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 G├índara 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.