Pre- Mother’s Day Friday 4

4fingersMoms: Our First Real Teachers

It would be difficult for most of us to deny that the first “teacher” we all had was our own mom. Who was there when we learned how to tie our shoes? Who taught us to believe in ourselves? Who taught us to always say please and thank you? Mom of course…and maybe Dad if you were lucky. So while Teacher Appreciation Week is technically over today, if you are lucky enough to still have your own mom around, I encourage you to extend the sentiment and be sure to pay a special tribute to your first “teacher” this Sunday – Mother’s Day. Personally, I think it is a perfect juxtaposition of the two celebrations.

This week’s Friday 4 includes two pieces to get you thinking a tad and a couple of resources for those of you looking for some online options for ongoing professional development in the summer.

  • Bringing the Locker Room Into the Classroom is a piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education that was passed along by a colleague who happens to be both a teacher and a coach. I have always thought of coaching and teaching as one and the same and liked the collaborative project that is described in the article.
  • Response: ‘The Grading System We Need to Have’ is a blog piece from Larry Ferlazzo (@Larryferlazzo) that appeared on the Education Week Teacher site. Larry is a well-known teacher, author and presence online who is definitely one you should follow on Twitter.

  • Are you an AP teacher looking for resources, ideas or fellow AP teachers to collaborate with beyond your own school? The AP Teacher Community is a great place to start. The summer is a great time to connect with colleagues from around the country and share ideas.

  • The Teaching Channel is another rich online resource and network of educators. The site describes itself as: “Teaching Channel is a video showcase—on the Internet and TV—of inspiring and effective teaching practices in America’s schools. We have a rapidly growing community of registered members who trade ideas and share inspiration from each other.”


Sharing…the way it ought to be.

ShareThe power of the PLN – Sharing Resources

One of the best features of a vibrant PLN is the wealth of resources that its members can provide when you least expect it. I am fortunate to have a great bunch of colleagues at Loomis Chaffee who frequently pass along interesting articles and videos that they come across that they think I might be interested in. In my role at the school, I feel obligated to “share the wealth” and pass along the items that come my way to others who might also find them interesting or intriguing. So, this week’s Friday 4 is actually a few of the resources that recently came my way from my LC PLN. I hope you find one or more of the items as interesting as I did. Thanks PLN!

  •  The first piece is an article that appeared in The Atlantic magazine titled The Confidence Gap. The piece explores the evidence that “shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.”  The article has important implications for teachers of young men and women and will make you rethink how we can best serve all of our students. Thanks to Al Freihofer and Monica Kirschman (@monkirsch) for passing this one along.
  • If you are interested in exploring the use of the “flipped classroom” model, “Inside Higher Ed has published a free compilation of articles — in print-on-demand format — about efforts to reshape the use of classroom time that can be found here. Thanks to Sheila Culbert (@SCulbertLC) for this resource.
  • The following TED talk Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic is a short but inspiring talk that is well worth 6:45 minutes of your time. The comments on the video are also thought provoking…not everybody is in agreement to be certain. Thanks to Julie Hinchman for sharing this video.
  • The final piece (and associated website) come thanks to Rachel Allen. Educational Psychology: 20 Things Educators Need To Know About How Students Learn

Thanks again to those who passed along these resources. Keep them coming!

Final Friday 4 for 2013

4fingersAnother Year in the Books…What are Your PD Plans for 2014?

As the 2013 calendar year comes to a close, I would like to make a pitch for something that should be on every educator’s New Year’s Resolutions list as we prepare for 2014. The resolution is actually a relatively simple one that can be accomplished in several ways, none of which require a gym membership or forgoing anything at meal time.

Commit to taking more control of your own professional development in 2014.

If you are up to the challenge, I have 4 “opportunities” for you in this post that will get you started on the road to becoming more in charge of your own professional development as an educator. Feel free to be an over-achiever and partake in all 4 options!

  • Sign-up to receive the weekly newsletter from the Edreach website. For those of you unfamiliar with Edreach, here is their vision: “EdReach provides a platform for passionate, outspoken innovators- aiming to strengthen their voices by highlighting innovation in the field of education, through reporting critical educational news, providing commentary, and offering criticism of the educational issues of the day.” I subscribe to several of the weekly podcasts from this site and have found them a great way to pass the time when I am out getting in my Fitbit steps.
  • Sign-up to receive the Connected Educators Month Digest of highlights of the day. This online newspaper is from and the website. automatically processes more than 250 million social media posts per day, extracting & analyzing over 25 million articles.
  • On January 25, 2014 there is a unique opportunity for PD that is happening at several locations simultaneously around the country, EduCon 2.6. Grant Lichtman (@GrantLichtman) recently wrote a blog piece that described the event and gives some background on the partnership behind the event. For those of us in CT, we can participate simply by heading over to the Renbrook School on the 25th since they are one of the 6 host sites. You can register to participate at Renbrook here.
  • The Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) hosts a whole range of PD opportunities throughout the year that are predominantly teacher led and low cost to attend. The CAIS Commission on PD schedule of upcoming events can be found here. I recently joined the Commission on PD, attended several CAIS events in the past few months and found each one a valuable and worthwhile event.

Happy New Year of PD!

The whirlwind of Connected Educator Month

4fingersA Time to Reflect

As most of you know, October was Connected Educator month (CEM) and was filled with a plethora of opportunities for educators to connect with fellow colleagues and engage in valuable professional development. I did my best to sample a bunch of the CEM activities and found them all to be worthwhile and have added many fellow educators to my PLN. Along the way, I have collected and curated several very good resources and articles that have been good reminders or have pushed me to think about my own practices. Here are a few of the resources that I came across this month; hopefully, you will find at least a few that pique your interest.



Teacher Appreciation Week Finale

Friday Four – May 10

I hope that you had a wonderful Teacher Appreciation Week and never forget that despite how it may feel at times, you do make a difference. I can think of no more important profession than the education of young people. THANK YOU!

  • An exciting collaboration was launched this week between two favorites in the education world – TED Talks and PBS. They produced a one-hour special “TED Talks Education” that was aired on PBS on Tuesday. You can read a NYT article on the project here and watch the actual show here.
  • The TeachThought website is a great resource that I recommend to all teachers who are looking for inspiration on just about any topic related to education. “TeachThought is a fluid platform that explores the best in learning innovation. We connect K-20 educators not only with resources and ideas, but modelsframeworks and curricula. Many blogs cover progressive education and trending topics, but TeachThought also seeks to support the implementation of innovative learning.” A few of the current blog posts trending on the site are: “The Definition of Digital Citizenship” and “How 21st Century Thinking Is Just Different.”
  • A must read for this week has to be the article written by Annie Murphy Paul (@anniemurphypaul) that appeared on the  KQED education blog titled “How Does Multitasking Change the Way Kids Learn?” The piece was so interesting that I  sent it along to all of my students to read. Annie posted a followup to the article that can be found on her blog here that is titled “Reaction To My Multitasking Article: The Teenagers Speak.”
  • A final piece for the week is a provocative blog post written by Grant Wiggins (@grantwiggins) “Dereliction of duty by HS teachers.” The piece itself and the extensive comments posted by readers have made me challenge some of my complacency in the courses I am teaching…a good thing to continue to ruminate about over the summer.


Using exemplars and Goldilocks analysis

How many times over the years have I read student work and thought “They clearly didn’t get it. This is not what I was expecting. How could they have not understood what was expected of them for this assignment?” In my current role, I have worked with many teachers experiencing the same problem. I have seen the script play out in the classroom countless times and am no longer surprised by the confusion and frustration that is oftentimes the result.

Fortunately, I have had these thoughts less and less over the years for a couple of reasons. The first and most significant reason is that I have been fortunate enough to team teach my classes in the past few years with a trusted colleague, Naomi Appel (@njappel). Together we have rewritten and redesigned most of the course materials and spent a considerable amount of time improving the wording and instructions on the assignments we give. We have also gotten better at spending more time before students create work helping them to understand what “excellent” work looks like. We have become big fans of providing exemplars of student work and taking the time to assess and evaluate the examples with our students before they start their own work. A recent example will help to illustrate what I mean.

A recent assignment required our students to write a letter back to a fictional Dr. Knowsitall who had asked for their assistance with a lab-based problem. In their letter, they needed to describe the procedures they carried out in the lab with “enough but not too much detail.” The amount of detail was different than if they were writing for a less scientifically literate audience since Dr. Knowsitall is a learned woman with a great deal of scientific training and experience. (They are beginning to think that she does not actually “know it all” since they have had to help her a few times already this year!) Rather than assume that the students knew exactly what “enough but not too much detail” meant and rather than simply describing what we meant by the concept, we projected several examples from past student papers and took the time to assess the pieces with our current students. We perform a “Goldilock’s analysis” of the example:

Where did the writer include too much detail?

Where did the writer not include enough detail?

How could you improve this sentence or section and make it “just right”?

The process definitely takes time but has been well worth it in the long run. Most students are capable of meeting or exceeding the academic target if they actually know what that target looks like. Contrary to what some critics may think, providing concrete examples does not stifle creativity or spoon-feed the students too much; it frees them to focus on the execution of the goal rather than wonder if they are giving the teacher “what he/she wants” on the assignment.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Snow Day Friday 4

Even when you are pretty sure a snow day is coming, nothing beats the feeling of getting up a little later in the morning, slowly eating your breakfast and lingering over the newspaper knowing that you do not have to be somewhere in the immediate future. In my house, snow days are a mix of shoveling snow, hauling fire wood, taking the dogs out to play in the snow and laying around catching up on reading or my Words with Friends games (I only have 13 active games going at the moment).

This week’s Friday 4 is a collection of items that are good for snow day reading, more reflective and thought-provoking than technical and practical. Throw another log on the fire and enjoy!

  • Schools Are Full of People” is a recent post from Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) that is a good reminder to anybody who works with kids.
  • I’ll Never Be the Same Again” is a post from a new blogger in my Google reader, Bo Adams (@boadams1). I ran across Bo when I was reading the Grant Lichtman journey to visit 60+ schools across the country looking for innovative teaching.
  • How Collaboration Has Changed Me” is a piece written by a fellow flipped classroom teacher, Delia Bush (@DeliaBush).
  • The last item is actually several potential items. Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) recently wrote a post where he suggested 5 good blogs for English teachers, 5 good blogs for history teachers and 5 good blogs for math teachers to follow. Even if you do not teach English, history or Math, I encourage you to check out Richard’s blog Free Technology  for Teachers.

Enjoy the rest of the snow if you are in New England!

Friday Four – 2 to use and 2 to mull over

In this week’s Friday 4, I offer up two items that you may be able to incorporate tomorrow into your classroom routines and two items that are intended for contemplation and perhaps long term action.

Two items you could use tomorrow:

  • “Whiteboarding” is a wonderful way to get students working together in groups that can be used in any classroom. I came across a twist on the standard use of whiteboards in the classroom recently that I thought was pretty neat. The Whiteboarding Mistake Game will help to introduce higher order thinking into any activity that uses whiteboarding.
  • Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) recently highlighted three free online tools that students and teachers can use for collaborative brainstorming. With more and more collaborative work happening in classrooms, managing and facilitating the archiving of ideas can be a challenge; these tools may make it a little bit easier.

Two items to read/discuss/debate and ponder:

  • Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) recently penned a blog post (can I even say “penned” a blog post?) titled Confidence through Connectedness that I found to be quite thought provoking, particularly given our school’s ongoing discussions about online learning and innovative teaching.
  • Why do girls do better in school than boys? A recent study looks at some of the reasons. I was left thinking “What can I do as a classroom teacher to counteract the forces at work?”

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions. Enjoy!

Friday 4 – TABS tidbits

TABS Tidbits – November 29- December 1

I am currently on the way back from the TABS ( The Association of Boarding Schools) conference in Washington DC and thought it would be a good idea to share some of the wonderful things I came across during the conference for this week’s Friday 4. As with most conferences that I have attended over the years, the most valuable part is the networking and sharing of ideas that occurs in-between sessions and “after hours.” The chance to connect with new colleague or rekindle relationships with former students who are now colleagues is one of the best reasons to attend a conference. Regardless of how much of a pain in the neck it is to coordinate leaving school for a few days, the benefits always make it worth my time.

One of the highlights for me has certainly been the chance to reconnect with a former student of mine Hollis Brooks (@HollisBrooks) who is now the Dean of Students at the Hillside School (@Hillsideschool1). Hollis works with a former LC graduate Dan Marchetti (@MarchettiDan) who is currently the Assistant Headmaster at the Hillside School. The three of us spent many hours the past few days reminiscing about the past and talking about the work we currently do with young people and how important that work is. I cannot fully explain how inspiring and encouraging it is to talk with former students who share my passion for education. My conversations alone with them have made the 8 hour bus ride from Hartford to DC worth the time away from my work at LC.

So, what tidbits have I gleaned these past few days? Here are a few of the highlights from the conference.

  • Friday’s keynote speaker was Erik Wahl (@erikwahl) the “Picasso of Productivity” who is a nationally recognized artist, author and entrepreneur who inspires innovation and professional creativity through his original on-stage painting performances. Erik’s talk was in a word – AWESOME. You can check out a video about his talk here. His message is a good one for anybody who works with young people.
  • I attended several sessions on iPad programs at various schools and was quite impressed with what the South Kent School has done. You can check out what they are doing with respect to iPads and digital textbooks here.
  • I had a conversation with a fellow presenter Hans Mundahl (@hmundahl) from The New Hampton School about how we could continue the many great discussions that were occurring at the conference throughout the school year. We decided to try and hold a twitter chat on Wednesday evenings for anybody in the TABS “world” who wanted to continue to share ideas and thoughts about topics related to boarding school life. We are going to hold our first chat this coming Wednesday (12/5) at 8 PM ET. We will use the hashtag #TABSchat and would like to encourage anybody who is interested to participate. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, you can submit it here. For those of you who are not Twitter users, you can still follow the conversation by going to and entering the #TABSchat hashtag into the search field. A perfect opportunity for some free PD!
  • This last item did not actually come from TABS but it did cross my Twitter stream while I was there and resonated with me given the number of times I heard “21st Century skills” mentioned in sessions. This is a piece from Tim Quinn (@TimothyQuinn6) on group work and collaboration that appeared in the Kappan Magazine.
I hope you enjoy this week’s Friday 4 and that you will join me and others on Wednesday @ 8 PM for the #TABSchat.


Friday 4 -The Craft of Teaching

For those of you who missed last week’s Friday 4, fret not. The craziness of Parents Weekend and what seemed like an endless stream of meetings and visitors prevented me from crafting an end-of-week missive last Friday, so you did not really miss anything! The frenetic pace that coincides with the impending end of the term has set in to be certain, but I was determined to publish the Friday 4 this week since it appears from most accounts that people do enjoy the posts. I appreciate the feedback I have received about the Friday 4 and continue to encourage you to send along any thoughts, ideas or comments.

I was encouraged by a valued and trusted colleague to be more deliberate about a theme for each week’s Friday 4. In the past, I have tried to connect the items in each Friday 4 but have not always found four related items in any given week so the thread connecting the items has been tenuous at best at times. So, in response to the suggestion, this week’s Friday 4 will focus on the craft of teaching.

Enjoy and as always, please send along any ideas or suggestions you may have.