Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts

What is Academic Rigor?

The term “academic rigor” has been making its way back through my building, but many teachers are not familiar with the concept or how to support rigor within their classroom. Understanding rigor is essential for understanding how to approach and measure the learning of students. It questions the standards and makes me think about what I really want students to know. (think 40 years from now)

“Rigor,” in the academic sense, is referring to that fine line between challenging and frustrating a student. It means that students are challenged to think, perform, and grow to a level that they were not at previously. It means that students must work, like an athlete at a team practice, to build their skills, understanding, and thinking power so that they can achieve at higher and higher levels. It means that the standards of the course are calibrated so that students are compelled to grow, but are not frustrated and overwhelmed in the process.

Academic rigor is commonly thought of in three different phases of the educational process. The first is setting the standard for students; the second is equipping students through instructional and supportive methods; the third is student demonstration of achievement.

Setting the Standard

We all know that there is a certain standard of excellence that we implicitly expect of our students. My students know that those expectations involve everything they do for me from writing assignments, pictures drawn, or speaking and listening to peers.

Sometimes these standards are made clear to students with examples, rubrics, directions, and instruction. Sometimes these standards are less defined. What is essential for establishing the appropriate degree of rigor in my classroom is making sure that you overtly demonstrate to students what the expected outcome is.

Not only is maintaining a high standard essential for student success, but excellent teachers must also make sure that they are supporting each and every student to move progressively toward the desired level of achievement. I make sure whatever content or skill is I'm are covering, I have the needed materials and instructional patterns.

  • Lessons are systematically scaffolded from one to the next.
  • Materials are consistently organized to clearly provide instructions and demonstration of task
  • Intervention tasks or instructions are regularly utilized to ensure no students are left behind.
  • I'm available for helping students individually at other points throughout the day.
  • Parents are communicated with regularly regarding the academic goals of the course.
  • Learning tools are color-coded, graphically organized, reinforced, and interactive.
  • Content is made relevant and relatable to student background information and interest.
  • Validation of Achievement

It’s not enough for teachers simply to “teach” and expect students then to “learn.” The final step for assessment of academic rigor within the classroom is to provide students with various opportunities to demonstrate their degree of achievement in relation to the given standard.

  • A balance of formative and summative assessments intermittently provided.
  • Student demonstration measured using a rubric or other standard-based assessment tool.
  • Students allowed the opportunity to conference and revise work.
  • Homework and class activities thought of as “practice.”
  • Students work independently or collaboratively on a given project.
  • Students connect material to real-life examples and situations.
  • Students provide a written or spoken summative report.
  • Students metacognitively apply a variety of content learned.
  • Student performance compared to previous student attempts.
  • Students provide high-level answers to high-level questions.
  • Students do not give up or feel overwhelmed when faced with challenges.
  • Students reflect on their learning progress and efforts.

So what are your standards in your classroom? How are those communicated, supported, and demonstrated throughout the year? Take time to consider how “rigorous” the academic requirements are for your classroom, and shape the environment to consistently demand of students higher and higher levels of academic progress!

Anticipate Difficulty

  • Traditional remediation for struggling students imposes interventions after students have failed. It's more productive, however, if teachers anticipate areas of difficulty before students approach new material. Part of that anticipation includes the teacher considering the classroom population by knowing which students have identified learning disabilities, which have limited English proficiency, or how students have previously performed in class. Teachers should also be aware of which concepts and ideas have been difficult for classes in the past, where student misperceptions or confusions have been particularly strong.

Use Graphic Organizers

  • Struggling students often need help organizing information in a coherent fashion to show how different parts relate to the whole and other kinds of relationships and connections. Graphic organizers can help, provided that teachers don't use them like worksheets. I demonstrate using them and make my student create their own. I only provide copies if I have a student that for whatever reason just can't--this is VERY rare. The point of the graphic organizer is to show kids how the facts are connected so they can organize them in their heads. Organizing information into a mental model or framework is the first stage of rigorous learning, and if you don't get that part right, it's harder to go farther in rigor. Ultimately, the goal is to get kids spontaneously creating their own graphic organizers—not on paper, but in their heads.
  • A graphic organizer used in advance of a lesson gives students a heads up about key vocabulary, concepts, and skills, that they will encounter in a unit, showing the relationships of the upcoming information but also clarifying expectations of student learning. At the same time, such organizational tools can help teachers clarify in their own mind what kind of work they'll need to do to activate student's prior knowledge in a given area and fill gaps for some students, to better level the playing field as a new unit is undertaken.

Look for Clues
  • During a lesson, teachers are constantly collecting information about students' learning through observations and other formative assessments, assignments, quizzes, tests, class participation, and behavioral cues. The feedback you collect all along from students gives you a lot of information about where kids are and where they're struggling but a lot of teachers make the mistake of seeing every struggling student as needing intervention without making the distinction between a productive struggle and destructive struggle.

If you are looking for more on Rigor or Supporting Struggling Students--check out Robyn Jackson. I love her insights and always find something new when I reread them. (Her website has great planning freebies.) My district is very big into 21st-century skills and knowledge with the 4cs--I found returning to her books the push I needed to rethink my reading instruction in a group wishing to "think outside--the box." (more on them later)

Until next time,

21 Ideas to Improve Student Motivation

When Spring Break is over, I'll have 6 maybe 7 weeks of solid instruction time left before Summer Break. Sometimes I think its hard to teach after Spring Break than between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The hard part keeping them motivated to keep moving forward. I have compiled a short list of ideas that I use to keep students motivated when the going gets tough.

Motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, is a key factor in the success. For the students I work with I play a key role in providing and encouraging that motivation in their students. Easier said than done, as all students are motivated differently and it takes time and a lot of effort to learn to get a classroom full of kids enthusiastic about learning, working hard, and pushing themselves to excel.

1. Give students a sense of control
While guidance from a teacher is important to keeping kids on task and motivated, allowing students to have some choice and control over what happens in the classroom is actually one of the best ways to keep them engaged. For example, allowing students to choose the type of assignment they do or which problems to work on can give them a sense of control that may just motivate them to do more.

2. Define the objectives
It can be very frustrating for students to complete an assignment or even to behave in class if there aren’t clearly defined objectives. Students want and need to know what is expected of them in order to stay motivated to work. At the beginning of the year, lay out clear objectives, rules, and expectations of students so that there is no confusion and students have goals to work towards. Student binders mean they keep everything—even the items they don’t finish. They know where to find it the next day.

3. Create a threat-free environment
While students do need to understand that there are consequences to their actions, far more motivating for students than threats are positive reinforcements. We have to create a safe, supportive environment for students, affirming their belief in a student’s abilities rather than laying out the consequences of not doing things, students are much more likely to get and stay motivated to do their work. At the end of the day, students will fulfill the expectations that the adults around them communicate, so focus on can, not can’t.

4. Change your scenery
A classroom is a great place for learning, but sitting at a desk day in and day out can make school start to seem a bit dull for some students. To renew interest in the subject matter or just in learning in general, give your students a chance to get out of the classroom. Take field trips, bring in speakers, or even just head to the library for some research. The brain loves novelty and a new setting can be just what some students need to stay motivated to learn. I don’t do field trips but I love taking the groups outside.

5. Offer varied experiences
Not all students will respond to lessons in the same way. For some, hands-on experiences may be the best. Others may love to read books quietly or to work in groups. In order to keep all students motivated, mix up your lessons so that students with different preferences will each get time focused on the things they like best. Doing so will help students stay engaged and pay attention. It’s hard changing things up because we all know consistency is what our guys need but I like to vary how they get tasks done.

6. Use positive competition
Competition in the classroom isn’t always a bad thing, and in some cases can motivate students to try harder and work to excel. Work to foster a friendly spirit of competition in your classroom, perhaps through group games related to the material or other opportunities for students to show off their knowledge.

7. Offer rewards
This is for those who have your own classrooms everyone likes getting rewards, and offering your students the chance to earn them is an excellent source of motivation. Things like pizza parties, watching movies, or even something as simple as a sticker on a paper can make students work harder and really aim to achieve. Consider the personalities and needs of your students to determine appropriate rewards for your class.  I do things like game day and extra computer time.

8. Give students responsibility
Assigning students classroom jobs is a great way to build a community and to give students a sense of motivation. Most students will see classroom jobs as a privilege rather than a burden and will work hard to ensure that they, and other students, are meeting expectations. It can also be useful to allow students to take turns leading activities or helping out so that each feels important and valued.

9. Allow students to work together
While not all students will jump at the chance to work in groups, many will find it fun to try to solve problems, do experiments, and work on projects with other students. The social interaction can get them excited about things in the classroom and students can motivate one another to reach a goal. As much as I try to ensure that groups are balanced and fair, however, so that some students aren’t doing more work than others—most of the time I find whole group works way better!

10. Give praise when earned.
There is no other form of motivation that works quite as well as encouragement. Even as adults we crave recognition and praise, and students at any age are no exception. We as teachers give students a bounty of motivation by rewarding success publicly, giving praise for a job well done, and sharing exemplary work but it is every better when students give it to other students.

11. Encourage self-reflection
Most students want to succeed, they just need help figuring out what they need to do in order to get there. One way to motivate students is to get them to take a hard look at themselves and determine their own strengths and weaknesses. Students are often much more motivated by creating these kinds of critiques of themselves than by having a teacher do it for them, as it makes them feel in charge of creating their own objectives and goals. This is something I added to our data notebooks—more time then not we not so successful here but I walk students through self-reflection before their IEP meetings.

12. Be excited
One of the best ways to get students motivated is to share your own enthusiasm. When I’m excited about teaching, they’ll be much more excited about learning. It’s that simple. Think Ron Clark.

13. Know your students
Getting to know your students is about more than just memorizing their names. They need to know that you has a genuine interest in them and cares about them and their success. When students feel appreciated it creates a safe learning environment and motivates them to work harder, as they want to get praise and good feedback from someone they feel knows and respects them as individuals.
I do sharing circles just about every time I meet with a group. We share (if they want) about something in their life. I get to hear what is going on in their life and they get to know about mine. I have students asking randomly about my dogs and nephew.

14. Harness student interests
Knowing your students also has some other benefits, namely that it allows you to relate classroom material to things that students are interested in or have experienced. Teachers can use these interests to make things more interesting and relatable to students, keeping students motivated for longer.

15. Help students find intrinsic motivation
It can be great to help students get motivated, but at the end of the day they need to be able to generate their own motivation. Helping students find their own personal reasons for doing class work and working hard, whether because they find material interesting, want to go to college, or just love to learn, is one of the most powerful gifts you can give them.

16. Manage student anxiety
Some students find the prospect of not doing well so anxiety-inducing that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For these students, teachers may find that they are most motivated by learning that struggling with a subject isn’t the end of the world. Students have to trust you to risk everything and to know no matter what the end result is and ensure that students don’t feel so overwhelmed by expectations that they just give up. This comes and some days is challenged beyond belief. It’s HARD to get them to see you won’t give up on them—no matter what.

17. Make goals high but attainable
I have a high bar for all my students. I set it through learning targets but this is something they can get to every day. Their faces light up when they hit the target of something they would have never dreamed of is huge for them.
If you’re not pushing your students to do more than the bare minimum, most won’t seek to push themselves on their own. Students like to be challenged and will work to achieve high expectations so long as they believe those goals to be within their reach, so don’t be afraid to push students to get more out of them.

18. Give feedback and offer chances to improve
Students who struggle with class work can sometimes feel frustrated and get down on themselves, draining motivation. In these situations it’s critical for teachers help students to learn exactly where they went wrong and how they can improve next time. Figuring out a method to get where students want to be can also help them to stay motivated to work hard.

19. Track progress
It can be hard for students to see just how far they’ve come, especially with subjects that are difficult for them. Tracking can come in handy in the classroom, not only can I see but also for students. For most of my students this works to motivate students. This year, I have student’s tracking their own growth. They even keep the data—it’s all about ownership.

20. Make things fun
Not all class work needs to be a game or a good time, but students who see school as a place where they can have fun will be more motivated to pay attention and do the work that’s required of them than those who regard it as a chore. Adding fun activities into the day can help students stay engaged and make the classroom a much more friendly place for all students.

21. Provide opportunities for success
Students, even the best ones, can become frustrated and demotivated when they feel like they’re struggling or not getting the recognition that other students are. Make sure that all students get a chance to play to their strengths and feel included and valued. It can make a world of difference in their motivation.

Some days motivating students feels like the only thing I get done and other days it works itself. What are you favorite ways to keep students motivated?

MTSS What???

The Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) definition of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) provides a basis for understanding how Colorado educators can work together to ensure equitable access and opportunity for all students to achieve the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). MTSS includes Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) as well as additional, distinct philosophies and concepts. Colorado is not the only state moving towards this model.

Within Colorado, there are six Essential Components in the Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework.

  • Shared Leadership
  • Data-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • Layered Continuum of Supports
  • Evidence Based Instruction, Intervention, and Assessment Practices
  • Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring
  • Family, School, and Community Partnering (FSCP)

CDE’s Definition of MTSS

In Colorado, MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on CCSS, core instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs, and the alignment of systems necessary for all students’ academic, behavioral, and social success. Colorado has a long history of providing numerous systems of support. These include the interventions within the RtI2 processes, supports including Special Education, Second Language Learners and gifted and talented programs. MTSS offers the potential to create needed systematic change through intentional design and redesign of services and supports that quickly identify and match the needs of all students.

Comparing MTSS to RtI2

CDE’s RtI2 processes focus on students who are struggling and provide a vehicle for teamwork and data-based decision making to strengthen their performances before and after educational and behavioral problems increase in intensity.

MTSS Differences with RtI2

MTSS has a broader scope than does RtI2. MTSS also includes:

  • Focusing on aligning the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources.
  • Promoting district participation in identifying and supporting systems for alignment of resources, as well as site and grade level.
  • Systematically addressing support for all students, including gifted and high achievers.
  • Enabling a paradigm shift for providing support and setting higher expectations for all students through intentional design and redesign of integrated services and supports, rather than selection of a few components of RtI and intensive interventions.
  • Endorsing Universal Design for Learning instructional strategies so all students have opportunities for learning through differentiated content, processes, and product.
  • Integrating instructional and intervention support so that systemic changes are sustainable and based on CCSS-aligned classroom instruction.
  • Challenging all school staff to change the way in which they have traditionally worked across all school settings.

MTSS is not designed for consideration in special education placement decisions, such as specific learning disabilities. MTSS focuses on all students in education contexts.

MTSS Similarities to RtI2

MTSS incorporates many of the same components of RtI2, such as

  • Supporting high-quality standards and research-based, culturally and linguistically relevant instruction with the belief that every student can learn including students of poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, and students from all ethnicities evident in the school and district cultures.
  • Integrating a data collection and assessment system, including universal screening, diagnostics and progress monitoring, to inform decisions appropriate for each tier of service delivery.
  • Relying on a problem-solving systems process and method to identify problems, develop interventions and, evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention in a multi-tiered system of service delivery.
  • Seeking and implementing appropriate research-based interventions for improving student learning.
  • Using school-wide and classroom research-based positive behavioral supports for achieving important social and learning outcomes.
  • Implementing a collaborative approach to analyze student data and working together in the intervention process.

MTSS and RtI2

The similarities and differences between Colorado’s MTSS and RtI2 processes. Both rely on RtI2’s data gathering through universal screening, data-driven decision making, problem-solving teams, and are focused on the CCSS. However, the MTSS process has a broader approach, addressing the needs of all students by aligning the entire system of initiatives, supports, and resources, and by implementing continuous improvement processes at all levels of the system.

My take away from this shift is that MTSS was created to provide enrichment and support for ALL learners. Whereas with RTI it was just those students who were not there closing achievement gaps.

Building A School Culture

It's funny as teachers we build culture in our classroom and it becomes "the way things are done." We hard to build it so that everyone soon becomes a family. We never give a second thought to what our School Building Culture is. We may think we know what it is such as warm and welcoming; everyone shares ideas; everyone has an open door. But is it really.? I think about School Culture the same way I do in my class.

I would like to offer here an approach to learning where the locus of classroom standards is centered neither in the teacher nor the individual student, but rather in a classroom culture, imbedded in a consonant school culture. This classroom culture contains the teacher and each individual student, the peer groups of students, but also transcends them: it is a framework which governs the learning and social interaction of all classroom members, and builds norms for a new peer culture.

Culture is a powerful concept. It goes deeper than what is spoken, deeper, even, than what is consciously understood Students in my classroom probably couldn't articulate exactly why they try so hard at their work and probably haven't even stopped to fully analyze it. Similarly, as members of a larger culture, we rarely stop to think about how many of our personal attitudes and actions are simply reflections of cultural norms. Culture defines how people function, and to some extent, even how they think. If a notion of high standards is not simply included in classroom culture but is actually at the core of this culture, then high standards become the norm.

This is all fine in the abstract, but a picture and understanding of how this culture looks in practice is needed. Painting this picture is, for me, a difficult task. A visit to my classroom in action, where I can often leave the room for twenty minutes and students don't even notice, as they are gripped in project work, would be much more compelling and persuasive than my words here could hope to be. Even this, however, would be inadequate, as it would fail to disclose how the environment was built, and what unspoken norms define its social structure.

Schools can sometimes take on the feel of a production shop, students cranking out an endless flow of final products without much personal investment or care. The emphasis is on keeping up with production, not falling behind in classwork or homework, rather than in producing something of lasting value. Like a fast food restaurant, the products are neither creative nor memorable. Teachers create and fuel this situation, despite the fact that we grow tired of repetitive, trivial assignments, and dread correcting piles of such work.

Turning in final drafts of work every day, often many times in one day, even the most ambitious of students must compromise standards continually simply to keep up with the pace. Internalized high standards are no defense against a system which demands final draft work at this rate. If an adult writer, scientist, historian, visual artist, was asked to turn in a finished piece of work every day, two or three finished pieces on some days, how much care could he or she put into each?

An alternative is a project-centered approach. In this structure, students still work hard every day, but their work is instead a small part of a long-range, significant project. Daily work entails the creation or revision of early drafts of a piece, the continued research of a topic or management of an experiment, or the perfection of one component of a large piece of work. Final drafts or presentations of completed projects are no longer trivial events occurring every day, but are special events, moments of individual and class pride and celebration.

Universal success does not mean uniformity. Though the structure which braces and guides student progress is common to every project, each student's project is unique. The structure provides a frame for common learning and critique, as well as appraisal of progress, but it also has room for significant creative expression and direction by individual students. If every student in a classroom prepares a guidebook to a different local building, the steps and skills involved may be somewhat prescribed: conducting interviews, researching local history, consulting city records, trying to obtain blueprints, doing sketches, taking photographs, preparing diagrams, writing and proofreading drafts of text, preparing illustrations, composing book layout, and learning book binding. Within this frame though, individual students have substantial latitude for artistic choices: the choice of building, the choice of whom to interview, the use of research and interviews, the nature of text and illustrations, the balance of text and illustrations, the use of photographs or diagrams, the tone of presentation, and the layout of the finished book.

My comments thus far may have raised a lot of questions. What about "untalented" students? Or teachers, for that matter. People who feel incompetent in particular academic or artistic areas. What about students with pronounced disabilities in perception, memory, or motor skills? If high standards are applied to the work of everyone, won't it just emphasize the painful weaknesses of some?
What about assessment? If so much of project work is creative and individualized, and even deadlines and requirements often differ from student to student, how can fair and constructive assessment take place?
What about a sense of community? If you work to dissolve the boundaries between school and outside life, don't you destroy the precious asylum of school which provides safety and security to children?
What about the cultivation of positive personal qualities in students: politeness, thoughtfulness, cooperation, initiative, self confidence, equanimity. Environments of "high standards" are often high-stress; a high standards classroom often means fighting for teacher recognition.

I'd like to say that I, and my school, have found the definitive answers to all these questions. Of course, we haven't. We are forever confused with trying to fashion a schoolwide assessment system which fits our teaching approach and documents student progress for the community or district in a real way. We are just now undertaking an effort to begin using student portfolios as archives of individual projects and achievement, as many schools have already done. And we are continually trying to restructure our school resources and community traditions to make the school more supportive for students with disabilities, insecurities, or other factors which make them "marginal".

Nevertheless, I think there is much going on in my classroom and school that addresses these questions in powerful ways. Despite having a full range of "academic abilities" in my students, and even students of real special needs, visitors to the classroom are often bemused and skeptical that this is a "regular" group of students. The work on display looks too impressive, the focus, cooperation, investment, and friendly ease of children too good to be true. The answer, I believe, is that students in my classroom are deeply and genuinely supported in countless ways to do their best and act their best, and have been so since Kindergarten. To a great extent, this is due to the ways in which the school culture deals with issues of assistance and assessment for students, and also for teachers.

People often say to me that this learning approach works in my classroom because I am a strong teacher, or works in the school because the school has strong teachers. In fact, they say, it's importance is trivial, because it can only work with strong teachers. Your school has strong teachers, but you don't know the teachers at my school. I would never contend that this approach is easy to use, nor that my colleagues are not full of talent.

First, it is suspiciously similar to that of teachers who visit my room and tell me: "Oh, but your kids are all bright (or artists, or interested, or well-behaved), you should see my kids. This would never work with my class." Now the kids in my class are no special group, but somehow they seem to shine. Is it because they're inherently strong , as the school's teachers are described, or is it because the structure and culture inspires them to do their best? Granted, children are more malleable and open than adults, particularly schoolteachers (we tend to be a defensive and protective bunch). I would argue, though, that the school culture where I teach inspires teachers to do their best (though this is an argument which might generate some laughter at times in my staff room). In addition to searching for strong teachers, school cultures can be building strong teachers. Perhaps more accurately, school cultures can inspire and reward teachers for displaying their strengths more fully, by taking risks, working together, and assuming substantially more decision-making power. I would guess that children too good to be true. The answer, I believe there are more "strong" teachers than people realize, teachers whose strengths are hidden by isolation, lack of power, and lack of inspiration. The talent and spark in these teachers can be fueled with the same approach used with students in the classroom. If teachers are expected and supported to design curriculum and projects, to take risks, be original, to work together in critique and learning, teachers can often blossom just as "weak" students do. I don't mean to trivialize the difficulty in effecting teacher change, but I think it's crucial to emphasize that standards for teaching are as much a product of school culture as standards for student learning: teachers, like students, tend to settle into surrounding expectations, standards and norms.

Second, on a classroom level, saying that this approach needs a strong teacher may be true, but it doesn't begin to reveal why the approach works. The power in the approach it is that it is based in a classroom community which shares a culture. The assessment, encouragement, accountability and teaching which goes on in the classroom is vastly wider than that which emanates from me, as teacher it is a continual and ubiquitous process among students. When I think of a particular student I had last year, a painfully shy girl who was new to town, I would be crazy to take credit for her astonishing emotional and academic growth-- I could hardly get her to speak to me during the year. I take credit only for managing a classroom where countless students took time to tutor her, support her, welcome her, and guide her success.

Again, where do student standards originate? Partly from me as the teacher, but very much from watching each other. Students did quality work, treated each other well, because that is what their friends did, it was the "cool" way to be, it was what the culture supported. How do students decide what is "good enough" as work, what is good enough behavior? Teacher standards only define the minimum standards allowed, they can't define the upper limit of care. Students in my classroom look to each other, help each other, critique each other's work, most of all, push each other to achieve their best. For all of my teacher power, the power in this total culture is infinitely greater.

The culture is rooted in a class community in which the first priority is supporting everyone. The responsibility for each person's emotional well-being and success is shared by everyone; the teacher bears more of this responsibility, but each student is encouraged and expected to help his or her peers. As a teacher, this means setting up a classroom structure which allows time and space for peer collaboration and tutoring; it means complimenting students, rather than complaining, when they abandon their own work at times to assist others. Supporting others means emotional support and care as much as it means academic support and care. In this team concept, the hope is that no student will be left out, left behind, allowed to fail or feel like a failure. It's everybody's job to look out for others.

For me, a culture of high standards means high standards for kindness and cooperation as much as for academic work. In the same way that careful quality in work is stressed over fast production, careful attention to treating all students fairly and thoughtfully is stressed over efficiency and speed in school logistics. "Simple" classroom decisions, such as which students should make a presentation or attend a limited event, often take a long time as they are discussed carefully with students to insure that all feelings are considered. Events and honors which are exclusionary or individualistic, displays of the "best" work or awards for the "best" students or athletes, are avoided in favor of whole-class, whole-school pride. When visitors to my classroom are impressed with student work, it is often due not to specific outstanding examples but rather to the absence of careless work, the uniform commitment to quality. This is a testament to the degree of cultural pride and peer support in the classroom.

 My teachers in elementary school often instructed us to try to do your best". This isn't a bad motto; I'd use it with my class today, and most schools would embrace it without a thought. There's a big step between teachers saying this to students, and students actually doing it. Not too many schools seriously look at what aspects of their structure and culture support and compel students to do their best, to act their best, and what aspects undermine this spirit. Rather than searching for individual teachers or principals who they hope can demand high standards, I feel that schools should be looking at how they can create a spirit of high standards, a school culture of high standards.

What's your building culture like? Have a great week! Say cool:)

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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