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Leadership Lessons from the Lunchroom and Playground

By Brian P. Gatens

So there I am, a finalist for a vice-principal position, sitting in the superintendent’s office. I’ve run the gauntlet of the selection process and now I’m in the final interview. This’ll make or break me. I’m beyond nervous.… Read the rest

Will the SAT and ACT Become Obsolete?

By Monica Fuglei The ACT and SAT: Are They Obsolete?

It’s standardized testing time, and while students at every level are taking some sort of exam, high school juniors and seniors are anxiously taking, retaking, or awaiting their results from the ACT or SAT. While these tests aren’t usually required for graduation, they are often necessary for college admissions. 

Historically, SAT and ACT scores have been thought to predict a student’s future college achievement.… Read the rest

Just for APs: When Should You Push Your Principal, and When Should You Back Off?

By Terry Wilhelm Assistant Principals: Know When to Push and When to Back Off

In my posts for assistant principals, I have been referencing John Maxwell’s “9 Ways to Lead Your Leader.” I have been applying some of his tips for business leaders in a school setting, specifically for APs leading up for their principals.… Read the rest

How to Make Sure Teacher Evaluations Succeed

By Brian P. Gatens

Three significant shifts in American education over the past five years have generated substantial pressure on school administrators to improve the effectiveness of their performance reviews:

  • Widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards.
  • More states basing teacher evaluations in part on standardized test scores.
  • Read the rest

Three Ways for Teachers to Reclaim Creativity in the Classroom

By Monica Fuglei Reclaiming Classroom Creativity

“And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same.”

Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes” is a scathing look at the standardization of suburbia, and some educators feel a similar unease with education paradigms and school design.… Read the rest

PD for Principals: Using Surveys to Gather Data

By Terry Wilhelm 360-degree Surveys for Principals

The last post on this topic described ways that district leaders who coach principals can gather data on a principal’s leadership style, strengths, and areas for growth through firsthand observation of the principal in a variety of settings at the school site.… Read the rest

Schools Need Great Electives; Here's How to Get Them

By Brian P. Gatens

There is so much more to school than core classwork. The schools that serve children best focus on essential academics, but they also realize that when students look back on the major influences on their college and career choices, they often recall their favorite electives. 

How then can schools forge the best elective class offerings?… Read the rest

Schools as Complex Ecosystems: Connected Environments for Learning

To really understand any subject, blogger and special education teacher Mark Anderson likes to think in the biggest picture possible.

Mark Anderson advocates treating the classroom like a complex environment “I was starting to think about these schools as being incredible complex environments,” said Anderson, who teaches in the Bronx in New York City.… Read the rest

Working with the Socially Awkward Child

By Brian P. Gatens

I recently had the opportunity to attend a local college’s “Educator Interview Day” to meet aspiring educators and find candidates for open teacher positions. These events provide an excellent opportunity to see how well the teachers of tomorrow are prepared for today’s classrooms — after all, there is a large difference between the theoretical world of college and the day-to-day life of a classroom teacher. 

Since children come in all sizes, shapes and needs, I’m always on the lookout for teacher candidates who already have a good idea of the classroom culture they hope to develop.… Read the rest

Number Sense: Helping Parents Understand Today's Math Education

By Monica Fuglei Teachers Helping Parents With Modern Mathematics

I heard whispers about “new math” before my children even started school. Angry parents vented about how hard it was to help their children with math homework and wondered why teachers assigned harder problems with longer, more complicated steps in place of the arithmetic that used to provide answers.Read the rest

District-Level Leadership: When Differentiated Support Includes Fiscal Resources

By Terry Wilhelm District Leaders: Differentiated Support & Funding

When re-thinking traditional district practices to meet the changing needs of schools, a critical area for re-examination is differentiation of fiscal support. While some areas of differentiated support, such as the innovative HR practices as I described in my last post, do not require additional dollars, others, such as professional development, may demand reallocation of district fiscal resources.… Read the rest

How Schools Can Get the Most from District Websites

By Brian P. Gatens

Every school district tells a story to its public, and in today’s world that story is told through the district’s website. With the rise of the Internet and our culture of connection, more and more people are learning about your district — and your classroom if you’re a teacher — from their Internet searches.… Read the rest

Is Math a Good Fit for Project-Based Learning? This Educator says Yes

Math education professor David Coffey isn’t one to tell teachers — new or experienced — how to best reach students. He just wants them to make sure they are reaching their students.

David Coffey encourages teachers to use project-oriented math lessons“I try to be accepting of the fact that I know there are effective teachers who use lectures,” Coffey said.… Read the rest

5 People We Should All Be Following On Social Media

By Brian P. Gatens

I saw an interview the other day with New York Times media reporter David Carr, who spoke of how much he enjoys telling grade-schoolers how the news used to be reported and delivered. He tells young people how the news was either printed on paper pages (and thrown onto a family’s lawn) or delivered through three major TV channels — and just about nowhere else.… Read the rest

Principal as Instructional Coach: Co-Plan, Co-Teach, Debrief (CCD)

By Terry Wilhelm Co-planning, co-teaching, and debriefing lessons

In my last post on instructional coaching, I discussed the benefits of demonstration lessons conducted by the principal. These include building trust, growing the principal’s capacity in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and enabling the leader to understand and appreciate the learning curve various teachers may require in order to reduce variability in classroom practice school-wide.… Read the rest

4 Bad Habits that Hold Back Educational Leaders

By Brian P. Gatens

In my experience, most people who move into school leadership tend to get there through a combination of personal ambition and a desire to help schools improve. Yet as soon as they move into a leadership role, the challenges and new skills needed often hold them back from initially meeting their potential.… Read the rest

How One Teacher Builds Technological Confidence

When Rod Powell’s school went one-to-one, giving a computer to every student, he was thrilled with the opportunity for professional development offered by the North Carolina school district where he teaches history.

North Carolina teacher Rod Powell brings multiple digital tools into his classroomBut he knew he wanted to learn about more than the machine.… Read the rest

Deciding When to Lead and When to Follow

By Brian P. Gatens

Leadership is a funny thing. Not funny in a ha-ha sort of way (well, it is sometimes), but in the way that for all the books, articles and websites dedicated to its study, no one can quite quantify how to be a good leader.… Read the rest

White House Student Film Festival: Technology and Education ConnectED

By Monica Fuglei Education technology highlighted by White House Student Film Festival

Students and scientists flocked to the nation’s capital for the first annual White House Student Film Festival on Feb. 28, 2014. Last November, the White House asked students to describe technology’s role in their learning experience and how education will change as a result of access to technology.… Read the rest

Just for APs: The Difference Between Pitching In and Enabling Bad Behavior

By Terry Wilhelm Just for APs: Can-Do Attitude

In my last post for assistant principals, I discussed a few ideas from John Maxwell, one of my favorite leadership gurus. Here’s another important way his work applies to a school setting.

The assistant principal’s motto: Be willing to do what others won’t

One of Maxwell’s leadership tips is “be willing to do what others won’t.” After more than three decades of experience in public education, I consider this advice crucial for assistant principals who want to become the difference-maker their leader relies upon.… Read the rest

Teaching Jobs Outside the Traditional Classroom

By Brian P. Gatens

I have yet to meet a successful teacher who does all of the necessary lesson preparation, classwork, and grading between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Instead, the best teachers give of themselves throughout the day, into the night and very often into the weekend.… Read the rest

Moving Beyond the Worksheet: Developing Advanced Problem-Solving Skills

By Brian P. Gatens

Many teachers rely on worksheets to reinforce class topics and allow students to practice classwork at home. Worksheets can be a good thing when used in moderation, but they shouldn’t be a primary activity in the classroom.… Read the rest

Build Critical Thinking Skills With Believing and Doubting Games

By Monica Fuglei Believing and Doubting Games Build Critical Thinking

A key difference between old benchmark standards and the new Common Core is that Common Core standards explicitly require classroom instruction on critical thinking and informational literacy. While rote memorization can help students learn facts and figures, teaching critical thinking leads to high-level reasoning and supports long-term educational success.Read the rest

PD for Principals: Gathering Data on Principals’ Leadership Styles

By Terry Wilhelm Principal PD: How to Gather Data on Leadership Styles

We all have blind spots, and an important role for any coach is to help illuminate these blind spots for team members. In an earlier post, PD for Principals: How District-Level Administrators Can Coach for Results, I discussed various models for district office leaders to consider when coaching principals.… Read the rest

3 Abandoned Teaching Strategies that Still Work

By Brian P. Gatens

I came up through the teaching ranks in the 1990s. Back then, the philosophy of teaching children to read ignited a vigorous debate between “proponents of ‘whole-language’ and phonics-based instruction.” Nicholas Lemann famously explored the controversy in “The Reading Wars.”

When all was said and done after these vitriolic and emotional debates, a consensus formed around the idea of “balanced literacy” — drawing on the benefits of both approaches.… Read the rest

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