Monday, September 28, 2015

Give me your tired, your poor....

She came to visit me on the third day of school. I was overjoyed to see her, a sophomore this year. She had had trouble making friends an avoided the lunchroom as a ninth grader.  I was hoping that this would be a better year for her.

She greeted me with a big smile and a hug, and I told her I was glad to see her. Then I asked, “How was your summer?”

“Crazy!” she said.

I asked about it, and she sat down and said, “Well, my dad had to go to prison this summer. Since he had to go to prison, I had to go stay with my mom and grandma. I don’t get along with my mom or grandma; my grandma doesn’t like me. I had to stay a weekend with them, and I had to stay in the house the whole time and my mom and grandma yelled and said mean and nasty stuff to me.”

For the student above, school is a refuge for her. She has made connections with a few students and she feels safe and cared for at school. She tries hard in her classes, and she wants to go to college.

But unless her basic needs are met, she won't be able to learn all that she needs to learn in order to be prepared for college.

The number of students like the one above is growing -- students who need stability, a caring environment, and an opportunity to create a future unlike the present in which they live.

We must find a way to connect with every student, listen to their story, and ensure that basic needs are met before we can optimize their learning potential.

We can use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to evaluate our programs. How would we go about doing that? What questions need to be asked?

Here are some starter questions:
  • Does our school offer a breakfast program? Should we?
  • Is there something we need to put into place to ensure our students' physiological needs are met?
  • Do our teachers use proactive and positive classroom management techniques?
  • Is our staff consistent with enforcing school rules?
  • How do we connect students to adults in the building?
  • Are teachers creating community within their classrooms?
  • Are our teachers using sarcasm?
  • Are we teaching and modeling a growth mindset?

And the student who visited me in my office?

I could call her an "at-risk" student, but I prefer to use the term used by Rosa Perez-Isiah... I'll use "At-promise" instead.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What About the Kids who Don't Want to be in School?

When I’m preparing to moderate the weekly twitter chat, #ALedchat (Alabama Education Chat), I try to choose topics that deal with real-life scenarios and situations. The practitioner in me wants to discuss topics that will cause educators, including me, to not only reflect about topics but learn from others' real-life experiences and also have take-aways to put into action.

Last Monday, our topic was What about the kids who don’t want to be in school?” This topic is on my heart and mind a lot, because I’ve worked with students who just really didn’t want to be in school, and I want to find a way to reach EVERY student. Even as we’ve tried everything we can think of, there are a few students who have resisted any and all of our efforts. While we don’t give up on them, we see our efforts make little change in the students’ perception of school and educators, effort and attitude, and/or willingness to build relationships. (In our school of 2900+ students, the percentage of these types of students is very small, but because we have so many students, the actual number of students like this is large enough to be a noticeable size.)

The questions I asked Monday night were:

Q1: Share your experiences in school. Did you want to be there or no?
Q2: Do you think HS Ss who dislike school have always disliked school? Describe why or why not.
Q3: Describe a student who doesn’t want to be at school.
Q4: What can/should schools do when students don’t come from a culture of compliance, which is required in schools?
Q5: What can schools do when students resist connecting with the school (clubs, etc)?
Q6: Is there something that schools need to stop doing that gets in the way of a student wanting to be at school?
Final Question: Share your takeaway from tonight’s chat.

In preparation for the chat, I read an article from ASCD titled "When Students Don't Want to Play the Game." I encourage you to read the entire article, but I had some take-aways from her article. (Emphasis in bold is from me.)
"My current students, on the other hand, don't play the game of school. They do not suffer fools gladly and they do not offer strangers the benefit of the doubt. They broadcast their disengagement through either words or actions." 
"They want to learn, but they want to learn things that matter and in ways that matter to them." 
"When I first encountered my students' widespread disengagement and outright hostility toward me and toward learning, my instinct was to try to establish control. They were challenging my authority, and I went on the defensive, imposing new seating charts, sending students to the office, writing referrals—all responses that provided some breaks from the most distracting and disruptive students but failed to address the underlying issue of their disengagement." 
"When I am effective, I don't meet students where they are just once at the start of the year, or even just at the start of each new unit. I meet them where they are every day, and rarely as an entire class."
What do you think about the author's statements above?
What do you do about students who don't want to be in school? 

Related Posts:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Twitter Bingo Can Help You Tell Your School's Story

Three years ago, a fellow assistant principal (Holly Sutherland) and I hosted our first "Twitter PD Party" at school. We spent the day in the library conference room and invited teachers to join us during their planning periods to have a cookie and learn to tweet.

Last year, I hosted our second Twitter PD Party, and in the blog post I wrote about it, I shared the resources we used for the party, including our Twitter Challenge which included a chance to win a Starbucks gift card. In conjunction with our third annual twitter PD party this month, I also ran a Twitter Bingo game which was a huge hit with our participants (more at the end of this blog post.)

This year, I spent a day in our conference room (of course with cookies) to work with teachers on using twitter to build a PLN and tell our school's story using our school hashtag. 

The teachers who attended the Twitter PD Party were entered into a drawing for a $10 iTunes gift card. 

This year we had two winners - one who was experienced with twitter and one who was a "newbie" to twitter.

New to this year was the addition of a Twitter Bingo board. The challenge was sent to all staff members, and the time frame was September 1 - September 16th. During that time, teachers "competed" to be entered into a drawing for First prize or for the Grand Prize. Click here for the pdf of the bingo board or click the picture above. 

All tweets were tagged with our school's hashtag, #HooverPride, and it was wonderful to see all of the images as part of telling our school's story on twitter. (You can check out the hashtag HERE.) 

One of our teachers even created an artistic bingo board!

I shared the names of the winners with the staff yesterday, and I will deliver lunch next week to the Grand Prize winner. 

Playing Twitter Bingo gave our teachers purpose for tweeting, which helped them to understand the power of twitter to a great extent. I plan to make it part of our annual back-to-school activity!

How does your school teach teachers about Twitter? I would love to hear in the comments or tweet me, @jennifer_hogan.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

4 Easy Tips for Telling Your School's Story

Tell Your School's Story

In a recent keynote address I delivered, I got to share a message that I am extremely passionate about -- the importance of educators telling their school's story. 

Today I want to share with you four tips from Friday's presentation on telling your school's story.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may make a commission at no cost to you. 

1) Make your tweets TARGETED

Tell Your School's Story

Create a school and/or district hashtag so that all stakeholders can participate in conversations, add to the collection of images and input, and find specific tweets easily. Think about your audience... parents and community members want to know that students are happy, safe, and learning.


Tell Your School's Story

From my days of being an athlete and a coach, I learned that "a team takes on the personality of the coach." Think of your stakeholders as your team and you as the twitter coach. Be passionate, let it show, and others will follow!

3. Share the LITTLE things

Tell Your School's Story

The magic is not in the over-the-top, "newsworthy" activities... it's in the consistent, small moments that happen at school based on consistent, positive relationships and high expectations. From inflatables in the courtyard during homecoming week to a motivational poster hanging in a classroom, the little things combine like pieces of a puzzle to create a beautiful picture. 

4. Tell your story as an act of LOVE

While in college, a teammate gave me a book by Leo Buscaglia called Living, Loving, and Learning. Buscaglia taught a college course called Love 1A, and the book is collection of his lectures. I believe that every educator should read it every year. It is a wonderful reminder that we are all humans and need to connect with each other on a personal level. Those who love what they do, love kids, and love learning need to be celebrated, which is why every educator needs to tell his/her school's story.

Believing in others and helping them to believe in themselves is an act of love!

Are you telling your school's story?

Need help?
Contact me to begin (or accelerate) your school's or district's work on social media.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Don’t Apologize for Using Pen and Paper

Working at school with a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, there is an expectation that technology will be used in the classroom, and most of our teachers are proficient in using online learning management systems such as Canvas or Google Classroom.  A lot of our teachers will bring their Chromebooks to meetings to use to take notes, schedule future meetings, or access other information. 

Sometimes, teachers will come with paper and pen. Most of the time, when they do bring paper and pen, they apologize or share why they didn’t bring their Chromebooks. They’ve also apologized for having their students to take notes on paper instead of on their Chromebook. 

To ALL teachers everywhere who want apologize: Don’t!

First of all, technology is too powerful to be an expensive notebook.  Let’s have kids take notes on paper and use the technology to connect to a classroom in Finland. Or, let’s Skype with a scientist in Peru and learn “first-hand” about the climate, vegetation, and animal life there. What if the English classes have a Google hangout with the author of the short stories they read, and interview the author about the stories? There are lots of ways to transform learning opportunities with technology, and several teachers at my school are taking the risk of “letting go” of being the sage on the stage and moving along the S-A-M-R continuum. 

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.

Second, another reason to hold back the apologies is because the research is showing us that the “simple” act of writing can lead to better memorization and deeper learning.   Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger's Reading Centre has teamed up with neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay at the University of Marseille to examine research as they explore the question, “Is something lost in switching from book to computer screen and from pen to keyboard?”

One experiment found that the writing of letters left a motor memory in a specific area of the brain and “suggests that the sensorimotor system plays a role in the process of visual recognition during reading.” Another experiment involved two groups of adults who had to learn to write using an unknown alphabet of 20 letters. Several tests were conducted with recall and recognition of reversed letters, and the adults who had written their letters instead of typing them did better on all tests.

The University of Stavanger. (2011, January 24). Better learning through handwriting. ScienceDaily.

I find that I like to take notes by pen and paper, whether on sticky notes, in my journal, or even on an index card. I’ve found an “analog” way to stay organized with all of the projects and activities I’ve got going on, which I will share in a future post. 

How about you? Do you like to take notes, typing or writing?
Do you use a paper or online planner? 

Let me know in the comments or on twitter at @jennifer_hogan.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Really Improves Achievement?

I think the question in the title of this blog post is what my mother would call a "Sixty-four thousand dollar question." (It's from a U.S. game show that was on TV in the late 50's.) I think there A LOT of educators looking not just for a silver bullet, but for something meaningful that will help students achieve at high levels. There's so much of teaching and learning that falls in the ART of teaching, and it's great when the SCIENCE affirms what we know from experience to be true. But what if the science doesn't back up what we think is best for learning?

It's important to pay attention to the research that is done to confirm or dispute traditional practices. In today's blog post I will 

One of my most popular tweets ever was one I shared last summer, so it led me to share several of John Hattie's findings that he writes about in this month's issue of District Administration(The entire article can be found online HERE.)

Myth: Ability grouping is effective. While some argue that ability grouping is necessary to meet the needs of all students, it shows little impact on achievement. So, when thinking of separating students into Honors and regular-level classes or even grouping students within your class by ability levels, think again. Treat every student like he's your best student.

Myth: Project-based learning and inquiry is the route to better student achievementHattie says that students must master concepts prior to project-base learning in order to maximize the learning potential. He also says that cross-curricular projects are not as effective as problem-based learning within one content area.

Myth: Smaller class sizes improve learning. Hattie's analysis of research reveals that smaller class sizes don't improve learning because teachers don't change their instruction.


As school leaders, it's important to pay attention to what the research reveals, and examine practices in our school to ensure that what we are doing is what's best for students. 

Which myth is the biggest surprise to you?

You can read about all 8 myths shared by John Hattie by clicking HERE.