Treat People with Dignity and Respect

Who Will Be the People to Bridge Racial and Cultural Distrust?

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

"I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of a university." Albert Einstein

Someone thought Dad was a poor dirt farmer. Here’s how they tell the story. You see, my father is a farmer in South Georgia. In the past, he’s been involved in various political campaigns in both political parties. One time it was during harvest and Daddy came to hear a candidate speak at the courthouse straight out of the field. Dad hadn’t listened to the candidate before, and neither had many people from our area. As the candidate was introduced, Daddy walked up near the back of the crowd. Daddy was “filthy dirty” as we say in south Georgia. It is likely, knowing Dad, that his shirt was untucked. Probably the only nongrimy part of his body was the whites of his eyes.

Dad, the “Dirt Farmer” Meets the Politician

As the story goes, as Dad walked up, the candidate leaned over to one of the local members of his election campaign and said,

“I’m so glad the poor dirt farmers could make it today. That speaks well for our campaign.”

Of course, everyone knew the man was talking about my Dad. Mouths were open, and uncomfortable looks were exchanged between those who brought him to the courthouse for his “stump speech.”

After the speech, Daddy came up to shake his hand. The man assumed a condescending air that everyone saw as Dad walked up. Daddy shook his hand and then said something like,

“I mentioned your name to Senator [name withheld] when I was on the Hill last week. This year’s farm bill is looking good and I hope if you get elected that you’ll continue to support our efforts to help farmers in Washington.”

Dad added a few more comments that showed he knew some people in Washington, DC and had spent some time there. The onlookers said you should have seen the look on the candidate’s face. In shock, his face changed looks from one of condescension to one of realizing that he had misjudged this “poor dirt farmer” who came late to the courthouse. He was completely floored because his assumptions were wrong. Needless to say, this potential candidate’s gaffe was spread throughout the candidate, and he did not carry our county nor the election.

I know this story well because it was the one they told me often as a child reminding me to treat all people with dignity and respect.

“Whether you’re talking to the janitor or the President, each person deserves your respect,” Mom would say.

When I Was an Intern in Washington, DC

Years later when I served as an intern in Washington, DC for Senator Sam Nunn, I remembered these words from Mom and Dad. I would often see people ignore interns like me as the nobodies that we were. But interestingly enough, often there were people in power — like Senator Nunn — who recognized people “like me” and treated us with great respect.

My encouragement to you today is to remember that every individual is worthy of respect. And be careful of wearing filters on your eyes and only seeing people “like you.”

A Curious Thing That Happened Waiting for the Bathroom at Five Guys

This past Sunday, we went to the new Five Guys burger place in Albany, Georgia after church. But before I tell you my “Five Guys” story, let me tell you a little background so you can relate.

Now, Kip and I go to one of the most diverse churches in South Georgia. At our church, we believe that racial reconciliation begins in the church with showing how we love others. Unfortunately, in the US, according to our speaker this past Sunday, Vance Pittman, 86% of churches are segmented by race or social class each Sunday. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be that way. The church that speaks love should be the first to embrace and show the love of all people.

In fact, recently at church, I was talking to a precious teenager who I’ve mentored about her college choices. She’s a beautiful African-American teen. As a matter of fact, we got to know each other serving together in nursery duty over the years. At the church social several months a go, I sat beside her as she fished and we talked about college choices. She stopped me in the hall several weeks ago the Sunday after the election when everyone was so afraid and said,

“Miss Vicki, I tell my friends that there are good white people out there. I tell them about our church and they don’t believe me. I told them I have friends of all types at church and we love each other and worship together and they say it isn’t true. All I know is what I see and I see good people with all skin types and colors. I wish more of them would believe me. I wish more of my friends would give people with different colors a chance.”

I told her to keep living her life with love and not hate. I told her that I totally understand and that I have people in my life too that “don’t give people with different colors a chance” but that we have to be different and love all types of people and that I believe it is our God-given mission to love all people.

Now, that you understand that I’d just come from a very diverse church where everybody says hello to everybody — let’s go back to Five Guys. So, I’m a “How are you” kinda person. I love to say hello to everybody and smile. I might be the only smile a person sees that day. So, we’re in 5 Guys after church and I’m saying hello to everyone.

Then, as I’m waiting outside the ladies’ restroom, I see a friendly man coming down the hallway towards the hall where I’m waiting. He has to go past me to wait for the men’s room to become available. He’s a “hello how are you” person too!

He speaks to the lady from Five Guys who walks in the hallway out of the serving kitchen.

“How are you sister, I’m so happy to see you. You have a great day.”

Then, a young man comes down the hall and walks just past me and says,

“How are you, young man. Are you doing OK today? You do well in school and have a good day, my brother.”

I turn to him and say,

“Hello, how are you today? I hope you’re having a good day.”

You could have stopped time. He looked at me with a blank face and didn’t say a word. I was shocked. I started wondering if I had something on my face or if I was just a scary looking person.  I started looking at my skirt and shoes and wondered what was wrong with me.

Then, a lady came out of the restroom where I was going in and he said to her,

“Hi, sister, how are you? It’s a mighty fine Sunday, dontcha think?”

Just as friendly as he could be. No word to me. I just went into the lady’s restroom and didn’t see him again. I had no clue what was going on until I realized something. All the people he spoke to were African American, and he was too. I’m white.

Is that what it was? Did I not exist because I was a different color?

Now, I’m not pointing this out to say I was treated wrongly. This happening just caused me to wonder and be curious. Having just come from church, we say hello to everybody and everybody is pretty different from us. We’re all different. Different classes. Different races. Different countries, even.

But now, thrown back into the “real world” we were back into the place of being different again. And I wasn’t even worth a “hi, how you.” Let’s say I did have something on my face or was having a particularly bad hair day, I would still think as a fellow human being that I’d be worth a hello. I think the friendly man might have liked me a little if he’d said hello. We were both “Hi how are you” kinda people.

For now, I’ll just shake it off and give him the benefit of the doubt. Who knows why I wasn’t worth a hello.  It isn’t for me to guess and I think life is better giving people the benefit of the doubt. He could have had horrible wrongs done to him or his family by people who are white and he sees me as just another “one of them.” Who knows. In the grand scheme of life, someone not saying hello is really not a big deal.

Like the young lady at church, I just found it odd. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t upset. I guess I was just sad.

You see, often we’re all blind – me included. We’re blind to our own biases. We’re blind to the situation of other people and how they see the world. But we must simply begin not only seeing the world through the eyes of our neighbor, but we must begin loving and treating all people with respect. We can’t rush to judgment. We can’t ignore people who are a different color or who are a different social class. Or even, who are a different physical fitness level. (I can make a whole blog post on how differently “thin Vicki” gets treated from “fat Vicki” — it is stunning to become invisible to some people when you put on a few pounds.)

In the end, we’re all people. Fat. Thin. Rich. Poor. Black. White. Hispanic. Asian. We’re all just people.

I just encourage you today as I encourage myself — 

  • Don’t assume that you are treating everyone with respect.
  • Intentionally today say hello to people you don’t usually greet.
  • Intentionally consider how  YOU treat others.
  • Notice the quiet and those left out.
  • Notice people who aren’t being greeted by others and be the one to say hello.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt when you seem to be having a disagreement. We all have a bad day.

For the small things do become big things in a culture. I’ve given you several examples here of how we must learn to reach out to those different from us and “be the change we wish to see in the world” as Nelson Mandela says.  If “the type” of person who doesn’t usually say hello to you says hello, say hello back.

And let me tell you something, this is not a popular view. People talk about racial and cultural reconciliation, but the peer pressure is to make fun of “the other guy” or to stay away from “the other gal.” Our world is geared to be divisive.

As teachers and as leaders, we simply must be different. We must love all people and show with our actions how the world should improve.

As for me, I’m a hugely flawed individual. Even with this blog post, I’m sure I’ve included biases and things that I said unintentionally. I’ve even debated not posting this because it is such an inflammatory topic.

But I’ll tell you, the unkindness, stereotyping, and lack of civility brewing in our world is going to give us an explosive hothouse of violence if more of us can’t stand up and show with word and deed that all people deserve our respect, attention, time, and best.

May we all reflect upon our actions today and become better people for it.


The post Treat People with Dignity and Respect appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

Cool Cat Teacher’s Gift List 2016 Edition

Some of the Things I Enjoy

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

If you’ve ever struggled to buy presents like I do, you probably ask people what they like to buy. Therefore, I am always looking at the blogs and newsletters of the edtech gurus and leaders I love to see what they love ALREADY. To help you with your buying, here are some things on my “enjoy” list and how I use them. I hope it gives you ideas.

my favorite christmas gifts

Cool Gifts, Ideas, and Books

1. An Amazon Alexa Device.

I love my Amazon Dot. It uses Amazon Alexa. Alexa is the best voice recognition I’ve found. So, I’ve taught my whole family to add things to the shopping list.

“Alexa add milk to the shopping list.”

We also listen to music and podcasts using Alexa.

“Alexa, play Every Classroom Matters podcast.”

In selecting the right one for our family, I had to do a lot of research. In summary, there are actually four types of devices that come with Alexa voice recognition:

  • Amazon Echo – This is the high-end Alexa device that comes with a blue tooth speaker. It is always on. Now, if you want to play great music loudly, you’re better off with the Dot going through stereo speakers you already own. Lots of people are putting these devices in their kitchens and offices.
  • Amazon Tap – This device is portable. You carry it with you and wherever you have wifi, you can use Alexa. I could see how people with wifi in their cars or who want a Bluetooth speaker might like it. It is important to realize that it is not always on, you have to tap it to use it. It does have built in speakers although not as good as the Echo. This is a supercharged Bluetooth speaker that you can carry.
  • Amazon Dot – This is what we have in my house. We had some great Bose speakers and just wanted to hook it in. It is always on and listening, however, I do have to turn on the speakers when I go in the kitchen. We’re adding lighting (see below) that will be controlled by the Dot as well.
  • Amazon Fire Stick with Alexa Voice Remote – I admit that I’ve gotten used to just saying “Alexa play some upbeat 80’s music” and it just does. So, I’m looking forward to doing the same on my TV except with movies. We have Amazon Prime, so it makes sense for us. It is still in the box, though because this is a present for Kip. (It is OK, I read my posts out loud to him and I will omit this one! 😉 He won’t find out unless one of you tell him. Shhh. 😉

2. Rocketbook Smartwave Notebook

This crazy Rocketbook notebook is my new favorite tool. (Right now it is $27.00) So, first, you should write in it with Pilot Frixion pens. I love these pens because they are erasable, but they have another feature. The ink disappears at 140 degrees. (It reappears at 30, so take note.) You don’t need to have the rockebook to get these pens, I’m buying them for everyone.

First, after I use the whole notebook and have stored the contents in the cloud, I can put this notebook in the microwave with a cup of water. I can microwave it several minutes and “poof” the text is gone! The Rocketbook notebook can be used 5 times in this way! Erase and use again! Crazy!

Second, I use Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive in a variety of ways.The rocketbook has these icons at the bottom of the page. I just mark an x on the icon where I want it to go and when I snap the picture with the rocketbook app, boom it goes into the cloud.

So, I have some students and I writing a screenplay (we’ll be done next week). When we meet and talk, I take notes and then snap a picture and it goes to our shared Google Drive immediately. When I take sermon notes, I mark the diamond. It immediately goes to my notebook in Evernote for shining ideas and notes. You do have to set up what each icon means, but it is simple and I love it! A great gift for a person who uses the cloud but loves to take hand written notes.

3. Apple Watch

I love my Apple Watch. It is a game-changer. I know many are going with the Fitbit and just doing biometrics, but if you have an iPhone or iPad, the Apple watch just makes more sense. If you get one, you might want to look for some different watch bands.

4. Comedians from the Past

I love jokes! So, it has become an issue lately of finding good, clean comedy to listen to in the car. So, my family has gone to some throwbacks and we’re laughing like crazy. Jerry Clower and Red Skelton are some of our favorites.

If you’re from rural America or a place that likes hunting and fishing, Jerry Clower is “bust a gutt” as we say. If you have Amazon prime music, you can listen to many of these comedians before you buy the CD for members of your family. I’d love suggestions of other clean comedians to enjoy!

5. Phillips Hue Smart Lightbulbs

I spent last Saturday setting up a smart lightbulb system for my parents. The Phillips Hue Smart Lightbulbs White were the ones we selected.  (I inserted a video from crazy tech guy Lamar Wilson below if you don’t get what these lights do.) Here’s what we did for Dad:

  • Turn the lights on and off for safety. We set up the app on Dad’s iphone with location awareness. The lights come on when Dad comes home. The lights go off (except for one non-smart light bulb) when they leave.
  • Biorhythm friendly lighting. At 5:30 am, the lights gradually start coming on because they like to wake up early. They are a lower power in the morning. At noon, the lights move to 75% power. At 5 pm, the lights move to 100% power. At 8:30 the lights start dimming. We set the gradual increase because according to their doctor, it will help prevent confusion and promote better sleep and so far it is.
  • Control from Dad’s phone. Dad can turn the lights on and off throughout the house. This is awesome because my Mom doesn’t really remember to do that and dad can flip the whole house with just a flip.

The biggest recommendation I have is to make sure you have no more than 4 zones. This is because it can become clunky with more than 4. While some people are going with colored lights, the white are just fine for most of us. These bulbs are more expensive but last for 10 years. And they are smart and easy to set up.

  • Oh, and in my house, we can control them by voice with Amazon Alexa. Here’s another present for Kip. 😉

With some time, you can set up a very smart system for aging parents or family members. There are so many things you can do with home automation for those you love, consider it.

6. Some Great Books

Reading is such an important part of life. Here are some book recommendations of things I’ve read and love.

Books That Impacted My Teaching

My books:


  • Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Operator Adam Brown has to be one of of my best reads of 2016. If it isn’t to be enough to be a SEAL, he overcame a drug addiction. Then, when he lost use of his dominant hand, he retrained with his other hand. On top of that, when he lost use of his dominant eye, he learned to shoot again with his other eye. His story of overcoming is transformational and takes away all my excuses. I’m buying this book for several of my children and nephews.
  • 21 Great Leaders: Learn their Lessons, Improve Your Influence by Pat Williams – I often read this to my students. Some great biographies of heroes in a way that helps us learn from both their strengths and weaknesses. Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, and more are in this book.
  • Just as I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham – Billy Graham was a masterful leader and knew many presidents. I love his transparency as he lived his life and was often counselor to presidents in the US.
  • David Livingstone by Sam Wellman was a book I picked up after I started reading the journals of this amazing explorer of Africa. From this book, I learned so much about the attitude of innovators and change makers. It isn’t what you think.
  • River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard – If I had to list my top books of all time, this one is on the list. This unforgettable journey redefines tenacity and my own sometimes dark journey to teach to today’s generation of kids who I love so much.
  • No Greater Love by Mother Teresa – This book is part autobiography, part a philosophy on caring for those who hurt among us. I read and re-read this book.

Productivity and Living Life

If you want to get organized, you might want to pick up my ebook and all of the accompanying planner pages and customize your own planner for 2016.

Random Topical Books

  • On Writing by Stephen King – This is my only Stephen King book but it is a masterful, inspiring insight into the craft of writing. Love this book.
  • My Reading Life by Pat Conroy – This is my favorite book about reading and the love of books. It is an epic journey into the love and meaning of books. The section about his favorite teacher is a treasure to me and inspires me to be a better teacher.

Christian Books


  • I’ve enjoyed the William R. Fortschen series One Second After and One Year After. These books talk about the aftermath of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) explosion. They are what some would call faith-based books but seem to be very accurate as to this threat that no one seems to discuss. The next one comes out in January, The Final Day.
  • I just love the Jack Reacher character by Lee Child. I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but plan to over break.

But in the end, remember that it is truly a time to celebrate family and faith. I’m taking time to put those pictures from last year into picture books for my family. Baking and loving on family are a huge part of Christmas for me.

Meanwhile, I’m excited about the new Hope is Rising album from my church. It fills me with hope, especially Psalm 63, which is truly one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. If you want hope-full music, go for it.

And in the end, Christmas and the holidays are times to make memories not make a bunch of debt. You can make photo books, special memory movies, and more that are personal and don’t require anything but your time!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post Cool Cat Teacher’s Gift List 2016 Edition appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

How to Assign Homework without Wasting Everybody’s time

Answer the question “Why does my child have to do this homework?”

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

If you ever assign homework, you have likely dealt with the “Why does my child have to do this homework?” question from parents. In my experience, these complaints are often from parents who have different expectations about learning and the role of home and school than you do. Furthermore, parents now question teachers about homework more than ever claiming that valuable family time is being lost.

teacher podcast homework

Without a doubt, we need to be prepared to answer their questions. Today we hear compelling evidence from the authors of Hacking Homework: 10 Strategies That Inspire Learning Outside the Classroom about how to consider our homework practices.

Listen to this show on BAM Radio Network | iTunes

In this show,Teachers Starr Sackstein and Connie Hamilton will connect research to the real-life classroom. Let’s rethink homework and prepare ourselves with a homework solution that fits with what works.

ClassTag: Today’s Sponsor

Parents and teachers need to be partners. For this reason, be intentional about helping parents know how to support your classroom and what they should be doing at home. Interestingly, the ability to connect with parents is one of the things that caught my attention about a new app called ClassTag.

Get Support

ClassTag’s primary focus is turning parents into partners. They’ve developed a tool for strengthening and deepening the support parents give teachers from home. At the heart of the tool is a system for effortlessly showing parents how to give you the support you and your student need. I’ll tell you more about this tool in the coming weeks. Check it out now.


Show Notes: How to Assign Homework Without Wasting Everybody’s Time

  • When is homework meaningful and helpful?
  • Does the research have different recommendations by age level about homework?
  • Are there some practical ways of assigning homework that improve learning?
  • What should we do and not do with homework at various grade levels?
  • Teachers should be intentional, purposeful and specific about homework.
  • The struggle to give meaningful homework and not just busy work.
  • Hear Starr’s and Connie’s pep talk for teachers about homework that works.
  • The Book: Hacking Homework: 10 Strategies That Inspire Learning Outside the Classroom

Who are Connie Hamilton and Starr Sackstein?

Connie Hamilton@conniehamilton Ed.S. is a curriculum director in for Saranac Community Schools and a national presenter focusing on questioning, best practices, and leadership.

Starr Sackstein@mssackstein  teaches writing and journalism in New York City. Additionally, she is a National Board-certified teacher and the New York director for the Journalism Education Association.


You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. In addition, if you like this show, will you leave a review? (It helps others find the show. Thank you!)button-itunes

The post How to Assign Homework without Wasting Everybody’s time appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

4 Key Factors for Fantastic Formative Assessment

Practical Advice from Research to Classroom

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Too many times the research is completely disconnected from the classroom. But in today’s show, we talk about some very practical issues for teachers. First of all, we talk about the characteristics that make effective formative assessment. This includes some important tips for adjusting your instruction based upon formative assessment. Secondly, we also discussed standards and why in most cases they don’t work. Today’s guest, Dr. Douglas Reeves, bridges the research with the everyday classroom in a helpful way.


Listen to this show on BAM Radio Network | iTunes 

So, if you want to be a better teacher tomorrow, these tips and ideas are practical ways that will work to make you a better teacher. I especially love the way he says to start class.

Formative assessment and a better understanding of the role of standards will help us all improve. Of course, we’re going to have to ask ourselves hard questions and prioritize what’s really important. In my opinion, when you try to choose to do everything you end up doing nothing very well. And that is the case in most schools which are plagued with too many standards and too many things to do.

Get a 60-day Free Trial of Gradecam

As a teacher, it is our job to focus on what’s important and to move our students forward and help them progress. We can do that. I believe you’ll find today very empowering, encouraging, and practical. So, let’s get started!

Gradecam: A Fantastic Tool for Assessment is Today’s Sponsor

Formative assessment options can save you time. GradeCam is a quick grading tool for formative AND summative assessment. You get instant feedback on what students know. With this tool, you print out bubble sheets, use your smartphone, to take a picture of your students’ quizzes, and GradeCam will grade the quizzes for you! You can to quickly collect and assess student learning in the moment and adjust your lessons in real-time. GradeCam also works with laptops, desktops, tablets and any device that has a camera connected to wifi. GradeCam can also quickly transfer all of the scores into a grade book

If you visit Gradecam from this blog post, you can get a 60-day free trial. You can also listen to a bonus episode I recorded about the “Biggest Formative Assessment Mistake that People Make.”

Show Notes:

  • Many of us feel over tested. But we’re under assessed. Formative assessment is about informing teaching and learning.

  • Most of what is happening is “uninformative assessment.” He defines what poor assessment looks like and what good assessment looks like.

  • Good Assessment should be: Fair, Accurate, Specific, Timely

  • If you could wave your magic wand and fix formative assessment – what would you do?

  • “We have too many standards. The idea that we can wave our magic wand and assess them all is ridiculous. I’m an advocate of power standards… we should prioritize and assess the half dozen or so that are the most important to get students to the next level.”

  • We discuss standards alignment and the illusion that is caused by having too many standards.

  • Dr. Reeves recommends fewer standards that are higher in value.

  • How teachers can work in a situation where they have too many standards. Doug gives some practical examples of what can help.

  • Good formative assessment helps me be a better teacher tomorrow. What would that look like?

  • You can just have 5-10 items at the beginning of class – trading papers or grade immediately and right then you know how to adjust the classroom instruction for the day. Short, precise, assessments that are focused and inform my teaching immediately.

  • It must get everyone involved so I can see what the whole class is. Doesn’t have to be graded. Kids are more likely to respond to feedback than grades.

  • What we should look at when we evaluate a teacher’s ability to assess and give feedback.

Learn More About Good Formative Assessment

Check the other episodes in this formative assessment series: Top Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Formative Assessment that Works (Episode 1), Top Tips for Fast Formative Assessment (Episode 2) and this episode.

This 3-part series is designed to give every teacher something they can use in the classroom. I’ve found that formative assessment is an area that many teachers are lacking that can substantially improve classroom learning. We can do better than the old “show of hands” they were using in the 1980’s when I was in high school. Formative assessment took my classroom forward by leaps and bounds, so share these with your teachers.

Who is Dr. Douglas Reeves?

Dr. Douglas Reeves is the founder of Creative Leadership Solutions. The author of more than 30 books and 80 articles on leadership and organizational effectiveness, Doug has twice been named to the Harvard University Distinguished Authors Series. He has worked in every state in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries. Blogs at

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. If this show meant something to you, will you leave a review?button-itunes

The post 4 Key Factors for Fantastic Formative Assessment appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog