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Cathy Beck @cathypetreebeck

Cathy Beck @cathypetreebeck

Dr. Cathy Beck @cathypetreebeck has been in education for the past 27 years. She currently works as the assistant superintendent in Summit County, CO. Cathy is the co-author of Easy and Effective Professional Development. She has a new book,Leading Learning for ELL Students, which will be available in early 2017. Cathy is also an adjunct professor for Concordia University and the American College of Education.

Posted by on in Education Leadership

I had a conversation this week with an educator that I would define as a master teacher. “What,” she asked, “defines mastery in teachers?” Is it years of experience? Self-efficacy? Or perhaps a set of specific skills that lend themselves to high achievement for students?

I would say possibly a combination of all three.

Can new teachers really be thought of as masterful? Maybe, but I would bend more toward the thinking that in most cases it takes a few years to attain mastery. I have seen brand new teachers do a terrific job immediately, but they are few and far between.

Certainly there are teachers who have been teaching for many years and still have not risen to this level. How, then, does a teacher attain this art of mastery?

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Posted by on in Professional Development

Professional development has changed drastically, for the better, since I began my career. Long gone are the days of “sit and get, one size fits all” pd. Thank goodness! Professional development is more personalized with teachers taking control and leading it often.

The tenets of high quality professional development include:

Job embedded

Ongoing

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Posted by on in School Culture

Anyone who has worked with me can attest to the mantra I believe wholeheartedly: “Education is like a three legged stool. The school is one leg, the student is another, and the parents are the third. It takes all legs holding up their load for the stool to stand.” All legs have an equal responsibility, different, yet equal.

The school has a responsibility to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Engaging lessons crafted to develop the whole child should be delivered in a safe and caring environment. Instruction should be multicultural with equity and inclusion for all. The school should provide feedback to each student in regards to closing achievement gaps. Finally, the school should introduce children to the arts to offer opportunities not always available through the family.

The student has the responsibility to be a learner, not just a student. A student infers seat time. A learner embraces and takes ownership of his learning. The learner should engage in the classroom, know where he/she is in regards to mastering a target, and be a good citizen, both in and out of the school. The learner should be open-minded, caring and respectful to all in which he encounters.

Parents need to be their children’s first teachers. Developing language, introducing literacy, and making every activity a teachable moment are parents’ responsibilities. Parents should value education and support the school and teachers in whatever manner is doable for them. They should ensure that their children are well rested and loved. Parents need to make sure that their children are on time and attend school regularly.

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Posted by on in School Culture

door knocker

As the principal at a rural high school several years ago I often wrestled with the notion of partnering with parents at this level. How could I engage families? So many freshmen entered without a clue as to how to be successful. Most of my parents did not have an understanding of how involved to be at this level. I embarked on a radical adventure to try and bridge this gap. I decided to do a home visit to every one of their homes the summer before they began high school. This out of the box idea became one of the most powerful acts I have ever done as an educator.

My bilingual secretary and I visited 88 homes that summer. We mapped out the visits in neighborhoods and armed with information about credits, Powerschool, dual credit options, graduation requirements and extra-curricular opportunities we hit the road. Some families were suspicious as to why I would feel the need to visit their homes but the majority of them were so appreciative. More often than not the entire family would be present, all dressed in their finest with delicious food to serve my secretary and me.

 The visits would begin with me asking the question,"What are your dreams for your child's education? " The answer to this question would set the course for the rest of the conversation. We showed the parents how to check their children’s grades online, and we discussed ways that they could support their children’s education. We talked about educational goals and developed a plan for each child as to how to achieve them. All parents now had an educational partner in which to call with any questions. This initial meeting with each family was so positive that it made any subsequent calls that required a disciplinary tone so much easier to make. The incoming freshmen began  a step ahead of any former group of students. Attendance levels went up, discipline issue went down.

I changed jobs after that year but I kept tabs on this group of freshmen. They graduated in 2015. Guess who they invited to be their keynote speaker? Yes, I was honored to deliver the graduation speech for a group that became so very special to me as a result of a summer spent in their homes. Reaching out to make the initial connection paid off in a big way for this group of students. Home visits are not just for preschool, they are highly impactful at the secondary level as well.

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Posted by on in Literacy

Girl reading

I have returned from an incredibly inspiring reading conference. Some of the most notable literacy experts in the country presented. I attended many break-out sessions to increase my knowledge of great literacy practices. I even presented one myself entitled, ”Creating a School-Wide Culture of Literacy.”

One of the controversial topics that was addressed often was whether or not it was a good idea to “bribe” students to read. My school has reading challenges over the breaks that reward children for reading while not in school. For every break we have a challenge and the ante continues to go up. I will do anything to get children to read. Anything.

We bring in authors to do assemblies with children. We have Minute-to-Win-It games for children who read over breaks. There are experience incentives such as “Principal for a Day” and soccer lessons with the high school coach. I beg anyone who can offer time with a child to donate an experience to reward children for reading.

We have an annual Vocabulary Parade where children dress up to represent their favorite word. Families decorate pumpkins to be the favorite book character. We bring the local library in to sign families up for library cards during parent teacher conferences and all adults in the building, everyone, has to keep current a sign that displays what is currently being read. This includes the custodian, cafeteria workers, and the office staff.

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