Putting Covid in the Rearview Mirror

The end of the school year is always a time for a deep sigh. Let’s be honest…more so this school year. But for the last few years, the end of school has been a time of reflection for me. I wrote about these reflections in the past, https://edtechease.com/2020/06/12/reflections/ and https://edtechease.com/2020/02/02/year-end-reflections/.  The first was a reflection on my first year in a new school environment after many years at my previous school. The second was more geared to how I could take what I had learned during Covid quarantine into a new school year with new Covid procedures looming. But the bottom line reflection for both was that relationships are the key to school success. 

This spring I am putting Covid in my rearview mirror and looking forward but first a little refelction. Regardless of wearing masks, I am grateful for having had in-person learning in both of my client schools. A few of my grateful reflection highlights:

  • Being able to give ‘air high 5’s’ while looking at a student has been better than giving them over Zoom. 
  • Not having students miss instructional time (always an issue when zooming).
  • Still celebrating holidays but with some Covid guidelines in place.
  • Seeing students have social interactions at recess instead of on a screen.
  • Seeing the literacy levels of my elementary students soar! This was a multi-year goal. Now on to math.
  • Starting a 4th/5th grade girls advisory that I will continue next year. 
  • Having end of year celebrations in-person!

Moving my eyes from the rearview to the road ahead…goals for the next school year:

  • Adding in Digital Citizenship Goals for each grade level.
    • Digital Citizenship will be my PD focus for the teachers in my client schools next year.
  • Scheduling weekly model lessons for several grade levels at the start of school rather than add them in later in the year. 
  • Doing a better job at not canceling weekly teacher meetings. Seemed to happen too often. 
  • Being flexible as I support the new high school in their inaugural year.

I am also grateful that this summer will not be spent creating Covid policies but rather focusing on curriculum redesigns and a Writing Book Study with teachers. Both of which will benefit students’ educational growth. 

What things have you placed in your rearview mirror? Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Show What YOU Know

That is the theme of our achievement testing week. 

And before I go any further… yes… my two current client schools are having the students do an achievement test. Both are private schools that have been in person all school year. Both have been able to have strict covid guidelines and maintain in person classes. So it was decided to have the achievement testing this year. Unlike many public schools, these private schools are able to use the results of achievement testing as academic growth indicators and growth over time checks. Not as criterion for retention.

Ok, my slight rant is done. 

Show What You Know! Shouldn’t that always be what we are asking students to do on any assessment? In trying to reduce test anxiety, these schools are reminding students that what they know is what we want to know

Next up, parents. This is what we published in our weekly newsletter prior to achievement testing:

How to talk to your child about achievement testing…

  • Deep breaths help to clear your mind when a question is tough.
  • Show What You Know, that is all we want you to do.
  • Don’t leave any questions blank, take your best guess.
  • This test does not tell us how smart you are, it just tells us that you have made progress this year. 
  • Try your best and that is all we want you to do always!

Yesterday had a conversation with the high school girls I work with. When we discussed their achievement teting schedule, one girl asked, ‘Do I need to stress over these?’ The answer I gave is ‘no, this is only one way we monitor your growth this year.’ I hope she heard me.  

How is your school handling  achievement testing this year and progress monitoring?  Checkout another recent blog post on Catching Up, https://edtechease.com/2021/03/29/catching-up/. Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Catching UP

Catching Up. That phrase has been on my mind. By the number of posts and articles, also on a lot of other people’s minds too. I am not going to try to hypothesize what that phrase means to others. Rather I am going to suggest that the phrase, Catching Up, is meaningless to supporting our students. 

Maybe that is a touch bold, or harsh or strong. But after the last year we have had, that is how I feel. As I tell students and my own children, how we feel is never wrong. Rather how we act on our feelings can be inappropriate or even wrong. 

Catching Up is not a Growth Mindset phrase. If we want students, children, to have a Growth Miindset then we need to not talk about them catching up to contrived expectations. Rather we need to look at how we can support the development of their academics, their social-emotional growth, their opportunities. How are we going to take what has worked from the old normal in education, what worked this past year, and what we have hypothesized should work into a growth mindset framework. How are we going to put what’s best for students’ growth first? 

Teachers are not the ones using that phrase. Let me restate that, teachers don’t want to use that phrase. But when standardized testing is still in place, even though some students have not stepped into the school for a year, teachers are made to feel that they need to catch up their students. To catch up to what? To the criteria of the test, a contrived epectation of people not in the classroom, not even in the builiding. 

Now before I get administrators yelling at me, I am an administrator. I walk into classes all day, I talk with teachers, students and parents. I am not ok with giving a standardized test to kids who have not been in a school builiding all year. Giving them a test is stressful enough, now you are adding in the stress of walking into the school for the first time. I am having my students take a standardized test this year because we have been in school all year. We did not take them last year and I am looking for new baselines for next year. I am looking to use these scores to inform my teachers where the students are and as a means to plan for their growth. I am in a private school and can look at scores this way. I can let parents know this is how we will use these scores (and truthfully how I always use these scores). This is one part of an overall assessment of growth. That is my key…learning growth. 

Not all administrators have the luxury of looking at scores as purely a growth indicator. The districts and state regulations make the use of these tests as criteria for an assortment of policies including moving students on to the next grade level and evaluating teachers, schools, disctricts. But using this snapshot of students is not best practices even in a typical school year, which this year was most defintely not.

So let’s stop using the phrase, Cathcing Up. Let’s use the phrase moving forward. Let’s think with a growthmindset frame. Let’s do the right thing for our students, suppport them as we once again redefine what are effective educational practices.

What are your thoughts on the phrase Catching Up?  Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Screen Time Parenting

Last year, before Covid,  I gave an in-person parent workshop on Social Media. I was happy to discuss the more popular social media sites and parental controls. The workshop was well-attended. I think it is important for parents to understand and have the resources to guide their children into making positive social media choices. I had a parent the next morning tell me that she went right home and checked her own privacy settings then made some educated choices about her settings. She also said that her children are young (early elementary and preschool) and it did not really pertain to them right now. But…(here is the point)… this workshop will help her be aware as her children get older. 

When I reveiwed the attendance to that workshop, almost all the parents had kids who were tweens and older. Which is great if this workshop helped them make informed choices about their tweens and older children’s social media access. And how to discuss this topic with their children. But…(here is the point)…families with younger children need to set limits and model healthy media habits too. How parents handle video games and screen time will have lasting effects on their children’s media habits. 

In the past few weeks, I have been approached by several parents to discuss this issue. Even though we have been in school (with a few VIPs – my term for our Zoom students), these families have noticed an increase in screen time because after school playdates are non-existent. And weekends are very long without getting together with friends and families. So I discussed with each of them, then I did a Lunch & Learn Zoom parent discussion about ways to set expectations. To me the key is modeling. Parents need to model healthy digital habits. 

We have seen the commercials and posts…screen free dinners. But it is more than that. It should be more than that. It is leaving the phone in another room when reading to our children at night (or in some cases starting the habit of nightly reading – those benefits belong in a different post). It is watching their sporting and performance events without constantly taking pictures, enjoy the game/performance – not documenting the game/performance seen only through the lens of a camera. Take one and put the phone away. This goes for family outings too. Yes, it is nice to have a picture or three to look at later and reminisce. But that is enough to start the remembering later and the conversation will be just as lovely than being hunched over the phone looking at 25 or more photos. 

Not answering texts when driving. Thinking to start that when children get close to driving is not correct. Those early impressions of you on your phone as you drive are lasting. 

Encourage parents of your students to make a family media plan. When they can use devices and when they should/can not. To start this plan, families should observe and record their device activity for a few days or a week. This will give them the personal data to make a plan. Choosing one area to focus on is easier and more likely to be successful. Maybe a device free dinner for 2 weeknight meals and 1 weekend meal. Of course placing screen time restrictions on children may be a bit more drastic. Allowing vidoe games anytime can be changed to only on non-school nights. Phones are put away at 7 pm for tweens to allow some non digital time before going to bed.

These are doable starts to share with parents. Here is a wonderful book to  have in your school or class library to encourage parents to be present. 

Looking for more information about healthy digital habits and screen time?   Check out my Wakelet collections… https://wakelet.com/i/invite?code=9daa60a and https://wakelet.com/i/invite?code=fe321d1.

Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) if these collections were helpful. If you want me to do a Lunch & Learn with your parents email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Positive>Negative Communications

So after a little hiatus from writing this blog, I am back. I had decided a while ago that if nothing was occupying my thoughts then I was not going to write just to write.  But talking with teachers recently, I am reminded of the necessity of sending out more postive communications to parents. 

The Bank of Goodwill. No it is not an actual bank but it can be just as vital. I think I first heard this term in the book Voice Lessons for Parents by Wendy Mogel This really resonated with me. I have since adopted this term when coaching teachers on parent/teacher communications. I encourage teachers to send out a welcome communication within the 1st week of school that does not only say hello but also recites a positive interacdtions with the student. What better way to say that I am invested in getting to know your child then an actual classroom experience!

Just Google “how many positives to contradict a negative.” The consensus is that it takes 5 positive comments to negate a negative comment. I would extend this to interactions with parents. By starting out with positive comments, teachers can build their Bank of Goodwill. So when they must have a discussion about an academic or behavioral concern, parents know that you have already seen their child in a positive light. 

I suggest to teachers to jot observations on a post it note or any note taking practice. Then they have them for conversations and report cards. Further I propose that they use a calendar and put a student’s name on each day of the school week as a way to organize sending a postive note to parents. That means one positive communication a day, not overwhelming especially if you have anecdotes ready.

So while this article, https://sharpencx.com/blog/positive-and-negative-feedback-ratio/, was not written with school in mind it does make the point about positive feedback (in our case talking to parents). We want parents to work with us to make their child’s school experience one of growth. If we ask them for their support in guiding less effective behaviors into positive ones, we need to start with positive reports.  

So, I know some are saying, really another thing to do in this era of pandemic teaching. Maybe more than ever we need to highlight the positives we see in our students. Parents are also looking for some positives and this may be the best thing you do for your relationship with parents. 

How do you communicate the positive to parents on a regular basis?  Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com. Will share your ideas and successes as my way of giving you the positive feedback you deserve!

Book Shopping

Just a few days ago was Black Friday. Now as it was Black Friday 2020, it was a different Black Friday. But what was the same was the enormous number of texts and emails that I received (and I assume you did too) about the deals available. What this really means to me is that holiday gift shopping season is upon us. So as I think about what to get my nieces and nephews, my own children and their significant others, I come back to BOOKS!

When my children were young, they always received a book and a calendar as part of their Chanukah gifts. A calendar because I think that time management is an important life skill and this was my subtle way of encouraging this. A book because my husband and I truly believe you need to READ to Succeed. 

You may be deciding what to get your children or the parents of your students may be asking. To help I thought I would suggest some book and series ideas. Some oldies but goodies and some newer publications. I am partial to series sets for elementary readers as they love to follow a character or characters on a variety of adventures. 

Kindergarten and 1st Grade 

  • Flat Stanley (I Can Read level 2)
  • Unicorn Diaries (Branches Books)
  • Princess Truly I Am a SuperGirl (Acorn Books)
  • Elephant and Piggie Books(by Mo Williams)
  • Owl Diaries (Branches Books)
  • Frog Meets Dog (A Frog and Dog Book) (Acorn Books)

I am a new big fan of the Branches and Acorn books by Scholastic for young readers. Acorn books are the early reader line. These books are designed for children who are learning to read. The books have easy-to-read text, some are phonics based (see the Frog and Dog books), a short-story format, and pictures on every page. Branches books are for newly independent readers that have easy-to-read text that take into account that these readers also have more comprehension skills that require high-interest content and plots. The books still have illustrations on every page to help with context clues. The books are a little longer to promote more stamina in reading independently.

2nd-4th Grades

(reading levels can be dependent on reading fluency and comprehension skills)

  • Eerie Elementary Series
  • Most Valuable Players Series
  • Cam Jansen Series
  • Ato Z Mysteries Series
  • Magic School Bus Rides Again Series
  • What if you had animal … (non-fiction)
  • I am… (Ordinary People Change the World – biographies)

4th & 5th Grades

  • The Explorers: The Door In The Alley (1st in series)
  • Magyk (Septimus Heap, Book 1)
  • Infinity Ring: #01 A Mutiny In Time
  • We the Children (1) (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School)
  • Don’t Check Out This Book!

This list is far from comprehensive but I hope it gives you a start in your search. Some sites to search too:

You can also find more (and constantly growing) of my lists at these links. 

  1. https://wke.lt/w/s/kChB4V – my Read Alouds Wakelet collection
  2. https://padlet.com/swladis3/xh6aytbp3ht – my Literature Lassos Padlet
  3. https://bit.ly/literaturelassos – Amazon List (no paid affiliation – just a convenient place to create a list)
  4. https://bit.ly/etereluctantreaders – Amazon List (no paid affiliation – just a convenient place to create a list)

Looking for more suggestions?  Reach out and I would be happy to talk BOOKS! Would you like me to come to your school to discuss Literature Lassos?  Reach out via Twitter (@edtechease) or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Changing Perspective

So I have written about perspective before, https://edtechease.com/2020/02/02/perspective/. In that blog piece I touched on how I use perspective in school.  But I have been thinking more about perspective the last few weeks. It came fully to my attention this week when talking to a student’s parents. They told me how their daughter was feeling about her class. I did not agree with how the student was relating her experiences in class. But I stopped myself from arguing and instead said “her perception is her reality.” And this is true. Regardless as to how the teachers are approaching supporting this student in class, if she is not feeling this support, then the support is only partially working. 

Often, perspective comes into my office when I have two (or more) students who visit because of a conflict. My procedure is to give each student the opportunity to talk uninterrupted. My hope is that the other child(ren) will hear the perspective of the child talking. Usually, I need to guide all the children in “seeing” and acknowledging the other perspective(s). But learning to look at other points of view takes practice and patience. Practice for students and adults. Patience by me, teachers, and other adults. 

For those who follow me on Instagram (@edtechease), I routinely look for, and post, book recommendations. Recently on Instagram, I saw a post that included a variety of books and Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld was one.

I was intrigued and ordered it. I was a bit disappointed when I received it because it was a board book. In my experience, elementary students equate board books with preschool and will dismiss the book. That was not what I had intended when I bought it. But just looking at the cover, I changed my mind (and perspective). This would be great to project at a faculty meeting to start a conversation about perspective! I will confess to first seeing the Rabbit. But with an adjustment to my eyes (and my perspective) I saw the Duck. After school one afternon this past week,  I had it on my desk and when another admin’s daughter came by, I asked her what she saw. She said the Rabbit. I asked her if she could see something else and she said no. With some conversation and direction, she did see the Duck. Her little Kindergarten sister walked by and when asked, she saw the Duck first. With some hints to where to look for the ears, she saw the Rabbit. Finally, we asked the oldest sister and honestly as I write I do not remember which she saw, but it did take some time for her to see the other one. In fact she read several of the pages before she changed her perspective enough to see the other character. 

These encounters with the book just confirm my thoughts on using this as a Literature Lasso. A book to lasso teachers’ and students’ attention to the idea of perspective. Then discuss perspective taking from a neutral, non-personal direction. I will continue to tryand see student’s perspectives as well as my colleagues. Because as I said, this takes practice and patience. 

Looking for other Literature Lassos? Check out my Padlet: https://padlet.com/swladis3/xh6aytbp3ht  or follow me in one of the ways below. 

Let me know how you discuss perspective or use perspective when talking with students.

swladis@edtechease.com (email)

@edtechease (Twitter and Instagram)

www.edtechease.com (website)

Practice, Practice, Practice Revisited

So it happened again! Sent home scores for the first progress monitoring assessments and parents are calling, texting and stopping at carpool to ask how to improve their child’s reading scores. First, the true question is how to improve their reading skills. Second, READ! So I started to write down my thoughts and said to myself this sounds familiar. And it was…I have written about this before. so here it is again:

Want to get better at something? Then practice it! Been feeling a bit frustrated that some educators and parents seem to think that students will improve in reading just because we are assessing their reading skills. No. Some think that students will improve their individual reading skills because they are reading short passages in an anthology once or twice a week. No. Just like all skills, reading must be consistently practiced.

That is not to say that there are not other factors that contribute to reading development. Having plenty of books available for our readers is one. Modeling good fluency and reading comprehension when reading aloud is another. Making personal connections to the story. And there are abundant articles for parents and entire books written to support reading instruction in the classroom.

The bottom line…all the articles, books, and advice have one thing in common. One must read to get better at reading. Set aside reading times in class and at home.

A basketball player is not going to have a consistent 3-point shot without hours of practice. A dancer will not learn a new routine or a new dance move without practicing. A pianist must practice to grow into move difficult arrangements. Gamers practice their digital prowess.

So let’s talk with our reluctant readers about topics they like and show them book after book till they find one they enjoy. Let’s do book talks to introduce new genres and titles to all our readers. Let’s DEAR. Let’s integrate science and social studies into our Language Arts classes through novels. Let’s use picture books to introduce a STEAM challenge. Let’s fill our classroom and school libraries with books!

Mostly, let’s have the students read!!

How are you encouraging reading in your classroom or school? Reach out with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com

Originally posted on Thursday, 27 December 2018.

What I Have Learned the First Week of School…

Each week during the past Spring’s sequestering due to Covid I wrote an Instagram post (and 1 blog post) about what I had learned. These thoughts mostly came from the distance teaching I was doing with Kindergarten and my talks with my other teacher colleagues about their experiences. So while walking the other day I started making a mental list of how this first week  of school had gone. I realized Iwas doing the same thing I had done in the Spring. What had I learned and what can I change moving forward.

So a little background on where these learnings are coming from. I am consulting with a small private school and not teaching right now. I helped design their Covid policies and their VIP program during the summer. VIP – Virtual/In Person is this school’s version of a hybrid program. Most students are in person but a few are learning virtually along with their in-person classmates. 

So What Have I Learned:

  1. VIP teaching is hard but not impossible.
    1. Connections are imperative! Making time in the already busy day for teachers to have small group time with their VIP Kids. 
    2. Finding ways for the parents and kids to let the teacher(s) know they are having an issue (need more instructions; can’t hear; going to step away from the screen todo their independent work).
  2. Internet and wireless projector issues are the bane of my school day right now.
    1. Daily adjustments and facing these issues calmly (then going into my office for a silent scream)
  3. It is awesome to see kids in school!!
    1. They are all doing great with mask wearing (reminders are often necessary but are met with understanding by students).
  4. As with any challenge – an open mind and preparedness are key.
  5. Teachers are SuperHeroes!

Will add more on my instagram feed as this year progresses.

So what have you learned? If you have not started school, Good Luck and let us know later what you have learned.Share in one of the ways below. 

swladis@edtechease.com (email)

@edtechease (Twitter and Instagram)

www.edtechease.com (website)

What can we make kids do?

This is an excellent question. I have had parents tell me that I can and should “make” their child sit and do his/her work. Now let me be clear… I can’t “make” kids do their schoolwork. I can encourage them, I can support them, I can reteach the material, I can praise them, I can even bribe them with a reward system. But I can not “make” kids do their work (If it is ok with you all, I will leave out the “” from here on, but know that I am mentally putting them in).

In this age of Covid-19, we will need to make kids wear their masks. It is a safety thing, like wearing a seatbelt. I will search for books that can be a literature lasso to open a discuss about their feelings on wearing a mask. Teachers may do cutesy things to make young kids feel more comfortable with seeing their teachers wearing a mask (even if they get criticized on social media for doing it – keep doing it, your heart is in the right place!). We may use masks with a clear area to show our teacher smiles. All to make kids wear their masks.

We will start school, in-person or virtually, and make kids comfortable in their new classroom community. We will do it with read alouds, all-about-me posters and stories, as well as creating classroom expectation anchor charts. 

We can make kids have opportunities to socialize even if it is done through a screen or socially distanced classrooms. 

We can make kids have classrooms filled with literacy opportunities.

We can make kids have lessons planned with their academic and social needs in mind. 

What can you “make” kids do? Share in one of the ways below.

swladis@edtechease.com (email)

@edtechease (Twitter and Instagram)

www.edtechease.com (website)