Wolcott's Weekly "What's Up!"

Office of Teaching & Learning Update 3.14.2014

Quote To Note

“Kids are built to move. Having more time for unstructured outdoor play is like handing them a reset button. It not only helps to break up their day, but it also allows them to blow off steam, while giving them an opportunity to move and redirect their energy to something more meaningful once they return to the classroom.”

Debbie Rhea in “More Play, Better Focus” in Education Week, Feb. 26, 2014

(Vol. 33, #22, p. 21), www.edweek.org

What Canadians Know That We Haven't Learned Yet (Don, this isn't about hockey. Sorry!)

Over the last couple of weeks I have decided to spend my professional learning time at night participating in twitter chats rather than my typical reading. What has been cool is how many people I have met from around North America and the World and how much I have learned during this time. It is through theses exchanges that I have seen an interesting trend... teachers in Canada and other parts of the world are generally much more focused on student learning than what is being taught.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

  1. As you all know, I have spent quite a bit of time over the last several weeks gathering feedback from staff in the form of my "Temperature Checks". The feedback exchanges with staff have been incredibly helpful. One topic though seems to have some teachers in a "fever"...Recess. I have been quite surprised by the number (although just a few) who view time students spend outside as a waste of instructional time and a lost opportunity to gain more knowledge. These staff members are not thinking about the benefits of recess toward learning (see above Quote to Note) but looking at recess as time wasted when we could be teaching the kids something.
  2. As we implement the math curriculum, we find that many teachers are developing "study guides" before each post assessment in order for students to be prepared for the "content" that will be on the test. Again, although I understand the purpose, this demonstrates a focus on teaching topics and not a focus on seeing if learning has occurred. When students go into a post-assessment fresh off unit work, teachers have a much better idea of what students have learned rather than how much information they have "memorized" and remember from the study guide.

So, given this information, "How can we cultivate a "culture of learning" rather than a "culture of teaching" in the district?" Anxious to hear your thoughts.


9 Ways to Be a Great Team Member by Jon Gordon

While watching the Oscars I noticed that almost every award winner said they couldn’t have done it without their team, family, and the support of others. The fact is no one achieves success alone. We all need a great team to accomplish great things. We are at our best when we are surrounded by those who want the best for us and when we are bringing out the best in others. In this spirit I want to share 9 ways to be a great team member.

1. Set the Example - Instead of worrying about the lack of performance, productivity and commitment of others you simply decide to set the example and show your team members what hard work, passion and commitment looks like. Focus on being your best every day. When you do this you’ll raise the standards and performance of everyone around you.

2. Use Your Strengths to Help the Team - The most powerful way you can contribute to your team is to use your gifts and talents to contribute to the team's vision and goals. Without your effort, focus, talent and growth the team won't accomplish its mission. This means you have an obligation to improve so you can improve your team. You are meant to develop your strengths to make a stronger team. Be selfish by developing you and unselfish by making sure your strengths serve the team.

3. Share Positive Contagious Energy - Research shows emotions are contagious and each day you are infecting your team with either positive energy or negative energy. You can be a germ or a big dose of Vitamin C. When you share positive energy you infectiously enhance the mood, morale and performance of your team. Remember, negativity is toxic. Energy Vampires sabotage teams and complaining is like vomiting. Afterwards you feel better but everyone around you feels sick.

4. Know and Live the Magic Ratio - High performing teams have more positive interactions than negative interactions. 3:1 is the ratio to remember. Teams that experience interactions at a ratio equal or greater than 3:1 are more productive and higher performing than those with a ratio of less than 3:1. Teams that have a ratio of 2:1, 1:1 or more negative interactions than positive interactions become stagnant and unproductive. This means you can be a great team member by being a 3 to 1’er. Create more positive interactions. Praise more. Encourage more. Appreciate more. Smile more. High-five more. Recognize more. Energize more. Read more about this at www.FeedthePositiveDog.com

5. Put the Team First - Great team players always put the team first. They work hard for the team. They develop themselves for the team. They serve the team. Their motto is whatever it takes to make the team better. They don’t take credit. They give credit to the team. To be a great team member your ego must be subservient to the mission and purpose of the team. It’s a challenge to keep our ego in check. It’s something most of us struggle with because we have our own goals and desires. But if we monitor our ego and put the team first we’ll make the team better and our servant approach will make us better.

6. Build Relationships - Relationships are the foundation upon which winning teams are built and great team members take the time to connect, communicate and care to build strong bonds and relationships with all their team members. You can be the smartest person in the room but if you don’t connect with others you will fail as a team member. It’s important to take the time to get to know your team members. Listen to them. Eat with them. Learn about them. Know what inspires them and show them you care about them.

7. Trust and Be Trusted - You can’t have a strong team without strong relationships. And you can’t have strong relationships without trust. Great team members trust their teammates and most of all their team members trust them. Trust is earned through integrity, consistency, honesty, transparency, vulnerability and dependability. If you can’t be trusted you can’t be a great team member. Trust is everything.

8. Hold Them Accountable - Sometimes our team members fall short of the team's expectations. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they need a little tough love. Great team members hold each other accountable. They push, challenge and stretch each other to be their best. Don’t be afraid to hold your team members accountable. But remember to be effective you must built trust and a relationship with your team members. If they know you care about them, they will allow you to challenge them and hold them accountable. Tough love works when love comes first. Love tough.

9. Be Humble - Great team members are humble. They are willing to learn, improve and get better. They are open to their team member's feedback and suggestions and don’t let their ego get in the way of their growth or the team’s growth. I learned the power of being humble in my marriage. My wife had some criticism for me one day and instead of being defensive and prideful, I simply said, "Make me better. I'm open. Tell me how I can improve." Saying this diffused the tension and the conversation was a game changer. If we're not humble we won’t allow ourselves to be held accountable. We won’t grow. We won’t build strong relationships and we won’t put the team first. There’s tremendous power in humility that makes us and our team better.

In addition here are a few of my favorite sayings about being a great team member.

  • "Your team doesn’t care if you are a superstar. They care if you are a super team member."
  • "You have to work as hard to be a great teammate as you to do be a great player."
  • "Many teams communicate but the great ones connect. Great teams form bonds of trust that strengthen relationships and the team."

Coming Events

Next Generation Science Standards

On April 14th, Dr. Carol K. Baker, a member of the writing team for the Next Generation Science Standards will be in District to provide staff with an overview of the standards. Dr. Baker has worked closely with reviewers from the Lead State Review team in Illinois and the Illinois Adoption Team. She is also a member of the leadership team for Building Capacity for State Science Education in Illinois. Additionally, she is an item writer for ACT and the Illinois Science Test. Dr Baker comes highly recommended as "the" Next Gen Guru in the state.

Please consider sending key science staff in grades 4-8 to the event. More info to come at our next Administrator's Meeting.

Curriculum Writing with Tom Hierck

April 24

  • Elementary Math Curriculum

April 25

  • Kindergarten Math
  • Gifted
  • JJHS Science
  • JJHS Social Studies


Intercom Usage

Do you know research suggests that the average intercom call to a classroom takes students off task for up to 3 minutes? After talking about this with a colleague, he decided to count the number of times intercom calls were made for a week. He and his office staff averaged 10 intercom interruptions per day. A little math (10 interruptions x 3 minutes per x 174 days of school = minutes of lost instruction/engagement) forced him to make a change in practice. He presented the information to his staff and adopted a "no classroom intercom interruption" policy. Office staff now walk down to classrooms when an interruption is necessary. Not wanting to do so much walking, staff were forced to re-evaluate themselves and determine what interruptions were truly necessary and what weren't. Communication not only became more efficient, but each member of his office staff lost weight and reported being happier from the exercise breaks.

Ask yourself, and challenge your office staff, to answer the following questions:

  • Is there another way to contact rooms that protects instruction time?
  • Does this intercom message really need to be delivered to every classroom in the school?

Mid-day Collaboration

The goal of mid-day collaboration is for all staff to have opportunities to meet with colleagues on a regular basis throughout the month. With that goal in mind, it was suggested that some sort of schedule be used to ensure opportunities for classroom teachers to meet with special areas...ELL, Gifted, etc.

Please know if a grade comes to you and says, "We are planning an integrated research project on the Chrome books and would like to meet 3 straight days to plan", you have every right to say "GO FOR IT!"

The scheduling is meant to help facilitate the collaboration of different groups not to handcuff the act of collaborating.


ISAT Testing went extremely well. I appreciate all the hard work spent organizing the testing, administering the tests, and creating environments that enabled students to do their best. We wouldn't excelling as a district were it weren't for your daily efforts and FOCUS!