Parent, Family, Community Engagement

We have 4 district strategic goals. These goals were developed through a series of interviews and meeting with 13 different groups and over 150 people. The goals center around: Academic Excellence, Transition Readiness, Parent/Family/Community Engagement, and High Quality Work Force.

I will now brag on our educators in the area of Parent/Family/Community Engagement. I might also mention how modeling practice pays off.

Our Director of TLI asked everyone in the department to develop an aspiration for the year. My aspiration has been the same for two years. To get our leaders to write more, as a means of reflection and learning. And I take the point in this effort by writing a blog. This is my 141st blog post since I started. Practicing what I preach.

We don’t have any building leaders doing blogs just yet. Still hoping on that one. But we absolutely have building leaders writing. All of them. And just got word from one of our principals that her teachers are now writing as well. Sharing good news and information from the school and classroom.

Here are a few examples!

All of this serves the Parent/Family/Community Engagement strategic goal literally by definition! We are engaging with all of those groups. We are NOT working in isolation. We are telling our story. We are being transparent.

Congratulations to all of our gifted educators for doing this work!

We know what works for kids.

John Hattie’s organization, Visible Learning, has synthesized findings from over 1600 meta-analyses of over 95,000 studies, involving 300 million students. This is not an inconsequential body of work. They have published a document called ‘250+ Influences on Student Achievement.’

A score of .40 is considered a ‘hinge point’. That is, anything above a score of .40, has a positive impact on kids’ achievement. Doing virtually anything will have an impact, but the idea is to find that which has the biggest bang for the buck.

There are some very negative things on the list. For example, retention. Holding a kid back has a score of -.32. Yes…a negative score. Another negative whomper is boredom. -.47. Ouch. Depression checks in a -.26 and anxiety at -.44. I bet 5 bucks that absolutely no one is surprised by the fact that these items have a negative impact on kids’ achievement.

On the flip side, there are some things that really work to help kids. In the teacher area, number one is ‘teacher estimates of achievement’, with a score of 1.29. That is huge. How a teacher thinks a kid is going to do. Remember, .40 is the hinge point. RTI, for example, has a score of 1.09. One of the reasons we do RTI things.

The number one thing we can do, in the area of ‘school’ is Collective Teacher Efficacy. Score of 1.39. The biggest impact item of the 250+ items. And it’s something over which we have control. Something we can do.

Collective Teacher Efficacy “refers to educators’ shared beliefs that through their combined efforts they can positively influence student outcomes, including outcomes for those who are disengaged, unmotivated, and/or disadvantaged. When educators share the belief that they can influence student achievement, regardless of some of the difficult circumstances faced in schools today, the results can be very powerful. In fact, research shows that collective efficacy matters more in relation to increasing student achievement than the neighborhoods where students come from and their level of income.” (Donohoo/Katz, 2019). “Collective teacher efficacy proved greater than three times more predicative of student achievement as SES, double the effect of prior achievement, and more than triple the effect of home environment, and parental involvement.”

We recently asked our principals this tough question. “Do you think the teachers in your school believe that, through their combined efforts, they can overcome just about anything going on in a kid’s life?” If the answer is yes, they likely have collective teacher efficacy.

If we start a sentence with, “Kids these days,” or “Man, the kids we have now, whew, they are different and have more needs than when I started,” as reasons kids can’t achieve at higher levels, the sense of efficacy is gone. The belief is not there. “Teams who lack collective efficacy become preoccupied by constraints, show significant reduction in the goals they set, and lower their efforts.” The statement, ‘kids are different or have different needs’ very well may be true. But they’re the kids. We’re the professionals. It’s our job to make changes, to do something different. It’s not the kid’s job to adjust to our needs. It’s our job to adjust to his/her needs. One place to start is our beliefs. Beliefs about how a kid can do. Or beliefs about what we can do.

We are working on collective teacher efficacy, starting with our building leaders, starting with a crystal clear understanding of its definition. What it is and what it is not. It is not just sharing beliefs. It is not working together collaboratively. Both good things, but not collective teacher efficacy. Another definition of what it is, “The judgements of teachers in a school that the faculty as a whole can organize and execute the courses of action required to have a positive impact on students.” (Goddard, Hoy, and Woolfolk, 2004)

We talk about and work on 3 things in our district.

  1. Our districtwide strategic goals (Academic Excellence, Transition Readiness, Parent/Family/Community Engagement, and High Quality Work Force)
  2. CEL 5D+ Instructional Framework
  3. Collective Teacher Efficacy

These 3 things overlap, mesh, weave, intersect, layer, and so on each other all over the place. A rich and fertile ground for growth, learning, conversation, and challenge.

We know what works for kids. We know what doesn’t. We can control what we can control. Let’s continue to work on the shared belief that through our combined efforts as educators, we can overcome just about anything going on in a kid’s life, and positively influence student outcomes.

It works.


“Today, isolation is a choice educators make.” George Couros

I started as a middle school teacher in 1984. 36 years ago. I got my keys, my plan book, a classroom, and the kids. No induction. No professional learning. No books about teaching. No PLC. No PLN. Obviously no Twitter or any other social media platform. Didn’t have a computer. Took attendance on a little slip of paper that I hung outside the door. I had a chalkboard, a movie projector (the clackity clackity kind), and a podium.

Early in my career where isolation was not a choice.

Isolation had commenced and I didn’t even realize it. In fact, something worse happened. My next door neighbor was generally described as the most negative teacher in the building. He couldn’t get to me fast enough to begin to poison my young teacher heart and soul.

Then I found my buddy Dave. Another first year teacher. We clung together, designed work together, grew together, and fended off the negative teachers that wanted to feel better about themselves by reigning us in. Dave and I chose not to be isolated. But it was tough. Our goldfish bowl was very small.

A teacher’s goldfish bowl now can be an ocean. Twitter, for example, provides on-demand, in the moment, professional learning, completely centered on a teacher’s choice of learning. George Couros brought that message home with a resounding bang. Literally to remain isolated now, as a teacher, is an absolute choice to do so.

And the amazing educators in Fife are choosing to not be isolated. Here are a few examples:

Thank you to all dedicated, passionate, always learning and growing educators who choose NOT to be isolated.

Kids deserve it!

I know what I know. That’s all I know. I don’t want to know anything else.

George Couros challenging, inspiring, and moving Fife’s educators!

“I know what I know. That’s all I know. I don’t want to know anything else,” is a mindset at which one arrives in one’s career at some point. Or some people do. I know I did. Took awhile, but I got there through a lot of hard work and closing of doors, windows, and any other entrances that would have challenged me to grow and learn. I had a pile of excuses, starting with the moldy chestnut of ‘not enough time.’

Then, because I got a new job that included the word ‘innovation’ in the title, I used Google to find out what that word meant in the context of education.

I found George Couros. And his thinking, words, challenges, and ideas found me. The doors, windows, and entrances were blown wide open. And the learning and growth poured in. And continue to do so to this day.

Last week, we hosted George Couros at our first professional learning day of the year. He spoke with and worked with over 200 of our amazing educators. It is very safe to say that he did the same thing with the educators. Want proof? Check out the hashtag #togetherweRfife on Twitter. He told everybody, “Go out and make a video about your learning today. One rule, I won’t help you. Figure it out for yourself.” Then he invited me to watch what was happening. Teachers sought out other teachers, worked solo, but ALL got busy. The results, the videos, were amazing!

So thank you George, thank you Fife educators for a simply wonderful day of learning!

I don’t know what I don’t know. I know that. And I can’t wait to know more.

I’m enjoying feeling nervous.

In two days, we will be welcoming George Couros to our district. Anyone who has ever glanced at this blog or many of my tweets will know that I generally become a star-struck teenager when I talk about George. His writing and thinking have changed the course of my career. Period. I cannot wait to have him meet, work, and talk with our amazing educators.

Prior to our gathering with George, we have a full morning of professional learning opportunities from many of the aforementioned amazing educators. Couros said, “Do you know who teachers tend to listen to?  Other teachers. If we are open to learning with and from others, we will realize and value the wisdom that exists in all of our schools.  The experts in education might be on the other side of the world, but they are for sure down the hallway. We need to tap into one another.”

We are tapping into one another with full vigor. But let’s face it. It takes guts to stand up in front of your peers and share. Kids are way easier. I am so appreciative and thankful for the great response we got from our teachers willing to step forward and lead learning with each other.

But I’m also a little nervous. And I’m enjoying being a little nervous. Our Teaching-Learning-Innovation department will also be presenting in full force, with multiple sessions. And I’ll be doing 3 of those sessions. Two on taking the plunge into twitter and one on using tweetdeck for twitter chats. I love the little graphic below.

Twitter has also changed, enriched, and amplified my thinking and career. I’ve seen tweets from educators saying that twitter saved their career. That’s a pretty amazing statement, and I can’t wait to help anyone interested get going in the twitter learning world!

It’s so simple to grow and learn.

Yesterday I spent some time at our primary school, grades Preschool-1st. We’re building a new elementary school in our district and our architects were meeting with our amazing teachers to get insight and feedback on design.

As I was waiting between groups, I saw this beautiful exchange between two kids.

“Will you help me tie my shoe?”


That was the entirety of the exchange. Can you help me? Sure. Bam. Into shoe tying position they went, with the little girl paying absolute attention so she could learn.

A beautiful example of helping.

This exchange between kids was so simple and sweet. One kid needed help and asked for it. Without hesitation the other kid gave the help.

Reminds me of a couple of things. I remember when our own kids were little. The rules for playing with another kid were also simple. You’re a kid, I’m a kid, let’s play. Reminds me of the George Couros’ line, “If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”

Made me wonder where the willingness to ask for help in learning goes sometimes. Maybe not even ask for help in learning. Maybe just being open and willing to continue to grow and learn.

Anyway, as I had the chance to share this beautiful picture, the reaction was identical. Colleagues were moved. And it’s what moves us that I’m calling out. A simple request for help. And immediate support offered.

If an educator leaves a career less curious than when they started, we have failed.

Will you help me tie my shoe?

How to be intentional with your continual learning.

We, in our Teaching-Learning-Innovation department, are designing a professional learning day for our educators. We have George Couros coming to talk with our whole outfit in the afternoon, which leaves us the morning for ‘sessions’.

We’re asking our colleagues to consider what they’d like to share with each other. The contributions are impressive! We need a few more to make it a going concern, but we’re getting there.

The whole process has me revisiting Innovate Inside the Box. Couros and Katie Novak do a great job talking about professional learning in your own place. Inside the box.

The cool thing about George and Katie, well one of the cool things, is they know our life as educators. They smack on call the truth out when describing typical conferences. Great keynote, rush to a session, rush to the bathroom, rush to another session, rush home. Collapse. Think about the cool stuff you heard. And go back to what you’ve always done.

How come? Why doesn’t the inspiration and learning stick? I contend it’s because the learning must be ongoing.

The standard reason offered to counter the idea of ongoing learning for educators (which is a hard bunch of words to type) is the old chestnut: time. “When are we supposed to find the time to learn?” (another bunch of hard words to type)

Step one. Decide it is important as an educator to continue to learn. I wrote about this almost 3 years ago to the day. Still believe it to be true.

Step two is provided by George Couros. “We have to make our own time for learning outside our professional learning days. Those days that are set apart for learning are important. But it is also a good practice to create space within the standard work day to dig into research, collaborate, share stories with colleagues about classroom and student success, and test ideas. In other words, we must be intentional about making time to learn.” This counsel is coming from the guy who is providing our keynote at one of those standalone days! Talk about getting it. Sheesh. He knows that he can provide the spark. It’s each educator’s job to fan the flames.

With utmost respect and love for my colleague educators, I offer the bolded words above. Please be intentional about making time to learn. I promise, from my personal experience, you will be so glad you did.

5 Challenging Statements

I think confident leaders and learners like to be challenged. Well…maybe not like as much as need. Confident leaders and learners need to be challenged. It’s too easy to sit and coast once a reputation is established. Is that always best for kids? Coasting? Thinking one has it all figured out? Probably not best for kids…or leaders.

Here are 5 challenging statements from George Couros. The 5 statements challenged me. I present them without comment, for one’s professional consideration.

Statement one. “I am a voracious learner, particularly when it comes to education. My wonder, curiosity, and openness to ideas, both new and old, have served me well, and, I hope, have benefitted those with whom I’ve worked though the years.”

Statement two: “What I am saying is that when we are averse to even considering how change may lead to something better for our students (which, in turn, leads to something better for ourselves), perhaps we are in the wrong profession.”

Statement three: “I hope I never grow tired of learning, but if I do, I hope that I have the courage to leave the profession before I stand in the way of anyone else’s learning and growth.”

Statement four: “No matter how much you know, however, you will always need to be learning.

Statement five: “Knowing is static. Learning, in contrast, is active.”

5 challenging statements.

This dude was right then. Still right now.

John Dewey

“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” -John Dewey

Dropped by our superintendent’s office today. He was working on a presentation he’s going to give to his superintendent colleagues, describing our successful capital bond program. Peeking at a few of his slides, it looks like a great presentation. One of his comments was, “You know, we never reflected on that process.” And that reflecting on it now, for him, was a great review and learning experience.

This brief conversation took me right back to Dewey’s famous line. Reflection leads to learning. Do we build enough or any reflection time into our professional lives? Do we build enough or any reflection time into our students’ lives? If not…why not?

I just finished Innovate Inside The Box by George Couros and Katie Novak. It’s a fantastic, practical, helpful, and instantly useful book for all educators. Toward the end of the book, Couros talks about reflection. “Reflection is a process that needs to be learned.” He advocates strongly for blogging as a tool for reflection. “I can’t tell you that my writing is always good, but taking time to write and think helps clear my mind and deepen my own learning.” He goes on to add three questions for us to ponder and upon which to reflect.

  1. What went well today?
  2. Where do I need to grow?
  3. What will I do to move forward to build upon my strengths and weaknesses?

Those are some darn good questions to contemplate! I can absolutely attest to the impact writing has had on me professionally. I can physically feel the difference in my brain and thinking as I write. In fact, writing has had such a strong impact on my learning, last year I set it as a professional aspiration. I wanted to encourage our leaders to discover what I had discovered. Writing makes me a better learner and leader.

My aspiration for last year, posted on my wall, right in front of my face.

We are meeting with that same group of leaders next week, bringing back all of our aspirations from last year to review. I’m going to stick with the same aspiration for the upcoming year. We still need to write. And more of us need to write.

We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.

Dude was right.

A stroll down memory lane.

We had a great, learning meeting today with members of our Teaching Learning Innovation team. 3 former teachers of the year, including a two-time teacher of the year. I was also there.

We are planning and getting excited about our first professional learning day for all of our fabulous educators on October 11th. I was trying to recreate a quote I knew I loved, had seen somewhere, and posted on twitter. But I was messing up the words. I knew it had something to do with do kids see anything different after we have a professional learning day. Or something to that effect. My memory is not always perfect.

So. I cruised through the ‘media’ section of my twitter feed. Good grief. It was emotional. It was telling. I can literally point to times where my thinking and learning were absolutely turned on their heads. And then there were just a whole bunch of lovely pictures of awesome teachers doing great work with kids.

And these two quotes, among hundreds, that I love, jumped out. Including the one I was trying to recreate from memory. Of course, it’s a George Couros quote. What else would it be?

First one I love.

And the one for which I was searching, as we plan our professional learning day.

The power of words. The power of teachers. The power of learning.