Thursday, December 30, 2010

Staying Focused on Goals

Starting a group, even if only 2 people, that meets weekly can help us to stay focused on our goals. At these weekly meetings we can ask each other the following two questions:
  1. What will you do next?
  2. By when will you do it?


Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
---Emily Dickinson
Hope is not only something we as educators always want to keep perched in our own souls but it is also something we want to help instill in our students. We want to help them see that it is hope that will help them overcome any adversity or obstacle that confronts them. In fact, hope sings its sweetest song during a "storm."
Note: There is a 2008 Newbery Honor Book, Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson that uses this poem as its them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What To Do While Waiting

When things aren't happening as fast as we would like, it would be a good idea to write ponderings on the following questions:
  • What more do I have to learn?
  • What is the lesson here for me?
  • What is the waiting teaching me?
  • If not this, then what?
  • What else can I do to get the same results?

These thoughts come from the book Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Treasure Is Found---Again!

I had heard about the famous little red book called It Works. The author of this little treasure requested that his name be omitted because he feels the greatest good comes from helping others without expecting anything in return. The book is only 28 pages long--28 pages filled with wisdom. I knew I had bought it at one time but thought I had lost it somewhere because it was so small. Then today I found it inside another book--A Message From Garcia--by Charles Patrick Garcia. Apparently I had tucked it inside this book because Charles Garcia had recommended it.

This anonymous author says there are 3 rules for accomplishing our goals (wants):
  1. Read the list of wants 3 times a day--morning, noon, and night
  2. Think of what you want as often as possible
  3. Do not talk to anyone about your plan except to the Great Power within you which will unfold to your Objective Mind the method of accomplishment

This little treasure can be found at Amazon.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Lesson Learned From a Codfish and Catfish Story

Many years ago, fishing for codfish in the Northeast had become a lucrative commercial business. The fishing industry recognized that a great market for codfish existed all over America, but they had a major problem in the distribution. At first, they simply froze the fish as they did all other products, and shipped it out across the country. But for some reason, after the codfish was frozen, it lost its taste. So the owners decided to ship the fish in huge tanks filled with fresh seawater. They thought for sure that would solve the problem and keep the fish fresh. But to their dismay, this process only make matters worse. Because the fish were inactive in the tank, they became soft and mushy, and once again they lost their taste.
One day, somebody decided to put some catfish in the tank with the codfish. Catfish are a natural enemy of codfish, so as the tank traveled across the country, the codfish had to stay alert and active, and be on the lookout for the catfish. Amazingly, when the tank arrived at the destination, the codfish were as fresh and tasty as they were in the Northeast.

Just as with the codfish, adversity may be serving a great purpose in our lives.

Note: This story taken from Be Your Best Life Now Journal by Joel Osteen

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Read 15 Minutes a Day

"Setting aside just 15 minutes a day will enable you to read up to two dozen books in a year. Keep it up and you will have read 1,000 books in your lifetime. That's the equivalent of going through college five times." G. Gordan, American Library Assn.

According to Dr. Orison S. Marden it's important to not only be reading but to be reading those books that will elevate and refine you and raise your ideals and clarify your ambition. He goes onto suggest that one should read books of power, books that encourage one to have a purpose for being. Therefore, as Andrew Carnegie advised, "A man's reading program should be as carefully planned as his daily diet, for that too is food, without which he cannot grow mentally."

These ideas come from the book Books Are Tremendous by Charlie "Tremendous" Jones.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's All About Those They Serve

Pure leaders help those who follow them to do more and see more and become more than they could do on their own. In other words, it is all about those they serve and lifting them to excellence. Their motive is to see their followers progress. This is what drives them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A "Holy of Holies"

All those who are intensely interested in education and children need a "Holy of Holies" to where they can retreat when all around them is falling apart. This place allows a person to remain calm in the face of storms. Knowing one has done the best he can at the moment gives comfort while leaving solutions to problems and results of one's efforts up to God. Even if all one's work has turned to ashes, he is able to say, "So let it be. I will build again."

One example of someone who had to build again was Thomas Carlyle, a 19th century Scot essayist. He shared his first draft of his history of the French Revolution with John Stuart Mill. The latter accidentally let his housemaid use the papers to kindle a fire. Carlyle had to reproduce the book from scratch.

Another example is Ernest Hemingway in 1922. Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, was traveling by train to Switzerland carrying a suitcase containing all that Ernest had written up to that point. The case was stolen. Legend has it that when Ernest started writing again, his writing was even better and made him into the author whose works we now cherish.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have Haste Without Being In A Hurry

We are in too much of a hurry. We want what we want, and we want it right now. Fast food restaurants, FAX machines, and over night delivery are just three perfect examples of things that were instituted to meet this demand. Yet, everything that is great in life is a product of slow growth. Nature itself never hurries. It takes decades for an acorn to become an oak tree.

The undesirable fruits of hurry are impatience, fret, worry, and confusion. It uses up unfocused energy as a substitute for a clearly defined plan.

Hurry is a counterfeit of haste. Haste has an ideal, distinct aim that uses the most efficient and best methods to get there. It's course is determined with one compass to give direction. Hurry, on the other hand, is guided by all kinds of different compasses hoping that at least one will get to some kind of desired destination.

Resource: These thoughts were based on thoughts by William George Jordan in the book The Majesty of Calmness.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writing Makes An Exact Man

According to Sir Francis Bacon, "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." Writing about what one has read with attention adds meaning and clarity to one's work and one's life.

Therefore, it would behoove both principals and teachers to seek for ways to write, not only encourage their students to write. Some writing opportunities:
  • Handwritten letters and notes
  • Reflective journal
  • Dialogue journal
  • Articles for professional journals and/or newletters
  • Grants
  • Book (s)
  • Blogs
  • Letters to the Editor

Being an example of writing, educators can encourage students to write.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lessons from Rafe Esquith

Another great mentor is Rafe Esquith who taught students in low-income areas. Some great lessons to learn from him:
  • Tell students that you aren't smarter than they are, just more experienced.
  • Show students every day how they have grown intellectually.
  • Have high standards and teach them how to reach those high standards.
  • Tell children when they are behind and develop a plan to help them catch up.
  • Be willing to work with students before school, after school, during school vacations to help them master their subjects.

Resource for these attributes of Rafe Esquith: Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lessons Learned From Marva Collins

Associating with and learning from great educators helps us become great educators. Marva Collins is an excellent mentor. What we can learn from her--someone who taught Chicago children who had been judged and discarded:
  • She was fascinated with the process of learning and continues to learn along with the students.
  • On the first day of school she promised all her students that they would learn and she forged a contract with them.
  • She didn't blame the students for any lack of success they had experienced. She blamed the system for failing them.
  • She set extremely high standards for all the students and taught them words and concepts way beyond their grasp at first. She taught them how to reach the high standards.
  • She created an atmosphere of genuine acceptance and cared about every student.

These characteristics of Marva Collins come from the book: Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Four Things To Do To Keep On Growing

Four things we can do as educators to keep on growing professionally:
  1. Studying a topic for only ten minutes a day can make someone an expert on that topic. Ten minutes a day translates into 3560 minutes in a year--or 60 hours.
  2. Read 20 pgs. a day--not just professional material but also recreational books, including books written for the age group of the students you teach.
  3. Develop at least one new skill each year.
  4. Continually use one's attributes, characteristics, and talents. One of Charlie Jones's seven "tremendous" laws of leadership is Use or Lose. This includes attributes, characteristics, and talents.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It Is Not Good For Man or Woman to Be Alone

Men and women have unique gifts that are particular to their gender. These gifts complement each other. It's the uniting of them that creates a whole. A school will only reach its full potential when the men and women within its walls work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other's strengths.

These thoughts are built upon the thoughts of Sheri Dew in her book No One Can Take Your Place.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trading Isn't Giving

"Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think." Henry Wadworth Longfellow
Learning to give--without expecting anything in return--is a law of leadership, according to Charlie "Tremendous" Jones. This means even expecting to be thanked. If we stand around waiting to be thanked we will waste valuable time that could be used giving something else. If something is expected in return then that is trading and not giving.
The more one gives even if no one seems to notice or appreciate it all is not lost because one's capacity to give is growing as well as one's ability to be an effective leader.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Sense of Urgency

We must have a sense of urgency about the importance of the work we are doing. Those who don't have a sense of urgency tend to drift into complacency, mediocrity, and failure. Having a sense of urgency gives us the energy needed to do the important tasks at hand today. It's a DO IT NOW! attitude.

It would be helpful to pray that Heavenly Father would bless us with this sense of urgency in our work and then act as if we have been blessed with this gift.

Thanks to the words of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones for inspiring this

Friday, December 10, 2010

Counsel Instead of Advice

I didn't become acquainted with the work of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones until yesterday when I realized he was the author of one of my favorite quotes. Since yesterday's post I've taken some time to find out more about this man. He is an incredible person with lots of wisdom.

One bit of wisdom that I learned from him was that rather than asking people for advice about what we should do we should seek counsel instead. He defined counsel as something we do to gather information from different sources. After gathering this counsel we need to make our own decision--with the help of God.

When people ask for our advice Jones recommends that we encourage them to read books that will get them to think and share it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Wisdom of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

"You're the same person today as you'll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read," declared Charlie "Tremendous" Jones. In other words, if we want to grow as an educator we need to meet new people and read. Reading is a great way to meet new people--not only the people in the books but the author, too. I've met many authors by contacting them after reading something they wrote that touched me.

Because people and books can have such an impact on who we become it would behoove us to seek out the best books and quality people. The best books can be fiction as well as nonfiction and self-help books. Biographies and autobiographies are great, too.

Charlie "Tremendous" Jones shared a great idea. He said that instead of giving people business cards which people usually throw away give people a book with your name and contact information inside.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wise Counsel For Any Leader

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gave some suggestions on leadership that would be wise for any leader to follow:
  • Focus on people, not programs
  • Be innovative
  • Delegate responsibilities so others may grow--counsel and motivate but don't do the work that has been delegated to others
  • Dedicate the greatest attention to priorities which will be different at different times
  • Do the best you can


"¡Oh, sed prudentes!", Liahona, noviembre de 2006, págs. 18-20

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Value of Storytelling

I use to get very impatient with stories in books and presentations saying to myself, "Give me the facts and get to the bottom line." I changed my tune about stories once I realized that the stories is what I remembered best.

What is it about stories that causes us to remember them? They touch our emotions because we can see ourselves in the story wondering what we would do in a similar situation. Our students are no different. Fiction books are a great way to introduce students to stories. Biographies and autobiographies are great, too.

Sharing stories also creates a bond between the storyteller and the listeners. That may be one reason Abraham Lincoln is loved and revered so much--He was a terrific storyteller.

We can improve our storytelling skills by telling stories and learning from the best. Every summer there is the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Utah that would be great to attend.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writing Letters

Last night on 60 Minutes Andy Rooney talked about the many letters he had received throughout the years that he kept in a special box. Many of these letters were from his colleagues as well as people in the political arena and entertainment field--very busy people who took time to write a handwritten note.

With all the many new technological ways to communicate--texting, email, Facebook, etc.--who still doesn't like to receive in the mail--amongst all the junk mail--a handwritten letter with a real stamp?

Writing letters is an authentic way to teach students about writing. Students can write all kinds of letters-- to each other, younger students, famous people, the editor of a newspaper, etc. It could be that some of those letters will be kept in someone else's treasured box and/or be a part of history some day.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Credibility is the foundation of leadership. People want to believe in their leaders. People who believe in their leaders because those leaders are credible show greater commitment and loyalty to the organization. This leads to more energy and more productivity within the organization.

How does a leader become credible? Do what you say you will do (DWYSYWD)--keep promises. This builds trustworthiness which is a key element of credibility. It's a good idea to underpromise and overdeliver. It's also important to "walk the talk" because people believe what you do more than what you say-- our actions more than our words tell who we really are. It's like the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say." A credible leader is also someone who stands for something and has the courage to stand by her convictions.

It bears repeating--credibility is the foundation of leadership.

The foundation for this post comes from:
Encouraging the Heart by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Unexamined Wallpaper"

Richard Elmore coined the phrase "unexamined wallpaper." In other words, certain ways of doing things have become such a part of the school or classroom culture that it is not questioned whether it helps to achieve important goals.

This reminds me of the story of the woman who always cut off part of the roast before putting it in the pan. Someone finally asked her why she did that. She said that she didn't know but her mother had always done it. The mother said she had only done it because her mother had. When the grandmother was asked why she did it she replied that the roast was too big for the pan she had.

An educator must continually ask himself what the ultimate goal is and if what he is doing--even if has become the way of doing things around here--helps to achieve that goal.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Evidence Needs to Trump Ideology and Mandates

I have recently read two books--Big Brother and the National Reading Curriculum by Richard Allington and The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller-- that are reminders that educators must not let ideology and/or mandates dictate what happens in the classroom. Teachers who have a desire to be the best teacher possible for their students will earnestly search out what works to achieve the goals that are most important.

For instance, it does no good to create a generation of people who are aliterate--people who know how to read but don't. If we can help create in students a love for books and for learning they will have a much greater desire to learn to read. Separating reading skills from books makes most young people hate reading.

Where we put our energies, time, and monies show what we value most. Therefore, if we value creating a generation of people who read it would probably be wise for us to put our energies, time, and monies into stocking our classroom and school libraries rather than into computer programs and packaged curriculums that only focus on reading skills.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Lose-Lose Situation

Teachers are being asked more and more to objectify and standardize their teaching rather than do authentic teaching. This kind of teaching is not need-satisfying for students. This leads to discipline problems. The discipline problems cause the teachers to become frustrated. Their frustration causes them to demand more ineffective coercive practices such as detention and suspension to deal with the resistant students. Students who are frequent recipients of these coercive practices become hardened towards them and have no fear of them. Obviously in this scenario no one wins as it is a lose-lose situation for everyone.

Thoughts for this posting:
The Quality School by William Glasser

Friday, November 26, 2010

There's No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

There is sufficient evidence as to what works for minority and/or low income students. Books have been written by individual teachers and books have been written about successful teachers and schools that have made a difference for this population. Therefore, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. We already know what principles and strategies work.

One of the latest examples is a school in Salt Lake City--Guadalupe School charter school--which was recently honored for closing the achievement gap. What are some of the things that this school with a 95% Hispanic student population do to close the achievement gap:
  • Offers door-to-door transportation which lessens family mobility concerns
  • Provides an early childhood program which starts at birth by sending parent educators into homes weekly to mentor moms and dads
  • Students begin attending the school's PreK program at age 3
  • All of the teachers are "highly-qualified" and ESL Endorsed
  • Requires 100% attendance at Parent/Teacher Conferences and does whatever it takes to make sure that happens
  • Supports a strong volunteer program consisting of community volunteers who come at least once a week to provide one-on-one interaction with students
  • Works with the whole child which includes having a mobile clinic visit the campus every six weeks

Guadalupe has been in existence for many years. It would behoove other schools serving a similar student population to learn from this school and search for ways to apply the same principles and strategies rather than look for excuses as to why it can't be done in their setting.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Love of Reading Is Caught

Love of reading is caught not taught. The reason Oprah Winfrey has been able to inspire millions of people to read the books in her Book Club is because she is an avid reader herself. It is not uncommon for her to read 3 books in a week-end. Therefore, she is in a position to discuss a book in a way that whets the appetite of others.

If teachers are to inspire their students to read they might want to consider how they can become more like Oprah in this regard. There are studies that have shown that most teachers do not read professional journals or books and only 25% of them read 3-4 books in a month. An additional 20% said they had read nothing in the last six months. Educators are not reading much more than the general population. Yet, they have the responsibility to help develop in their students a love for reading.

Administrators can help. Research about teachers has shown that in schools where their administrators talk about books and professional journals, the teachers read more on their own. Administrators can also encourage teachers to join professional organizations--maybe even paying for the membership--because educators who belong to professional organizations read more professional journals.

Some ideas for this post:
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Welcome the New Potential Irreplaceables

There are a number of things that a principal can do to make the new potential irreplaceables feel welcome right from the start. It would be great if the principal would take them to lunch before the school year starts. If someone could go to the restaurant ahead of time to leave gifts such as a school t-shirt and personal business cards at each setting would add to the welcome feeling.

Another idea would be to have an Orientation meeting specifically for the new teachers and answer any questions they may have as well as let them know of opportunities that are available for them to grow professionally. It could be helpful to have a panel of teachers who are relatively new to the school to share what they wish someone had told them when they first started to work at the school.

Assigning a buddy as well as a mentor can also help the new teacher navigate the new environment and feel welcome.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Dr. William Glasser states that one of our basic needs is to have fun. This is just as important for teachers as it is for students.

When I was at Jackson Elementary our principal at the time, Ernie Nix, showed us the film FISH Philosophy about Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington. They had learned at this market the importance of fun in the workplace. There is also a book Fish! Catch the Energy written by the owner of the market, John Yokoyama.

Principals can do a lot to make the school a place of fun for the teachers. It starts with the attitude. With the right attitude the principal will think of ways to make a teacher's day and be there to provide undivided, caring attention. This is especially important for those teachers who are irreplaceables.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Recruiting and Retaining the "Irreplaceables" Is the Goal

Our school can become a quality school if we hire AND keep the best teachers. The best teachers are "irreplaceables"--the SUPERSTARS. The #2 irreplaceable is the teacher who influences his/her classroom by continually striving to be the best possible teacher while the #1 irreplaceable has a positive impact on the entire school in addition to the classroom. The #1 irreplaceable is like the #4 missionary Hartman Rector, Jr. describes in his book Already to Harvest. He is not only successful but everyone around him is, too. He thinks of things that have never been tried before. He has tunnel vision--always thinking of ways he can teach with greater effectiveness. He is bold, but not overbearing. He is enthusiastic, but not fanatical.

The next group of teachers is the "solids"--those who are hardworking and dependable but haven't reached the irreplaceable level, yet. The third group of teachers is what we can call the "replacements"--those who are not very good and those who are negative forces.

To recruit and retain the irreplaceables we need to understand what motivates them--achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement, and personal growth. Principals need to find ways to support the irreplaceables in these areas such as making sure that no matter how tight the budget may be monies need to be available for professional development. Also, they need to be recognized for the work they are doing. If irreplaceables don't receive these motivators that support their professionalism they will be the first to leave.

Two sources for this information:
  • Already to Harvest by Hartman Rector, Jr.
  • Six Types of Teachers by Douglas J. Fiore and Todd Whitaker

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who Is More Important Than What

Who is a more important variable than what. In other words, it's always people, not programs that determine the quality of a school. Therefore, focusing on recruiting, hiring, and retaining the best people will pay greater dividends than focusing on what new program to implement.

The best people are mavericks and want to leave their mark. They are eccentric--rebels, radicals, and revolutionaries--who walk down unconventional paths. These people are willing to leave the safe harbor.

"It is always from the minority acting in ways different from what the majority would prescribe that the majority in the end learns to do better," advises Friedrich August von Hayek.

Ideas based on the works of:
  • What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker
  • High-Velocity Cultural Change by Price Pritchett
  • My Years As a Hispanic Youth Advocate by Barbara Lovejoy

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bring In A New Breed

It's hard to improve a school culture without a new breed. A new breed can expose people to new ways of thinking and working. Therefore, when hiring new people it's advantageous to bring on people who are better than the people who left. In other words, the new teacher hired should be the best teacher in the school with the goal being that the school will become more like the new teacher.

When hiring this new breed look for those who will not only be excellent in the classroom but will also have a profound influence on the whole school. Also, focus on talents. Those who have the talent to love students, are bright minded, have a positive attitude, have a congenial personality, have a great work ethic, and have leadership skills will learn the needed skills and eventually in the long run outperform those who are resting on experience and credential laurels.

These thoughts are taken from the following works:
  1. What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker
  2. High-Velocity Culture Change by Price Pritchett and Ron Pound

Thursday, November 18, 2010

High Expectations for Whom?

I was reading a book What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker that gave me some food for thought. He said that almost all teachers, whether they are effective or not, have high expectations of students. He said that it is the same for principals concerning teachers. What separates effective teachers and principals from those who are less effective is that they also have even higher expectations for themselves.

Educators who have high expectations for themselves would constantly be learning and growing by doing such things as:
  • Attending conferences, seminars, and workshops to learn and to network with others who want to do quality work
  • Finding a mentor and participate in cognitive coaching
  • Reading books and articles
  • Keeping a reflection journal to determine what went well and what could be improved
  • Participating in action research projects
  • Etc.

In other words, the teacher who had high expectations would be to be the head learner in the classroom and the principal who had high expectations would be to be the head learner in the school.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Giving Effective Teachers the Opportunity to Be Effective

I read something this morning in the book The Quality School by Dr. William Glasser that really struck me. He was commenting on why magnet schools are successful--and I would add charter schools. He said the power of innovation is not that it increases the number of effective people, but that it gives effective people a better chance to demonstrate their effectiveness. He went on to say that effective teachers are effective in any school setting but they can be even more effective if they are in a setting where they are managed in the way they manage their students.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Being True to One's Core

For educators who truly want to make a difference it is critical that he or she act from one's own core rather than external mandates. To know one's core I would suggest that each educator buy a journal and then take the necessary time to answer the following questions:
  • Why did I become an educator?
  • What do I stand for as an educator?
  • What do I think is important in education?
  • What are the gifts that I bring to my work?
  • What do I want my legacy as an educator to be?
  • What can I do to remember my own heart?
  • What do I value most?
  • What do my strong interests and passions tell me about my purpose in life?
  • What opinions do I have about education that I passionately care about?
  • What is my vision of a quality school? What would I specifically be doing in such a school?
  • What behaviors would I never engage in if I were in a quality school?
  • What kinds of things would I say to all the different stakeholders in a quality school?

Ideas for these questions came from the book Inspiriting Quality in Your School by Robert A. Sullo and Failure Is Not An Option by Alan Blankstein.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Educators: Always Be Engaged With Learning

All the educators (and many times other stakeholders, too!) must stay constantly engaged with the body of knowledge about what works for Hispanic students. This knowledge can come from numerous sources:
  • Membership in national and local organizations--and reading the journals and other publications from those organizations
  • Subscriptions to journals specifically related to Hispanic learners
  • Attendance at national and local conferences, workshops, seminars, classes
  • Reading books and articles by the experts in the field and then provide "cliff notes" for others
  • Collaboration with others within the school as well as outside of the school
  • Mentors and networks
  • A personal reflection journal
  • Participation in teacher action research projects
  • Writing articles for different publications
  • Participation in a blog
  • Visits to others classrooms and schools
  • Choose an area of expertise and spend 10 minutes every day learning about that topic
  • Videos and DVDs
  • Participation in cognitive coaching

Some of these ideas can be divided amongst staff members. For instance, each staff member can join a different organization and then share what is learned with other staff members and stakeholders. Each teacher should develop his or her own professional development plan that is shared with the principal and other staff members. The idea is to be continually learning AND applying what is learned so students are constantly provided with the best we can give them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Student Voices Provide Insights

Student voices provide insight as to what makes an effective teacher:
  • The teacher is deeply interested in students and the materials being taught
  • The teacher conducts class discussions and doesn't lecture much
  • The teacher is able to relate to them on their level
  • The teacher doesn't use coercion--threatening and punishing
  • The teacher makes an effort to be entertaining by using humor, drama, and a variety of teaching methods

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teaching Methods to Meet the Needs of Hispanic Learners

It would be beneficial for educators who are serving Hispanic learners to become very familiar with the following:
  • Thematic teaching: Susan Kovalik
  • Brain based research: Eric Jensen and Susan Kovalik
  • Multiple intelligences: Howard Gardner
  • Cooperative learning: Spencer Kagan
  • Differentiated instruction: Carol Ann Tomlinson

When attending trainings on these topics it's important to keep in mind how they can be adapted to specifically meet the needs of Hispanic learners as well as students in general.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Risk A Quality Teacher Wanabee Faces

When I first started to teach a veteran teacher admonished me, "Quit working so hard. It makes the rest of us look bad." I was shocked.

Not only do teachers who want to be quality teachers get criticized for working hard but also for caring too much. They are told that too much personal involvement is unprofessional. To give no heed to these criticisms is important, especially when working with the Hispanic population. Hispanics as a whole hold teachers in very high esteem and they tend to invite them to many of their special family events such as weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, confirmations, baby showers, quinceañeras, etc.

One of the ways teachers can combat the unpopularity they may face for what they belief and do is to intentionally befriend their critics. They can do this by asking their critics for their opinion or advice about something or ask them to lunch or dinner. But whatever these quality teacher wanabees choose to do it is extremely important not to let the critics' negativity rub off on them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Make the System Work for Them

Effective teachers learn how to make the bureaucracy serve them rather than vice versa. They become personally acquainted with people in the bureaucracy so those people are aware of their passion for children and their classroom success stories. They know that when people in power positions know you are successful they tend to leave you alone. Success in itself is powerful.

Having this personal connection also makes it easier to become savvy about which rules and policies must be obeyed and which can be ignored. This way teachers can do the very least that is required in order to devote their time and energy to their students.

Also, the teachers who are personally connected to the people in the bureaucracy they tend to get more "favors" from those people to help them better serve their students. In other words, they have learned how to make the system work for them instead of against them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Theory to Practice and Vice Versa

It has always surprised me that many teachers only want to attend professional development opportunities where they can learn practices they can implement on Monday. They don't seem to have much interest in the theory--the why. This could be one explanation as to why there is such a strong disconnect between university professors/researchers and practitioners.

Effective teachers seem to be able to cross this divide. They use generalized principles that they learn from research done by researchers about what constitutes good teaching and learning for the student population in their classrooms to develop classroom practices. They also reflect on other practices they implement to see if generalized principles support those practices. Part of this reflection may include teacher action research projects and/or keeping a reflective journal that they then can share with a university professor/researcher or publish in an academic journal.

When teachers participate in this kind of learning they will experience continued professional growth resulting in better teaching and student learning.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Student Learning--Highest Priority

The highest priority and ultimate value for teachers who make a difference is student learning. They always choose the children over the system. It means they use texts to help them teach rather than allowing texts to use them. They understand it's a great idea to use a variety of texts rather than be tied to a classroom set of one text. Plus, teaching methods which have proven to be effective such as the Project Method and Thematic Teaching require more indepth study than one text would provide. By focusing on student learning teachers teach and students learn rather than just "cover" the curriculum.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bridging the Mainstream Culture and the Home Culture

In order to be successful students need to learn the "power codes" of society--the mainstream culture BUT the culture of the home should serve as a foundation rather an obstable to be overcome. The two need to be bridged:
  • Incorporate the students' languages, cultures, and daily experiences into the academic and social context of schooling AND
  • Explicitly teach the school's (and society's) codes and customs

To better understand how to do the first, educators can make home visits, confer with community members, talk with parents, consult with minority educators, and observe children in and out of school.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Few Other Tips About Discipline

Dr. William Glasser in his book Quality School gives some thoughts about discipline that would be wise to remember:
  • It's always what we want at the time--survival, love/belonging, freedom/choice, power, fun-- that causes our behavior. That which we get from the outside--threats or rewards--is only information.
  • Kicking students out of class or school does not deal with the basic problem or achieve what needs to happen which is getting them involved in quality learning.
  • It's best to deal with disruptive students without notifying parents. We should strive to only contact parents to tell them positive things.
  • When there is a problem with a student or students don't waste time trying to find fault or blame. It doesn't really matter.
  • When confronted with a disruptive student, don't threaten, get angry, or sulk and take it personally.
  • Stay calm when dealing with a disruptive student so as not to focus on what the student said or did no matter how out of order.

These tips are easier said than done but they are all worth incorporating the best we can...and our best will keep getting better.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Thoughts on Discipline

Too often we continue to use a response to undersirable behavior that isn't working. For instance, some things that probably aren't producing desired behavior are suspensions for a specified number of tardies or a payment of $5 for being out of uniform a specified number of times or changing one's color card for a rule infraction. Brian Mendler, a national behavior mangagement expert, suggests a different approach.

He suggests that if we value something, we can grade it. For example, if you value students being on time then give each student an A who is on time--seated and ready to work. Ten A's in a row equals a 100% quiz grade. This idea could be applied to anything else you might value such as observing the dress code or being courteous. In other words, you are noticing the behavior you do want. As Brian mentions this might also be a way for a student who struggles in class to get an A for once.

To receive Brian's monthly newletter or arrange for him to do a presentation contact at the Teacher Learning Center. Brian also authored the book Taming of the Crew which I highly recommend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Word About Discipline

Discipline problems are rare and infrequent in classrooms and schools that serve all children well. If there are a number of discipline problems it is time for adults to see it as a problem with the system, not a student problem. A discipline problem is evidence that something isn't working. In other words, the cause for the behavior--not the symptom-- must be what is addressed.

When a child does misbehave the focus should be on what is creating the problem rather trying to find the best punishment. After all, punishment doesn't work! And because the motivation for a misbehavior is different for each child, the response must be equitable and fair rather than equal.

When a student is being disciplined--separated from other students in the classroom, sent to the principal, or suspended--learning is not taking place for that student. This will obviously have an effect on the student's academic achievement.

Proactive disciplinarians establish strong and powerfully reinforced expectations of appropriate conduct. When teachers combine this with interesting learning activities and caring relationships with each students, they won't have to waste learning time disciplining. Therefore, teachers will ask "How can I involve them?" rather than "How can I control them?"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Avoiding Teacher Burnout

A sure way method to avoid teacher burnout is hard work. Working hard can be energizing IF the work is helping to fulfill one's higher calling or commitment. When teachers are working together as a team and experiencing success they are willing to do whatever is required even if it means teaching Saturday morning classes and/or doing before or after school tutoring--even when there are no funds to pay them!

So what needs to be done?
  • Teachers need to view their work as a calling.
  • Teachers need to align themselves with a school that has a compelling vision/mission that matches their personal vision/mission.
  • Teachers need to have opportunities to collaborate and to work as a team to achieve the vision/mission.
  • Teachers and their students need to have successes they can celebrate because success breeds success.

Teachers who are able to meet these four criteria will be better able to confront those external factors that result in burnout because of the stress they cause.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Part of the Job

How ludicrous it would be for a dentist to tell a person with a toothache that he couldn't help him or for a lawyer to tell a person accused of a crime that he only took cases that had nothing to do with a crime or for a doctor to declare that he doesn't want any patients who are sick. That is what professionals do--deal with the problems people are facing. Yet, too many teachers demand that they only want students who are ready to learn--students without any problems.

Effective teachers believe and accept that problems of students will always be part of a teacher's job. They see problems as part of their normal, expected workload. They are not too hasty in wanting to pass off a student problem to the principal, the school psychologist/social worker, and/or to the Special Education teacher expecting them to resolve the problem.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It Doesn't Matter How Much You Care for Me

Effective teachers establish close and personal relationships with their students BUT they don't need their students to love them. In other words, they don't use their students to fill their own emotional needs. This will help a teacher avoid taking personally what students do or don't do and thus be in a better position to focus on the needs of the students.

A favorite quote of mine is, "It doesn't matter how much you care for me, but rather that I love you enough." It's important to remember that love can be an action even when it isn't a feeling. A teacher may not feel love for all his students but he can still demonstrate respect and care for all students. A teacher does this when he feels it is his responsibility to teach all students as much as possible regardless of how he feels about them.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Authentic Relationships with Students

When students are asked about a teacher who has made a difference they mention that this teacher was not just an instructor of academic skills but also someone who they knew cared about them. By providing protective factors for students teachers can develop these important authentic relationships with students.

The Search Institute has has identified 40 developmental assets--divided into external and internal-- that help students grow up to be healthy, caring, and responsible. Teachers can address many of them:
  • External asset--support--caring school climate: Child experiences warm, welcoming relationships with teachers, caregivers, and peers at school.
  • External asset--empowerment--service to others: Child has opportunities to serve in the community with adult support and approval.
  • External asset--boundaries and expectations--school boundaries: Schools have clear, consistent rules and consequences and uses a positive approach to discipline.
  • External asset--boundaries and expectations--adult role models: Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior and encourage the child to follow these examples.
  • External asset--boundaries and expectations--high expectations: Parent(s), teachers, and other influential adults encourage the child to do her or his best in all tasks and celebrate their successes.
  • External asset--constructive use of time--child programs: Child participates weekly in at least one sport, club, or organization within the school or community.
  • Internal asset--commitment to learning--learning engagement: Child is enthused about learning and going to school.
  • Internal asset--commitment to learning--bonding to school: Child is encouraged to have and feels a sense of belonging at school.
  • Internal asset--social competencies--cultural competence: Child continues to learn about her or his own culture identity and is encouraged to interact positively with children of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
  • Internal asset--positive identity--self-esteem: Child likes herself or himself and feels valued by others.

For more information on the 40 assets, the 40 assets by age levels, a Spanish translation of the assets, and much more valuable information visit the website

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Poem That Teaches a Valuable Lesson

My last post reminded me of the following poem:

by Edward Rowland Sill
This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:-
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A princes' banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel--
That blue blade that the king's son bears,--but this
Blunt thing!"--he snapt and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout
Lifted afresh, he hewed his enemy down,
And save a great cause that heroic day.

Waiting for Superman

Although I haven't seen the actual movie Waiting for Superman, yet, I have watched some discussions about it-- The Oprah Winfrey show, the town hall meeting with Joe and Mika, and the town hall meeting with Brian Williams. These discussions reminded me of something I read from a teacher a few years back when she bemoaned the fact that she was tired of hearing about such super teachers as Erin Gruwell and Jaime Escalante.

It saddens me to hear people make excuses as to why they can't achieve the same success that successful teachers and/or schools have. They blame the victim, society, the bureaucracy, lack of resources, and other external factors for their inability to make a difference for children. Wouldn't it be wiser to say, "If they can do it, so can I. What can I learn from them? Of course, I can't be an exact replicate, but I can apply the same principles to my situation." This would be a lot more productive than wasting one's energy making excuses as to why it can't be done in your situation and criticizing those who have been successful.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teachers Need to be Warm Demanders

Relationships form the foundation of every classroom. In fact, caring relationships are at the very heart of the matter for student achievement.

Even though almost all teachers enter the teaching profession because they care about children, a large number of students, especially low-achieving students, feel "no one cares." What can teachers do to show they care?

Being a "warm demander" as described by Judith Kleinfield and later by James Vasquez characterizes the kind of caring that is effective, especially for ethnically diverse students. Warm demanders are committed, respectful, dedicated, and competent educators who are not afraid, resentful, or hostile towards their students. They provide a tough-minded, no-nonsense, structured, and disciplined classroom that creates a supportive psychological environment that scaffolds student engagement and achievement and exhibits a strong belief in their students' strengths and capabilities. These warm demanders display a "purpose of insistence" which means that they insist that the students meet established academic and behavioral standards. Because they have the attitude that not only can all their students learn but that they must learn they never give up on a child.

By establishing this type of caring relationship with their students warm demanders convince their students that they believe in them and that they have their best interests at heart.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"The Best and Brightest"

The 15 attributes identified by Dr. Martin Haberman and not GPA (Grade Point Average) describe "the best and brightest" population for teaching diverse learners:
  1. they are over age 30
  2. they live in or were raised in metropolitan area
  3. they have attended schools in a metropolitan area as a child or youth
  4. they are parents or have had life experiences which involved extensive relationships with children
  5. they are African American, Latino, members of a minority group, or from a working class white family
  6. they earned a bachelors degree from other than a highly selective or elitist college; many started in community colleges
  7. they majored in a field other than education as an undergraduate
  8. they have had extensive and varied work experiences before seeking to become teachers
  9. they are part of a family/church/ethnic community in which teaching is still regarded as a fairly high-status career
  10. they have experienced a period of living in poverty or have the capacity to emphasize with the challenges of living in poverty
  11. they have had out-of-school experiences with children of diverse backgrounds
  12. they may have had military experience but not as an officer
  13. they live in the city or would have no objection to moving into the city to meet a residency requirement
  14. they have engaged in paid or volunteer activities with diverse children in poverty
  15. they can multitask and do several things simultaneously and quickly for extended periods, such as parenting and working part time jobs

Obviously these attributes won't guarantee that a teacher will be successful with Hispanic learners but the likelihood is greater that they will succeed and remain at a school with a high Hispanic population.


Haberman, M. (2005) Star Teachers the Ideology and Best Practice of Effective Teachers of Diverse Children and Youth in Poverty. The Haberman Educational Foundation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who Is Highly Qualified?

A "good teacher" is not necessarily a good teacher everywhere with everyone. In other words, teachers who are very effective with white middle class native English speaking students may not experience the same success with Hispanic students. Therefore, rather than seek teacher candidates who fit a certain general profile to work in schools with a high Hispanic population, it would make more sense to select and train those individuals who are most appropriate for this particular population.

Knowing this should cause us to rethink what is meant by highly qualified. That term is relative--depending on the situation. Plus, the best and brightest as determined by the scores on assessment tests given to teacher candidates as well as their grades are not good predictors of success with the Hispanic student population.

We obviously need to do some rethinking if we are going to better serve our Hispanic learners.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Being Hispanic Isn't Sufficient

It definitely could be advantageous for a school that serves a high percentage of Hispanic students to have a Hispanic principal who is biliterate. Being someone the students can view as a role model is one advantage. Another benefit would be that the Hispanic principal may understand issues the students are facing and know how to overcome barriers and obstacles better than someone from another culture.

Yet, just being Hispanic isn't sufficient. I have seen both extremely effective Hispanic education leaders and those who were less than effective. Plus, when I have interviewed successful Hispanics and asked them who influenced them in their academic pursuits more often than not they mentioned a teacher, a leader, and/or a mentor who was not Hispanic. It was the interest and caring that mattered more than the culture.

I have come to the conclusion that having a Hispanic principal could be a bonus but not a necessity if a school is to meet the needs of our Hispanic learners.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Indirect Influence of the Principal

The indirect impact a principal has relies on the influence the principal has on other people or features of the school. This would include the climate of the school. Does the principal create an inviting and professional community for the teachers and other staff members? In other words, the principal is influencing the influencers by creating a climate that allows them to become quality educators who have an impact on student achievement.

When principals take a stance that student achievement is central to their role the influence is greater. No matter how small that influence may be, it will be significant if the principal has a deep understanding of how students learn and continually advocates for these principles of learning. In fact, schools are unlikely to have a signifant impact on student achievement without highly effective principals.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lessons from Sokolow and Houston

I recently finished reading a great book Spirituality in Educational Leadership. In the book there is a chapter by Stephen L. Sokolow and Paul D. Houston where they identify 8 key principles that will help leaders lead more effectively. I believe these identified principles are especially helpful for leaders wanting to reach Hispanic learners.

The 8 principles are:
  1. The Principle of Intention: Knowing what you want to have happen in a particular situation and also the motivation below this ultimate goal...and then sending this out into the Universe will create energy and attract people, material resources, etc. to make it a reality.
  2. The Principle of Attention: Energy flows were attention goes. What you think about, talk about, write about, and do is where you are putting your attention and this attention will act like a magnet.
  3. The Principle of Unique Gifts and Talents: You must discover your unique talents and gifts, then cultivate and develop them, and then share them and then help others within your influence and stewarship to do the same. This is a continuing process as you take advantage of new opportunities and learning new things.
  4. The Principle of Gratitude: Have an attitude of gratitude towards both the positive and challenging things that come. Having an attitude of gratitude is a form of energy that has the power to attract and empower...and beget more gratitude.
  5. The Principle of Unique Life Lessons: Be reflective about all that is happening in your life seeing how problems can be opportunities to learn and grow.
  6. The Principle of A Holistic Perspective: This means being willing to see things from different perspectives and helping others to do the same. This includes being able to see how the parts and the whole are connected.
  7. The Principle of Openness: This means doing the work of opening your mind, heart, and spirit moment by moment in order to be receptive to the limitless information of the Universe.
  8. The Principle of Trust: Trust is the foundation of leadership. First be a trustworthy person. Then start trusting that each person is innately good and treat him/her accordingly which help bring out the best in others and empower them. In other words, trust is a choice you make, not about the other person.

For more information you can visit the website:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Principal Behaviors Affect Learning

The effectiveness of the principal has been found to be only second to teacher quality as a factor in student achievement. Yet, the principal factor may be underestimated because the principal can affect achievement indirectly as well as directly.

In today's posting the direct ways will be mentioned. These include visiting classrooms, frequently interacting with students, publicly celebrating accomplishments of students, and maintaining visibility around the school.

Listening to student voices--especially those of diverse learners and low achieving students--has provided added insights as to what principal behaviors contribute to their learning such as:
  • Not only do principals need to be visible, but they also need to be approachable. They make themselves available to speak with students and engage with them letting students know they are interested in their personal academic challenges and successes.
  • The principals not only visited classrooms on a regular basis but they were interacted with the students while in the classroom.
  • Principals who exhibited both administrative and teacher behaviors were more influential than those who only exhibited administrative behaviors.

The impact of leadership tends to be greatest where the learning needs of students are most acute. In fact, it is next to impossible to meet the needs of diverse learners without the critical component of effective and powerful leadership.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Principals and Spiritual Leadership

When I was at BYU working on my doctorate I wrote a paper for one of my classes about the leadership of principals and diverse learners. My conceptual framework was:
  • Principals have the potential to have an impact on student academic achievement
  • Diverse learners have specific, unique needs that, if met contribute to their academic success
  • The principles and attributes of spiritual leadership complement the needs diverse learners have to be successful
  • Principals who become spiritual leaders will help diverse learners experience greater academic success

My hypothesis became: Principals who approach their educational leadership role as a spiritual leader will be more effective in helping diverse learners be academically successful. Therefore, over the next few blog postings we'll explore what it means to be a spiritual leader and what it takes to become one.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Call for Great Leaders of the Spirit

Charles H. Malik, the secretary general of the United Nations at the time, said the following during his Brigham Young University "Forum Address" in 1975:

I respect all men, and it is from disrespect for none that I say there are no great leaders in the world today. In fact, greatness itself is laughed to scorn. You should not be great today--you should sink yourself into the herd, you not be distinguished from the crowd you should simply be one of the many.

The commanding voice is lacking. The voice which speaks little, but which when it speaks, speaks with compelling moral authority--this kind of voice is not congenial to this age. The age flattens and levels down every distinction into drab uniformity....This is simply an unrespecting age--it is the age of utter mediocrity. To be come a leader today, even a mediocre leader, is a most uphill struggle. You are constantly and in every way and from every side pulled down.

If you believe in prayer, my friends, and I know you do, then pray that God send great leaders, especially great leaders of the spirit.

Although these words of Malik were spoken 35 years ago they still ring
true. More than ever great leaders of the spirit who rise above
mediocrity are needed, especially in our schools with a high Hispanic

Monday, September 13, 2010

Make School the Most Inviting Place in Town

Dr. William Purkey, the founder of Invitational Education, teaches us how to make our school the most inviting place in town. He teaches that there are four ways we interact with others:

  • We are intentionally disinviting
  • We are unintentially disinviting
  • We are unintentially inviting
  • We are intentially inviting

We would obviously not want teachers and other staff members in our schools who are intentially disinviting to students and other stakeholders but much harm can also be caused by being unintentially disinviting. The latter often happens when we don't understand the culture of other people. For instance, in the Hispanic culture it is important to build some rapport before getting to the bottom line---whether that be in written correspondence or face-to-face communication.

It is wonderful to be inviting but when it is unintentional we are unable to identify what is making a difference. We want to reach the point where we choose to do those things that are inviting. In other words, we purposefully extend intential invitations. Dr. Purkey uses the analogy of the starfish with its five arms to demonstrate the five areas of a school where we want to be intentionally inviting: 1) persons, 2) places, 3) processes, 4) programs, and 5) policies.

Dr. Purkey identifies the disinviting things we do as giving out "orange cards" and the inviting things we do as "blue cards." Blue cards carry a message that the person is able, valuable, and responsible encouraging trust, respect, optimism, and intentionality while orange cards carry exactly the opposite message. Each person requires at least 12 blue cards for every orange card just to "make it through the night." The strength of orange cards is demonstrated by this ratio. Therefore, it is critical that we be intentially inviting by giving out as many blue cards as we possibly can to our students and other school stakeholders on a daily basis.

The following are some books by Dr. Purkey that every school will want to have in its professional library:

  • Becoming an Invitational Leader
  • The Inviting School Treasury
  • From Conflict to Conciliation
  • Inviting School Success
  • Fundamentals of Invitational Education
  • Inviting Positive Classroom Discipline

To learn more about Invitational Education, including how to become a member, visit the wesite:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lessons from Dr. William Glasser

Dr. William Glasser is an internationally recognized psychiastrist who identified five innate needs we all have: 1) survival, 2) love/belonging, 3) power, 4) freedom/choice, and 5) fun that drive the behavior we choose. He has applied his theories to educational settings. One of his most well known successes where he applied his theories is with delinquent girls at the Ventura School in California. There are now a number of mainstream schools that have made a commitment to apply his theories in order to become a quality school.

The following books Dr. Glasser has authored are great resources that everyone who wants to make a difference for Hispanic learners will want to read:
  • Choice Theory in the Classroom
  • Schools Without Failure
  • The Quality School
  • The Quality School Teacher
  • Every Student Can Succeed

For more information visit the website:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Care About AND Care For

The work of Dr. Nel Noddings gives us greater insights into the importance of caring and what it means for our Hispanic learners. Dr. Noddings makes a distinction between "caring about" and "caring for." We can care about many things at a distance--such as starving children in a far away country--without doing anything to change the situation. Yet, caring about can be the foundation that leads us to do something which takes us to the care for realm.

We can care about our Hispanic learners and the fact that they aren't experiencing the academic achievement that they are capable of achieving but until we care for them, nothing will change. If we stay stuck in the caring about, we will look at the data, shake our heads, continue doing what we have always done to preserve the status quo, and then blame a variety of factors other than ourselves when nothing changes. This scenario causes a disconnect with educators insisting that they care while at the same time students are crying out that no one cares about them at school.

If there is to be a change we must move to care for our Hispanic learners. To improve education for them will take more than designing a better curriculum, implementing a better form of instruction, or instituting a better form of classroom management. We must ponder on what it means to truly care for each individual student as an individual...and then do it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

ALL Children Are OUR Children

"The measure of a man's greatness should be based on well he cares for the most vulnerable populations," Mahatma Gandhi wisely counseled. One of our most vulnerable populations is our children--ALL our children. We must do whatever it takes to care for them.

"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children," John Dewey declared. This includes children of color, children from different socioeconomic levels, children who don't speak English, and children from different cultures. In other words, both in society and within the shcool walls we must eliminate the term "those kids." "Those kids" must become "our kids."

Having this attitude will hopefully change views towards the curriculum, instruction, and learning goals. Being "colorblind" to children of different colors is not only insufficient but it is counter productive. For changes in curriculum, instruction, and learning goals to be most appropriate and most effective it is critical for educators to understand and incorporate the culture of their students of color in all aspects of the classroom and school.

According to Dr. Ron Edmunds, "We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far."

Caring Is the Foundation

The research work of Dr. James Joseph Scheurich on the core beliefs and cultural characteristics of highly successful public elementary schools populated by low-socioeconomic status students of color provide some great insights as to how we can better meet the needs of Hispanic learners. One thing he found was the importance of a loving and caring environment.

A school must be a learning community totally devoted and committed to the well-being and the successful learning of each child. In other words, a "family ethos" is created. Creating this kind of environment starts with a quality work environment being provided for the adults in the school--they must be treated in a loving and caring manner by the principal.

Caring is a must. If a school doesn't get this one right all other efforts to make a difference for our Hispanic learners will probably be futile. Caring must be the foundation.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It Will Benefit All of Us

It is to the benefit of all of us to address this challenge and opportunity to better serve our Hispanic learners. The Hispanic populaton is the fastest growing minority population in the U.S. due more to a high fertility rate than to immigration. It is also the youngest population. Therefore, the dismal academic statistics surrounding our Hispanic learners will not only have an impact on their own personal lives but to all U.S. citizens as the Hispanic population becomes a huge part of our future.

The staggering statistic that only about 1/2 of our Hispanic learners are graduating from high school and only a small percentage are going to college let alone graduating from college is of deep concern. Yet, the statistics don't look very promising way before high school when Hispanics score much lower on assessments than their Anglo peers in elementary school.

While we discuss in future postings specific things we can do it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, Hispanic learners do not come to us as "empty slates." We need to look for their assets rather than focus on deficits which too many assessments tend to do. Second, research results from one context usually don't transfer over to another. In other words, what works for Anglo native English speakers won't necessarily be the answer for Hispanic learners. Third, it is important to remember that Hispanic learners are as different from each other as any other group of students. Each student has his/her own personal culture. Yet, the more we learn about the Hispanic culture in general while learning about students' individual cultures could give us clues on how to better serve our Hispanic learners.

Designing schools for Hispanic learners

John Morefield has said, “I have come to believe that a school designed to work for children of color will work for White children. The reverse, however is not true. Consequently, if we design schools to work for children of color, they will work for all children.”

The trick is to learn and understand what does work for children of color and for this blog, specifically what works for Hispanic students. We obviously know what isn’t working. Patricia Gándara says in her book, Over the Ivy Walls:
Our increased understanding of the factors that lead to failure has not appreciably diminished the rate of failure. Perhaps a better understanding of what leads to academic success will yield more fruitful outcomes…an important element missing from most research has been the insights which can be gained from an understanding of how students who don’t fail, in spite of adverse circumstances, manage to escape that fate (pp. xii, 9).

What we will explore and share on this blog is what we can learn from a variety of research sources as to what works for Hispanic learners.