Tag Archives: ASCD

Motivation… 1-2-3, P-B-L!

From: Race Walk Pictures at https://www.flickr.com/ photos/97321708@N07/ under CC license https://creativecommons.org/  licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

From: Race Walk Pictures at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ 97321708@N07/ under CC license https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

We set the bar high and our students are expected to reach or exceed what might be very challenging heights of academic standards. What if they are just not motivated to try to reach those learning goals?

How do we keep our students motivated as they strive to meet increasingly challenging academic standards?

Actually, “Every student is motivated – just not necessarily in the way teachers hope” (Quate and McDermott, Sept. 2014). Two key factors are (1) helping students feel that teachers are committed to their potential AND (2) “making sure students feel intellectually challenged” (Ibid). When students know you support them and believe in them they are more motivated to do the work. Add to that (3) as many of the factors that go hand-in-hand with Project-Based Learning:

  1. Give students more voice and choice (still making it teacher-guided, though);
  2. Localize the project (for added relevance and personal connection);
  3. Keep it real (again, in relation to the student, personally);
  4. Launch the project with an entry event;
  5. Emphasize commitment to the team;
  6. Involve outside collaborators;
  7. Have students present their work to a public audience.

(From: John Larmer. “Boosting the Power of Projects.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 42-46. Print.)

Now (1-2-3, P-B-L), we can sustain an environment of motivated learning! For immediately useful links related to PBL see my previous posts, “Stressed out about projects? Here’s a handy checklist!” and “More PBL Resources!

By incorporating Project-Based Learning into our instructional plans we can engage students to a degree that they may not normally have been, in the past. PBL is recognized ” as a way to boost students’ motivation to learn” (Larmer, Sept. 2014). Ideally, our students will happily choose to strive to meet and/or exceed those high standards and we can continue to support their optimum learning!


  • Larmer, John. “Boosting the Power of Projects.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 42-46. Print.
  • Quate, Stevi and John McDermott. “The Just-Right Challenge.” Educational Leadership Sep. 2014: 61-65



Leadership, Motivation, Emotional Intelligence and Innovative Education… click.click.click.

From Alex Ragone's Flickr stream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ alexragone/3461563518/ No changes made.

From Alex Ragone’s Flickr stream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ alexragone/3461563518/
No changes made.

Here’s what I love about the internet (one thing, anyway)… it’s amazing how, if you just browse, your thoughts really can lead to anywhere through a series of mouse-clicks.

Case in point – I was reading “5 Habits of Innovative Educators” on the Huffington Post site (which I, of course, clicked my way to) and I thought, these are good ideas to share…  When I got to “4. They are passionately curious.” It made me think about an article title I had seen in my mail inbox but hadn’t read yet, “Why Recognizing Emotions Is a School Leadership Necessity“. Click. Click. That article ended with a references to a school’s emotional tone and school climate… hmmm, I just received ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine for February centered on “Building School Morale“. Instead of trying to find the hard-copy of the magazine I just… Click… Went to ASCD’s website and clicked on the Educational Leadership tab to remind me about the various articles.

Common strands: Leadership, Motivation and Emotional Intelligence.

School leaders owe it to themselves and those they are surrounded by to develop habits that support innovation. In doing so they will inevitably engage on an emotional level with like-minded learners because they will be showing they are passionately curious, seeking feedback to improve and believe in their students. It is that emotional engagement and connection with others that helps keep motivation high. School climate is a direct responsibility of leaders. The interesting thing is, from my experience, once a leader acknowledges their role and contributes positively to the school climate, those around the leader also take responsibility for a positive school climate.  In a high morale, positive school climate, educators and learners feel safe taking risks, being creative and making more connections… voilà! Celebrate the cycle of innovation!

Refreshment reflection!

Laiya Road Trip

Laiya Road Trip

I just read an article that really built that fire within me! Full of great advice, it reminded me how important reflection, refreshing oneself, and passion are for us, as educators. If you think about the teachers that really made a difference in your life OR those that you work with or know whose classrooms you just love to visit, this is why! They are (or were) reflective and passionate. Those two qualities bring with them so many more positive attributes. These are the lifelong learners who are always striving to improve their professional practice!

Age is no predictor – I once worked with (I was a beginning teacher) a teacher who had been at the same school for over 30 years. He wasn’t burnt out. He regularly ‘refreshed’ (that was what summers were for, he said). He was recognized by students, parents and faculty as the most dynamic teacher at the school – even after 30 years of service. When you walked into his classroom, he was excited about each lesson he guided students through. He was thirsty for knowledge, loved trying new things and was incredibly humble! I know he would’ve agreed that each of these 10 suggestions are essential to ‘stay fresh’:

1. Get to know your assessments.

How are they linked to learning goals and standardized assessments? You might be teaching something that isn’t that interesting nor really something the students NEED to know. Take a look at what the essential goals are and make sure you’re squarely focused on them… you might surprise yourself.

2. Unpack your standards.

Here are 3 important questions to ask for each standard:

  • What thinking process does the standard demand?

  • What thinking skills will best help students develop that thinking process?

  • What content and skills will students need to learn?

This will help you plan more interesting lessons while getting students to ‘go deep’ on the learning.

3. Understand your own why.

How would you answer, “Why are you teaching this?” Can you find a good reason that you are personally connected to and fired-up about? See if you can, it will also spark that passion for learning in your students!

4. Collect things that interest you.

This is pretty self-explanatory. There’s no doubt that ‘realia’ is far more engaging than ‘sit & giit’ lectures – especially if you have a personal connection to it and can make a story about it (ask me about the wadding and shot I use to use when teaching about the Revolutionary War or my Dad’s coupon ration booklet from WWII…).

5. Read outside the field of education.

It’s amazing how refreshing it can be to read a novel or piece of non-fiction unrelated to education… and, then find yourself making connections back to what you teach without realizing it. Those are the best connections!

6. Be reflective.

One of the most valuable things teachers can do is reflect on their practice. And yet our lives are so hectic during the school year that we rarely have time to just sit and think about teaching.

Spend some time this summer reflecting on this past school year. What worked? What didn’t? What do you need to cut? What do you need to add? What skills do you need to develop to be more effective? I also like to reflect on who I am as a teacher and how I can make my teaching style more accessible to my students….Rather than trying to make yourself into someone else’s idea of a good teacher, spend time reflecting on who you are and how you can give your students the best possible version of yourself this coming school year.

I can’t say it any better than Robyn Jackson (above).

7. Shadow someone.

Self-explanatory (again) but Jackson makes the point that it can be very enlightening to shadow someone in an area outside education, as well. We can learn from ANYONE!

8. Learn your teacher evaluation instrument.

Think about what an exemplar teacher could look like (using your school’s criteria). Be it.

9. Write your assessments.

Ok… maybe not what you were thinking of spending your time on. How else can you REALLY get to know your curriculum, though? This will definitely keep you focused. Be creative!

10. Spend time not thinking about teaching.

Try to enjoy the time that you have off – focused on other interests. This will REALLY refresh you and will give you beautiful memories to tap into at those difficult moments! Life is too short to NOT spend some time enjoying the smaller things (sunsets, ocean breezes, a hard workout the company of loved ones and children’s laughter – hopefully my own! – are a few things I treasure).

Have a wonderful year!!!

Manila Bay sunset

Manila Bay sunset

Another great (upcoming) Ed Tech resource! Teaching with Tablets

For those who use iPads and/or other tablets in the classroom, here’s a useful resource due to come out in about a week. The way they have adapted the “gradual release of responsibility instructional framework” is widely applicable for tech integration AND project-based learning. Check it out at ASCD!

ASCD Express 8.07 – Strength-Based Learning Strategies for Special Needs Students


Thanks, ASCD!

ASCD Express 8.07 – Strength-Based Learning Strategies for Special Needs Students.

Another good article from ASCD! A lot of this is just plain common sense but it helps to make the strategies explicit with examples. Of course, the next step is moving beyond the, “Oh, this is good to know” to the “I’m going to collaborate with you to help ensure these strategies get used regularly” and then follow-up with teachers.

Old dog, new tricks? Differentiated leadership?

canadultslearnDifferentiation, as defined by the ASCD (with the help of Carol Tomlinson) is,

“At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means “shaking up” what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn”.

However, Tomlinson makes the point that instruction (aka “process”) is only one area that can be differentiated.  Content and Product can also be differentiated.

We all have different leadership styles, just as we all have varied learning styles.  What “Content” can we differentiate to help meet our respective institutional goals?  How about the “Process” (or processes) we employ to meet those goals?  Can we allow for differentiated “Products” from our faculty?

So… how does that apply, in education, beyond Teachers and Curriculum Directors?  I posit that we, as leaders in education, must walk the talk and differentiate the manner in which we lead.

Examples of ‘administrative’ Content:  Let’s say one of our schoolwide initiatives is using UbD to develop curricular units.  One of the Big Ideas is ‘Begin with the end in mind’.  We can give various examples of how that is done in order to help our faculty gain a complete understanding.  Let’s say another schoolwide initiative is promoting a unified discipline approach.  Some teachers may benefit from reading articles on the philosophy of Unified Discipline.  Some may benefit more from reading about the nuts and bolts procedures.  The point is, we can tailor some of the Content to reach the understandings we need.

If you have better examples PLEASE comment below.

Examples of  ‘administrative’ Processes: Just as we use various instructional strategies in the classroom, so do we use various management and interpersonal strategies to help our faculty and our school meet our goals.  Collaborative decision-making may work well with some of our faculty but not all.  The same goes for Cooperative Grouping.  Varying the WAY we run meetings can help us get our messages across more effectively to a wider range of individuals.

Again, your observations, suggestions and comments are most welcome!

Examples of differentiated Product (in an admin context): HOW teachers show us they are helping us meet our goals can be manifest in various ways.  What is acceptable evidence?  Isn’t this what reflective goal-setting is all about?

What do you think?

The good news is educators commonly epitomize the concept of Lifelong Learners AND there are a multitude of resources for differentiation out there…


  • A web page focused on the gifted and differentiation, entitled “Tomlinson”


  • Carol Tomlinson’s webpage


Equal but not fair...

Equal but not fair...

  • 4MAT Leadership Behavior Inventory


  • Bill Powell’s webpage with the Center for Cognitive Coaching


International Schools vs. Public Schools: Balancing Information

In the interest of educating myself, further, I have enrolled in an International School Leadership program offered by Washington State University and the University of San Francisco, through EARCOS. It’s a fascinating exercise in balancing an International Schools perspective (that all of the cohort come with and 1 of the instructors comes with) with a Public School perspective. Good ideas are good ideas, right?

Unfortunately (for international school educators), when it comes to best practices and research-based informed decision-making, most of our data comes from studies done in the US public school environment. Why is that unfortunate? Only because there are some conditions that are far more prevalent in public schools that are minor or non-existent in international schools and that international schools cater to a generally higher socio-economic group than public schools usually have.

That said, allow me to share some potentially useful resources. The Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning has some free resources that are useful for those in educational leadership positions. Another website to mine with a wealth of information on topics that range from UbD, Differentiation and English Language Learning to Educational Leadership, 21st Century Skills development, School Culture/Climate and more is the ASCD . Both offer online courses and other professional development opportunities. Another great resource for useful articles is the National Staff Development Council… check out their articles on building a collaborative culture!

So, what is particulary true for international schools but not so true for public schools? I’m interested to hear YOUR perspective. For example, parent involvement… it seems to me that in public schools we work real hard trying to GET parents involved at different levels and in international schools, the challenge is not GETTING the parents involved it’s making sure there are strong, healthy structures in place to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page and moving forward with a shared vision (also important for public schools but there seem to be more public schools that are at step 1 whereas most international schools appear to further along… agree?).

Feedback is most welcome!