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beautiful framing…

Amy Rasmussen wrote a piece for Three Teachers Talk:

What if We Teach as if Teaching is a Story?

And this–

Last week I attended a professional development meeting with George Couros, author of the Innovator’s Mindset. I jotted tons of Couros’ quotes in my notebook, all important to the kind of teacher I keep striving to become:

“How do you cultivate questions of curiosity and not compliance?”

“Data driven is the stupidest term in education.”

“Your childhood is not their childhood. Nostalgia is what gets us stuck.”

“Relationships matter! Nobody in this room is as interesting as YouTube. If you are all about the content, you are already irrelevant.”

“You need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are hard to hear.”

“Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?”

“Every day is where your legacy is created.”

Once I got over my fleeting envy at her having the opportunity to hear George Couros speak, the overwhelming sense of luck and joy that someone captured these thoughts and framed them in a way that speaks to me, and encourage me to be better–forgive myself of missteps and be better. Every day.

The only one I may disagree with is the nostalgia piece. It requires more nuance. A few years ago students started a Flashback Friday, where they asked me questions about my child-teenage hood, and I answered as honestly as possible. Agreeably, getting bogged down in nostalgia isn’t healthy for anyone. I’ve often said nostalgia is a heckuva drug. It’s the Mirror of Erised. But a relevant story in the context of a teachable moment is not the same as nostalgia. Just yesterday I explained why there are the terms “cc” and “bcc” on emails.

And yes, I do try to make my classroom one I want to be in. I heard the phrase ‘dogfooding” years ago, and took it to heart: basically, eat your own product. Yesterday I was frustrated with one class because they could not stop side talking. I told them what they were learning (about Outlook email–poor little future borgs, as my cohort member from WABS/STEM, told me) wasn’t the most exciting, but they had to listen and follow along step by step. That may be the hardest thing about computer instruction, and I’ve been very honest with them. Everyone in that class is all over the map, and sometimes we just have to keep in step.

Today I’ll take with me these words, and try to do better. And laugh to myself about the data-driven line.

Follow George Couros @gcouros

Follow Three Teachers Talk @3TeachersTalk

PS Newkirk is AWESOME.

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Adding it up.


Since I asked the question not many answers appeared. Time to put on my Cape of Hard Research and Thinking, TO THE INTERNET! AWAY!

Just how do we constructively analyze, evaluate, and make meaning out of student data? The fundamental questions of a PLC frame the discussion: what do we want students to learn, what do we do if they don’t, and what do we do next if they do? From the data on display, it would appear that many students stalled: the more capable ones have nowhere to go next, and the struggling ones didn’t make connections to the routines and scaffolding to the independent steps. Since I am not an ELA teacher this year by title, I could say well, my “name” isn’t associated with students’ scores. But that is the opposite of how I feel and act, and I know many of my colleagues do, too. They want access to the data and understand to their core that we are all teachers of literacy in every shape and kind. That would be my first step: all teachers in the building working together in cross-content teams to share student information, data, and insights. (I wonder where I put that student form from a few years ago we used when we had that team?) Teams are coming back, so that’s positive.

Here are some articles about different ways to look at data. The data carousel, paradoxically, one of the most powerful and weakest: it allows for good comments and discussion, and then never discussed again.

3 Ways Student Data Can Inform Instruction

Get Curious About Contradictions and Take Action: How about that ace student who didn’t do so well on the standardized test? Possibly a nervous test-taker? Or it could simply be low motivation, since many students never hear about their standardized test results from previous years? Prior to a test, a brief pep talk or quick review of strategies for lowering test anxiety could be all they need. Also, there is much information to be gained from having individual conversations with students who have these contradictions between their standardized test scores and their classroom grades and performance.

From The Teaching Channel:

How Data Carousels Help Teachers and Students:

As said, data carousels create a burst of powerful discussions, but are not sustained over time.

This one may be the best: from Larry Ferlazzo,

Response: How To Use Data – & How Not To Use It – In Schools

Below are suggestions to assist collaborative inquiry teams in examining student work.

  1. Begin with anonymous student work samplesperhaps from a colleague’s class in another school (this colleague and the students should remain anonymous). Initially examining work that does not ‘belong’ to anyone in the group will help to build confidence and ease the transition to the more risky activity of sharing their students’ work.
  2. Use protocols for examining student work. Protocols provide structures and guidelines for looking at and talking about student work. They are designed to help team members reflect on their practice as it relates to student learning and development.
  3. Select 3-5 students of interest and monitor their progress over time. There is no need to bring student evidence from an entire class. Teachers might select 3-5 students who are performing at different levels of achievement. Collaborative inquiry teams will find it more manageable (and equally informative) to monitor the progress of a few students.

The anonymity piece: making it safe for teachers to share and discuss takes away the judgmental attitude of ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ teachers. And the “progress over time” — showing growth versus proficiency is the miracle of teaching and learning. That is why we are here and do what we do: Larry Ferlazzo’s tips are doable and smart. When creating norms and structures for PLCs, I am hoping my colleagues see the value of adding these protocols.



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step by step…..

I really need to find the source for this art: but it’s too awesome not to share! Can’t wait for the students to get started on the Digital Dogs blog.

So many good things are taking root: ideas planted long ago, some grew, some not, but many are feeding and sustaining the learning. It’s important to take a moment and notice the positive things happening.

(Because if I don’t I may go nuts.)

  • A few years ago a teammate started a process called The Daily Five: it was too much for me to take on at the time, but she’s gotten her new team on board, and students are using it. Everyone needs a physical reminder of what is happening. Our digital lives are making information and knowledge slide away, and the physical act of writing a note or checklist reinforces and strengthens what we learn.
  • Students are practicing what’s important, and beginning to see the value of collaboration.
  • Connections with colleagues: because of the district’s revised schedule, we teachers have real time to talk and listen.
  • Our data showed where holes are, and others are recognizing the value of shared, collaborative lessons, especially expertise with writing.
  • Students in other teachers’ classrooms are taking me up on my offer to give them a forum for posting and talking about books.

Consider this my Daily Five: what happened, what can be better, and what is working. Onward.


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Hot piles of data.


Addendum: I wrote a follow-up four days later: Adding It Up

Well, today we had a data discussion. And it wasn’t pretty. I got a little excited when I saw that the SBA ‘Brief Writes’ had gone up, but that was mostly for 7th grade. And though I shared so much with the 7th-grade team, I tried to sell the 8th-grade team on having students do them, but with no luck, except for one colleague who worked with me the last three weeks before the test. In essence, and in the most passive way possible, an idea came from a coworker for “no excuses” and wanted to see all the data with teachers’ name tied to it. I don’t mind if people see my numbers. Want my data? My age? My shoe size? Sure. But numbers never tell the whole story. Not 0% in one subject, or 8% in another.

But how do you talk about data in a constructive, honest, and collaborative way without it becoming personal and toxic? I am genuinely curious. It can’t be mean-spirited and snotty, nor can it be sugar-coated when the numbers are there. All I know is I asked everyone who would listen to please consider using the rubrics for the Brief Writes so students would know what exactly would be expected of them, whether they got a narrative, explanatory or argumentative prompt. The students performed better on the longer performance task writes, so that’s comforting. And my Honors kids did well. And some of my Essentials kids met proficient, which is quite a feat.But I want all students to do well. This idea that a teacher is ‘bad’ based on one data point, proficiency, is dangerous, and it seems the loudest teachers perpetuate this. But that’s usually how most things work.

Now what? So why am I feeling so awful after a few comments at a meeting? Why does it bother me so? Because those comments move nothing forward. Nothing.

One thing that I pray will change the conversation from the blame-throwers to constructive is the movement toward showing students’ growth and not just proficiency. How wonderful would it be to have a student who is new to the country and language go from a second-grade level to sixth grade or more, and that would be the number celebrated? I’ll be one who is paddling that river, keeping it flowing, even though I’m not directly responsible for the ELA scores this year. But like an old fire horse, I still hear the siren: once an ELA teacher, always one. And I hope to be one again.


Because I’m good at figuring out what students need, and amazing at it when I have great collaborators, which I do this year. As Mr. Rogers said, “look for the helpers.”

This idea that a teacher is ‘bad’ based on one data point, proficiency, is dangerous, and it seems the loudest teachers perpetuate this. But that’s usually how most things work.

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Boys to men. At least, that’s the plan.

Somewhere along the way, we began failing our sons. They don’t know how to become men, adult men, anymore.


I have two sons, almost 23 and 20, respectively, and the younger one reminded me that soon I won’t have any official teenage children. When I was pregnant with him, I swore he’d be a daughter. So instead of a Rachelle or Molly, we have a Daniel. And both of my sons I could not be more proud. My husband and I wanted good men, good adults. I know they’ve each had their experiences in shaping their definitions of masculinity, manhood, and what it means to be an adult human. Neither one played team sports. Instead of Sunday afternoon football or Seahawks colors, you might find one crafting a handmade whip, going for a hike, or the other suggesting a new, extremely well-written show to binge or a German or Russian film. But that is in our little family bubble.

As I expand outside of our world, I’ve seen over the years boys being raised in traditional ways. I even knew one couple, whom I thought were progressive, forbid their young son from getting a kitchen set. There is a growing culture of masculine toxicity, a phrase my friend John Spencer challenged me about a few short years ago, and I felt somewhat guilty for saying it. I shouldn’t have.

For every young, middle-school boy whom I’ve heard call another one another a fag, or gay, or “just playing” serious horseplay just so they could connect without it being questioned or ridiculed, if for one brief, transparent moment I could have them just say that being a boy is tough in our culture. They giggle, punch, jump out of their seats, and aren’t aware of their physicality or allowed to reflect. They’re angry, bored, anxious, and learning how to emotionally and physically punch first so they don’t become the next target.

And it’s dangerous.

If you’re a white teenage boy, you’re surrounded by images of other white men who kill others and often get away with it. You listen to racist drizzle from YouTube “stars” like PewdiePie and troll other gamers disguised as trash talk, but (as a gamer myself) is nothing but a constant stream of vile one-upmanship. The infiltration is as sophisticated as a cult or terrorist cell. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Who is the President now?

Yeah. I thought so.

Yesterday on Facebook a woman stated a comment, and a man continued to badger her by making fun of her first name, trying to bait her into responding. She didn’t, but I wanted to reach through my screen and…

If you’re a teenage boy of color you’re in danger. The news broke today they arrested a Black man who was beaten in Charlottesville by white supremacists because he had the audacity to protect himself. BUT: that is not what happened – but this did:

Okay. You get the point.

A few years ago, I shared this with some friends, and it changed how they viewed raising their sons, it was that impactful:

And with Cult of Pedagogy’s reminder, I am hoping that this documentary helps us all, too, begin to have important conversations:

It’s available on Netflix and other venues now, the full version. Time to sit down, watch and discuss.

And maybe we can all take off our masks.