Tag Archives: education

With Struggling Learners, Embrace The Power of Yet

Supporting Struggling Learners

The following is adapted from the introduction to Supporting Struggling Learners: 50 Instructional Moves for the Classroom Teacher by Patricia Vitale-Reilly

Believing in and teaching the transformative power of yet is perhaps my favorite of all moves and its power with struggling learners especially important. Life, learning, progress, and success is always about yet. What you can’t do now is not what you can’t do, but what you can’t do yet.

[Click here to download a sample chapter from Supporting Struggling Learners: 50 Instructional Moves for the Classroom Teacher ]

Wrapping your mind around yet is not always easy. “It’s about learning to fly. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. Wherever you are is where you are. You will get there. Embrace where you are and believe that you will learn to fly.” These words are exactly the kinds of words we need to say to our students.

Begin by acknowledging that students are where they are. Embrace that, and believe that they will learn how to fly. Truly. Believing in the power of yet is not some touchy-feely ideology but is grounded in the belief that when we have a mindset that trusts that all students can grow, we can move our students to a place of great joy and success.

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Dismantling Racism in Education

SaraCornSonja_2Not talking about racism is not a solution. How do we have this conversation and how do we unravel assumptions about racism? Even if you don’t have the expertise we can create safe space for the conversation. How do we get started and move forward? How can these talks bring us together? 

The Heinemann Fellows recently hosted a panel about racism in education facilitated by Heinemann authors Sara Ahmed, Sonja Cherry-Paul and Cornelius Minor. After the panel we sat down, alongside Heinemann General Manager Vicki Boyd, to talk about what racism looks like and how do we breakup the assumptions we make about racism. 

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Alfie Kohn: What Does “Effective Learning” Actually Mean? [Video]

Alfie Kohn's newest book "Schooling Beyond Measure"

Recently, Tom Newkirk joined Alfie Kohn to talk about Kohn’s new book, Schooling Beyond Measure and Other Unorthodox Essays About Education. In today’s clip, they talk about the definition of real learning and how we determine which learning outcomes are truly worthwhile.

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Alfie Kohn: Disturbing Stories We Tell About Education [Video]

Alfie Kohn's newest book "Schooling Beyond Measure"

Recently, Tom Newkirk joined Alfie Kohn to talk about Kohn’s new book, Schooling Beyond Measure and Other Unorthodox Essays About Education. In today’s clip, they discuss the currently presented narrative of American education and how these stories influence our perception of teachers and schools.

Kohn addresses three of these stories that he finds particularly disturbing:

  1. Everything can be and should be reduced to numbers
  2. People in schools don’t have high standards and need to be controlled from above
  3. Success driven by global economic competitiveness requires beating other people and seeing them as obstacles

Watch the clip below:

Kohn’s new book, Schooling Beyond Measure, is a collection of provocative and insightful essays that address big-picture policy issues as well as small scale classroom interactions. In it, he looks carefully at research about such topics as homework, play, the supposed benefits of practice, parent involvement in education, the alleged inferiority of U.S. schools relative to those in other countries, and summer learning loss—discovering in each case that what we've been led to believe doesn't always match what the studies actually say.

Click here to learn more about Schooling Beyond Measure and to read a sample from the book. Follow Alfie Kohn on Twitter @alfiekohn or visit his web site at AlfieKohn.org.

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​Alfie Kohn has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.” The author of over a dozen books, he has helped shape the thinking of educators and parents for over two decades. Kohn has been featured on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the “Today” show and “Oprah”; he has been profiled in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, while his work has been described and debated in many other leading publications.

 

The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: You Can’t Fix Every Problem, But You Can Respond

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Veteran teacher and author Colleen Cruz has seen it all in the writing classroom—and she’s got something to admit: this is hard work. Real hard. In her new book The Unstoppable Writing Teacher she takes on the common concerns, struggles, and roadblocks that we all face in writing instruction and helps us engage in the process of problem solving each one. In today's post adapted from the book, Colleen uses examples from her career to affirm teacher agency and response.

You Can't Fix Every Problem, But You Can Respond

by M. Colleen Cruz

Teachers, as first responders, often see things that we would rather not see. Every day, teachers face endless problems from administration, curriculum, and students. There is no way that we can expect teachers to fix every problem that comes our way. This is not just because there are so many of them, although that’s true. It is also because some problems are not in our purview.

You have a student who comes to school hungrier on Monday morning because, as you happen to know, she only eats when school is in session. You have to administer a standardized test to severely disabled students who have made remarkable progressover two years’ growthbut are still two years behind your grade’s standards, knowing that they will feel demoralized by the process. You have an administrator who has a completely different philosophy about learning and teaching than you do.

Beauty is not permanent and neither is the hard stuff

These are all problems that most of us will not be able to solve. These are the kinds of problems that can make us lose sleep at night. But, we can return to the image of the sand mandala when facing them. Beauty is not permanent and neither is the hard stuff. Things change. They always do. So, in the absence of being able to introduce a permanent solution, we can still engage in the process of problem solving. We can stock our classroom cupboard with granola bars. We can let that student know we will help them learn and grow so much this year. We can be transparent with our students about the standardized tests. Explain what it means to have a standardized test for children who are not standardized. We can show them ways to make the most of the experience, all the while pointing out the real, true measures of what they have learned. We can gather close to other colleagues who share a similar educational philosophy and feed each other’s souls as we build a learning and teaching community within a larger context.

No, we can’t solve all the problems we will be faced with. But we can choose how to respond to them. And our responses and the way we let the responses affect us will make all the difference.

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In addition to being the author of The Unstoppable Writing TeacherM. Colleen Cruz is the author of several other titles for teachers, including Independent Writing and A Quick Guide to Helping Struggling Writers, as well as the author of the young adult novel Border Crossing, a Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Finalist. Colleen was a classroom teacher in general education and inclusive settings before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she is Senior Lead Staff Developer. Colleen presently supports schools, teachers and their students nationally and internationally as a literacy consultant.

The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Work Smarter, Not Harder

cruz-head

Veteran teacher and author Colleen Cruz has seen it all and done it all in the writing classroom—and she’s got something to admit: this is hard work. Real hard. In her new book The Unstoppable Writing Teacher she takes on the common concerns, struggles, and roadblocks that we all face in writing instruction and helps us engage in the process of problem solving each one. In today's post adapted from the book, Colleen entreats us to work smarter.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

by M. Colleen Cruz

A very long time ago, very early in my career, I once labored until almost 9:00 at night in my classroom. Not unusual for me. I don’t remember what I was working on. I know I was sitting on the floor with my shoes off and the radio blasting. I was trying to just finish whatever I was working on when a colleague, who was leaving for the night, stopped by my room. She told me I needed to go home. “I will, I will. I just need to finish this,” I said.

She smiled at me, but stood in the doorway a little longer. Like there was something she wanted to say. “What?” I said. “You think I’m crazy?”

“Nope,” she said. “I just think you need to work smarter, not harder.” I heard her steps echo down the empty hallway, my eyes blurry with exhaustion. In my memory she was whistling. But that moment was absolutely a pivot point for me. I realized that so much of what I had been doing as a teacher was working very hard and not getting very far. I would create lots and lots of stuff, plan for hours, and yet, I could rarely trace back the impact of all my hard work on my students. I started to think that in my desire to become a good teacher for my students I was in fact taking time off my career. I was exhausting myself.

I realized all at once that I was covering for my anxieties and lack of know-how by working as hard as I possibly could, so at the very least I could say I had done the best I possibly could. But I knew, now, that it wasn’t the best I could do. That the best I could do would require putting down the tools and thinking a bit. I would need to do less of the heavy lifting myself. I needed my colleagues for support and collaboration. I needed to hand more of the work of learning to my students. In order to get control and actually improve the situation that was my teaching, I needed to let some of that control go.

I believe that teachers are working harder than ever

I am now a big believer in working smarter, not harder. Before I roll up my sleeves and get to work on a problemalmost any problemI stop and think for a bit about the best possible approach to solving the problem. Can I call a friend for advice? Can I ask for a volunteer to share the load? Can I teach the students how to handle this? How might technology help?

While it has likely always been true about teachers (Plato probably worked way too hard lesson planning for Aristotle and his classmates), I believe that teachers seem to be working harder than ever. There are dozens of reasons for this: rising levels of child poverty, new teacher evaluation systems, district learning targets that are constantly moving—all in an information age in which content and skill knowledge grow exponentially by the minute. We don’t need to add our own selves and our hard-work addiction habits to the mix.

As you move through your day, your week, your month, I encourage you to take small pauses before you act. Ask yourself: Is there a way to work smarter and not harder here? Before you pass out those papers. Before you hand-write every rubric. Before you create another assessment when you could simply read through your students’ notebooks. Because, the truth is, even if you endeavored to work smarter every single time you lifted a finger to work, you would still be working hard. And while working hard might make us feel a little better in the short run, in the long run, we need our energy in order to face the other problems yet to come.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In addition to being the author of The Unstoppable Writing TeacherM. Colleen Cruz is the author of several other titles for teachers, including Independent Writing and A Quick Guide to Helping Struggling Writers, as well as the author of the young adult novel Border Crossing, a Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Finalist. Colleen was a classroom teacher in general education and inclusive settings before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she is Senior Lead Staff Developer. Colleen presently supports schools, teachers and their students nationally and internationally as a literacy consultant.