Archive | July, 2011

Day 5–Leading Literacy with Dr. Pamela Mason

12 Jul

Read this:

Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

I’m sure many of you have seen this before. Basically, your brain, with the help of an immense bank of prior knowledge and a collection of words you have gathered over a literate life, can construct meaning by just seeing the first and last letters of a word. In fact, you don’t need to read every letter anymore. However, we have many kids who have done so little reading that they still have to examine every letter to build a word. Imagine the frustration! Imagine trying to read this post, sounding out every letter, then trying to make meaning out of it.  Try it! Go back and start this paragraph over, but pronounce every letter until the word makes sense. Many of our kids read this way…Reading is a responsibility for everyone, not just Language Arts…not just schools…everyone!

What is a reading program? Is it something you buy, or something you teach? We have some very good programs at MCHS, but the key is the teaching. The teaching has to based on making positive relationships with the kids. They need to feel un-threatened by reading. We need to create what Dr. Mason calls “Communities of Practice” concerning reading. COPs are groups where the members have the same task, they learn together, and they build relationships around the task. The members of a true Community of Practice develop an identity through their membership. So, isn’t every school a COP? There is a common goal, an identity, relationships…right? Not exactly, in a COP the relationships have to be close enough that the members are accountable to each other. Everyone is valued, haas a voice, and feels engaged. …more later…


Further reflections on Day 4 with Dr. Howard

12 Jul

I’ve decided to leave some tidbits from Dr. Howard’s presentation that struck me…
–Under-performance can be contagious.
–We are responsible for managing the development of children.
–Undeveloped people are not free.
–Efficacy is the capacity to mobilize adults and children to develop.
–Academic Proficiency is ‘Do they know it, and Can they use it?’, Character Proficiency is –‘Do they know it and Can they show it?’
–Effort is the basis of development, not innate intelligence.
–Motivate people, or you are unmotivated!
–Never tolerate; Some get it and some don’t!
–Don’t say “You’re smart!” Say, “You are working really hard!”
–Those who believe they can do it, will.
–We debilitate student efforts with our judgment of their inability to learn.
–FADAF-Failure And Difficulty Are Feedback.

Take some time to think about these things…!

Harvard Day 4! Conflict doth occur!

2 Jul

Wednesday, Day 4…of course, was an interesting day!

We had two presentations. The morning we had Dr. Jeffrey Howard and the Impact of Efficacy on Student Achievement.

Jeffrey Howard

and the afternoon was Dr. John Collins with School Improvement Through Writing Across the Curriculum.

Look at the titles…go ahead…I’ll wait. Ok, who has the philosophical task and who has the practical task?

There couldn’t have been two different perspectives…and, uh, both of those pictures are about 10 years old (Collins’ pic might be 20 years old). That’s not a slight on either of them, I just couldn’t find a recent photo…

Anyhoo, both have a ton of impressive research. However, one did it as a science, and the other did it as practice. See if you can figure out which one did the practice…Dr. Howard sits on the Massachusetts Board of Ed, and just wrote a bill that ties teacher evaluations to performance (test scores).  Dr. Collins, after years of grading student writing has figured out a way to write across the curriculum and for any and every teacher to grade it without a huge time commitment!

So? Who’s the teacher making writing better and easier and who’s the Social Psychologist that thinks politicians can improve education?

Here’s the big news of the day before these guys are presenting… Mass. board approves new teacher evaluations June 28, 2011

Both presenters started with the above news of the day! One as if it was going to fix education and the other as if we’re all in trouble

Howard opens up with how great performance-based evaluations are great! After all, how else can we hold Principals and teachers accountable…AND the assessments will be for ALL students regardless of classification! I mean, he’s right, all kids can learn, right? We ALL agree to that. NOW, look at your school. Can every student pass a state test? Can they all write a proficient persuasive essay? I mean everyone, regardless of grades, exceptionalities, and IEPs.

Collins opens up with, “As soon as you start weighing kids in PE, then you can start evaluating my performance based on test scores!” Think about it…take your time…think about it.

In retrospect, it would have been fun to watch them debate. However, they were never in the room at the same time. Probably a good idea!

The Gist…Howard sells an Efficacy model. Efficacy means anyone can learn. Intelligence is developed. Development is freedom. A civilized society develops free generations. If we don’t believe those things, then we’re not educating.

Howard has a very good sell.  He does teach educators that we don’t talk to our clients correctly.  The irony is that he sells the idea that every kid can develop, improve, and learn.  So, any poor student can be developed into a good student. However, his evaluation model (that is Ed. law in Mass, now) fires poor teachers, rather than develops them. So, Dr. Howard, kids can develop, but adults, who dedicate their lives to teaching, can’t? Strange?

Lookin’ for some support, Jeff!

Collins…hmmm, Collins was all sell! Click the Link above. I felt like I was at a long sales pitch. He was VERY dynamic and his research and methods seem to work. What I really needed was how to implement. MCHS definitely needs a writing across the curriculum plan. Dr. Collins showcased the system, but didn’t help me lead it, necessarily. Kinda like an infomercial for mortgage buying success…”Here’s how it’s good for you, but you have to call to know how it works!”

Hey, it’s late, and I have to go. I haven’t yet discussed our evening sessions! That’s where the killer, pain in your heart, nitty gritty gets down!

We’ll tawlk! ‘kay? See yuhs, layta!


Harvard Day 3…last post, I promise

2 Jul

Alright…so, someone took the challenge! You will not be sorry.

Of the four pieces of criticism from your dinner party, pick the one you need to work on most. Rank them on a scale of 1 to 5. One means you need to fix it, but not fixing it won’t stop you from the Self-Improvement you need to be truly happy. I am assuming of course, that self-improvement directly links to your career fulfillment, as well.  Meaning, if I don’t improve this trait/habit/quirk about me, then I won’t be satisfied. My life will not be satisfying, and I cannot afford to live knowing that I know how to make it the best! Five means your issue is of major importance to your career, to your self-improvement goals, to…you!


Verbalize it! Phrase it out loud to hear yourself say whatever it is that you need to work on. Say it…c’mon, say it! “My biggest flaw I need to work on is…”


Now that you’ve chosen an Improvement Goal, list what you do to perpetuate it.  What are the strategies you use to sustain that behavior.  That’s right! You have behaviors you knowingly engage in that stop you from improving on the issue at hand. For example, if it’s procrastination, then you’d list the things you do that divert your attention from getting the big job accomplished. Take some time and really look at your behavior. List the habits you’ve built in to your everyday behaviors. Think about the things that shield you from doing what you should do.

Make the list. Do it!

Make a list of the things you are not doing that would end that behavior. For example, using procrastination again…you know you have a task to complete.  What SHOULD you do? You know you should finish the task, so write down the behaviors that would help you overcome this fault.


Draw a box. Inside the box write down the things you worry will not be accomplished if you don’t overcome your fault? Write down the worries that scare you about your life…is it failure at home, is it failure at work, is it failure in your mission? However, be specific. What specific things are you worried about that will occur if you don’t fix your flaw. Think of it in these terms…If I continue to procrastinate, I will never complete my Masters…I will let my family down, I will be of little value at work, I will never move up the ladder. What is the bottom line if you don’t improve?


Now write a commitment statement that is in the double negative. “I will not not avoid doing what I know needs to ge done.” Or, “I will not not take on other tasks that stop me from completing my large one.”  Yes, I know it’s a double negative. Yes, I DID teach English for 16 years…guess what? So did Dr. Kegan and he’s smarter tha about everyone I know…added together….so, go with it…


You know what? The double negative is really important! You have exhibited behaviors that people see as flaws. Also, you have created, nay, developed behaviors that perpetuate this behavior.  You have developed an Immunity to Change! Get it? Change is conflict. Change is uncomfortable! Change is hard. You have been protecting yourself from those things! It is totally natural!


Prepare for the mind blowing truth…but not yet, I want you to enjoy your weekend. Remember, you’re ok! Everything you do that you think is a flaw, might actually be a behavior to protect you from you. HOWEVER, the very fact that you are aware of the flaw, and that you embrace it, means you will overcome it…why? It’s just that important to you! Your body and mind are building an Immunity to Change!  Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. More to come….

Harvard Day 3, part 2…the CHALLENGE!

1 Jul

Ok…so you’ve chosen 4 people with whom to have dinner. Each of your guests has a constructive critical comment for you. In other words, these are people you value, and they are going to tell you how to fix the work you do with one piece of advice. So, that piece of advice is the one thing that person, and probably some others who know you, think you should correct about yourself.

I hope you’ve chosen honestly. I didn’t set the norms, but the obvious norm, if this challenge is to work is to be totally honest with yourself.

Write down on a piece of paper (seriously, write it down on paper) the exact thing that person would say to you…

I won’t give you examples because this person knows you and this feedback is personal. It’s the look you exchange.

Write it down as a quote. What would that person you value say you need to fix about the way you operate?

(Unfortunately, I am now stuck in this process, but it is worth it if only one person responds. Why? This process will change the way you look in the mirror. It is time to be honest my friends…if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, if you glance and look away, if your brow frowns immediately, then you need this challenge…it’s time to be honest with your goals….Does anyone who wants Michigan City to change doubt that now is the time? Let’s work together…take the challenge!)

I’ll give a full summary of the amazing stuff going on at Harvard when we embrace the challenge…one of the more inspiring things about this institute is…the group picture…wait ’til you see the future of American Education Leadership!!! SO promising, and OUR kids need to see it!!!