Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Why Do I Need to Self-Reflect?

Category : Uncategorized


Why do you need to self-reflect?

Well, in asking that question, you’ve begun the process of self-reflecting! Congrats.

You need to include self-reflection as a professional development process because 1) like your mother always said of eating the stuffed, green peppers, its good for you, and 2) its becoming a job requirement. Along with many other state across the nation, the Minnesota Department of Education provides districts with a template to address the recent teacher evaluation requirements. The mandate requires teachers to participate “in on-going professional development activities and [collaborate] with colleagues and families to advance learning for teachers and students.” [1]

Four domains are presented in the program with Professionalism being the one on which I will focus for this post. The State of MN presents the following outline for the Professionalism domain:

DOMAIN 4: PROFESSIONALISM Indicator A: Reflects on teaching practice

i. Uses self-reflection to improve instruction

ii. Uses feedback to improve instruction

iii. Plans for professional growth

In this post, I will address the first sub-domain of self-reflection, why it should be done, what it is, and how it can be done.

Why should I self-reflect?

As we reflect on the reasons we do what we do, we get a sense of ourselves in the process. When you have abetter sense of your personal motivations you better set yourself with the best environment to help you succeed. Associate professor of education, Lynn Zimmerman, described the results of self-reflection as a “transformation” that influences how we perceive our self. [2]

Professionals who regularly reflect experience an increased sense of confidence, control, and passion. [2] The way our colleagues see us also changes as reflective practices allow us to more readily and accurately articulate our professional vision and mission. Our teammates will perceive us as driven, focused, and competent.

So what does it mean to “self-reflect”?

On the self-reflection rubric, an exemplary teacher is described by the state of MN as a teacher who “continuously and accurately assesses his or her own effectiveness using lesson artifacts and student data to identify areas of strength and areas for growth.” [1]

As I mentioned in my post How to Motivate the Un-Motivatable, understanding the “why” behind the “what” is of utmost importance to promoting growth in others, and in the case professional reflection, yourself.

Reflection should allow a teacher to easily explain the reasons they do what they do beyond the typical “I do it for the children schtick.”.

Crystal Holyn Holdefer defined self-reflection like this: “Self-reflection in its simplest form is asking yourself thought-provoking questions so that you can develop a deeper level of understanding about yourself.” [2]

Use these questions from Vivian Beck to guide your reflective activities, to figure out the “why” behind “what” you do each day. [3]

10 Professional Reflections Questions

1. Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

2. How will continue making an impact in our changing world?

3. Do you have a desire to become an instructional leader outside of the classroom?

4. Are you drawn to curriculum development?

5. What areas of specific areas of instruction are your strength?

6. Are there areas of teacher performance that could use some attention?

7. How strong are the relationships you build with your students?

8. Do you involve parents in student learning?

9. What is your ultimate goal for each student?

10. If you could change one thing in the way you do “business” now, what would it be?

As teacher evaluation mandates are adopted, an understanding of the how and why of self-reflection will be necessary for teachers to meet with new demands of professional development. Self-reflection helps teacher understand the reasons for their actions. reflection increases an individual’s sense of confidence and passion. Self-reflection allows those who practice it, to speak of their professional goals with clarity and precision. The use of guiding questions will facilitate the self-reflection process and help teachers to realize its benefits.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go examine my motivations for writing this post.


[1] file:///Users/gschnagl/Downloads/STATE%20TEACHER%20MODEL_Performance%20Standards%20of%20Teacher%20Practice%20Rubric%20(1).pdf



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Serving Students While Suffering in Silence

Category : Uncategorized

stressed teacherTeachers have to deal with other people’s problems all day long. Teachers must mediate the effects of the societal and parental exposures their students experience. The National Education Association wrote, “Mental health conditions affect one in five adults in the United States every year.” [1] Nearly 50% of U.S. teachers polled in a recent Gallop survey reported high doses of daily stress. [2]

We are not alone.

Mental illness is not just an American educator issue. In a recent poll of nearly a thousand teachers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 38% reported seeing a “rise in mental health issues among colleagues in the past two years.” [3] Teachers self-reported an increase in disrupted sleep due to “being in a high pressured profession, being on the public stage.” [3] Yet, 68% of respondents claimed they told no one of their anxieties due to the social stigma associated with mental illness. Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in 2014, said, “”Those working in education need to be supported better.” [3]

So how can schools support the mental health needs of teachers?
Mary Cathryn Ricker is executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. recounted a powerful story of a colleague who was struggling emotionally, struggling alone in a self-prescribed shell. Ricker stated, “The stakes are too high when we do that, too high for the consequences that come when mental health is ignored, too high for our colleagues who feel powerless to support us, and most clearly, too high for our students, who we got in this business to teach in the first place.” [4]

Provide conscious leadership
Principals are a significant factor in, first, recognizing that something of concern is happening with a teacher. It is vital that the principal seeks to understand the “why” behind the “what” when addressing any unusual or inappropriate behavior by a teacher. Read more about how to find the “why” in my post How to Motivate the Un-Motivatable.

Be a concerned colleague
Ricker described her colleague as believing personal pressures should take a back seat tot eh needs of students. This sense of self-defeating altruism is common among teachers. Colleagues can help by getting to know their grade-level teammates well enough to see any changes in typical demeanor or disposition. The depth of the professional relationship is in direct proportion to the ability of the colleague to notice things and the comfort level of the ailing teacher to request help.

I have to call my mother weekly just to “check-in”. My mother just wants to know how things are going. That way when things aren’t going as usual, she will have a sense of it and can offer assistance and support. Colleagues can establish routine check-ins. Make it a habit of walking by your teammates’ classrooms, leaning in through the doorway and asking, “How’s it going?” Take note of their response. Be genuinely curious about their well-being. Step into the room if you sense something is “off”. Be engaged. Be aware.

Organize for awareness
The NEA recommends several ways schools can organize a mental health campaign on their campus. [1]

Health and Safety Committees – Health and safety committees are the most important tool NEA members have to correct work related problems or issues at your school. The committee focuses on health and safety issues to ensure that they are being identified, prevented or resolved.

Health and Hazard Surveys – While human nature tells us when something is making us sick, and common sense can help identify hazards, gathering evidence that will convince school management that the problems are real is almost always necessary. The best way to collect information is surveys, interviews and formal observations.

School Walkthrough – Conducting school walkthroughs will help you assess and pinpoint areas where building conditions and hazards might be causing adverse health effects or comfort issues. Like administering health and hazard surveys, this strategy will assist you in gathering the data that is needed to convince school management that problems exist.

Become the Educated Advocate – Becoming the educated advocate is an important organizing strategy when trying to identify, prevent or resolve health and safety issues. It is important that the local association health and safety committee, joint labor-management committee, or other health or wellness committee explore legal options and remedies, and arm themselves with information that may already exist.

Recommend Solutions – Once health and safety issues are identified, it is important that the local association health and safety committee or the joint labor-management committee assess the findings, prioritize concerns and recommend solutions and preventative measures to the school district.

Teachers have stressors. Teachers suffer from mental illness. Teachers often suppress their own needs for those of their students. IT is up to principals, colleagues, and organized systems within a school to recognize and support the emotional needs of the teachers.


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How to Individualize Professional Development Offerings

individualizeAs part of re-licensure requirements for the state of Minnesota, teachers must submit 125 clock hours of documented trainings.  The 125 hours must address six different areas of professional content. One of which is entitled, “Accommodation, Modification, and Adaptation of Curriculum, Materials, and Instruction”. [2] The aim of this requirement is to encourage teachers to differentiate instruction for their students.

The Minnesota Department of Education explains the intent of the objective this way – “applicants must include in their professional development activities which address accommodation, modification, and adaptation of curriculum, materials, and instruction to appropriately meet the needs of varied students in achieving graduation standards (i.e., differentiated instruction.)” [1] Along with the a new re-licensure requirements, teachers have been bombarded with Common Core curriculum demands, high-stakes testing preparation, and new forms of technology.

As the State of Minnesota has considered the unique needs of every student in the re-licensure requirements in an attempt to help students meet the new expectations, I am suggesting we consider the unique needs of every teacher while designing our professional development (PD) offerings, so that teachers, like the students, can successfully navigate the recent increases in responsibility and performance expectation.

How can we individualize our PD?
When a considering the individualization of a student’s learning experience, many teachers think about making accommodations or modifications to various aspects. [2]

Pacing – Teachers often provide students with breaks or change the timing of activities to support individual success. PD offerings could be accommodated to provide teachers with varying schedules and uncommon prep times with unique pacing so they may still participate.

Environment – Students may complete an activity outside the classroom, in a private area, or utilize an office space. Providing students with a different environment is intended to support the student’s focus and ultimate success. If modifications are considered for PD offerings, teacher may be able to engage in development activities with their grade-level in a classroom, as an individual at home, or while in the traditional library staff meeting environment. As the content of the PD is considered, so too should hte various environments in which the teachers could engage.

Presentation of Material – Teachers often create similar content presentations using varied medium. A book may be offered in print and audio formats, for example. When PD offerings are developed, consider offering the content in electronic print, video, and audio formats. Can the information be presented as a stand-alone webinar? Can the presentation from an outside provider be recorded for viewing by absentees or reviewed by grade-level teams during a future team meeting? Consider the methods by which your PD is presented to your teachers, just as teachers do for students.

Reinforcement and Follow-through – Students are often asked to share what they’ve learned through verbal explanations or paper-pencil assessments. Teachers may not need such formal follow-ups, but PD should include an element of post-experience reflection. Teachers may submit a statement of how they will be utilizing the content in practice via email or an anonymous electronic survey. Consider gathering information about the effectiveness, of not only the content, but the method and pacing of material.

Teachers are being asked to accommodate and modify the learning experience design to meet the unique needs of students. Changes to the pace of instruction, learning environment, method of presentation, and supportive follow-through help to ensure student engagement and success. The goal of this blog was to help those who design and implement PD offerings to teachers.

Consider accommodating to the logistical needs of your teachers. Consider where your teachers may engage in the PD experience. Consider utilizing various modes of delivery. Consider encouraging reflective follow-through and program evaluations. Most importantly, consider the individual teacher in the design and implementation of PD experiences.


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How to Motivate the Un-Motivatable

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unmotivatedChris made group work nearly impossible. Chris was never prepared. Didn’t participate. Talked incessantly about nothing in particular moving everyone else off-task. Chris’ choices made learning difficult for everyone. Chris’ behavior was challenging.

Enter the theoretical approach of PBS – Positive Behavioral Support. “Positive behavioral support (PBS) is a broad term that describes a comprehensive, research based,
proactive approach to behavioral support aimed at producing comprehensive change for students with challenging behavior. ” [1]

PBS is different than traditional consequence and reward models of behavior management programming. Those using PBS are “determining not only what, where, when and how challenging behavior occurs, but also why.” [1]

Chris spent too much time talking to others in the hallway and was always late for class. Rarely organized, Chris’ desk was a mess and important work was often lost or damaged. Chris’ behavior was misaligned with expectations in the classroom and hallway, in small groups and whole class discussions, before class and during. We know what Chris is doing (or not doing). We know the where, the when, and the how of Chris’ behavior. Yet, no one has ever bothered to figured out WHY Chris, a 15 year veteran teacher, behaves in these ways, in these locations.

Like the assumption you made that Chris was a student, most of us assume we know why our colleagues or employees behave as they do. But what if, like effective teachers supporting a student, what if we as peers, as administrators, chose to use the concepts outlined in the PBS approach? What if we approached teacher support from the perspective of, well support, not assumed judgment?

Positive Behavior Support for Educators, I define as, a deliberate and collaborative proactive plan of support aimed at encouraging and facilitating positive professional change for teachers. Now I am not looking to coin a new theory here and run across the country forcing, yet another theoretical construct down your educational-jargon filled throats. I am simply asking you to consider a different perspective. The perspective of the “why behind the what”. There is always a “why” behind every “what”. The key to effective support is for educational leadership and peers to figure out why a colleague is so resistant to engaging in the assumed norms of a school or grade-level culture. What has Chris experienced in past roles? Gaining an understanding of Chris’ past will help rationalize the present and inform the path to growth in the future.

Why is Chris, a veteran teacher, disengaged?
Let’s go back to what we do for students and see if it applies to Chris’, our mythical grown-up, teacher person. Here are six potential reasons a student may lack motivation to engage. [2]

Motivation Deficit 1: The student is unmotivated because he or she cannot do the assigned work.

Could it be that Chris lacks the skills to do the work? Expectations and curriculum have changed considerably in the past 15 years. Maybe Chris has a skill deficit. Something to consider.

Motivation Deficit 2: The student is unmotivated because the ‘response effort’ needed to complete the assigned work seems too great.

Have you heard Chris, “Yea, I’ve seen this all before just with a different name. This will pass like everything else.” Chris’ past experiences can significantly influence the desire to engage in a new initiative because they’ve been burned in the past. Chris invested and then everything went back to the way it was. Maybe Chris isn’t lazy, or unable, just unwilling because they’ve been jaded by past experiences. Something to consider.

Motivation Deficit 3: The student is unmotivated because classroom instruction does not engage.

Irrelevant professional development offerings. Enough said. Something to consider.

Motivation Deficit 4: The student is unmotivated because he or she fails to see an adequate pay-off to doing the assigned work.

This may align with deficit #2 and the whole jaded from the past thing. It also addresses the experience inherent in the descriptor “veteran”. Chris, the seemingly unmotivated veteran teacher, may not be engaging because, in their professional opinion (which is based on years of experience) the new initiatives are simply ineffective or incomplete. Maybe tapping into Chris’ expertise regarding the design of the new initiative might inspire motivation. Something to consider.

Motivation Deficit 5: The student is unmotivated because of low self efficacy—lack of confidence that he or she can do the assigned work.

Chris may feel incapable. This differs from #1. Some teachers may not have the skill, but only because they haven’t had a chance to learn how. Teachers qualifying for the #5 deficit do not have the skill and do not believe they are capable of learning to do it even if they had a training opportunity. Maybe if  Chris had a mentor to guide them through the emotional and technical hurdles associated with the new initiative they would both believe and achieve.  Something to consider.

Motivation Deficit 6: The student is unmotivated because he or she lacks a positive relationship with the teacher.

Chris may feel the department chair or grade-level lead or principal doesn’t like them. A personal issue stemming form a past professional disagreement, may be inferring with the current level motivation. It would take a deliberate and candid sequence of conversations, but the air needs to be clear before the sun cane shine. Moving beyond the cheesy metaphor, maybe if leadership modeled the initiative to engage in a professional dialogue with Chris, the personal issues could be resolved and the professional relationship enhanced. Something to consider.

Positive behavior support for students examines the “why” behind the child’s behavior.I asked you to consider doing the same for your colleagues, for your teachers, for your “Chris”. Let me know how it went. Comment below. Be sure to subscribe and engage in future conversations. Oh, for those of you who were concerned, no “Chris”es were harmed in the making of this blog post. Something to consider.


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Educators need to open their eyes!

Category : Uncategorized

Yes, educators do need to open their eyes, but not for the reasons you may think.

We need to open our eyes to the interesting perspectives offered by 7 TED presenters.

Watch these inspiring TED Talks that link various industries to our field of education.

Each of the speakers looked outside their personal sphere of influence to design their professional offerings.

The presenters in these 7 TED Talks connect various industries to the field of education.

Click on a presenter’s name to go directly to their TED Talk.

1. Geoffrey Canada draws from the banking, healthcare and neuroscience industries to illustrate the importance of innovation in education.

2. Susan Cain draws from psychology, leadership, and business to illustrate the influence of classroom design on the creative and productive modes of the introverted student.

3. Margaret Heffernan draws from the fields of epidemiology and neural-biology to illustrate the power of constructive disagreements, debates, and arguments in generating progress.

4. Carl Honoré draws from urban design, holistic medicine, cooking, and sex to illustrate the influence of the obsessive quest for speed on us as adults, and our children.

5. Jarrett J. Krosoczka draws from memories of influential teachers and his grandparents to illustrate the importance of supporting arts education.

6. Dave Eggers draws from his experience in creating writing centers to illustrate value of community and professional engagement in supporting schools in meeting the literary needs of students.

7. Stuart Firestein draws from neuroscience to illustrate the value of focusing on what we don’t know, our ignorance, rather than what we do know, in our quest for learning.

From which industries, fields of study, or perspectives can you learn?

You will find all seven of the TEDTalks here.

Also, check out TED’s newest offering, TED Live. You can stream a TED Conference to your school or living room.

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FuelEd Schools

Category : Uncategorized

No, that is not a type-o.

That is the name of an exciting organization that, like TeacherCentricity, is dedicated to the social-emotional needs of educators.

I am so excited to have found others that see things as I do!

The mighty forces at FuelEd Schools believe that a teacher’s ability to build relationships with students, parents, and colleagues is the critical component to a teacher’s effectiveness and student achievement.

The research-based programs offered by FueledSchools empower teachers to build deeper and more meaningful relationships with all of the players in the learning environment. As a result of the positive relationships, teacher turn-over can be reduced while student achievement improves.

FuelEd Schools offers individual, small group, and workshop style sessions all of which are informed by research from the fields of social neuroscience, developmental psychology, and counseling psychology.

Check out the offerings at

Follow them in the Twitter-sphere @FuelEdSchools

This Prezi provides an illustrative overview of the why, what, and how of FuelEd Schools.

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Teacher Effectiveness is Dependent

Category : Uncategorized

In the world of sales, Boris Groysberg’s research supports the notion that “star talent” is not very mobile. The same may be considered in the world of teaching. Highly effective teaching methods and attitudes can be specific to a grade level or subject area. The methods a teacher uses may also be influenced by the district, school, and grade-level/department cultures. A one-size-fits-all pedagogical skill set seldom works across environments. A teacher’s methods, although highly effective in a previously taught grade-level, may not be as effective in a new position, school, or district. Districts, schools, grade-levels/departments, and individual teachers need to understand which methods and attitudes are most important to the particular grade/subject and culture to which each teacher is assigned. Differentiation applies to grown-ups, too.

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Collaboration At Work

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Schools get graded. Teachers get anxious. Parents get upset. Administrators get pressured.

With all the new pressures, how can teachers maintain a balance and meet expectations?

Ask the teachers at two Eau Claire, Wisconsin schools and they will tell you to collaborate.


A recent article outlined the problems encountered by the schools and how the teachers came together  with administrators and the community to make positive changes.

After two years of poor state evaluations, Lakeshore School had to make some changes.

Principal Colleen Miner said the staff chose to collaborate rather than complain.

She spoke of the teachers and support staff buying “in to the drive to do whatever it took to help students achieve at a higher level.”

Math coach, Marti Hardy, echoed this mindset.

“The teachers were really eager to try anything new,” [he] said. “We started collaborating more in all subject areas, but particularly in math. The teachers have been very willing to share their expertise with each other.”

Miner described the benefits of a collaborative environment to Lakeshore school included:

  • an increased focus on student learning,
  • a strengthening of internal leadership,
  • expanded parental involvement, and
  • greater community engagement

Similarly, Sam Davey Elementary School, as of Eau Claire Schools, achieved a significant increase in achievement through the use of collaborative efforts.

The article reported, “We have excellent staff, excellent students and excellent families,” principal William Giese said, crediting the “community of learning” the school has fostered among those stakeholders for the progress.

It was, according to Giese, the “new emphasis on collaboration among staff and family engagement” that led to the schools recent success.

So how can a school collaborate?

How does collaboration start?

According to @HerminiaIbarra and @MortenTHansen, “connectors are critical facilitators of collaboration”.

A collaborative leader generates the necessary momentum to gets things moving and the required supports to use inertia to its greatest advantage.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “Are You a Collaborative leader?

Ibarra and Hansen describe four skill areas commonly associated with a collaborative leader:

  1. They play the role of the connector.
  2. They attract diverse talent.
  3. They model collaboration.
  4. They show a strong hand to keep teams aligned.

Who fits the bill in your grade-level team? Your school? Within your district?


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Why Good Teachers Quit by Kay Bisaillon, Teacher

Category : Uncategorized

In this article, Bisaillon paints an all-to-common portrait of an educator who consistently and effectively meets the emotional, social, and academic needs of her students, yet has few of her own needs met.

Bisailon writes of her friend, “She is losing faith that she is and can make a difference.”

This 20 year veteran is not being supported properly.

As a result, she doubts her ability to impact student learning.

I have not seen this teacher at work.

It may be that she needs to engage:
1) in professional learning (academic need),
2) go out for a drink every payday Friday with the team (social connectivity), or
3) work with an instructional coach (emotional support).

Either way, proficient or deficient, this teacher needs support.

Bisaillon outlines 7 areas of frustration and the resulting impact on the veteran teacher.

1. She’s Not Given Time to Adjust to the Newest Teaching Styles

“She left that discussion with her administration feeling inadequate, deflated and disrespected.”

2. She’s Swimming in Work at Home and At School

“She feels as if she is losing ground each day and trying to make it up the next.”

3. She’s Struggling to Learn Each New Program Introduced

“This time comes from her personal life. She will eventually learn it and get comfortable with it all, but it does come at an expense.”

4. She Does Not Feel Valued

“She is exhausted by the demands of her time and energy and doesn’t know how much more she has to give.”

5. Her Family (and husband) Misses Her

“Her grown children are worried because their mother is working all the time.”

6. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

“She is frustrated and overwhelmed by it.”

7.The Counter-Balance

“She will continue focusing on [the students’ needs] until all of the other ones become too much for her to handle.”

It is important to note that every area of frustration leads to an emotional or social impact.

Richmond, Virginia had teachers leaving school in the middle of the year due to ever increasing frustrations.

A local news station did an expose on the matter.

Read the article.

Engage in the comments.

Provide support.

Advocate for yourself.

Let’s balance the scales of pressure and support for ourselves and one another.

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