Weekly Thoughts 12-16-14

Good Morning Wildcat Nation

Just a quick one this week! Happy Holidays (Kwanza, Christmas, Festivis, Hanukah, or just wake up late and enjoy the break)!


  1. What is the approximate circumference of the Earth?
  2. Glenn Miller, the big band musician, died young. How?
  3. How many Wimbledon singles titles does Roger Federer hold?
  4. And, what nationality is he?
  5. What celebrity singer has a child named Blue Ivy?
  6. Which planet has a moon named Triton?

Nuts and Bolts Meeting!

In a few minutes. See you there!

Climate Survey

I have West and High School's SMART Goals. I have not looked at theirs yet. MS and East, can you share them with me?

February 13th

It is ours to plan. We need to set time to divvy up the work. I would like this to be in place by mid-January. Perhaps we should stay after our PAWS 2.0 meeting on the 8th of January?

TNT - District Administrator Magazine

Looks like our work with new teachers will make a future edition of the magazine. Kudos to you for making it a worthwhile endeavor for our newbies!!!

BOE Meeting Tomorrow Tonight!

Annual Training Checklists

I believe I only have one outstanding that should be due Thursday. Monica Garrett. Please send that my way. Thank you.


I recently purchased Teach Like A Pirate book by Dave Burgess. There will be a Twitter based book study on Tuesday nights starting January 6th. I will get you the information if you are interested in participating. Chapters are usually around 10 pages, and only 1 chapter per week, so this should be very manageable. Starts at 8 p.m. I have a few friends that rave about Burgess (as a presenter and author). I have yet to read the book, but look to participate in this book study. Join me?

The tag for the chat is #bfctlap. Weekly on Tuesday nights from 8 to 9 p.m. CST.

How to Tweet during a chat? This is from Beth Houf regarding a different chat her teachers joined. You would use the #bfctlap instead of the one she lists:

1.Go to Tweetdeck.com

2. Go to + Add Column on left hand side

3. Go to the SEARCH icon

4. Type #mcteach, click add column

5. Go to +Add Column on left hand side

6. Click on notifications, click add column

Now It's Time to Reflect and Share!

Q1: Welcome, McIntire Staff! Please introduce yourself and tell us what you teach. BONUS: Favorite holiday movie! #McTeach

I go to NEW TWEET button, then type:

A1: #McTeach Hi All! I'm Beth and I am the principal at @McElem. My FAV holiday movie is ELF #smilingismyfavorite

Your role is to reflect and answer the question, but also to see the ideas of others and correspond or "retweet" ideas you especially agree with or like.

Our Chat Questions

Q2: What are the benefits of personalized PD? #McTeach

Q3: What resource(s) did you use today that could be TREASURE to your colleagues? #McTeach

Q4: How will/could you use personalized learning with your Ss? #McTeach

Q5: How will your teaching change tomorrow because of your personalized learning today?#McTeach


1. New Tweet

2. Type #McTeach

3. Type your response (140 characters or less)

4. Click Tweet

WOO HOO! Celebrate!

If you want specific people to see your tweet, add them with the @sign

Commissioner Search

Interviews started yesterday. They hope to announce prior to New Year's.

Articles of the week via K. Marshall

  1. “Tell Me So I Can Hear: A Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration” by Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano in Journal of Staff Development, December 2014 (Vol. 35, #6, p. 16-22)
  2. “Word Problems Should Be Given At the Start of Lesson, Studies Say” by Sarah Sparks in Education Week, December 3, 2014 (Vol. 34, #13, p. 10-11)

1. Differentiating Feedback for Adults – and Helping Them Grow

In this Journal of Staff Development article, Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano (Teachers College, Columbia University) note three common criticisms of school administrators’ feedback to faculty:

  • It’s inconsistent from administrator to administrator (inter-rater reliability problems).

  • It’s superficial and artificially positive.

  • Honest communication and authentic collaboration are rare.

    Among the reasons: the time demands that formal evaluation systems place on administrators and the use of one-size-fits-all evaluation tools.

One way to improve this situation, say Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano, is to recognize that there are four distinct ways in which adults experience feedback:

Instrumental – People with this lens take a very practical approach. They believe there are right and wrong answers to problems and right and wrong ways to do things. They rely on policies and procedures and may wonder what there is to argue about since there’s one correct way to do things. Their basic reaction is, “What needs to be fixed?” “Tell me what I need to do” and “Tell me what’s expected” and they react well to detailed, concrete suggestions and models. They may need to be nudged out of their right/wrong mentality.

Socializing – People with this lens take a supervisor’s feedback to heart: if my boss thinks I’m doing well, I am (“It makes me feel valued”), and if my boss is negative, I’m not good at my job (“I feel terrible”). It’s particularly tricky to give critical feedback to these people; they may need to role-play conflict that doesn’t threaten relationships.

Self-authoring – People with this lens are able to assess other people’s feedback in light of their own criteria and decide for themselves what’s going well and what needs improvement. They like to express their own opinions, offer suggestions, and come up with goals (“Let me demonstrate competency”), but they need to look objectively at their own thinking and consider ideas and perspectives that differ from theirs.

Self-transforming – Only about 10 percent of U.S. adults have this style, which is more open to others’ standards, points of view, ideologies, and beliefs. They see interconnections as a strength, can look at issues from multiple points of view (“We can figure this out together”), and see feedback as a chance to grow and develop a better version of themselves. While adults with this lens have many sophisticated internal capacities, they may still need gentle support in managing “the implicit frustrations and tensions of transformation and change,” say the authors.

What are the practical implications of this theory? “Adults with each way of knowing have both strengths and limitations and require different kinds of supports and challenges in order to grown and learn,” say Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano. The same feedback can be heard as supportive and helpful by one person or disconcerting and disorienting by another – or the person might tune it out completely. This suggests that supervisors should differentiate feedback to meet adults where they are (in the developmental sense). Tuning feedback can help make it even more effective, and, over time, better support and challenge each person (and the organization) to learn how to accept a wider spectrum of feedback.

The authors offer the following suggestions to supervisors:

  • Assess what your own feedback-receiving style is and think about how it influences the way you give feedback to others.

  • Share the four styles with colleagues to establish a common language about feedback.

  • Individualize feedback to each person.

  • Offer specific, focused feedback – but know that people with different styles may receive it in very different ways.

  • Maintain a positive, compassionate focus during feedback and other communications. “Asking adults to share their preferences and needs for feedback can be a helpful starting place for building trust with individuals and groups,” say the authors.

  • Ensure regular and ongoing feedback. This approach “underscores the importance of meeting adults where they are psychologically and remaining present to them as they change and grow,” say Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano. Your own way of delivering feedback may also evolve.

  • Provide recipients of your feedback opportunities to respond, reflect, and contribute.

“Tell Me So I Can Hear: A Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration” by Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano in Journal of Staff Development, December 2014 (Vol. 35, #6, p. 16-22), www.learningforward.org; the authors can be reached at

drago-severson@tc.edu and jesscblum@yahoo.com.

2. At What Point Should Word Problems Be Used in Algebra Classes?

In this Education Week article, Sarah Sparks reports on a series of experiments on how word problems are used in algebra classes. Many teachers regard word problems as challenging for students and assign them only after students have “mastered” basic formulas. But actually, says Mitchell Nathan (University of Wisconsin/Madison), symbolic math problems may pose a bigger challenge for many students and there’s a lot to be said for starting with well-formulated word problems. “Even with no context,” he says, “word problems provide powerful informal problem-solving strategies, and language itself provides an entry point to mathematical reasoning that is highly superior to the algebraic equation.” This is especially true for students just starting to learn algebra and shouldn’t be saved until students have “done the math.”

In a series of experiments with students from middle school through college, Nathan and his colleagues presented students with three versions of the same problem. An example:


  • Solve for n: n x 6 + 66 = 81.9

    Non-narrative word problem:

  • Starting with a number, if I multiply it by 6 and then add 66, I get 81.9. What number

    did I start with?

    Story problem:

  • When Ted got home from his job as a waiter, he multiplied his hourly wage by the six hours in his shift, and added the $66 he had made in tips. He found he had earned $81.90. How much does Ted made per hour?

    About 91 percent of students could successfully solve the word or story problems, while only 62 percent could solve the symbolic problems. Most students preferred word problems because they could “guess and test” solution strategies and see more clearly whether different outcomes made sense. Some sheepishly admitted they hadn’t used the algebra strategies their math teachers had tried to teach them.

    Interestingly, Nathan and his colleagues found that teachers with strong math backgrounds thought students would find symbolic problems easier, whereas teachers who had themselves struggled with math thought students would do better with story problems. “Maybe your knowledge of math gets in the way of your ability to predict what your math students will do,” says Nathan. “These high-knowledge math and science teachers hold this theory about how students should learn math, and it doesn’t match up to the student behavior.”

    In another experiment, 7th and 8th graders were taught algebra units using the Bridging Instruction curriculum, which starts with word or story problems and gets students involved in acting out a story and designing their own experiments to solve them. Students in the experimental and control groups both improved their ability to solve symbolic equations, but the Bridging Instruction students showed more overall growth in problem-solving. One prerequisite, of course, is understanding the key vocabulary terms in word problems.

    “It is a real wake-up call,” concludes Nathan. “Should we be getting rid of formal equations? Of course not. But we should be asking: When should students be given tasks to master different types of mathematical reasoning?”

“Word Problems Should Be Given At the Start of Lesson, Studies Say” by Sarah Sparks in Education Week, December 3, 2014 (Vol. 34, #13, p. 10-11), www.edweek.org

Also from K. Marshall...the best children's books of 2014

The best children’s books of 2014 – Here’s the link to School Library Journal’s top selections for the year, including picture books, middle grades, young adult, nonfiction, and adult books appropriate to some students: http://www.slj.com/best-books-2014/

“Best Books of the Year” in School Library Journal, December 2014 (Vol. 60, #12, p. 20-35)

No books this week...6 on my desk are:

  1. Check for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey.
  2. Teach Like A Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess
  3. How to Design Questions and Tasks to Assess Student Thinking by Susan M. Brookhart
  4. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of all Learners (2nd Edition) by Carol Ann Tomlinson
  5. Improving Student Achievement: An Educational Leader's Guide for Developing Purposeful Schools by Terri Martin and Tim Brown (both from Missouri...good people)
  6. Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.

Trivia Answers

  1. The Earth is 40,075 km or 24, 900 miles (approximately)
  2. Miller died when his plane went down during WWII
  3. He has won 7 Wimbledon Singles Championships.
  4. He is Swiss.
  5. Beyoncé
  6. Neptune