Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Newsletter
"I carry the Torch!"
This newsletter has a summary of the needs of our at-risk children giving during a student panel discussion, a letter to an administrator who made a difference in her life, and a thought-provoking Wiggins' article on teaching, letting go as we teach students to think and act on that thinking, as well as other information that, hopefully, will help you as you lead. May we be thankful for the opportunities we have to make a positive impact in the lives of children.
May you take time this Thanksgiving Break and reflect on the many joys that you have not only in the world of education but also in all areas of your life. While we witness the terror of Paris and join in support of them and the many families who have lost loved ones, we take joy in knowing we have the greatest country, one that others look to for support and leadership.
Thank you once again for all you do. Blessings and Joy!
Articles for Sharing
"Because You Cared"-An email received by Ron Hastings, Director of Counseling
I don't think that you will remember me and I am completely okay with that. It seems that both of us have had some big changes in our lives. I am part of the class of 2011 from Northwest High School. I have spent a good amount of time trying to track you down. I know that years have passed, but after all this time I wanted to say thank you.
Some of my darkest years were spent in the halls of Northwest. I was bullied on a daily basis, horrid rumors were spread about me, and I honestly had lost all of my friends. I went from an A+ student to a trouble maker in what seemed overnight. Teachers I looked up to, completely turned their backs on me and wouldn't give me the time of day. I had a very rough home life and had to take on a roll of a parent even though I was still a child. I was angry, confused, and lost. I broke under the pressure. I was miserable at home, miserable at school, and I had no escape. I started skipping school and acting out in class. I started hanging out with bad people and doing bad things so that I could feel what it was like for people to like me. I was horribly mistaken.
Help was never something I asked for in my teenage years. I was prideful and stubborn. When everyone turned their backs on me, I decided that I had to do everything on my own. I had no support system, and every time I tried to depend on someone, I would get burned in the end. I scraped by, studied hard for my ACTs and SATs, and was handpicked to jump a three year waiting list to get into the best program for my degree type in the country. I was once again burned by the people I was supposed to be able to depend on. My parents didn't want to play ball when all I needed them, causing me to lose my spot and my scholarships. Once again, alone and broken.
You may be asking where do you fit into all of this, but you played a bigger part than you could have ever known. You were the only person at Northwest (or even my life for that matter) who didn't try to degrade me, sugar coat things, or make empty promises. Any time I was in trouble, you let me vent my frustrations and then would tell me the truth. It was exactly what I needed. Even the simple, how are you todays, impacted me. I was surrounded by thousands of people on a daily basis and you were the only one who ever asked. I know that this is all small stuff that seem like part of your job title, but to a girl who was broken and alone, it was the compassion I needed. Little moments and things add up and I thank you for that.
There is one day that stands out the most to me, Senior Prom. For you, my prom may not have been anything special, being part of a high school, you must have attended quite a few. My prom doesn't stand out to me for any of the reasons you may think. I long ago threw away the dress, no longer have any of the pictures, and don't talk to anyone from my graduating class. I remember it for some words you shared with me right when I walked in. You honestly didn't think that you would see me there. I laughed it off with small talk. I stayed for one picture and left without dancing. I didn't even wait around to see who was going to be crowned king and queen. What you didn't know was I had planned on taking my own life that night. Our conversation was the only thing that stopped me. I may have misread your tone or the wording you used, but to me, it sounded like you were proud of me for making it that far. That was the first time in my life anyone had ever told me they were proud of me. And that's all I needed to hear.
Today, a woman with a bright future ahead of her is typing to you. I just finished up my schooling and in January of 2016 I will be launching my own business in Illinois specializing in real estate for military members and their families. This is an exciting beginning for my overall goal of creating a nation-wide brokerage team helping military members rent, buy, sell, and flip homes. At the mere age of 22, I own two homes and am launching a business (with my husband's help, of course). I have a beautiful marriage, a wonderful support system, and faith that backs it all up. A complete turn-around from the teenager who used to wear too much black eye liner.
It takes great leaders to impact the youth of society. It takes even greater people to impact them in a way that stay in their hearts forever. I know to you it may have not seemed like you were doing much, but it was enough to save my life. And for that, words cannot express how thankful I am. For everything.
A former Northwest Texan,
Responses from an EMS ISD Student Panel when Asked about their Needs to be Successful
Student Success Initiative Panel
We met with a diverse group of students who verbalized their needs in the classroom.
The following were their thoughts:
· Kids are very simple- we just want to be recognized.
· On the first day, learn about us, but not on paper, just talk to us.
· Don’t shame us.
· We want mutual respect.
· Help me understand stuff I don’t get, even if it means multiple times.
· Realize we are not perfect.
· We each have a different story and different background.
· We love teachers who go the extra mile for us.
· Show us you care, no favoritism.
· Come to us and keep asking us questions and saying Hi- Don’t give up on us. Don’t give us a chance not to speak.
· We want to be able to repay our family financially for all they have done for us. Our family means the world to us due to all the sacrifices they make for us.
· We want teachers to help us be successful.
· Help us set goals
· It is hard for me to attend tutorials because I need to watch my younger siblings.
· I cannot do online homework at home. I do not have WIFI or a computer.
· I wish we could make every teacher care. I just really want their commitment.
· We are easily influenced by how people treat us.
· Be engaged with us.
· Statistic- Only 2 out of the 10 students questioned felt they could go to a teacher they are struggling with and ask for help.
· My parents are not at home. They work in the evenings. I am in charge at home.
· We want to be taught the skills and the steps to get into college or a good job.
· We need incentives to do well. Sometimes, it is just hard because we are so tired.
· We like tutorials in the middle of the day.
Great Teaching Means Letting Go
by Grant Wiggins, Ed.D, Authentic Education
My greatest learning as a teacher came on the soccer field.
We had been working for a few weeks on the same key ‘moves’ on the field related to creating ‘space’. After a few practices, the team looked good in the drills – they’ve got it! Next two games? Nothing: like we never learned it. Finally, in exasperation I yelled at my co-captain, Liz, one of the prime offenders in not using the moves practiced: USE what we worked on!! I yelled. Liz yelled back from the field: We would, Mr Wiggins, but the other team isn’t lining up the way we did the drills!!
There are two vital lessons here about learning:
- Transfer is the bottom-line goal of all learning, not scripted behavior.
- Transfer means that a learner can draw upon and apply from allof what was learned, as the situation warrants, not just do one move at a time in response to a prompt.
In a word: autonomy. You have to be able, on your own, to size up when to use what you previously learned, i.e. analyze the challenge, and judge what to do, mindful of a repertoire of prior learnings; then, implement a purposeful move, and assess its effect.
Put negatively, the more coaches and teachers prompt/remind/scaffold, over and over, without a deliberate and explicit plan for release of responsibility, the more students will flounder in situations demanding autonomy. We then see them act randomly, on the basis of what’s comfortable, or be paralyzed. Sound familiar?
Everywhere I go I see way too much scaffolded and prompted teaching – through twelfth grade. By high school, Socratic Seminar, Problem Based Learning, and independent research ought to be the norm not the exception: you have no hope for success in college or the workplace without such independence.
Yet, practically no district curricula are written to signal, explicitly and by design, the need for increased student decision-making and independence in using their growing repertoire as courses and years unfold. Rather, the work just gets harder but is still highly directed. Endless worksheets, prompts, reminders, and ongoing feedback keep co-opting the development of student autonomy.
Why, then, are we surprised when students sit in a testing situation – where no prompting or reminders can be provided – do poorly, looking like they seemingly never were taught the content? I think this is a key reason why people blame tests for being invalid.
But, Grant – surely with little kids…
No! The approach I am describing is the essence of Montessori where executive control over decisions is central to the methodology. I recall my son, Ian, as a 4-year-old, pondering which ‘work’ to do that day, on the way to school: food work? sewing work? Or drawing? Well, why might you choose one or the other today? I asked. And he proceeded to do a cute think-aloud with little furrowed brow, about the pros and cons (based on recent choices and his skill deficits). At 4 years of age.
Misinterpreting The Gradual Release Of Responsibility Model
Making matters worse, various people trying to help have wrongly interpreted the Gradual Release of Responsibility model to mean that the last step is “Independent Practice.” This is misguided. Independent practice is still scaffolded, prompted, and simplified activity in which the student knows full well what single move we want them to use. The acid test comes when we provide a text or a problem and simply say, with no advice about which strategy to use, figure this out. (Here and here are some helpful resources on genuine Gradual Release).
Which takes us back to soccer. The beauty of soccer coaching (unlike most other sports) is that as a coach you cannot call time out and you cannot script behavior. The sport demands from the start that you coach so as to signal that autonomy in playing winning soccer is the goal.
And in practice you must therefore build in ways (typically via regular scrimmages) to see whether or not kids can draw effectively from their repertoire without your advice, under game conditions. Most of the time you are humbled by how hard the transfer of learning really is, but that only makes you re-double your effort because game success demands it.
Coaches know that release of responsibility has to happen daily, not “gradually” in the sense of over months and years. I was taught the following mantra by pro soccer coaches in clinics: every practice must go through cycles of the following: game-related, game-like, game.
The same is true for reading: far too many teachers prompt for a specific reading strategy and provide guided “independent practice” in using each strategy but spend nowhere near enough time watching quietly (and later de-briefing) kids as they handle a reading passage cold, to determine which strategies they used and why (just as we would do daily in a soccer scrimmage). Even if I have only modeled three strategies, I should test to see which of the 3 they use – if any, like my soccer story! – and have us discuss what they did, why, and what did and didn’t work.
Do you see, therefore, how test preparation done right would mean that students gain practice in drawing from their repertoire with no teacher prompting, i.e. where there is no prior warning about what specifically is going to be on the test? Because that is the formal testing situation as well as the soccer situation. Give a slightly-beyond-level reading passage, non-routine math problem, or dueling accounts of the ‘same’ historical event and just see what they do. That’s the true meaning of formative assessment, not a typical quiz on the content just learned.
But Grant, surely you are not saying we shouldn’t cue, scaffold, prompt, or simplify things for learners!
Of course I am not saying that. Every coach must provide helpful scaffold, just as I did in my practices. But every coach also knows what many teachers seem not to know: unless you back off completely, on a daily basis, in scrimmages as well as games, to see whether or not students draw appropriately from the repertoire in a timely and effective fashion in challenges that demand it, you really have no idea what they can do on their own.
Furthermore, if you tape your own classes you will find that you are providing endless advice on how to do things and more often than not co-opting the development of judgment – the sine qua non of transfer.
I understand, this is difficult. It’s counter-intuitive to say: please teach less and help less, in order that performance might become more successful over time. Our instincts as teachers cause us to over-help rather than under-help. But our kids deserve to become autonomous learners. We need to develop the self-discipline to keep quieter, to build in no-stakes “tests” to see what they do under performance demands, to provide challenges that have no obvious next steps, and to de-brief results.
Co-incidentally, in our visit to School of the Future we noted this as our only concern. We saw nothing but great teaching in each classroom – focused learners doing intellectual worthy exercises. But we were made uneasy but how heavily directive much of it all was. While only there for a day, we saw little evidence that all this teacher help was going to be considerably dialed back soon.
In de-briefing our visit, the Principal agreed, and sent out the following e-mail to her staff:
Grant offered us two considerations – 1) that we get students to “scrimmage” more often, requiring more and more integration of their repertoire of skills and integration of concepts, and 2) that we engender more awareness on the part of students about what the complex ‘game’ is.
What does this look like in our practice? Here are some questions to consider as you coach students towards integration and independence.
3 Questions To Guide Your “Letting Go”
1. Do students know what the complex ‘game’ is that they are preparing for on any given day? In the short term, do they know what the big performance is for which they are preparing?
2. Do you have an intentional plan for taking away the scaffolds and making it more game-like? What is the plan to take away the leading questions on the worksheet, the instructions and reminders? Are you too often afraid of messiness and overcompensating with scaffolds? Rather, how might you better prepare students for performance uncertainty and messiness instead, or use such messiness as teaching opportunities?
3. Can you make more lessons more scrimmage-like? Can you require a bigger repertoire of skills and more integration of essential questions by the learners on their own?
This article was excerpted from a post that first appeared on Grant’s personal blog; Grant can be found on twitter here; image attribution flickr user woodleywonderworks; Great Teaching Means Letting Go
Things to KNOW
Congratulations to Boswell High School!
Raffles & School Fund Raisers!
Is it legal to raise funds with a raffle? It depends. The Charitable Raffle Enabling Act which has been in effect since September 1, 1999, establishes the guidelines for conducting a legal raffle in the State of Texas. The Act was established to provide certain charitable and non-profit membership organizations a means to generate income to support their causes. The Act defines the types of organizations that can hold raffles. In general a qualified organization is defined as:
• An association organized primarily for religious purposes that has been in existence in Texas for at least ten years.
• A voluntary emergency medical service that does not pay its members other than nominal compensation.
• A volunteer fire department that operates fire fighting equipment and does not pay it members other than nominal compensation. Other organizations may qualify.
You can hold a raffle if your non-profit organization:
• is at least three years old;
• elects its governing body;
• has a 501(c) tax exemption;
• has members;
• does not distribute income to its
• does not participate in any political
These are the ONLY organizations allowed to hold raffles in Texas. Any other type of organization, business or individual conducting a raffle in Texas would be doing so illegally. The law also regulates what types of prizes may be offered. Qualified organizations may offer any prize except money. There is no value limit on prizes donated to the organization. However, if raffle organizers offer a prize they have bought or given other consideration for, the value of the prize may not exceed $50,000.
There are a few other restrictions.
For example, a qualified organization may only hold two raffles per year.Raffle tickets may not be advertised state wide or through paid advertisements. Each ticket must provide the name and address of the organization holding the raffle or the address of an officer of the organization. Tickets may only be sold by members of the organization.
Additionally, the ticket must include the price of the ticket and a general description of each prize that has a value of more than $10.
A raffle that violates the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act is considered illegal gambling under the Texas Penal Code. Conducting an illegal raffle is a Class A misdemeanor and participation is a Class C misdemeanor. My office would not be permitted to advise you about whether your particular organization, or any particular proposed raffle, would be legal. We can only provide these general guidelines.
If you have doubts about the legality of a raffle, consult a private attorney.
For information on conducting a legal raffle in Texas, read Chapter 2002,
Charitable Raffles, Occupations Code, Texas Codes Annotated.
Staff Satisfaction Survey Coming in December!
Attention: Quad D Homework for Quad D Teachers
- Don't forget to select 5-10 members of staff, secondary students, and parents ready to take part in a discussion about the need for district mobile App.
- December 3: AP LEAD
- Dec. 7-10: STAAR Retesting
- December 10: Principal PLC
- December 16: Holiday Open House