relationships

A Measure, Not THE Measure

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nfl catchNFL scouts use a spider graph to assess prospective wide receivers on twelve elements they deem important to success in the league. Those elements include height, weight, arm length, hand size, 10-yard dash, 40-yard dash, bench press, broad jump, cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle.   During a presentation at the ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership last October, Myron Dueck reviewed the spider graphs and actual game statistics of three top ten picks and one 63rd round pick. Interestingly, the 63rd round pick had the worst spider graph, but the best game performance statistics during his first few seasons in the NFL. Dueck went on to explain that the spider graph was A measure, but not necessarily THE measure of success in the NFL for these players.   The spider graph cannot measure all the intangibles, such as work ethic and sheer determination, necessary to be successful.

The same holds true for educators.  Nearly every state employs some type of standardized test for its students and reports the results publicly.  This represents A measure, but not necessarily THE measure of success for our schools. Is this good information to know? Absolutely. We need to know how our students are doing on these state assessments, and we need to continue to improve our pedagogy and practices in order to give students the opportunity to perform well on these assessments. Is the state test the only measure we should use? Absolutely not. We must be continually mindful of the fact that our students will continue to learn and grow in our schools, because of our efforts and their own grit.

All across the country on a school day, students and teachers will bee engaged in a variety of activities. Students and teachers will be laughing and enjoying their work. They will be in safe facilities.   These are the successes that cannot be quantified by the state assessment.

Keep up the great work! You are making a huge difference in the lives of our students!!

Teaching Between Desks

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classroom desksIn Japan, teachers are often found providing instruction to students while moving throughout the student desks. American educators Bradley Ermeling and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling observed the method, known as kikan-shidō, during a professional study visit to Saitama, Japan in 2014. In their article Teaching Between Desks, Ermeling and Graff-Ermeling noted the following functions that were used to facilitate deeper student learning:

  1. Monitoring student activity. Teachers find it easier to keep track of what students are doing when they spend time walking throughout the desks. Teachers can address off-task behaviors quickly and directly.
  2. Guiding student activity. Teachers can quickly assess the learning taking place at student desks and move students along by asking guiding questions and/or responding to student questions.
  3. Organizing materials and the physical setup. Teachers can help students with the items needed to complete learning experiences while they are walking throughout the student desks.
  4. Engaging in social talk. Teachers can use the walkthrough time to talk with students about content or whatever else may arise, further strengthening the student-teacher relationship.

Throughout the walk, teachers can offer instruction, clarification, and feedback to students in real time. To read more about kikan-shidō, access the article here: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct14/vol72/num02/Teaching-Between-Desks.aspx. As you plan for next week, consider changing up your instructional routine and apply kikan-shidō. You and your students might enjoy it!

Win Every Time!

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clownThe 1998 movie Patch Adams is loosely based on the early struggles of Hunter Adams as he undertook training to become a physician in Virginia.  Adams’ philosophical perspective regarding developing close relationships with his patients – particularly through the use of humor – was directly opposed to the distance that the clinical faculty demanded in the doctor-patient relationship.  In one poignant scene from the film, Adams, portrayed by the late Robin Williams, is required to stand in front of the faculty for a hearing related to his fitness to continue studies and to provide care to the indigent people of rural Virginia. Adams passionately challenges the faculty to think about the importance of patient-first relationships in the healing process, and states, “That’s why, when you treat a disease, you win or you lose; but when you treat a person, I guarantee, you win no matter what the outcome.”

In the movie, and in real life, as well, Adams was able to gain re-entry into medical school and continue his work providing free medical service to the underserved in rural Appalachia.  He later expanded his efforts into the global community, impacting the lives of the underserved from Africa to South America. His Gesundheit! Institute continues to thrive and grow under his watchful eye.  Patch still employs humor as a medium to connect with others for their overall well-being.

As we jump headlong into a new year, we will also jump headlong into curriculum, instructional methodologies, behavioral expectations, intervention systems, data, and a host of other items that trend toward the clinical aspects of education.  These things are important, and yes, we want you to use them to their fullest extent to inform and improve your practices and increase student achievement results. But please don’t let these clinical elements ever overshadow that fact that we are teaching people. I encourage you to smile, laugh, play, and have fun with your students.  I encourage you to connect with them, their families, and your colleagues in meaningful ways, knowing that the relationships you develop will yield tremendous and lasting results. I guarantee, you win no matter what the outcome.