Thoughts for Reflection

I recently presented at the Texas Reading First Joint Advanced Coaching Institute and Leadership Summit. Two keynoters that preceded my breakout sessions shared some thoughts that I felt would make for strong faculty discussion points and reflection especially as the end of the school year approaches.

The first speaker was Dr. Kati Haycock, the director of the Washington-based Education Trust. Dr Haycock provided data analysis from NAEP and international comparisons of student achievement as measured by PISA that had a sobering impact on the audience.

She mentioned the excuses that we give ourselves when we identify students’ situations as the reason that achievement is less than desired. One by one she shared other countries’ data and individual school data that “shot holes” in our excuses. Schools with high poverty populations whose student achievement surpassed state averages and in many cases surpassed high income area schools.

Reflect on these statements:

Students cannot do better than the assignments they are given. Dr Haycock shared dramatic differences in teachers’ expectations as evidenced by the assignments given students. When addressing common curriculum or standards, these differences often exist between schools in the same district. Students from poverty often received an A on an assignment that would receive a C in an affluent school.

High performing schools with students from poverty focus on advanced standards rather than proficient. “If we work on advanced, well be proficient.”

Educators in the high performing schools focus on what they can change rather than what they can’t. This statement set the stage for the second presenter, Dr Robert Brooks who spoke on the importance of Mindsets that Nurture Motivation and Resilience. (I previously blogged about Dr Brooks’ work on resilience.)

Dr Brooks shares characteristics of the Mindset of Effective Teachers. Can you identify where these are exhibited in your school and classroom?*

Effective educators:

Understand the lifelong impact they have on students, including instilling a sense of hope and resilience.

Believe that attending to the social-emotional needs of students is not an “extra-curriculum” that draws time away from teaching academic subjects.

Believe that all students yearn to be successful and if a student is not learning, educators must ask how they can adapt their teaching style and instructional material to meet student needs.

Recognize that if educators are to relate effectively to students, they must be empathic, always attempting to perceive the world through the eyes of the student.

Recognize that students will be more motivated to learn when they feel a sense of ownership for their own education.

Subscribe to a strength-based model, which includes identifying and reinforcing each student’s “islands of competence”.

Recognize that constructive relationships with parents facilitate the learning process for students.

Develop and maintain positive, respectful relationships with colleagues.

I have some end of the year and summer leadership team sessions on my schedule to facilitate. I will use some of Drs. Hancock’s and Brooks’ messages to spark reflection, conversation, and hopefully some conscious practices for future implementation. I’ll let you know what happens.

*Understanding and Managing Children’s Behavior: Creating Sustainable, Resilient Schools (2007) by Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. and Robert Brooks, Ph.D.[JohnWiley and Sons]

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