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From Testing to Transformational Change with Pam Moran

Pam Moran on episode 231 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Pam Moran has been a leader in education reform in Virginia over the past several years as the state moved from testing to transformation. In today’s episode, she talks about the transformation, why they needed change, and implementing successful change. This multi-part series will run over the next several Mondays.

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Screencastify is an essential tool for making flipped lessons, student videos and creative formative assessments. I use this tool when students are making Scratch video games for them to record their games and explain their scripts. If you want to go for unlimited editing, request a quote for your school and mention Cool Cat Teacher for a Discount.

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Enhanced Transcript

From Testing to Triumphant Learning with Pam Moran

Link to show:

Date: January 15, 2018

Vicki: Pam Moran is a superintendent and leader in Virginia and someone who inspires me. Once I was speaking in Virginia and some teachers told me I had to meet Pam, that she was a “teacher’s and student’s superintendent.” I admire her so much so we are doing a multi part series with her.

Pam, what is an update on what has happened with education reform in Virginia since we last talked?

Update on Testing Reform in Virginia

Pam: One of the things that’s pretty interesting since the last time we talked, Vicki, is that I was part of a group originally in 2010 that started lobbying of superintendents. There were several of us. We were called the DaVinci Design Team.

We started really pushing the State Board of Education to think about changes in the state testing requirements in Virginia.

We then worked as president of the superintendents’ association in Virginia, and we actually came up with a blueprint for sort of strategic focus that we thought should occur at the highest level of the state — which would be lobbying the governor, the general assembly, and the state board of education.

So we now have, over the last three years, been reducing state tests that are required. The latest is that we’ve reduced the high school requirement. It used to be that our kids — if you took Chemistry, if you took Biology, if you took Earth Science — all those had a state test. World History I, World History II, American History, Government all had state tests. English, Reading and Writing, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry.

So our kids in high school, you know, if you were taking a full complement of coursework, you could take — in addition to things like AP tests and SATs and all those things — you also had up to eleven or twelve state tests. The state’s just reduced that to a requirement of one science, one social studies, one math, and a reading and writing assessment. So, that’s kind of cool.

New Profile of Graduate Model Based on 5 C’s

And the thing for us here in Albemarle, is that one of the things that the state has done, the general assembly also have basically developed direction to the state board of education — through its channels of bills that became a law — to move in the direction of reducing state testing with the idea that we would be building out a profile of a graduate model that would be based upon what the general assembly labeled as the five C’s, which were the four that most people are used to — Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Communication — and they added a fifth of Citizenship.

They said, “This is what we want you to work on in terms of the competencies that our kids will graduate from when they leave us after high school. That really changes the game for the state, not just in terms of the state assessments, but also how curriculum and standards, opportunities for multidisciplinary learning, for the localities in Virginia to be able to really take some risk that it’s been difficult to take under No Child Left Behind as it’s evolved into where we are today.

So, I think that Virginia’s feeling like a real breath of fresh air is rolling through the state in terms of really looking at things like more opportunities for kids to get out of school, particularly their junior and senior year, to be able to do internships or work experiences or independent studies or community-based project work.

Just really looking at a very different model that’s far more transitional to adulthood than walking out of a traditional high school and then being expected to go to college or into the workforce or gap years or whatever kids do, and be ready to do that. So that’s kind of cool.

Vicki: Yeah. So Pam, what are the challenges that you see, or obstacles that you see to fully implementing this vision?

Obstacles to Implementing the Vision in Virginia

Pam: I think that one of the things that particularly — in states like Virginia where the resources that localities have access to can be wildly different. We have districts that have all the resources in the world, and we have districts that are really challenged.

So you wouldn’t find, for example, with technology — Albemarle has been in a one-to-one environment for a number of years now, as has Charlottesville City. You know, Charlottesville is the center of Albemarle County. You go to Henrico County? They flipped to one-to-one sometime around 2002.

So all around the state you have school division, as we call them in Virginia, that have had strong commitments to professional development, to implementing technologies, to really providing resources for teachers to be able to do whatever the work is of the moment.

So if it was implementing state standards with the intention of kids passing tests, then people in some divisions had a lot of resources, people in other divisions far less.

How to Get Buy-in For Transformational Change from Teachers

So I think that’s probably the biggest challenge — taking a look at, “What does it take to really create the kind of transformative change that would go with something like the profile of a graduate work?

What’s the buy-in from the beginning point of the resources that are needed to building the investment among educators as to why transformative change is really critical?” I was just talking with some teachers a few minutes ago, and I said, “You can modernize spaces. You can create more transparency in environments.

You can change the dominant pedagogy from teaching at the teaching wall to more project based work or activity based and inquiry focused learning.

But if educators don’t have a sense of what’s the intentional purpose of doing this? How will kids benefit? How will I even as a professional gain something from this process? What you end up with are people who perhaps are implementing it as we educators often do because we’re pretty compliant people, but it doesn’t make sense.

So to me, one of the biggest challenges we have as leaders is how do you help make sense? Not everybody is going to make sense of it in the first day of a change, or the hundredth day of a change or maybe even two years of change.

But you’ve got to have something in place that really allows teachers with parents with even the students that we serve to make sense of the why. It’s what I call the why curriculum. And if you don’t have that built in — and I think there’s probably no district in the country that would say, “We have 100% success stories in terms of implementing change.”

But if you don’t have some sense of why you purposefully are doing what you do, then it just becomes, “We’re doing this because somebody said to do it.” And that’s not going to get you the rich, authentic, contextual learning for either adults or kids that I think that you need to really have fully transformative change.

Please stay tuned for future episodes in this series.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Dr. Pamela R. Moran has served as the Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools since January 2006. She oversees a division with an annual operating budget of $180.5 million; a self-sustaining budget of $19.2 million and a five-year capital budget of $86.9 million. The division includes more than 1,200 teachers educating 13,700 students in 25 schools.

During Dr. Moran’s tenure, Albemarle County Public Schools has become one of the top performing school divisions for students in the state with an on-time graduation rate of 95 percent. Two out of every three high school seniors graduate with an Advanced Studies Diploma, 30 percent higher than the state average for all school divisions. In 2014, Albemarle County students had the second highest SAT scores among 133 school divisions in Virginia in critical reading and the third highest SAT scores for writing and math.

In 2015, a national survey organization ranked Albemarle County Public Schools in the top five of all school divisions in Virginia and among the top two percent of all school divisions in the county.

Among the school division’s flagship programs are its Learning Commons, AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) and M-Cubed. Both the Learning Commons and M-Cubed have received the National School Board Association’s Magna Award, given annually to the school division in the nation with the most innovative and effective program. The school division is the only one in the history of the Magna Award to twice receive the association’s highest performance honor. The school’s Learning Commons, which is a multi-disciplined, technology-infused learning center, has attracted visits by MIT, Harvard, the Universities of Virginia and North Carolina and from the Smithsonian Museum and the New York Hall of Science. M-Cubed is a program that supports black middle school males in year-round advanced math studies to improve their high school academic performance. The division’s Jack Jouett Middle School is in the top three percent of all schools in the world for the success of its AVID college and career readiness program.

A key component of the division’s project-based instructional model is its maker curriculum, which has been the subject of presentations by division educators around the country, including at the White House. In 2015, in partnership with two other school divisions and the University of Virginia, Albemarle County Public Schools was one of three public school divisions in the nation to receive an Investing in Innovation demonstration grant. The $3.4 million federal grant is being used to develop advanced manufacturing and engineering programs in division middle schools and is in addition to a $20,000 state planning grant to develop a “school-of-the-future” model.

The division has three centers of excellence. Students in the Math, Engineering and Science Academy earn an average of $24,000 per student in academic scholarships; the Health and Medical Sciences Academy became a Governor’s Regional Health Academy in 2013 and in 2015, a new Environmental Studies Academy began operations.

The division also is home to one of the first CoderDojo Academies in a public school division in the country, teaching computer coding and science skills to students. Other notable new programs include a high school Arts & Letters Pathwayand a summer Fine Arts Academy.

Dr. Moran is a leading advocate of an educational model that prepares students for “success in their century, not mine.” She emphasizes the value of student-led research, project-based learning and contemporary learning spaces that promote collaboration, creativity, analytical problem-solving, critical thinking, and communications competencies among all students.

A past gubernatorial appointee to the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia, Dr. Moran was selected by her peers across the Commonwealth as Virginia’s 2016 Superintendent of the Year. She subsequently was one of four statewide superintendents of the year to be selected as a finalist for 2016 National Superintendent of the Year.

In 2016, Dr. Moran was selected to serve on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development.

She is a member of the MakerEdorg advisory committee and has delivered several TED Talks on the impact of creating a contemporary learning environment for students, one shaped around a student-centered project-based instructional model. Under her guidance, Albemarle County Public Schools was selected in 2015 for membership in the League of Innovative Schools., a nonprofit organization authorized by the U.S. Congress to accelerate innovation in education.

Dr. Moran has appeared on the cover of Education Week’s Digital Directions magazine as a “National Mover and Shaker” for her advocacy of a curricular digital integration model, which will be featured in an upcoming profile by Edutopia. She also was selected by eSchool Media as one of its national Tech-Savvy Superintendents of the Year and under her leadership, the school division received the Virginia Governor’s Tech Innovation Award.

Dr. Moran is a past President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Women Educational Leaders of Virginia and the Virginia Association of Science Supervisors. She holds leadership positions with the regional Chamber of Commerce, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Education Fund, and the University of Virginia-Public Schools Educational Partnership.

Dr. Moran’s career in public education began as a high school science teacher. She subsequently served as a central office science coordinator and staff developer, elementary school principal, director of instruction, assistant superintendent for instruction, and adjunct instructor in educational leadership for the University of Virginia’s Curry School and the School of Continuing Education. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Furman University and Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia. Dr. Moran also is an alumnus of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Executive Educators Leadership Institute.


Twitter: @pammoran

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. 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.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post From Testing to Transformational Change with Pam Moran appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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To the Woods

Day 12 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

As soon as we got home, we threw our shoes into our closets, put on our cutoff bluejean shorts and halter tops and ran out the back door, the screen door slamming behind us. We were headed for the ditch.

To the woods

The ditch in the woods about a half a mile behind our house was an incredible place that changed with the seasons. Dad dug it to drain off a field as he put in a bright silver irrigation system that gleamed in the hot South Georgia sun.

As we ran through the backfield of wheat or rye or soybeans – whatever was the crop of the moment – we would sometimes stop to roll. We would roll out whole rooms and play in our flattened rye mansions. Perhaps Dad could have thought these were crop circles of the 70’s but he knew better — we were children.

As we got to the edge of the leafy, buzz buzz buzzing woods full of crickets, bugs, and even snakes, we’d all pick up a stick. The stick was to deal with those snakes or to poke at whatever critter or odd thing we found on the path that day.

We made our way through the woods to “the ditch.” We’d hold onto one another as we’d attempt to get near the ditch to squish our toes in the grey clay at the bottom of the ditch.

My Favorite Place

But my favorite place was the opening of the ditch right next to the main road. Sometimes little crawdads would grow there. I never really would hurt or catch them, but I would watch them flitting around the rocks. If I squished my toes there, they’d come near eating whatever goodies I was kicking up with my toe. But they made me afraid because they could pinch!

Whether we were running in the woods, rolling out hay in the fields, or poking at something unrecognizable in the road, our video game was nature. We ran free.

My favorite time of day was sunset which was often when Mom and Dad and my sister and I would “drive the farm” to make sure everything was ok for the night. Every sunset was different. How could one place have so many different colors each night!

What Nature Can Do

I do not tell this story to reminisce or say anything about the modern generation, for my own children played in these ditches too, although not quite as frequently since we live in town.

But as I think about as recently as this fall and a trip Kip and I made to a lovely lake to fish, I realize that nature is a place where my mood often soars

and I remember who I am.

I didn’t really think about it much until I posted this picture to the right on Facebook during that last trip. The next Sunday, my pastor stopped me and said,

“You need to have that look on your face more often.”

Wise Encouragement to Get Into Nature

And I realized that I have fallen victim to Robert Frost’s conundrum when he said,

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”

Albert Einstein said,

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

British Statesman John Lubbock said,

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers,the mountain and sea, are excellent school masters and teach some of us more than we could ever learn from books.”

King David says in Psalm 121

“I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My helpl cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

There’s an old John Denver song called Rhymes and Reasons where he sings of

“the music of the mountains and the colours of the rainbow” and “the graceful way of flowers in the wind.”

A Walk in the Woods and the Couch in the Den Can’t Compare

When I get out into nature, I dream again. I breathe. I am reminded of my Maker. And I am restored in ways that just don’t happen sitting on the couch.

I see things. Like this mushroom in a field in Dillard Georgia where I lay on the ground with my camera to shoot up at its beautiful canopy from underneath. It is a truly beautiful moment and memory captured on film. I can still feel the dew on my back as I stood up with grass in my hair and laughter on my lips.

Get Outside

So, this is a reminder to all of us to get out there and inhale fresh air. Take a walk in the woods. Lay on the grass and watch the clouds go by. Inhale the scent of fresh air and feel the breeze. In some cases, it is cold right now, but if we cannot remember the last time we’ve been outside to just enjoy the outdoors, then it has been too long.

You can take the girl out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.

But somehow deep down, I think that the land is a restorative place and more of us need to put down our phones, put on our sunscreen, and look at the sunset, watch the bees dance among the roses, and wiggle our toes in the dirt. It won’t hurt us. It might actually do us a whole lot of good.

Here’s your challenge. Schedule a time outside this week. Even better, schedule an hour. Sit and observe. (And if it cold, bundle up!)

This post is day twelve of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post To the Woods appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Take a Rest

Day 11 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Sometimes you must rest to be your best. Get some.

This post is day eleven of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post Take a Rest appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Middle School STEAM: 5 Ways to Amp it Up!

Pauline Roberts on episode 230 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Exciting STEAM projects can ignite and excite any middle school. Today, Pauline Roberts gives us five important ingredients for amping up STEAM in middle school.

pauline roberts steam

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fire forensics kit middle school stem

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Enhanced Transcript

Middle School STEAM: 5 Ways to Amp it Up!

Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, Pauline Roberts @Pr05bps. She’s an Instructional Specialist in Michigan, working with grades 3 – 8.

But Pauline, today you have for us five ways to amp up STEM in middle school.

What’s our first way?

Pauline: I think the first thing to consider is how you can collaborate with your science, engineering or math teaching colleagues.

Tip 1: Connect and Collaborate

At the middle school level, teachers tend to become more isolated as content experts, and in order to make your STEM activities more powerful and engaging, I would highly recommend that you connect in any way possible with those expert colleagues.

Explore the curriculum, look for natural connections, plan together, develop a common language and rubrics together. Try and observe each other teach, and use those opportunities to team teach.

Taking the time to develop a coherent approach to STEM in your building will help to develop STEM experiences for students and have a much greater impact on learning.

Vicki: Absolutely. And you know, change and innovation is all about relationships, isn’t it?

Pauline: Absolutely. Yes.

Vicki: OK, what’s our second, Pauline?

Pauline: I think the second thing to do is to provide an authentic, real-world context for your STEM projects by challenging students to generate creative solutions to real-world problems.

Tip 2: Provide an Authentic Context

The level of enthusiasm and engagement just soars as students learn to ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences… and to describe or explain and articulate their thoughts about the world around them.

In the process of solving real-world authentic problems, they begin to see themselves as true innovators who can make a positive difference in the world.

Vicki: I love that! Do you have any examples for us of something you’ve done at your school?

Pauline: Oh, we’ve got lots of real-world problems going on at the moment in my building.

We have fifth and sixth-grade students in a middle school setting who are working on how to save the bees.

They’ve learned all about the science behind the bee population, the reasons why it could possibly be declining, and they’ve contacted local experts.

They’ve worked very diligently to build their own beehives offsite, and they collect data and manage that data to try and learn how they can help save bees and spread what they’ve learned to the wider community.

Vicki: Oh, how exciting! I’ll bet they love it!

Pauline: They do! They love going out there in their full beehive outfits and then harvesting honey. They harvest the honey, and they sell that honey within the local community as part of an educational process and to raise funds to fund things they need to continue the project.

Vicki: Wow, We could just go forever on that one. (laughs)

Pauline: I know. (laughs)

Vicki: OK, what’s our third?

Pauline: I kind of just touched base on that. I would just say tap into experts within your community.

Tip 3: Tap into Experts within your Community

We frequently survey our community members about their careers and their passions in order to include them in the learning process. We often have family members come into the classroom to present or work alongside students as they work on their projects.

We look at local businesses or organizations who have expertise in a subject area that we need. We can go visit them onsite to gather knowledge firsthand, or for experts who are further afield, we interview them by phone or by video conferencing.

Connecting students with experts in the field really increases their level of understanding and results in deeper thinking for them.

Vicki: Awesome. Can you think of a recent expert that your students connected with?

Pauline: Oh, we have students in our fourth-grade classrooms who have been working on hydroponic gardening. They had a local expert called Pauline who is a 70-year-old hydroponic expert in our community.

She brought her hydroponic garden to our school and taught the students about how she manages it, how she increases the productivity, how to make sure it runs and functions smoothly, and the things that she does with her harvest afterward.

So she was an amazing expert for our students to learn from.

Vicki: Incredible. OK, what’s our fourth?

Pauline: Oh, I would say teach skills, not just content.

Tip 4: Teach Skills, Not Just Content

If you want students to collaborate, you really need to spend time explicitly teaching them how to communicate, how to be politely critical, how to reach consensus, how to ask questions and synthesize information.

If we want them to learn about high productivity, we need to provide them with challenges and deadlines and teach students the skills they need to hit those deadlines.

I would ask students to conduct a personal skills inventory and ask them to use those inventories to determine who will play specific roles in a team project.

For example, who would be the best project manager? Who would be the best lead engineer or technology manager, etc?

The STEM classroom can often be a noisy and chaotic environment, and by teaching students the skills and asking them to assume specific roles, we empower them to manage themselves.

Vicki: Oh, where did you get your personal skills inventory?

Pauline: We just created it at school. It’s basically just a list of skills broken down by what digital skills have you got, what organizational skills have you got?

Students kind of check on a continuum, on a scale of 1 – 5:

  • I have great organizational skills.
  • I have great communication skills.
  • I am a great problem solver with technology.
  • I spend a lot of time with technology.

And they use these personal skills inventories to kind of struggle amongst themselves when they’re allocated to a team. They kind of interview each other, based on those personal skills inventories to determine who will get each role in the team.

At the end of a project, they will sit and reflect upon those skills and see in which areas they grew, which areas they still need to work on, and use this information to keep improving on becoming a better team member.

Vicki: Fantastic. What’s our fifth?

Pauline: I would say teach empathy.

Tip 5: Teach Empathy

If we want students to generate solutions to problems, we need them to be able to walk in the shoes of others, in order to fully understand the problem and to develop effective solutions.

I would take time to develop empathetic habits, like cultivating curiosity about others, encouraging kindness. I would teach students about emotions and how to manage them and teach active listening skills. By providing opportunities that help students to become other-focused, then they can become the caring, responsible, global citizens that we want them to be.

Vicki: Oh, that is challenging!

Pauline, as we finish up, can you give us an activity or something you’ve encouraged teachers to do to help build empathy?

Pauline: One of the key skills of empathy, one of the first skills that is outlined by Michele Borba in her book, Unselfie, is to recognize and name emotions.

So we created various quizzes for students, depending on grade level from third through eighth. We created quick quizzes and activities for students to be able to look at images.

So, for example, in third grade, we used different emoticons and asked students to name the emotion that’s portrayed by the emoji.

And all the way through to eighth grade, we showed students photos of just eyes of people and asked them to name the emotion that they thought the picture of the eyes was conveying.

Just by being able to name emotions and accurately be able to give it an actual name, students are way more able to manage their own emotions.

Vicki: This actually hits home a very important topic. A lot of people don’t discuss, which is Non-Verbal Learning Disorders.

I have personal experiences with this. With a child with a Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, one of the things that you teach them is how to recognize emotions. Sometimes they can’t recognize emotions, and it can easily make them a target for both bullying, as well as just feeling misunderstood because they are also giving out mixed signals.

I love that you’re doing that, Pauline. That’s fantastic!

Pauline: Thank you.

Vicki: So teachers, we have five excellent ways to amp up STEM in the middle school.

I love how empathy and some of these things that are in here are not necessarily what some people would call STEM, but they’re a very important part of what we do in STEM.

Please check the Shownotes for all of the links and the resources that we will be sharing, as well as how to connect with Pauline Roberts. She’s a fantastic go-to.

I have no idea, Pauline, how long you and I have known or followed each other’s work, but it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Pauline: It has. And I learn from you every day. Thank you, Vicki,

Vicki: Oh, you’re so sweet. It’s just nice to connect. You know, we all have friends that we kind of connect with, and Pauline is one of those for me.

So let’s amp up STEM in middle school, and I think we can also apply this to other grade levels.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Pauline Roberts – Bio as submitted

Pauline Roberts is originally from Liverpool, England and has been an educator for nearly three decades. She is currently an Instructional Specialist in Birmingham Public Schools, Michigan.

Twitter: @Pr05bps

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. 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.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Middle School STEAM: 5 Ways to Amp it Up! appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Recklessly Abandoned to Love

Day 10 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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This reckless abandon of showing love to others can feel like you are not showing love to yourself sometimes. Yet it is part of reckless abandon to pour yourself out in love of others when you do not know how to go on. When you are tired. When you can go no more.

“If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are?
That grace can really change our heart
Do I live like Your love is true?”

Live like that by Sidewalk Prophets

Love Costs Something

In times when I am exhausted (like now) I think of King David at the threshing floor where he was stopping to offer a sacrifice after the plague stopped and the owner offered to give him the property and David said

“I will not offer that which costs me nothing”.

And that seems to be what many want to do today. They want to serve others as long as they are not tired. They want to give money as long as they have enough. They want to show up if they have time on their schedule.


True sacrificial love can cost us everything!

I am not talking a lack of self- care or namby-pamby martyrdom— I am talking a conscious decision by healthy minded brave adults to give, show up, and do for others when all you want to do is lay on the couch and curl up under a blanket and hibernate for days.

Our Love and Encouragement is Needed

There are certainly times for retreat but not every time and every day. We have children and people who need encouragement. We need a world of brave people willing to be recklessly abandoned to being a pipe full of God’s love to a world that sees too much hurt and pain and wonders who is going to show up.

I cannot do everything and I might not can do much but I can serve my small calling with faith.

I can love kids and parents who wound me and be encouraging to others in my profession even when criticized.

For if we are called, we are equipped. But if we are called, we cannot wait until it is convenient and when we feel like it to show up.

I do not write as anyone who is good or perfect but as one who struggles every single day to show up when all I want to do is give up.

Your Work Matters

I write as one who hopes that this tiny insignificant blog post will remind you that no act of kindness is wasted and that your showing up, giving up, and bucking up MATTERS.

Live your calling, my friends. Be recklessly abandoned to show love to others. Be encouraged that your actions of love Matter.

As for me, I was recklessly loved first so it is a small thing to give the same reckless love to others. And if you knew the truth, you’d realize you are recklessly loved too.

This post is day ten of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post Recklessly Abandoned to Love appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Throw out Learning Styles and Replace it with UDL

Kathleen McClaskey on episode 229 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Kathleen McClaskey talks about the research on learning styles and the alternatives for teaching and reaching every child. Today’s show will help you think about the research many of us have used for years to design lessons.

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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

Throw out Learning Styles and Replace it with UDL

Link to show:
Date: January 11, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Kathleen McClaskey @khmmc, founder of Making Learning Personal, about personalizing learning.

Defining Personal Learning

Kathleen, how would you define personal learning?

Kathleen: Personal learning starts with the learner.

One of the big problems today is that we’ve got all sorts of different definitions around personalized learning, but I’d really love the audience to just remember that personalized learning starts with the learner — where we’re trying to have learners have ownership to their learning.

Vicki: So when we personalize learning, does that mean that everybody’s doing something different in the classroom, or what does that mean to you?

Kathleen: No, not everyone is doing something different in the classroom, but the learner’s actually having some choice in what they do and how they access information. They may also be doing something a little bit different in how they express what they know and understand.

The teacher is actually designing lessons based upon who the learners are in the classroom. I know that’s a broad statement, but we’ll get a little bit further into that as we go on.

Why Kathleen Things We Should Abandon Learning Styles

Vicki: Now you think that Learning Styles — we just need to throw that out the window. Why?

Kathleen: Well, I did about six months to a year of research around Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences, and I looked at a lot of reports and studies around Learning Styles.

There was this set of cognitive scientists who actually put out a pretty extensive report on Learning Styles about five or six years ago. It basically says that there is no evidence that knowing a child’s Learning Styles has ever made any difference or has ever impacted their learning.

In fact, it probably has done the reverse. It may have developed a fixed mindset around how a child learns. So that’s why we need to not use that anymore. There’s just no research around that.

Vicki: Yeah. But you know, I guess that I’ve always looked at it as…

We know that dual mode teaching of reading (listening to it as you read at the same time).

We know that that helps learning.

Kathleen: Right.

Vicki: So I guess I’ve used — and written quite a bit about it — more as a guide to help me provide diverse experiences in the classroom, rather than ever saying… I mean, don’t you think that where people run into mistakes? When they say, “You are THIS, and this is the only way you learn.”

Kathleen: Yeah.

Vicki: That’s where they run into trouble, right?

Kathleen: Yes, and when the child says, “This is the only way I learn.” That’s when you really get into trouble. (laughs)

Vicki: Yeah. So you’ve seen it, and some of the cognitive researchers say that it’s caused kids to have a fixed mindset.

Kathleen: Right.

Vicki: That, “This is how I learn…” OK, so what do we do instead? How can we add value?

Because I know that, for me, thinking that, “How can I have interpersonal activities. How can I make things more diverse?” That’s helped me plan my lessons, but I need something to replace it with.

Universal Design for Learning

Kathleen: Yeah, well, I’d just like to introduce you to Universal Design for Learning, and the terms, Access, Engage, and Express, that really represent the principles of Universal Design for Learning. It’s really based on the neurosciences and how we learn.

So why use these particular terms? Well, here’s what they represent:

Access means how a learner would access and process information. And let me just say then, that in each one of these, there are strengths and challenges. So it’s really important for teachers to know what those are, and to be able to have conversations about them.

The second element is Engage. How do we engage with content? How does a learner engage with content?

The third is how do we Express what they know and understand?

Now, let me just tell you that, with that particular lens, in our publication, How to Personalize Learning, we really outline how to use this with the learner. It’s about empowering the learner to be able to talk about how they learn.

I think that we’ve not spent enough time in doing that, and if we expect kids to take ownership to their learning, we have to have them understand how they learn. And then we have to find ways to help kids develop the skills around their strengths or challenges, so they can become more independent and self-directed in their learning.

Vicki: How do we help them understand how they learn?

Kathleen: Yeah. Using the lens of Access, Engage, and Express.

A learner could certainly share with you what their challenges and strengths are in each of those areas.

As I said, in our publication, How to Personalize Learning, we’ve really outlined and given some really good descriptions that any teacher could use or adapt to really find out more about the learner.

What it is… it’s a great conversation starter with kids, because we need to have conversations from kids in about how they learn.

Now some kids may prefer to Access, or maybe some children have a problem accessing content in the printed word. So a learner could say, you know, “I have a challenge in reading and decoding. I would really like you to develop a good set of skills using this type of tool.” And we’re always hoping that’s where that goes.

But this is where the learner’s more in charge of saying, “This is who I am, and I’d just like to talk about what I’d need to help me become more independent.”

So the focus in the classroom is really developing great independent learning skills, based upon who they are, using the UDL lens of Access, Engage, and Express.

Vicki: So how would I grapple with this?

For example, a student came to me some years ago. He was having trouble learning the Hamlet, “To Be or Not to Be” speech. He needed it to graduate. And he — I’m just going to use my old term, because I have to understand how to replace it —

Kathleen: (laughs)

Vicki: He learned by listening. So under the old framework, we would call him Auditory. He was more auditory. It helps to look at it while you listen to it.

So I said, “OK, let’s download it on your phone.”

He sat in the corner of the room. He closed his eyes. He listened to it for 30 minutes. He went in and said it like a pro. Actually, he ended up memorizing more that he was supposed to.

So… that obviously helped him learn it.

Is that under Access, that he may access it better in an auditory way?

Learner Preferences

Kathleen: Yes! Right! Exactly!

But just remember that that is a way — a lot of learners, by the way, like to use, you know, auditory. Just like people like to listen to books in a car. Personally, I would never choose that way at all… but that is really a preference.

What’s important is that if you could even find out what a learner’s preferences or needs are, around Access, Engage, and Express, that tells you so much about who they are and how they learn.

But if in fact we are going to create a learner-centered environment, we still need to empower that learner with that. I’ve worked with teachers who have used this Learner Profile, and they basically say, “It’s so empowering to the learner. They are so anxious to tell you who they are.”

And what happens is the teacher discovers things about the learner that they never even knew. Even after months of being with kids, they discover all new things, because kids want to have that conversation.

They have a story to tell, and we need to be better listeners about who children are and how they learn.

The takeaway of today is about empowering the learner.

Vicki: So Kathleen, as we finish up, where do they go? There are some things that I have on my blog, that we’ve done before on UDL that we’ll link to, and personalized learning and that sort of thing. But where’s a place for teachers to start?

Where do we start understanding UDL

Kathleen: Well, you know, as I said, you know, we have a publication, How to Personalize Learning. It’s a practical guide that includes virtually all this information I just discussed today. We also have an online website that has all the templates for teachers to use.

So that’s really a great way to really get started. Anyone that’s used this, by the way, has really told us that this has been so incredibly helpful to really empower learners and creating those learning environments that are far more personalized.

So that would be one way, really, to get started. A lot of people who want to learn about personalized learning start off with our first publication, called Make Learning Personal. That’s also a really good foundational work, when you’re trying to really decide what that is for your school.

But this piece here on Access, Engage, and Express? I also want to refer people to an article that I wrote for ASCD several months ago this past year. It’s called, “Personalization and UDL: A Perfect Match,” and that really gives a really good overview about how it really looks from the perspective of the teacher and the learner.

Vicki: Excellent. So we’ll link to that in the Shownotes as well.

Teachers, I would just encourage you to dig deeper. UDL has been around a little while.

I admit, and you can tell from my questions, that I’ve missed which pieces of understanding how kids learn — and when does it cross over the line into causing a fixed mindset.

We’re going to have to have some more guests on, so that we can explore this further together!

So thank you, Kathleen!

Kathleen: Well, you’re welcome! Thank you very much, Vicki, for having me.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford


Bio as submitted

Kathleen McClaskey, founder of Make Learning Personal, co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC and co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning. She is passionate in empowering learners with tools, skills and learning strategies so they become independent self-directed learners with agency who are future ready for college, career and life. Learn more about Kathleen at

Blog: Make Learning Personal : Empowering Every Learner to be Future Ready

Twitter: @khmmc

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. 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.) This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Throw out Learning Styles and Replace it with UDL appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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