August 2018 Articles

8/30/2018

GUEST BLOG: Bringing Life to the Classroom from Across the World—Jarrod Weiss, Broadcast Educational Media Commission

By: Guest Blogger

BEMC-Logo-Transparent.jpgWhen I was a classroom teacher, I was always looking for ways to catch and keep the attention of my students. High school social studies combines a subject that most students find “old” with the battle to be interesting to teenagers who have unending entertainment at their fingertips.

My goal was to bring to life a subject I felt was important in developing well-rounded students, with hopes they would become benevolent global citizens. But, that wasn’t always easy. With a background of history and theatre in my blood, I did all I could to make my classroom come alive — multimedia, games, activities, music, drama, even dressing up like historical figures — and while I was successful more often than not, the experience was sometimes nothing short of a Herculean challenge.

No longer in the classroom, I have the advantage of reflecting on what I could have done differently to liven up the high school history class. If I had known then what I know now about the capability to bring live, interactive experiences into my classroom, I may have spared myself the experience of dressing up like Napoleon Bonaparte (he’s not that short – we’re about the same height).

In Ohio, we are fortunate to have OARnet’s dedicated and robust digital backbone to connect to almost every student, classroom and educator. Every day, students and classrooms are connecting through live, interactive video with content, classes and educators from all walks of life and in every corner of the globe. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria has told us he “believes in the power of video,” and we can bring that power to all Ohio classrooms and students.

Students in the Buckeye state can take College Credit Plus courses in their schools with teachers and professors from anywhere in Ohio. Classrooms can visit the Underground Railroad with the Ohio History Connection or experiment with kitchen chemistry alongside the team at COSI. Students looking to learn more about careers or earning the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal can talk live with professionals in career fields across the spectrum. If a school wants to offer Mandarin Chinese or American Sign Language, it can give students the opportunity through live classes from a distance.

Hindsight has enlightened me to the fact that while I was doing everything I could to ignite the fire of excitement for learning in my students, I could have been working smarter to open a whole new world to my students through live, interactive education. The goal of education is to show students what the world has to offer and prepare them for success in that world. With the state of Ohio’s live, interactive capabilities, that can be done with the click of a mouse.

At the Broadcast Educational Media Commission, we can get you connected. Get in touch with us at any time at videosupport@broadcast.ohio.gov or call us at 877-VIDEO-40 (877-843-3640). You also can learn more at our website, broadcast.ohio.gov, and learn more about distance learning options through the OhioDLA at ohiodla.org.

Jarrod Weiss is the chief of Operations at the Ohio Broadcast Educational Media Commission and a former high school social studies teacher in rural Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @GreatWeissOne.

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8/23/2018

Telling Our Stories to Advocate for Our Profession

By: Jonathan Juravich

GettyImages-877618024.jpgMy 5-year-old daughter loves routines. And bedtime is when routines reign supreme. There is the bath, new pajamas, brushing teeth, talking about our favorite parts of the day, two books, two songs and lights out. Every night, this same order of events leads her to know that regardless of whether the sun is still up or not, it is time for bed.  

There are two pieces of this routine that are my favorite. The stories. As my daughter tells me about her favorite part of the day, I hear about her friends, their preschool hijinks, the kindness of teachers or the harrowing adventures on the playground. Sometimes she tells me that eating dinner as a family was her favorite moment or how her baby brother gave her the stink eye and she can’t stop laughing about it. Regardless, Josie uses descriptive language as she recounts the details to make me feel included.

And then, I read to her from books. Since her birth, I have delighted in reading her my favorites — “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Wizard of Oz” and all things written by Mo Willems. Through these books and many others, I can open her world up to adventure, imagination, possibilities and life. Her head resting on my shoulder — she hangs on each word.

Why do we love stories so much? They engage us, they challenge us, they ignite thinking and dreaming. They make us feel included and open our eyes to new experiences and ways of seeing. Stories are important.

As the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, I took part in a formal induction with the other incredible state teachers of the year. Time and time again, we were challenged to tell our stories. As educators, we all have them.

Stories that are hilarious, teachers dressed in sumo suits rolling across the gym floor after their students met a fundraising goal.

Stories that are heartbreaking, a friendship bracelet shared with me from a student with pediatric cancer who said, “We will be best friends forever, as long as that is.”

And stories that are downright inspirational, the student with autism who found her voice through cartoon illustrations thanks to the support of her teachers who saw her as an individual.

Stories are meant to be shared. To tell our families, our circle of friends, the community, lawmakers and other educators about the important work we do every day. It is one thing to share a funny story, but what about the why? What are you trying to highlight, advocate for or change? Through storytelling, we advocate for our profession and for one another. See, stories make things personal. It is one thing to share data, numbers, pie charts…but narratives about the successes of real-life students and educators are truly powerful.

It might mean making reflection and journaling a part of your nightly routine, so you don’t forget the stories of the day. Or taking a moment to sit and gather a repertoire of narratives that you want to make sure you share with others. Take time to think about those students who have made a direct impact on you, those teachers who have inspired you to be the educator you are today, those pieces of personal history that brought you to the field. Write them down, think them through, internalize the important facts, characters and resulting outcomes.

For this school year, I am stepping away from my classroom to work as a teacher-in-residence at the Ohio Department of Education. During this time, I will be sure to share the stories of the exceptional educators and students the Department’s work influences. I look forward to connecting with teachers throughout the state and sharing our unique stories.

We all need to take a moment to stop, reflect and then share. Because these stories, these pivotal moments, should remind us why we joined this remarkable field of education.

Jonathan Juravich is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year. For the 2018-2019 school year, Jonathan is taking a sabbatical from his position as an elementary art teacher at Olentangy Local Schools to serve as the Department’s teacher-in-residence. You can learn more about Jonathan by clicking here.

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8/17/2018

Your Words Matter to Others’ Mindsets

By: Steve Gratz

GettyImages-474868774-1.jpgOver the past few weeks at the Department, I've been overhearing the chatter of my colleagues getting their children ready for the return to school. Some of my co-workers are methodically getting their children up earlier and earlier in preparation for the first day of school. Many took full advantage of Ohio's sales tax holiday. And several shared how excited they were about finally getting back into a routine.

As a teacher, I relished the start of a new school year. Being a teacher of agriculture, I worked throughout the summer visiting students and discussing their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) projects with them and the upcoming school year with their parents. My goal was to visit every student three to four times per year. I have many fond memories eating dinner and visiting with students and their families. A couple of my favorite visits were to the Kain and Carpenter families — both were livestock farmers, and we always had great meals and conversations. On the first day of school, I already would have visited all the incoming freshman enrolled in my classes. The impact of home visits is amazing as you get to see the dynamics of each student’s family and a glimpse of what home life is like for the student.

Aside from reminiscing on my formative days in the classroom, I want to share how teachers’ words and actions impact students’ lives. One of my professors at The Ohio State University, Dr. Lowell Hedges, taught us a simple rule that I borrowed: Don’t prevent the teacher from teaching, and don’t prevent others from learning. A negative comment from a teacher can create a barrier to learning. Throughout my career, I have had countless students reminiscence about statements I made to them that were impactful in their lives. I’m sure many of my former students could share examples of when I was less than positive too. Too late in my career, I learned the lesson of how powerful the words of teachers are to students. The power of words matters not only to students and teachers — it is just as impactful to those you supervise, colleagues and family members.

Not to get too academic, but I want to share with you my frame of reference, so excuse me while I get a little nerdy. In her book, “Mindset,” Carol Dweck looks at the difference between people with fixed and growth mindsets, how one trumps the other and what you can do to adopt the right one. Dweck shows how success in school, and almost every endeavor, can be influenced dramatically by how we think about our talents and abilities. “Mindset” is a great read, and it uncovers how great parents, teachers and managers can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.

To explain a little further, people with fixed mindsets believe talent is everything and your qualities are carved in stone. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality and creativity are fixed traits rather than things that can be developed. If they’re not gifted with the ability to do something, people with this mindset think they’re doomed to fail. Their skills seem to be written in their genes, just like their looks, which is why they never try to improve. Who you are is who you are, period. Conversely, people with growth mindsets believe your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Whatever they want to achieve is theirs for the taking, as long as they work hard for it, dedicate themselves to their goals and practice as much as they can. People differ greatly — in aptitude, talents, interests or temperaments — but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

Apart from our parents, teachers play major roles in how our mindsets turn out. A bad teacher might tell a D student that he’ll never amount to anything, whereas a good teacher would encourage him to study more and do better on the next test.

David Scott Yeager and Dweck (2012) showed that students who believed (or were taught) that intellectual abilities are qualities that can be developed (as opposed to qualities that are fixed) tend to show higher achievement. Yeager and Dweck also showed that believing (or being taught) that social attributes can be developed can lower adolescents’ aggression and stress in response to peer victimization or exclusion and result in enhanced school performance. They conclude by discussing how psychological interventions that change students’ mindsets are effective and what educators can do to foster these mindsets and create resilience in educational settings.

As the new school year begins, take the necessary time to use your words appropriately and make sure you are encouraging a growth mindset. The power of your words can have a positive impact on those who you associate with and encourage a growth mindset. Conversely, the wrong words, your tone and body language can strain relationships, cause stress, shut down communications and support a fixed mindset.

Take a moment to watch Dweck’s Ted Talk on the power of believing that you can improve and then share in the comments what you can do differently as you interact with students, parents and colleagues this school year.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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8/9/2018

A Parent’s Hope for the New School Year

By: Wendy Grove

GettyImages-531229189.jpgThis week, I am writing not as an education professional, but as a parent. My daughter is the child that made me a mother for the first time. Last week, she turned 11 years old, and I want to tell you about her. She is brave, creative, artistic, smart, stubborn, self-centered and difficult. She likes singing songs, watching anime, reading Percy Jackson books, snuggling with her two dogs, swimming and showing off her new polka-dot tennis shoes.

My daughter is in special education where she gets help learning because she has dysgraphia. This is a learning disability where her brain does not translate her ability to tell you a story or read a book into writing with a pencil. She cannot spell or write words, sentences or paragraphs like a child her age is expected to. In addition to this learning disability, she is diagnosed with extreme generalized anxiety. Her anxiety is with her everywhere, not just in specific situations. Recently, as a fifth-grader, she received a brand new diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. This means she struggles to pay attention, especially during instruction. She also has been identified by her school district as gifted in science and accelerated in math, reading and social studies.

In less than a month, my baby starts middle school. A new school. A new social situation. A new routine. New teachers. A lot of new kids. My heart is racing just listing all the new things coming for her. I wonder, how will she do with all that newness? My daughter has an individualized education program (IEP) that gives her academic and social supports. Staff from the middle school met with me, and the IEP is in place and ready to go when school begins. They told me she will be supported and wrote down how and when and who will provide the support. I want to believe this so badly. I remain hopeful, but my mother’s heart wonders if she really will be okay. Really, I wonder if she will be more than okay — I want to know if she will thrive. Will my daughter thrive in middle school with everything that makes her so uniquely her?

In partnership with her school’s educators, I am trying hard to make sure my child gets to be her best self, even on her most difficult days. I am sharing this with you because I want you to know us. I want you to hear my hopes and dreams as an educator and as a mother. I hope that by sharing my story, I can encourage other parents to partner with their schools to ensure their students’ success.

Maybe you have a child going through a similar transition. Maybe, like me, you also are tired. And, maybe you have not had a great experience at the school or with a person who works there. But, let me assure you this: educators care. They became teachers, principals and school counselors because they want to help kids. They genuinely want success for our children. They want our children to feel safe and supported in their learning. For these reasons, I must believe that she will thrive. I believe her teachers will spend time getting to know who she is as a student, so they can help her achieve her goals. I also know my role in this is important, as a partner, communicator and a support to both my daughter and her teachers.

I want to encourage you to think about what kind of partner you have been, or could be, with your child’s school. What beliefs do you have about teachers based on your experiences? Whatever the past experiences have been, this year is a fresh start. Take time to tell your child’s school about your perfect baby girl or boy. Tell someone there about your concerns and what you hope for your child. Be brave. Use your voice, and be confident that you know your child and your contribution to his or her success is critical. Be present. Be open as a partner with your child’s school. Trust in the educators’ knowledge and experience and to the underlying goodness of their intentions to do right by your child. You’ve got this! We parents can do this! Together with the schools, we can positively shape the experience of school and make sure our kids thrive.

Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office for Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. You can learn more about Wendy by clicking here.

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8/2/2018

Building Relationships…Building the Foundation of a Successful School Year

By: Kimberly Monachino

GettyImages-893988484-1.jpgIt is hard to believe that another school year is fast approaching. Before we know it, the yellow school buses will be en route and the “20 mile per hour” school zone signs will be flashing. The marquees outside many schools will read “Welcome Back Students!” or “Good luck students and staff for a successful 2018-2019 school year!” 

Even after 30 years in education, I still get butterflies in my stomach the night before the first day of school. There is a renewed excitement about starting a new school year. Teachers, parents and, most importantly, students wonder what the new year will bring.

As we start to get back in the swing of school and learning, remember, one of the most important tasks a teacher must start with, and continue all year, is building relationships with students. Building relationships is the keystone for a successful year. If a teacher has a good relationship with her students, the students are more willing to please the teacher, which can lead to less discipline and more learning. Relationship building is not something you can do the first day or the first week and then forget about. It is something that, for some students, may take all year. For some, those connections may be on the first hello, for others, it will be on the last goodbye.

Here are some tips teachers can use to build relationships with their students:

  1. Greet your students every day. Let them know they are important enough for you to stop and say hello.
  2. Have a “family meeting” several times a week with your class. Take some time for your students to share what is going on in their lives.
  3. Write positive notes or make positive calls home. This allows the child to see you notice and care.
  4. Stop and have a personal conversation with your students. It will give you insight to what is going on in their lives. This also is a good technique for working with your more difficult students.
  5. Try to make connections with your students by including things that are important to them in your classroom or teaching. For example, if a student likes baseball, you can use that as an example in a math problem.
  6. Speak to the students with respect. All relationships, including student-teacher relationships, flourish on mutual respect.
  7. Attend extracurricular activities. By attending an activity outside of school, it shows the students you are interested in them as people and not just “students.”
  8. Share stories about yourself. Let the students see you as a person. This will allow them to make connections to you just like you make connections with them.
  9. Let students have a voice in the classroom. Let them know this is not “my room” but “our room.” Try to stay away from the pronouns my or mine and go with we and ours.
  10. Trust your students! What better way is there to build relationships than to build trust? Also, students must trust you. Trust is the foundation of any good relationship.
Kim Monachino is director of the Office for Exceptional Children for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Kim by clicking here.

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