After nine months in Colorado, my son is headed home. This gap year has served its purpose—Ian is more mature, focused on his future, and ready to start college in the fall. Hallelujah!
The irony of it taking nine, long months for Ian to “grow up” is not lost on me; after all, that’s the length of a school year and a human pregnancy. When I reflect on it, Ian’s growth really is comparable to the growth a fetus or a student’s growth during the school year. Magic happens in those nine months when someone believes in your capacity to grow and change.
So what happens to students when teachers don’t believe in their capacity to grow? What happens when there are low standards and expectations for some of our students? For these students, magic doesn’t happen; monumental growth does not occur. To be sure, these children do not grow as they should because someone lacks belief in their capacity to grow.
One of the hardest pieces of content to teach in the Skillful Teacher course centers around the Bell Curve and teachers’ beliefs about children’s innate, intellectual abilities. The truth is, innate intelligence accounts for only 25% of a child’s ability to be successful. The other 75% has to do with the amount of effort a child puts into their work and a growth, rather than a fixed mindset (Dweck, 2007).
The lesson is simple: when students work hard, they can get smarter. But children cannot learn how to do this on their own. Effort is something we must teach our students. After all, school (and life) are hard work. To make a difference, we must believe in every child’s capacity to learn and grow. That is when monumental growth occurs. I believe, that’s when the magic happens.
So will Ian make it at VCU’s School of Engineering after this monumental year of growth and self-discovery? I think he can. He knows what real effort looks like and has more of a growth mindset after nine months on a cattle ranch. I believe that the next four years will indeed be magical ones for my son, the former cowboy.
One of my teachers sent this to me today and it was perfectly timed. We usually see things like this early in the year to kick things off, but I started thinking that maybe this is the perfect time to remember to focus on the relationship and what feelings of hope and future we give students as they move forward into next year.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute offers a retrospective on a Nation at Risk: 30 years later.
You may recall,30 years ago, A Nation at Risk was essentially a report card on the American Education System revealing SAT scores across the nation and overall student learning were declining. At the time, this report served as a catalyst to renewed focus on achievement, excellence and results. This retrospective spotlights the concerns of country’s leaders at the time and draws a parallel with today’s focus on standards, assessments and accountability.
From my perspective, this report brings into view the need to take a closer look at the effectiveness of the middle school model and the reform necessary to provide an education that meets the needs of the adolescent.
Take a look and let me know what you think.
Mr. John Hendron
This week I had yet another presentation to do (and this time not one for a VCU class!) and it was for our school board on the revision to our Technology Plan. What made it more difficult was that it wasn’t just me, but our entire team would be involved. I imagine doing something like this again a little less than a year from now with my capstone team – more or less – we’ll be planning together, tweaking, and deciding who will say what.
If you’re interested, our presentation starts at 1 hour, 13-minutes in. But it was very important in my view to give each team member an opportunity to be seen, heard, and showing off their area of expertise. Our overall goal was to show off how mobile devices are clearly here to stay, and how they help us learn, manage data, help learners with special needs, and help us manage our network. So while the obvious goal was to cover a comprehensive plan, the more important goal was to demonstrate that mobile devices could be easy to use, and powerful as well.
We accomplished this task by strategically spreading-out among the narrative several “demonstrations.” To make things go smoothly, the demos were all pre-recorded, and I asked my colleagues to speak over the videos. They all took their own special way of doing it, but the fact that things were rehearsed and well-synced impressed the board. Instead of getting bogged-down in the minutia of a 50+ page document, we used our presentation to make highlights and to deliver our message, instead of every detail in a 6-year plan.
We had the courage to take some chances. I trusted my colleagues, and they trusted me… and despite some risk taking, the result worked out. No doubt, through the entire process, I was reflecting on both EDLP 713 and EDLP 717′s experiences this past semester. And it was refreshing to see those skills at play in a real-world context.
But in the end, those experiences I had did the most to help me work with my colleagues. We all have leadership qualities and opportunities to lead, but our work on this project allowed us to lead as a team.
Two recent articles caught my attention. It’s hard to read them together and not shake your head.
The First Race to the Top by William Reese, professor of educational policy studies and history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
The testing groundwork was laid in 1837, when a lawyer and legislator in Massachusetts named Horace Mann became secretary of the newly created State Board of Education, part of the Whig Party’s effort to centralize authority and make schools modern and accountable. After a fact-finding trip abroad, Mann claimed in 1844 in a nationally publicized report that Prussia’s schools were more child-friendly and superior to America’s. Boston’s grammar masters, insulted, attacked Mann in print, and he returned the favor. In December, some Whig reformers, including Mann’s close friend Samuel Gridley Howe, were elected to the School Committee and soon landed on the examining committee.
Howe masterminded the use of written tests. His committee arrived at Boston’s grammar schools with preprinted questions, which angered the masters and terrified students. Pupils had one hour to write down their answers on each subject to questions drawn from assigned textbooks.
Framing the School Technology Dream by Larry Cuban, Emeritus Professor, Stanford University Graduate School of Education
What helps explain the half-century of promises made in these ads is knowing about the love affair Americans have had with new technologies in life and in schools. Consider the early-19th-century Frenchman who wrote of his travels in America. He said: “Every new method which leads by a shorter road to wealth, every machine which spares labor, every instrument which diminishes the cost of production, every discovery which facilitates pleasures or augments them” impressed Americans. Alexis de Tocqueville saw the practical side of this nation in the early 1830s when he toured it with a companion. Americans’ subsequent embrace of steam engines, railroads, turbines, telephones, assembly lines, automobiles, airplanes, and one technology after another right up to the iPhone 5 and beyond is a history of falling in and out of love with the latest device that will “lead to a shorter road to wealth.”
Also, check out the slideshow that accompanies Cuban’s piece.
The lesson here? Hug your local education historian.
This is a video I used during my 717 presentation. It is me, circa 1994, having a conversation with my present day self. It’s a tongue-in-cheeck depiction of leadership and growth. Enjoy.
The link below is to a presentation for FA-II and documents my progress through the second year in the Educational Leadership Program.
Formative Assessment II
Angie’s post re: the difficulty in being a leader in the spotlight is so true. I too, noticed that the word “terrorist” was left out of President Obama’s speech. I suspect there will be fallout from that omission. I believe though that he did the right thing by not using language that could potentially incite further chaos. As a leader, it is essential to remain calm and project a sense of being in charge. We’ve read many times throughout our journey in this program that the quality of the leadership is reflected by those led. If there is a sense that the leader is not in control, then everyone behaves as such.
I think back to Rudolph Guiliani and his leadership prowess during 9/11. Prior to that incident, Guiliani was not always seen in a positive light and, in fact, was maligned by many. Once he stepped to the podium, took charge and became the face of New York, his leadership was hailed.
My take away from this dreadful incident is the role of the leadership is not a singular: there are many people behind the scenes that contribute to the final message that is delivered to the many. Collaborative leadership is essential and especially in times of crisis.
I don’t often reflect on this blog such personal reflections regarding public events. But again today, we witnessed a tragedy. Today as I worked to educate and protect the students at Walker-Grant Middle School, tonight I grieve with the families of the Boston Marathon tragic events. I was shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic event that was supposed to be a celebration of triumph. How do we as people come to grips with the on-going tragedies we face? I believe we must reflect on the life we have today, at this, moment. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.