The Power in Connections

by Beth Knittle on September 29, 2014

After Hurricane Sandy effected the northeast I headed down to NJ to lend my folks a hand.  The main highway I would normally take was closed in many spots so I had to drive north, across Massachusetts and then south.  On my way I passed convoy after convoy of tree service, fuel tankers and power line crews from Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.  Some had banners hanging off the sides of the trucks. “NJ here we come.” “NY you are not alone.”  At a rest stop people were buying the crews coffee and snacks for the road.  When I entered NJ I was a lone car a mists the convoys.

This Saturday I passed a convoy of military vehicles and it brought me right back to that memory. I thought of all these people joining together to complete a mission; be it post storm restoration or the defense of our nation.  If you have ever been part of such a team then you know the feeling of “being able.”  Being able to get the job done, surpass obstacles, persevere, and pull together.  It is an empowering feeling being part of a mission driven group.

I am an educator and I am a member of such a team.  We have a mission and for the most part we are driven.  Though on occasion we loose our energy and the feeling of “being able.” It is at these times I need to dip into the well and reconnect with other educators for inspiration, motivation and restoration.  I am very grateful for the network of educators to which I belong.  In many ways it is like being a member of a convoy. We are on a mission and we can get the job done.

October is Connected Educator month. I learn, grow and am challenged by colleagues.  Being connected has made me a better educator and I hope I have helped others do the same. If you have not connected with a variety of educators from around the globe then you may be missing out. Please check out Connected Educators and get connected.


Value Added Models: Where are we headed?

by Beth Knittle on July 28, 2014

Many public school educators have begun transitioning and adjusting to new educator evaluation procedures.  These evaluation tools are to included test results for students and a statistically generate Value Added Measure.  In my state we have not yet fully moved to this as many districts need to determine what District Determined Measures (DDMs) they will we use to measure teacher performance in each subject area. There are also a variety of statistical models to determine the Value Added by a particular teacher.

I really am not sure what to make all this.  I am beginning some research into this area focusing on what it means in general for educators and what it means for me particularly.  In my current role I am a teacher, evaluated as specialized instructional support personal (ie. librarian, reading specialist, caseload educators and those that consult).  I fall into the later category as I am not linked to any students and work across the district.

The first part of my research is to look at how Value Added Measures are calculated.  I would suggest taking a look at the American Statistical Association’s executive summary on Using Value Added Models for Educational Assessment. It give a good basic understanding the validity of these models. As we all know there is more to teaching, learning and education then standardized testing. How do these non tangibles effect teacher effectiveness?

Though this may be jumping the gun as I am still trying to understand the statics, I am also interested in what will become of the data when generated. Florida was one the first states to implement VAMs and to publish the results.  Granted they are only publishing the top 30% of educators in the subject areas they currently are assessing, but if you are not on the list it shows you to be in the bottom two thirds. Please take a look at this article on the release of Florida’s data and the related website where parents can look up their teacher’s effectiveness.

There is a lot for me to wrap my head around.  How about you?


Education vs Regurgitation

by Beth Knittle on July 16, 2014

As a brand new teacher I believed I could go thorough my scripted lesson plan, and point like a conductor to select students who I could guide through to the desired out comes.  I believe that if they played along, paid attention and did the work I provided they would all learn and be successful on the tests. If we all just followed the lesson all would be well.

But…. there was always the fidgety kids in the back who constantly interrupted, raised their hand and asked all sorts of awkward questions.  These questions would derail my perfectly scripted lesson.  As I “matured” as a teacher I felt successful if I could avoid these questions, or stifle them. It was a good thing, I mastered classroom management.  I was so naive.

I was seeking students who were good at regurgitation. If my test results were good, then I was a good teacher.  As I continued to grow as a teacher I began to really appreciated the fidgety kids.  They were into learning, they were out of the box thinkers, connectors, imaginative, impulsive and curious.  These were the students who were going to push the envelop, test the limits, create, invent and change in the world.

These student were not passively waiting to be taught but eagerly trying to educate themselves. They were active, enthusiastic learners stuck in a passive, measured learning environment. These students needed to learn the skills required to be life long learners.  I had to rethink my role and shift my teaching practice. I could still teach the content I was required to but I needed to do it in a way that focused on the skills of a life long learner in an active student centered way.  The advent of the mobile technology and ever growing abundance of internet resources has made this easier then ever.

We can tailor our instruction to individual students allowing then to benefit from their strengths and gird up their weaknesses. We can provide them with the skills to continually learn and adapt to the ever changing world of work, information and technology.


Supporting Complex Change

July 5, 2014

Integrating technology, project based learning, personalized instruction, etc all require a change in a teacher’s pedagogical practice.  That is a pretty complex change as there is nothing simple about people, teaching and learning.  The teachers I support are my ‘students’. I need to know what is not working or missing to help them achieve success […]

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Thinking about Professional Development

June 24, 2014

Summer is a time for relaxation and renewal for educators.  It is the season where we recharge the batteries, reflect on our success and failure and rethink what we will do next year.  During this “down time” many educators participated in curriculum writing and professional development.  Tim Holt recently shared his thoughts on professional development […]

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Promise, Potential, Achievement

May 22, 2014

First let’s set the context Take a moment…. Watch Hank Green – The Myth of Greatness and John Green – Deserving If you have time read John Green: Teenager, Aged 36 to give some perspective to what you just watched.  It’s a bit long, it begins as a book review but then goes back to […]

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An Apology

April 27, 2014

Hi All, I usually try to reply to commenters but have been neglectful recently.  I also had intentions of working on an update for the blog. However I have had  to cut back a bit due to medical issues the last couple of weeks.  Nothing serious just feeling more wiped out as a result.  Feeling […]

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