

Making objectives like this helps to keep students curious about what will be happening. In your lesson plan, you have stated the goal: students will learn that hydrogen and oxygen make water, but if we tell them upfront, then the excitement is lost.

As teachers, we have difficulty in allowing students to struggle. Often we rush to provide the answers or solutions instead of giving time to work through them. To help stretch students and engage them more profoundly, we may want to facilitate more confusion opportunities. Why not ask questions with no clear answer. It is hard because we are trying to get all of our curricula taught, but for our students to stay engaged, we have to keep them curious.

Humans are naturally curious! However, curiosity is not a one size fits all glove. Allowing students choice in learning helps in keeping curiosity and engaging learning opportunities going. While we have students curious, we can teach those fundamental skills they may need to fill in gaps in their knowledge. Just like we try to get the kiddos to eat those veggies, we have to get creative in our approach.

Let’s take a StoryWalk

Teachers, if you do not know about StoryWalks, please take a look at the following article! I love it! As a 5th grade teacher, we did many different things to engage readers, but this is the best idea ever!

I can see how you can utilize this as a fun family night activity! So many things you can do. The author of the attached article “walks” you through creating, selecting, and organizing a StoryWalk. I can see the creation of mystery walks during fall. We can make a fun StoryWalk about our school, community, or state. How about science? A StoryWalk through a human cell?

I have worked with some very creative teachers and administrators who could, I know, do amazing things with StoryWalks. If you do one, please, please share with me. I would love it! Happy to share with others and brag on you! This seems so incredible to me.

I am looking forward to seeing your StoryWalks! If I can help you with ideas, send me an email at Yohobren@gmail.com.

https://www.edutopia.org/article/fun-way-engage-students-minds-and-bodies-books

Encouraging

Leaders work hard to encourage others. Who encourages the leaders? Seeking and investing in ways to help keep our leaders strong and inspired supports the entire organization.

What do you need to hear to be encouraged? Who helps you? Let’s share to help keep each other encouraged. I can share one thing that keeps me encouraged, seeing things that I had a small part in starting many years ago still being done. An example is a bumper sticker to honor a student in a school. It makes you smile thinking about all of the kids who have shared this little but memorable message.

Continue being the solution daily and noticing those little things that make a big difference to others. Seek out ways to find encouragement because you need it just like everyone else.

Checking in and Checking Out

“Good morning; it is great to see you, Trevor! Love your outfit today, Tiffany! Jozie, I saw you and your aunt this morning.”

Greeting individuals in the morning will help to start the day off right. You can easily see if they are doing okay by taking a quick check by welcoming them. Weekends can be great fun, relaxing but they can also have sadness, struggles in them as well. I use to use this phrase when trying to explain to staff about this topic, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” We’ll; we don’t.

This is a true story, and I apologize in advance for my content. Please do not finish reading if you have a weak stomach and a love for animals.

Teaching in my 5th-grade classroom, I had worked to build relationships with all of my students. They felt safe talking with me. A small group came to me and told me they did not know what to do, but a classmate smelled terrible. It was making them feel sick.

I pulled the student during student flex work time and yep, it was awful. I began to talk to him about how things were going with him. He said, “I am having a hard time. Our dog has been missing. It makes me sad.” I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Do you have water at your house? “No.” How do you get your clothes clean? “We have a pile we get them from every day.” Well, you go over to the computer to work and I will see what I can do to help with the water.

I reported to our social worker. She contacted some other individuals and did a home visit. After the kids had left, she came to my classroom to talk to me with the principal. “Did you help them with the water?” We have to tell you about the odor you said the kids smelled. The trailer they were living in was a disaster. The pile he was getting his clothes from found a dog underneath all of it, dead. It had been dead for a while.

I could not speak. I was trying to process what was just said to me. “Mrs. Yoho, DCFS removed the children, and he will not be returning to your classroom. We wanted to talk to you about it first.” Thank you; he told me his dog was missing. I am trying to understand what you have just said, but I am not processing it. My heart breaks for all of the children in the family.

As a new teacher, I learned a lesson from this experience. I needed to check in daily with each student. No, I would not have figured out the details unraveled in the home visit, but I may have discovered sooner about the water issue. My connections with my students needed to be more informed.

Also, I needed to check out with them before they went home. Students throughout the day can have experiences we may not be aware of and addressing them before allowing them to grow bigger.

As an administrator, I used check-in and check-out. I found it to be very effective. At the middle school level, the majority of our students came by bus. I had our administrative team greet the buses and welcome the students each day. We could identify if any of our students were having signs of an off day. We would take a proactive approach to help them.

There are many stories in your journey of life that help provide you with guidance to help others. I will never forget about the missing dog. It is one of those that people would look at you and think, you have made that up. How could you? Who would even think of a story like that?

Check on those around you. Are there people at work you don’t know? Why? Be the person to spread sunshine to everyone, but learn how they are doing. If we all help each other, what a better place it will be! Thank you for being part of the solution daily!

Doctor, Doctor, Teacher, Teacher…what do you say? I have a bad case of…..

Gather facts before you react!

“Don’t presume learning lost to Covid, ” says John Hattie. “While the pandemic will have created some gaps in knowledge, the author and academic warns teachers against making assumptions when it comes to student progress.”-Simon Lock, March 3, 2021 (tes.com)

The impact of disruption to education we can all acknowledge. Lack of equity and availability of access to technology brought the attention to the needs of improvement. Parental support became an even more significant point as everyone struggled with a balance of work, remote learning and then loss of jobs. Can we acknowledge families and individuals were doing the best they could under these conditions?

The majority of children worked independently in their learning and will have developed skills as a result. Reports on the nightly news reported how schools had a drop in enrollment and we’re having difficulty locating children. Families were working to figure things out as the pandemic touched every life differently.

When all of our schools open the doors for face-to-face instruction, we also need to open our minds to new possibilities. Things will be different! Let’s not have the expectation we will be back to “normal.” Defining “normal” can be varied from person to person. Let’s embrace the facts we have learned from this pandemic and we will diagnose then treat each individual. No prejudgement, labels or categories assigned.

“For example, this notion of self-regulation where you know how to monitor your progress and what to do next; I think some teachers are going to be very surprised that some kids have those skills,” Hattie says. “But in many classrooms they’re not allowed to use them, because teachers won’t release responsibility.”-John Hattie

In previous writings, I have stated my belief in the importance of student control of learning. “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho. When we focus on expectations, strategies, strengths, and areas to improve, it develops support for the learner, not the outcomes. Learners understanding of how to respond when they do not know is a skillset with lifetime value.

The importance of how you approach back to school face to face instruction is critical to propel student learning forward and not back. Time is precious as we know and losing any of it with wasted strategies and plans, will not provide our learners with the push they need. Make solid plans now and know students are ready!

Thank you for being part of the solution daily! Helping learners grow to the next level on their journey.

This or That Thursday

All about choice!

As a shopper, don’t you love choices! I have a friend that sometimes, okay all of the time, has a hard time making a decision when shopping. I go in, look at the choices and buy. I do love clearance stuff! Remember from my previous posts; I make a big deal about Christmas, so I shop year-round.

So when looking at teaching and learning, choice makes sense to me. Teachers’ autonomy is essential in creating teaching and learning environments where joy is found. Teachers make choices in how they approach the content and skills students need to master. They are not straying away from the units, content and skills but the approach.

Teachers, given the opportunity, would prefer to develop expertise in a variety of ways to teach reading, depending on the learners’ needs, rather than teaching every student according to one mandated approach. Teachers, in a culture of autonomy, would invest, study, learn and explore more than they do currently. Most of our systems require all teachers to attend the same “professional development” regardless of what stage they are in. Teachers want the responsibility of their classroom. One glove does not fit all and we know this so why do we continue to try these things?

Learners’ autonomy is critical as well. One of the goals we should have is to guide our students forward in building leadership skills. Taking charge and making choices of their learning promotes engagement, ownership, retention, motivation and establishes a foundation for growth.

I have stated my support for student lead conferencing previously. Providing opportunities for students always to have a voice, choice and ability to gain skills to build a strong foundation for their future is always a priority for our future leaders. Accountability for learning does not rest on the shoulders of one, but many. My statement needs repeating, “Education is something we do with children not to them.” Learning is joyful not painful. We want lifelong learners, eager to explore, take risks, innovate and create.

Choice is essential to all of us. We make choices each day in many ways. I hope we can continue to explore ways to support teachers and learners with choice. I have included a link to Dr. Catlin Tucker’s blog which provides additional information. Dr. Tucker is an author to several books about blended learning. Please visit her website, follow her on Twitter @Catlin_Tucker

Would You Rather: Designing with Choice in Mind

Thank you for being part of the solution daily for all of those in need. If not you, then who? Today you make a difference.