Making Connections

In last week’s post we were talking about the HSE Best Practice Model.  There are many ways we can help our students be successful in the 21st century.  Our digital world, while not the only solution, is one of the keys that can help unlock the door to that success.  As an example, I’d like to share something that happened to me last spring.  I was reading a book and the author made reference to a spreadsheet that she used to track data on students.  While in theory I could guess what it probably looked like, I was having a hard time visualizing it.  I flipped to the appendix hoping to find a version, but no luck.  After rereading the passage I still had questions.  I decided to look on Twitter to see if the author had an account.  Sure enough, she did.  I sent a tweet to her, and in a couple minutes she responded.  Through a direct message I sent her my email address, and 10 minutes later I had a screen shot of the exact spreadsheet.

Matt Miller -
Matt Miller –

Who are the people you’d like to ask questions?  In a less connected world, you might have been able to track down a mailing address, send a letter, and hope for a response in a couple of weeks.  Today through the use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other digital services, we can connect immediately.  As teachers, we can leverage those connections into ways to help our students interact with the larger world.  Your class is learning about space science?  Have them compose a tweet to NASA or an astronaut (think about Scott Kelly on who is currently involved in the Year in Space Mission).  Did your students have a question about a book?  Try tweeting the author, or have your students share their reactions via your twitter account.
Sylvia Duckworth:

Personally, I look at Twitter as less of a social media site, and more at a Personal Learning Network.  I have connections to resources who share their ideas, and I can communicate back and forth with them.  And the best part of all of it?  I can do this anytime that works for me!  I don’t have to rely on anyone else’s timeframe to guide my learning.

Sylvia Duckworth:
Sylvia Duckworth:

How many of you use social media for the purpose of learning?  What sites have you found successful?  If you’re on Twitter, share your username so that we can follow you.


CPI Refreshed!

Today I had my annual refresher in CPI – Crisis Prevention Intervention.  The focus of the refresher training this year was on Goals, Power, and Relationships.  As I was sitting in the training, I kept thinking how important these ideas are for all the teachers in the building I work in.  It seems that some people think that CPI is all about how to put our kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others into some sort of restraint.  Unfortunately there are times that this is part of the process.  The reality is that if you are using the strategies put forth in CPI in the best way possible, you are able to avoid getting to the point of using any restraint.

In those early stages of escalation, when students are becoming anxious or defensive, it is all about how we handle the behavior.  The analogy that my trainer used today was that it’s like approaching a fire with 2 buckets, one of gasoline, and one of water.  The things we say to the escalated student, and how we say those things can act as either the gas or water on the fire.

Sometimes as teachers we get caught up in our own feelings and emotions.  We have to remember the Q-TIPs: Quit Taking It Personally!  Instead, as a person who is skilled in deescalation techniques, you need to focus on a goal for every intervention, using the power you hold in a positive way, and building relationships with trust and respect.

In a situation of crisis, there are 3 possible outcomes – things can stay the same, get better, or get worse.  What we say and how we act can control what outcome we see.  If the outcome we seek is for improvement, we have to enter each situation with a goal in mind.  As we all know, there are different types of goals – short term, intermediate, and long term.  Our short term goal must always be focused on safety.  The intermediate goal should be focused on learning opportunities for the student, and our long term goal should be on autonomy.  But how do we get to those goals?

Part of the way that we get to our goals is through our use of power.  Sometimes power is seen in a negative light, but in the crisis situation, not only is the power that you hold important, but also the power that you give to others is important.  By gradually releasing power to our students, we show them that we trust them, and we help them feel empowered to take control of their own situation.  Compliance alone should not be what you are looking for, rather you should be seeking cooperation.

Another skill at reaching a positive outcome is that of relationship building.  When you have a solid relationship with your students, it is much easier to influence their choices and behavior due to the rapport you have with them.  Instead of focusing on rules and regulations, build a positive relationship that makes it easier to have a meaningful learning opportunity for your student.  We all know pretty quickly who our difficult students will be.  Use something like the 2 for 10 strategy, spending 2 minutes per day for 10 days talking to the student about something that is not directly related to school, or something that they care about.  The deposits that you make in a relationship at the beginning of the year will make your life easier later in the school year.

Think about the student that you sense may cause you trouble this year.  What steps can you take today, or this week, to build a rapport with that student?  At the beginning of the school year this year, I encouraged the teachers in my building to know their kids, and love them for who they are.  When they feel valued and loved, its amazing what they will do for you!

What are some of the successes that you have experienced from relationship building?  What strategies have helped you to deescalate a student who was feeling anxious or defensive?  Share some in the comments below.

Best Practice Model

In the book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman says that “today’s workers need to approach the workplace much like athletes preparing for the Olympics, with one difference. They have to prepare like someone who is training for the Olympics but doesn’t know what sport they are going to enter.”  When we look at the HSE21 Best Practices Model below, HSE has all the parts necessary to develop students who are prepared for an unknown future.

Best Practice Model

A lot of people immediately think of HSE21 as being all about a device.  This is a misconception that we need to move past.  When the HSE21 team created the best practices model, their ideas were based in transforming learning and teaching to better meet the needs of our world.  Past models of education were focused on rote learning and memorization because our economy needed workers who were able to complete repetitive tasks successfully.  In today’s job market, employers are looking for workers who can problem solve, think creatively, and work collaboratively.  By using the best practice model above, we can help our students be more prepared for whatever role they may take in the future.  It’s about getting our students to think about the big changes that they can help bring to our future.  Check out this video on Moonshot Thinking to see some examples of problems that people are thinking about now:

If you haven’t already done so, print out a copy of the Best Practice model and keep it by your plan book.  As you create activities, don’t worry about hitting all the Best Practices, but rather be thinking about what you can add to the activity you are planning so that you are including some of the HSE Best Practices.

What new things have you tried recently based on the Best Practice model?  What activities are you planning to do that are new and exciting?  Leave a comment below, share it with a colleague, or tweet it out to the world!

Ditch That Textbook PD

Happy Friday!
This summer I read the book Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller (@jmattmiller).  During the summer Learning Fair in June I also had the opportunity to sit in on his full day presentation here at RSI.  Between the presentation and the book, I came away with several ideas that made me wish I was still in the classroom daily so that I could use them with our kids.  After reading the book I started thinking about ways to affect change here at RSI.  One of the ideas was through shared PD.  During this year I will share ideas through email – some from the book and others that I was reminded of as I was reading.   
I plan to send these out of Friday afternoons in the hopes that they will not be lost in other things you have going on throughout the week.  There will not be a summative exam! 🙂  Instead it is my hope that these messages may provide ideas or inspiration to take a new step in your classroom.  In the school improvement plan we share with the public that we will be using some of the ideas from Matt Miller’s book to guide some of our professional development. 
With that background in mind, hopefully today’s message will help you have an idea of what to expect from this PD.  I’ll start with how Matt Miller defines DITCH on the back of the book: 
  • Different from what students see daily. 
  • Innovative, drawing on new ideas or modifying others’ ideas. 
  • Tech-Laden with the use of digital sites, tools, and devices. 
  • Creative, tapping into students’ original ideas as well as your own. 
  • Hands-on, encouraging students to make and try things on their own. 
What are some of the things you are doing right now that would be part of the DITCH model of teaching and learning?  
If you have read Ditch that Textbook, let me know.  I’d love to hear some of the key ideas you took away.  If you haven’t read the book, I do have one copy to share.  It is available on a first come, first served basis.  If you would like to borrow it, let me know and I’ll put it in your mailbox.  When you finish, return it to me and I can share it with someone else!