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1/10/2019

Teachers Who Pass the Torch Deserve to be Recognized

By: Jonathan Juravich

TORCH_Seal.pngIn the field of education, teachers are a part of an incredible relay — a passing of the torch. Knowledge and guidance are passed from teacher to student, from teacher to teacher, and from teacher to the community. Over the course of my first 14 years in education, I have been a part of this relay with some exceptional teachers. These teachers do remarkable things for their students and communities.

Erin Budic is one of those inspiring educators. This third grade teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell was affected by a student’s illness. She organized a school-sponsored American Red Cross blood drive to benefit other patients. Many years and many blood drives later, Erin has helped the school and the American Red Cross collect 1,056 units of blood.

And, in the past year as the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year and the Ohio Department of Education teacher-in-residence, I have had the pleasure of meeting teachers from all corners of the state of Ohio who astound me with their heart for the community. David Kaser teaches in Barberton City School District. In his high school STEM program, students design and utilize a 3D printer to create prosthetic hands to be donated to individuals across the globe. David’s students know how to utilize their learning to impact others. 

Teachers know their work extends beyond the curriculum or their specific areas of instruction. They know that before students can meet academic goals, they must feel seen, valued and safe. For these reasons, I am incredibly excited about the inaugural year of the Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart (TORCH) recognition.

Administrators, fellow educators, community members, parents and students can nominate teachers whose dedication to social justice and their communities makes them stand out in the most inspiring ways. Five Ohio teachers will be selected for the TORCH recognition and will be honored in a surprise reveal later this school year.

Please consider nominating a teacher who truly models a life of compassion, integrity, honor, and respect by visiting the TORCH website. Nominations are due Jan. 31, 2019. Together, let’s celebrate those educators who are making an immeasurable impact on their students, schools, communities and our future.

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12/13/2018

25 Things I’ve Learned from Nearly Four Decades in Education

By: Steve Gratz

Editor's Note: Our colleague, Steve Gratz, is retiring after many years in education. Steve’s blogs have challenged many education concepts and provided sage advice for innovation in education. Thank you, Steve. We wish you luck as you transition to your next opportunity.

GettyImages-1035083424.jpgI’m retiring from the Ohio Department of Education on Dec. 31, 2018, after 36 years in education and 10 state superintendents of public instruction — including two interims. Seven of those years were spent as a teacher of agriculture, and the remaining 29 were with the Department in various capacities — the last five serving as one of the agency’s senior executive directors.

When I started my career as a teacher of agriculture in 1983, I never envisioned the path my career would take. I’ve had the opportunity to teach thousands of students at the secondary and postsecondary levels and coach more than 200 Ohio FFA state officers. I love the teaching and learning process and will always consider myself a teacher and learner.

During my 29 years at the Department, I visited hundreds of schools — mainly high schools and career centers. I enjoyed visiting with students, teachers, administrators, board members and community members. Coupled with my teaching experience, these visits helped frame and solidify my teaching philosophy. At one time during my career, I thought I wanted to be a school administrator and went back to the classroom, but I soon realized I could have a greater impact back at the Department.

I have delivered hundreds of presentations throughout my career, including a few commencement speeches. During some of my recent presentations, I’ve shared a list of items those looking to redesign a school should consider. A few people asked for my list, so I felt it would be appropriate to share in my final blog.

These are not in any particular order of importance sans the first one. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather thought-provoking. This list is fluid, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it often.

  1. Transition all students to something and not out of high school. For too many years, we have been focusing on transitioning students out of school simply because they have met graduation requirements. It is time for us to adjust how we envision student success, and graduation alone is not the right measure. Graduation rates out of high school are not nearly as important as student success rates out of high school.
  2. Make your district the economic driver for your community and region by identifying in-demand sectors in your region — keep your talent local but don’t prevent students from pursuing their career aspirations. Some students may need coaching on differentiating a hobby and a vocation. The recently released OhioMeansJobs Workforce Data Tools website is an excellent resource to help start the process.
  3. Develop in-demand pathways beginning no later than grade 7, and show the progression of advancement. These begin as broad pathways and narrow as the student progresses. At a minimum, start a Personalized Professional Pathway program. This can be a quick win for students and the community.
  4. Blur the lines between technical and academic content. I firmly believe this will result in more meaningful teaching and learning. The burden shouldn’t fall on educators alone to make these connections. Employers, communities, and industry leaders should reach out and support educators in making academic and technical concepts real for students.
  5. Increase the number of integrated courses offered so students receive simultaneous credit. Integrated coursework and simultaneous credit can redesign the school day. If you don’t believe me, ask any STEM school.
  6. Increase the percentage of students completing Student Success Plans through OhioMeansJobs. Currently, this is only required for at-risk-students, but I encourage all students to have Student Success Plans.
  7. Ensure every school employee knows the career aspirations of every student. By knowing students’ career aspirations, teachers can contextualize their teaching to students’ interests during the “formal” teaching and learning process and help advise students during the “informal” teaching and learning process. I believe this would have positive impact on the ethos of the school.
  8. Embrace personalized learning for ALL students. Coupled with competency-based learning, personalized learning will allow students to progress at their own pace. The Future Ready Framework is a great resource to assist with developing personalized learning.
  9. Provide ALL students with the supports they need to succeed. This will look different from district to district; school to school; and student to student. A good place to begin is the Department’s webpage for Ohio’s Social and Emotional Learning Standards.
  10. Utilize the Literacy Design Collaborative and the Math Design Collaborative to ensure students are learning literacy and numeracy skills across all disciplines.
  11. Increase the percentage of students earning industry credentials, where applicable. Please make sure the credentials being earned align to students’ career aspirations.
  12. Increase the percentage of students participating in work-based learning experiences. There’s ample evidence-based research on the benefits of experiential learning not to mention the embedded work readiness skills.
  13. Increase the percentage of students earning the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal is for ALL students, and research indicates that students who have the attributes aligned with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal are more persistent in their postsecondary endeavors.
  14. Provide counseling to students for two years after graduation. I realize there are additional costs associated with this concept, but I truly believe this strategy would be extremely impactful to student success. This should be combined with the Career Advising Plan required of every district.
  15. Work with the Business Advisory Council and regional partners. Students need to learn skills that businesses require, so they can get well-paying jobs as adults. And who can do this better than business? Be sure to involve teachers with the Business Advisory Council too.
  16. Blur the line between secondary and postsecondary education. Schools need to increase work toward a system that eliminates grades, both student grades and class grades. Competency-based education is an excellent model for school redesign to help accomplish the elimination of grades.
  17. Encourage participation in all advanced standing programs when students are ready. College Credit Plus is one of the most robust dual-enrollment programs in the country. Districts with limited access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses can encourage student participation in Modern States' “Freshman Year for Free” program, where students can enroll and take tests in AP and CLEP courses for free.
  18. Start collecting longitudinal data on high school graduates. This data will prove invaluable when sharing the success of graduates. Data should include, but is not limited to, uninsured employment data and college persistence and graduation rates (National Student Clearinghouse).
  19. Establish metrics with your local board of education that define school and student success. These should be the metrics that are most important to the community.
  20. Continuous improvement is fundamental to ensuring students are prepared when they transition. This is imperative at all levels of the educational system.
  21. Communicate ad nauseum with school employees and the community members on the school’s or district’s vision and progress toward that vision.
  22. Maintain outreach to school and district alumni. One of my favorite ways to engage alumni came from a district that has a class reunion every year, including a parade spotlighting classes in five-year increments. After the parade, all alumni enjoy a picnic together at the community park.
  23. Share quick wins and promising practices on the SuccessBound webpage.
  24. Think big, start small, scale fast.
  25. Move forward with a sense of urgency.

No one should look at this list and feel compelled to try to implement too many at one time. Ideally, school leaders would collaborate with instructional staff to prioritize new initiatives.

Those familiar with Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education will see a strong correlation with my philosophy, especially with Strategy 10, and that makes me smile.

It has been a great and rewarding career in education, and I am looking forward to transitioning to my next career. Starting in early January, I will be helping a good friend with a program he founded — AgriCorps. AgriCorps focuses on ending generational poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll be traveling to Ghana, Liberia and Kenya to kick off 2019. Additionally, I’ll be assisting a few educational service centers and districts with school improvement and redesign.

I’m active on LinkedIn, so please reach out and stay connected.

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11/20/2018

Thank You, Superheroes, for the Difference You Make in Ohio’s Classrooms

By: Jonathan Juravich

GettyImages-997953384.jpgA week after I was named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, I received a note from an administrator in another part of the state asking if I really thought I “was the best teacher in Ohio.” I was taken aback by this question — the answer clearly is no. I am in no way the best teacher in Ohio or even at my school. But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to advocate for and represent teachers from all corners of our state. And over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable, inspiring teachers who are nothing short of superheroes.

My 5-year-old came home from her first week of kindergarten in Columbus City Schools proclaiming, “Mrs. Coneglio is a superhero without a cape.” Within those first few days with her teacher, she realized something very important — this teacher did remarkable things for her and the rest of her classmates. Mrs. Coneglio was not flashy with a sparkling uniform and a flowing cape. She did not have a mask concealing her identity. Instead, she was an everyday person with the extraordinary ability to build connections and bring her students into a state of awe.

During this season of thanks, I want to take the opportunity to thank the remarkable teachers across Ohio who give of themselves every day for their students and communities. These teachers believe in the power of their students as individuals. And for that, I am truly grateful.

I am thankful for teachers like Veronica Cotton, a third-grade teacher at John P. Parker Elementary in Cincinnati Public Schools, who welcomed me into her classroom with open arms. I watched her validate and then integrate her students’ unique experiences into their learning during Language Arts and Science. Thank you, Veronica, for reminding me, and all of us, that our students’ individual contexts fundamentally influence their learning.

Thank you, Dillon Sedar, art teacher at Munroe Elementary with Tallmadge City Schools. His students bring in works of art they create at home to trade with him. He proudly takes their masterpieces and gives them a piece of his own artwork. This connection validates their role as individual artists. Thank you, Dillon, for challenging and valuing your students’ individual voices and creative spirits.

I am grateful for the infectious positivity spread by Jen Savage, a teacher of the deaf at Windermere Elementary in Upper Arlington. In small, purposeful ways, she works tirelessly to make sure her students and their families are taken care of and well represented. Thank you, Jen, for all you do to make learning accessible to all students.

Thanks, Arthur Lard. Arthur is a business teacher at Portsmouth High School. He teaches financial literacy, educating his students about the economic risks that could profoundly impact their lives. He encourages them to be patient and take time to find their own answers instead of relying on teacher-driven decisions and solutions. Thank you, Arthur, for empowering your students as they consider their futures.

Many thanks to Bre Sambuchino of Loveland High School. Bre models selflessness for her students through community service-oriented instruction. The Day of Service she organizes for her high school students gets them into the community to make a very real difference for others. Students attach notes of love and affirmation they have written to coats they donate to a local center. Thank you, Bre, for inspiring the future leaders, teachers and citizens of our world with kindness and empathy.

To this small handful of educators and the countless others across Ohio, I say, thank you. Thank you for your leadership, your voice and your dedication to your students…our future. Though you might not wear a cape to school each day, know that those young eyes looking back at you see you in a theatrical way. They envision you in a stance of strength and power, with the wind in your hair and lights shining behind you. To those students. Your students. YOU are a superhero.

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10/25/2018

Safe, Inclusive Schools Prevent Bullying Before it Starts

By: Kimberly Monachino

GettyImages-950957410.jpgAs I walk down the halls of schools, I am always intrigued with the creative and empowering messages that appear on bulletin boards. Especially those messages that focus on inclusive school culture and creating positive learning environments. One tagline read, “Do the right thing even when no one is looking.” Another illustrated a colorful box of crayons with each crayon representing an individual child’s face with the caption “We are a box of crayons, each of us unique, but when we get together, the picture is complete.” Another bulletin board emphasized “Put a stop to bullying! Making others feel bad is never okay!”

I mention these observations in light of October being National Bullying Prevention Awareness month. This year’s Bullying Prevention Awareness Month marks the 10th anniversary of its initiation by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center. Since 2006, the event has grown to an entire month of education and awareness activities that are being recognized by schools and communities throughout the world.

I am going to provide a basic definition of bullying, along with specific tips for teachers to prevent bullying. The tips are intended for all students, but with an emphasis on students with disabilities. We know that children who bully others also often target children who seem “different.” Children with disabilities are sometimes more likely to be bullied than children without disabilities.

First, let’s start with the definition of bullying. The word “bullying” is applied to a lot of different situations that may or may not necessarily meet the definition of bullying. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. The key in this definition are the words real or perceived power imbalance and the behavior is repeated over time.

Bullying is not when children have a conflict or argument. There are always going to be times when children do not get along with each other and situations of disagreement occur. This is part of healthy childhood development and teaches children the important skills of managing their emotions. It helps them develop coping skills.

Teachers play an important role in preventing true bullying and can create safe, bully-free zones in their classrooms. Teachers also are aware that students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than students without disabilities and often are the first line of defense. Here are some tips on ways teachers can be proactive in preventing bullying of all students, with an emphasis on the unique needs of students with disabilities.

Champion                                                                                                     
Be a champion of preventing bullying by making sure you know your school and district policies on bullying and work to make sure they are implemented. Resources are available to help district develop their local policies.  

Build self-advocacy
Teach students who have disabilities how to advocate for themselves. Help students who struggle with social skills to recognize when someone is being hurtful, and give them language to use to help them respond.

Teach tolerance
Teach students self-awareness and empathy through literature. Books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka or The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt teach self-awareness and review multiple sides of a conflict in a story or scenario. Literature with protagonists who have disabilities, like Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and Wonder by R.J. Palacio are wonderful for building students’ awareness of specific disabilities. These stories also build empathy that transfers into real-world scenarios.

Build positive classroom climate
Create a positive class climate that is predictable, consistent and equitable. Take time at the start of and throughout the year to model problem-solving and communication. Go out of your way to recognize each student for his or her unique strengths and talents.

Respect
Let your students know you care about and respect them. Show your students you are available to listen and you want to help them.

Activities to promote prevention
Develop activities that focus on identifying bullying in books, TV shows and movies. Use teachable moments from these to discuss with your students the impact of bullying and how characters resolved it.

Morning meetings
During morning meetings, empower students to talk about bullying and peer relations. It is important to allow students to take leadership roles in planning and leading the meetings to help them gain critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Teach students to be “upstanders”
Students need to know that when they don’t stop someone from bullying, they’re contributing to it. Teach your students to be upstanders by showing them how to quickly recognize bullying and basic techniques to stop it — like not creating an audience or inviting the victim into their group.

Share experiences through multimedia
Challenge students to create multimedia projects that express their thoughts, opinions and personal experiences with bullying. The technology encourages creativity and individualism, and the ability to share their experiences builds students’ communication and advocacy.

Supervise hot spots
We know bullying is more likely to occur when teachers aren’t watching. Figure out your school’s “hot spots” for bullying — the places with less supervision and more students. It is important to ask others in the building, such as custodians, office assistants, cafeteria workers and bus drivers where they see problems.

These tips are meant to begin the conversation on how we can make each and every child feel welcome and accepted in our schools. The actions and behaviors you demonstrate contribute to the success of every child. Always remember the power you have as an educator to make a difference in a child’s life.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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7/12/2018

Beyond Engagement: Empowering Students to Take Ownership of Learning

By: Virginia Ressa

GettyImages-846567624.jpgSummer “vacation” is one of those things that non-educators sometimes misunderstand. Some people, even our family members, think teachers have three months off to lounge, sleep in and binge watch the shows we missed during the school year. We know differently. First of all, it’s not three months – it’s maybe two and a half after you factor in required planning and professional development days. But that’s not what I want to discuss today. I want to talk about how we use that time. Educators are also learners, using their time “off” to take classes to maintain their current license, earn a new license or an advanced degree.

What motivates us to continue our education and complete graduate classes?
What inspires us to engage in the learning process? To finish the vast amount of academic reading? And to complete the group projects that are so ubiquitous in grad school? I can tell you from experience, there are no rewards that give graduate students bonus bucks to spend at the university store when they complete the required reading. Rather than extrinsic rewards, we develop our own intrinsic motivations that keep us focused. We have ownership of our learning because we know why we are engaged in the learning. We know where we are going and what is expected of us.

Why don’t our students develop the same ownership of learning that we do?
Think about our K-12 classrooms and how we involve students in learning. Many of our schools and classrooms have rewards systems with stickers and bonus bucks in an attempt to motivate reluctant students. We try to provide extrinsic rewards because we have not given students the information and tools they need to develop ownership of their learning and intrinsic motivation. Teachers make the decisions about what students will learn and how they will be assessed. Teachers determine the timing of lessons and units of study. Teachers collect evidence of student learning. Teachers keep track of student progress. Teachers retain most of the control of teaching AND learning decisions, which leaves students as directed, passive participants.  

As classroom teachers or grade level teams, we can offer rewards and privileges that might work for a short time, but rarely result in enduring motivation. Most of our attempts at external motivation fall far short of creating the engagement we genuinely want to see in our classrooms. What we are actually striving for, and what we experience as students ourselves, is ownership of learning. Student ownership goes beyond engagement and motivation, and empowers students with a sense of control and responsibility for their learning. Creating the conditions for students to take ownership of their learning requires teachers to work with students to set and communicate clear learning targets, collect evidence of their learning, track and analyze their progress, and provide opportunities for self and peer assessment.

We often see students engaged in classroom activities – they are busy, on task and focused. But if we stop to ask them what they are learning and why, can students articulate either? They may be on task simply to complete the activity before the end of class so they don’t have homework. Maybe they are on task because they want to earn a spot in Friday’s field trip. They may not know why they are doing an assignment, but have been provided with enough outside motivation to complete the assignment. Yet, research shows that when students know why they are engaged in a learning activity and understand how their learning will contribute to their long-term goals, they are more likely to be self-motivated and to reach their goals. In other words, students are more likely to be motivated to reach goals they’ve helped to set. They are more likely to keep working toward their goals if they can see and track their progress.


“Formative instructional practices involve students throughout the teaching and learning process. These practices – done well – enhance student efficacy and motivation to learn.”
-FIP Learning Modules


If you have participated in any of the Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) professional learning, you will recall it emphasizes four core practices: Creating clear learning targets, collecting evidence of student learning, providing effective feedback and supporting student ownership of learning.

The most critical element of student ownership and FIP is the creation of clear learning targets. Clear learning targets are the keystone in this set of practices because we cannot successfully implement the other practices if we do not have well written, aligned and easily communicated learning targets. Most significantly, clear learning targets provide educators with the key to empower students to take ownership of their learning.

This summer, Ohio’s teachers will have many opportunities to participate in professional learning. it is now easier than ever to learn about formative instructional practices. Free resources are now available on the Learning Management System (LMS). I’ve given you an introduction to student ownership of learning, but there are modules in the “FIP in Action” course that will help you to envision the practices in the context of content area classes. Once you have had a chance to take some time for yourself, visit the LMS and look at the many options available for improving your use of formative instructional practices.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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7/5/2018

ENCORE: Free and On Demand...What You Should Know About the Learning Management System for Ohio Education

By: Julia Simmerer

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Editor's note: This blog was originally published on March 22, 2018, but some things are so good they deserve another look! We are re-running the post so everyone gets a chance to read this staff favorite and educators can take advantage of the LMS this summer.

"The most important attitude that can be found is the desire to go on learning.” – John Dewey.

Everyone is born with a natural desire to learn about the world around us and an eagerness to thrive in the world. The motivation to learn never ends — it continues throughout our lives and our careers. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of millennials say job development is important in a job. Essentially, we crave opportunities to learn and grow throughout our lives.

Today’s technology also has made us crave media that is available at our fingertips. With streaming video services like Netflix, we can watch movies anytime and almost anywhere.  Internet-connected smart phones put the answer to almost any question right in our pockets. While an internet search can provide quick responses to basic questions, it isn’t the best method for developing our professional skills.  

The Ohio Department of Education recently introduced a new tool that both helps educators meet their learning goals and is readily accessible anywhere there is internet. The Department’s Learning Management System for Ohio Education, or LMS as it is commonly called, is a free, online learning system for actively credentialed educators. By logging in to their OH|ID accounts, educators can participate in high-quality learning anytime — available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Department designed the current courses based on input from Ohio’s educators. The LMS allows districts to collaborate with each other through interactive discussion boards and activities. Each course covers specific skills that match an educator's job assignment. Traditional professional development courses in school settings offer “one size fits all” learning opportunities. This system allows users to select courses that are specifically relevant to their teaching assignments. The courses within the LMS also offer strategies that teachers can use immediately in the classroom.

Having spent several years as a classroom teacher, I recognize the benefits that free, online training brings to Ohio’s educators. Some of these benefits include not missing a day from class to participate, not needing a substitute teacher to cover your class and the flexibility to work from home at a time that is convenient for you. Now that I work for the Department, I appreciate that the system allows us to make sure everyone taking the course receives a consistent message and instruction — no matter where they are in Ohio.

To take a course in the system, educators sign in to their OH|ID accounts and select Learning Management System. From there, educators can search the Course Catalog. Some of the topics covered by courses in the system include:

  • Instructional practices;
  • Evaluating digital content for instruction;
  • Transition services for students with disabilities;
  • Educator evaluation systems;
  • Instructional coaching;
  • Differentiation;
  • The Resident Educator program; and
  • The OhioMeansJobs resource.

Participants can complete reflections and time logs throughout the courses. This allows them to potentially earn credit for working on their Individual Professional Development Plans. (Educators should review each course’s syllabus for the recommended procedure for submitting their work to the Local Professional Development Committee.)

Currently, the Department’s Office of Educator Effectiveness is offering the following courses:

  • Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) for Teachers;
  • Learning About the Ohio School Counselor Evaluation System;
  • Ohio Principal Evaluation System (OPES): Essentials for Educators;
  • Resident Educator courses;
  • Formative Instructional Practices, (FIP) Series (seven courses available);
  • Coaching for Self-reflection and Instructional Change; and
  • Using the Ohio Standards for Professional Development.

If you have any questions about the LMS, feel free to contact Alison Sberna at Alison.Sberna@education.ohio.gov or (614) 369-4071. In the meantime, log in to your OH|ID account now and take a tour of the Course Catalog. Instead of “binge watching” TV shows, let’s do some “binge learning” on the LMS.  

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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