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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in student empowerment

Posted by on in School Culture

When you get a group of talented, enthusiastic, and passionate educators together to talk about school-wide positive behavior support in the summer, great and exciting things are bound to happen. And that is exactly what occurred the other day, a few weeks before the start of the 2018-2019 school year. 

I am fortunate enough to work along side these talented, enthusiastic, and passionate educators as principal, and when we sat down to discuss our goals for the year and how we would accomplish those goals, #bekindbeincredible was born.

Family Feud to Double Dare

As our school-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS) team began to plan our theme and what our kickoff assembly would be, we focused on the five pillars we have always focused on (being safe, here, accountable, responsible, and prepared), plus being kind. We discussed some ideas but wanted to ensure that we kept our ideas relevant for our learners. So we first came up with The Incredibles against another "family" in a Family Feud kickoff assembly. However as we thought about keeping our ideas relevant for our learners, we discussed the idea of Double Dare, since it made it a comeback this summer; long overdue I might add. This immediately clicked and we were quickly able to brainstorm the kickoff assembly. Now we had, The Incredibles, Double Dare, slime, and me, the principal, getting slimmed at the end. But we also had something far bigger. 

Be Kind 

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Posted by on in Curriculum & Unit Design

I often find myself demonstrating this-or-that edtech tool to rooms of educators using content I taught in the classroom. Thanks to the The Great War YouTube channel spurring my interest, I often use World War I content. As I demo a tool or strategy,  I will ask the audience a World War I-related question. This is often met with blank stares. When I casually mention the Schlieffen Plan, I might as well be speaking Latin. 

What a teachable moment. A room of educators. All with advanced degrees. All so good at their jobs that they took the initiative to attend a conference to improve their practice. And these successful adults forgot everything they learned in high school about World War I.

This raises an important question in an age where technology liberates students from learning exclusively from school-provided materials: How does curriculum fit with personalization, technology, and empowerment?

I recently had this conversation some teachers at a conference. Like this blog post, we had more questions than answers.  We talked about how schools teach students both content and skills. A great argument about the value of skills in education is The Skills to Pay the Bills by Chris Aviles. In it, Aviles argues that focusing on skills is more important than memorizing facts. 

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Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning

 

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Friday was an interesting day for my students and myself. We saw a demagogue be sworn into arguably the most powerful and important position in the world. We watched an inaugural address that basically said America was terrible: our schools are "flushed with cash" with students "devoid of knowledge", our people are on welfare and not working, gangs and drugs are destroying our country, and mothers and children are trapped in poverty.

Throughout the speech, we were all thinking the same thing, how would this impact us as individuals? At the time, we didn't really know, but I think we are getting a clearer picture. Actually, we received some strong indicators within the first few hours of his presidency and it started with the transition of the White House website.

Before you read any further, please know that I am aware of how the site updates and transfers when a new president comes into office. Not only am I aware, but I made sure my students also understand how this works. This knowledge does not change the high level of concern that we felt after hearing of some of the changes.

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Posted by on in General

Growth mindset. Student learning objectives. Student success. These terms are referred to frequently in education today, but how does a teacher empower students to take control of their own learning and feel like they are active participants as opposed to simply being consumers in the classroom and school in general? As the end of a nine-week grading period marking the halfway point in the class came to a close this week, I knew this was an opportunity to give students a chance to reflect on their learning process and their grade through a midterm mini-conference. Here’s my process: 

I created a quick but reflective survey administered through Google forms. The survey asked students to consider what gains they had made in the class as well as areas of continued struggle. Students also answered a couple of questions about what activities have been most beneficial thus far and how I as an instructor could help them grow in their skills. Since I wanted students to answer questions about the class and my instruction honestly, surveys were submitted anonymously.

After the surveys are submitted, I conducted quick conferences in my office (the hall) with students. Each student came out one at a time while the others remained inside the classroom working independently. The first question I asked was, “Based on your effort and growth, what grade do you think you deserve for this grading period?” I like this question because it forces them to reflect on their contribution and effort in their personal learning. This question doesn’t catch them off guard because they have already considered this topic by completing the survey. Hearing students reflect on their effort and progress can be very enlightening. I am often made aware of issues in their learning and come away with a better understanding of how I can best help students meet goals they set at the beginning of the class. The conference also offers them an opportunity to speak to me privately about their concerns or frustrations.

The most beneficial aspects of the conference for me, however, are twofold: student have a voice and I am able to speak encouragement to each student. These conferences also force students to think about adjustments they may need to make at the halfway point of a course. Sometimes I receive questions about how I am able to justify instructional time taken away from reading and writing for conferring about grades; the question, however, is how can I not take time for conferences if I am moving students toward lifelong learning.

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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources

math worksheet

How can I learn about my students and help them review concepts in a way that is engaging, empowering, and helps them build relationships?

Help students review and practice while observing students’ skills as formative assessment by using a technique called “Answers Around the Room”. Students complete a worksheet-type practice set, and the answers to the problems are posted around the classroom. The students complete a problem and then get up to find the answer. If they cannot find the correct answer, they can find their mistake or ask a friend or the teacher for help.

This simple “hack” for a worksheet gets students moving, creates natural breaks in the work, encourages them to support each others' learning, and is much more need-satisfying for students than to silently complete a worksheet in a traditional way.

Think of ways you could extend the activity to make it even more fun and meaningful:

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