Student Centered Coaching

Steve Seward tweeted this today and linked to a realling inteesting chart to me. Follow the link to the chart to take a look at it. I am not sure about copyrights on the whole situation so I am not putting it here. I really like the idea of making sure the focus of a coaching conversation is on student work and the formative assessment data you and the teacher are looking at. It really starts to drive the conversation is a safe and comfortable direction. What changes might you make to your coaching that are informed by this chart?

An interesting video to simplify communication with parents

On Wed, Jul 22, 2015 at 11:44 AM, Ryan wrote:
I find this video very interesting.

I thought I would share it with you and see if you have done this before. 

If I make the time, I would like to do this for my communication with parents.

Very interesting indeed. Think about the workshop standards based grading method that we talked about earlier. Instead of a blank to type in your comments you could have the eight teaching points from the unit in your form, check box style. During the day as you conference you walk with your iPad around and have the form up. Click the kids name. Check any mastery boxes that you notice as you confer with the student. At the end of the day you have a record of which kids you conferred with and what demonstration you have seen from each one. You have typed almost nothing, communicated clearly with students and parents what they have demonstrated. You could also have a section next step suggestions, including some videos for reviewing teaching points for kids who have not mastered anything and some advanced teaching points for kids to go deeper on. I like this so much I invented a sample letter.


Today you demonstrated good use of commas. You demonstrated correct use of quotations to support an argument. Thank you for the work you did to learn and practice these skills. 

While not required, an idea for honing your craft of writing is using more vivid verbs. Your current project could really benefit from this. 

You have not demonstrated proper capitalization yet, even though this is an expectation of the unit. Here is a link to a video** demonstrating what was taught and is expected.

Mr. Teacher

*At the high school level I would be sure to include kids in the communication. In fact I would write the email to the kid and CC the parents, rather than writing right to the parents. This continually reinforces that the responsibility is with the student.

**Any video links I would send with a or short link so that you could gather stats on whether parents were clicking them.

Thanks for passing this along.

Capturing Kids Hearts Notes Reflection

I had the opportunity almost a year ago to go to Capturing Kids Hearts. This was one of the best learning opportunities I have had as an adult. Three different areas were activated over the days: I learned deeply about myself, I learned about how to connect with those I teach, and I learned how to better facilitate with adults. If I had not followed this up by going to Cognitive Coaching I would say CKH would be the most recommended professional learning I had been to. Today I ran across my notes from the event. Here are the highlights from them as I review them. 

"All people are motivated by... something."

Our leader was asked what are the top needs of all people, he said, "First to feel connected and second to be successful."

Another approximate quote from the leader:

The leadership skill of affirmation is more caught than taught

    • Affirmation feels good to receive
    • Affirmation feels good to give
    • You have to be present to affirm
    • One affirmation can get you through a day
    • Affirmation needs to be modeled

Questions. Leaders ask questions.

Be less helpful but surround with support and great things. This will encourage individual responsibility.

There was much more. 

What is school for?

Below is the text of a snow day email between me, a trained physics teacher, and one of our art teachers. Three or four times a year we have conversations like this. I thought I would share one. 

Mer started it out.

hoping we can do some of this out of school learning IN school too! 


I replied.

The article was fascinating to me. I obviously love some of the things said. What I thought was really great was his emphasis on collaboration. But then I thought this about school and adults looking back on school as opposed to students thinking about school right now. An adult has at some point learned the need to collaborate and how to invite others into collaboration and where that is appropriate. At school what we do, or what we should do, is invite students to collaborate with us and show them how people that think a certain way collaborate, solve problems together, and generally get along. You do this in an art way, and I do this in a science way, but we both do this in a teaching way, and we do it in a Christian way. Frank Smith painted this beautiful picture for me of welcoming kids to the club. The club of painters or modern physicists. Welcome. So you want to be a painter? This is what painters do. This is how painters relate. This is how painters collaborate. This is how painters disagree. This is how painters solve problems. Most importantly, welcome, we painters are glad you are here. School is the intersection of loving experts and vulnerable hungry learners who do not know yet how to figure out who is a loving expert and who is just an expert. 

Sorry about the morning philosophy.

She replied.


Wonderful...I love reading your morning philosophy so much. Send anytime. :  )

"school is the intersection of loving experts and vulnerable hungry learners who do not know yet how to figure out who is a loving expert and who is just an expert."

I love your quote too...and how to navigate a world when the experts stop being loving and learners are still feeling vulnerable...phew. 

talk soon,

I am thankful to Mer for keeping me on my toes.

Notes From Drew Vanden Heuvel Presentation To The Global Physics Department

I wrote down these notes when listening to Drew VandenHeuvel's presentation to the Global Physics Department. He is a genius who happened to student teach with me. I learned a lot.
  1. For a scale I wondered if there was something commercially available that were good enough for your students to use, like a food scale that all Meijer would have or something they could get from Amazon. I read of a teacher recently who used all online textbooks for readings and the like, and instead of putting a book list together made a equipment list so each student had these items for class.
  2. If you required an iPad for the course you could use apps like Screen Chomp, Explain Everything, or Educreations for problem explanations. There must be Android equivalents of these apps.
  3. As soon as you require a tablet, you can also assume they have a camera. Cameras should be huge in making online physics instruction come alive.
  4. Could you somehow take advantage of the fact that all your kids are in different places to make a single lab that required data from all the students to make the final lab data that is evaluated? I read this idea somewhere, but I forget where.
  5. Finally, I am reminded of the attached screen shot of a presentation by Ken Heller about Context Rich Problems at the Global Physics Department. Having students make problems for each other seems like a way of increasing engagement with each other online. If we move to have students make problems as part of their understanding what role to Heller's rules have for students?

English Language Arts Feedback

From: Scott 
Do you know how your English teachers grade papers?  Do they do that with printed copy on paper, or do they do this online?  If so, is there a software you use?

We are at this point all over the board, but I think we fall into three camps: all online with the UploadPDF tool in Moodle, all online (may be the final printed) using Google Docs, and computer creation with paper turn in for feedback. 

We are also having a pretty deep discussion with the pilot Writing Workshop group about wether to put grades on papers. For that discussion we are using a book called, Rethinking Rubrics. For a sample of the direction that would take us in see Moving Beyond Judgement upon which the book relies for the heart of its solutions.

How To Add The Amens

This page, photographed from the Trinity Hymnal, struck me as funny when I first saw it, then eventually I thought it was sad. Since then I have rested on this page as a reminder. Someone thought adding Amen to the end of every hymn was good, and that it needed to be done well, so they did research and found best practices on how to add amens. This page reminds me that there is always going to be a tension between pure creativity and pure, structured, research based, strategies. To hold this paradox we need occupy, at times, both worlds. The option that strikes me as least interesting and effective is ignoring both ends of the paradox and trying to walk the middle. 

What Is Leadership?

I spent the better part of two days watching the Global Leadership Summit at a satellite location. I have three reflections. 
  1. I am not sure that we should abstract leadership as something to study. Everyone that spoke had a different measure of what made great leaders. No theme became evident. Having been to the summit before and read several books and articles in the last couple of years on leadership, to me no unifying theme has emerged. One feeling has emerged. I am less and less confident of my leadership ability the more I hear about leadership. I should probably stop learning about leading.
  2. Emerging from the mire is this:
  1. Leaders learn. Mostly by listening and other less important means.
  2. Leaders do something. The something is probably new in their environment and based on their learning. There are not certain outcomes.
  • My best thoughts after the summit circle around values. I think I am merging thoughts from Jim Collins and Patrick Lencioni.  I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what simply stated core values inform all our decisions. I have spent more time thinking about how we communicate them to the community. We have core values that guide most of our decisions, but they could be clearer. I also woud like to see us empower more people to use simply stated core values to make decisions. I have also been noodling around about my own simply stated personal core values.
  • I am ready for there to be more people around so I can listen to them. Then I can do something.

    “We do not have to deny or avoid our loneliness, our hostilities and illusions."

    Henri Nouwen states in his work Reaching Out that “we do not have to deny or avoid our loneliness, our hostilities and illusions.  To the contrary: when we have the courage to let these realities come to our full attention, understand and confess them, then they slowly can be converted into solitude, hospitality and prayer.” 

    I spent a lot of the morning thinking about school and how I am not in control of it (or anything else for that matter). I was worried. Then I sat down and read the words above. I am not in control. The world does not have anyone's best interest in mind. I do not have to fear.

    Advice To A First Year Physics Teacher

    I am on the emailing list for the Global Physics Department and lurk at their meetings. Last week they had a meeting giving advice to new physics teachers. Members were invited to give out advice ahead of time though a form. I thought the questions were great. All the responses are here. The websites section was filled with great resources beyond my suggestion. I claim mine here: 

    What is the most important/useful object you've brought into your classroom?
    Short answer: Laptop and projector. Long answer: For years I had a coffee can with a rubber band through the top and bottom and a 500g mass hanging from the rubber band. I called it the can of wonder. Once or twice a week when students were walking in I would roll this can up the middle of the room and it would roll back to me. We did not study this for months, but it built up an expectation that wondering and questions and the unexpected were going to happen. 

    Here's a great way to get feedback FROM students...
    My absolute favorite question to ask (and you can do this on scrap paper, in a public forum, in a private assignment depending on your needs) is, "What did you hear today?" This question cuts through the your expectations and their nervousness about being right and asks them to report without value what went through their head. I always learn from the answers.

    Here's a great way to give feedback TO students...
    Right when they ask for it, not when you think they need it. It took me years to figure out that if a student came up to me during a test and could not figure out a question and really wanted to know the answer now I had a teachable moment that I had to use. Now I take them a little out of earshot and explain. 

    What would you tell your first-year-teacher self to STOP doing?
    Taking kids behavior personally.

    What would you tell your first-year-teacher self to START doing?
    They did not exist then, but reading blogs about teaching and at least lurking in the greater world of teaching and learning and physics. I guess I did this by joining AAPT, NSTA and MiAAPT and going to conventions and in the Michigan meetings.

    One awesome website you should follow is: