Seek Advice and Collect Mentors

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“When I started in business, I was often lonely, so I placed favorite quotes all over my apartment. They made me feel like I was never really alone. I would type up and print out my favorites on a piece of paper or cut them out of magazines and tape them to my wall.”

“Learning how someone else is already doing the same thing you want to do, or a version of it, can eliminate fear—every path is easier to follow when you see someone else’s footprints already on it.”

“…seek as much advice as I can—from everyone. You can often get great advice from all kinds of people if you just ask.” — Blake Mycoskie

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“Learn all you can from your mentors. Try to work alongside them. Their passion will amplify your passion. The concept of an apprentice is an ancient and wise one, and if you can find such a position early in your career and have the chance to work with a master, take it! The enthusiasm, deep understanding, and endless curiosity of a true expert will infect you, whether you are simply trying to reinforce your own knowledge about a hobby or interest, or whether you are figuring out the kind of entrepreneur you want to become.”

“…I collected many more wonderful mentors. To this day, I keep lists of gardens, gardeners, and nurseries…”

“…I have met many brilliant entrepreneurs from whom I have collected many ideas and new perspectives.” — Martha Stewart

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Fix the Broken System

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Today, I’m proud to have a guest blogger from Washington Co. High School. Below is a speech that he presented in his public speaking class this semester. I love his ideas and I’m so happy he’s agreed to share them here. Thank you, Cole! 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

The School System is Broken

by Cole Perkins, aka “A Random 9th Grader”

The school system is broken and it needs to be fixed now. The sad truth is that the current school system is not effective and is incredibly outdated. It does not address the need for every student and it tends to focus on subjects that are not essential to being successful in life. It is bad that school prioritizes subjects such as complex algebra and science when so very few people need that information in their life. Knowing this information for the sake of knowing it should not be essential and should only be optional for people to pursue, their are many problems in our current school system, some of them are being addressed others are ignored.

An awful thing in our education system is that it is very broad in the way it teaches and often doesn’t care about what some students may want or need, focusing on narrow and complex topics to teach while ignoring what students may actually want. It’s even worse that most colleges could care less how well you did in all of your classes, and seem to care more about whether or not you have played some extracurricular activity, that you honestly don’t care about.

Also another fatal flaw in our current school system is the idea that students should have little to no control of their own education, and that they should only be able to pick a few little classes that they may or may not get into. Students have absolutely no freedom or control on what they want to do, and in a few cases where they do have some control it is heavily restricted by what the school wants and desires for the students to do.

Now would you like to know a fun fact? America ranks 14th in education in the world it may not sound that bad but you would think we would want to strive to be number one. But do you want to know who has the best education system? Finland, and you know what is so odd about that? Finnish schools are known for giving very little homework and only have tests that are optional.

Another absolutely wonderful thing about Finland education is that it gives more chances for students to do what they actually want to do! It is a truly wonderful thing that Finland made a system that actually works both good and efficiently, a system that actually benefits the people it’s supposed to be teaching.

By now, you may be expecting a solution to this problem and it is actually very simple, if we want to raise the education standard and allow students to fill their goals in life all we have to do is make the system more of a democracy and allow students to have a bigger say in their education. Giving students more power into what they actually want to learn will turn them into more creative and innovative people, which is what we currently need. The system we have now was designed to turn students into mindless obedient factory workers who must only speak when spoken to and who must only get things done and nothing else: a system that teaches them that their opinions mean absolutely NOTHING.

However, times are changing and factory appeal has gone down. Students want to be free to make their own choices. After all, this generation is supposed to lead us into the future. Also let’s take the example of Finland and copy what they are doing; break down the divide between grades, because the more we divide the students the bigger the gap of education gets. Not separating students into categories has proven to work, by good old Finland.

Another grand thing we can do that Finland is also doing so it is proven to work, is cut the time students spend in schools and classrooms. Why must this be done? Well it has been proven multiple times that people will function and work better if they get both more sleep, and more free time between activities.

In Finland the average time students start school is 9:00 through 9:45 AM and finish at 2:00 through 2:45 PM. And from what I have researched Finnish students have less classes and more break times, the average break between classes is 15 to 20 minutes. At first this may seem confusing but if you think about it a little, it begins to make perfect sense, fewer classes means students won’t have to memorize as much and long breaks between classes means students have time to digest all of the information that they have learned.

So overall Finland has proven that when it comes to education less is so much more. If you want to have an actual good education and be prepared for life and know how to properly adult, then make the school system aware that it is an absolute failure and it needs to change or else we will all suffer the consequences.

There are many issues with our current education system and I have only talked about some of them. But I believe the main thing to fix is the issue of students having so little freedom to decide what they want to do. Many children don’t want to learn complex algebra or know how many wives Henry had. Humans as a species are people who will naturally learn on their own; we don’t need to hold their hand and tell them to do this and that.

In this very classroom where I am writing this document, several students have been working hard on their own projects that they actually want to do and care about doing. It is time that we fix the school system and give the students who are forced to come here everyday to listen to complete nonsense only to forget about it all later an actual choice in what they want to learn. We need to give students more freedom, more space, and more responsibility.

In history, democracy has proven time and time again to be the best option; so let’s implement some democracy in our school system. By the time students get into high school, they should no longer be forced to learn something they do not want to; and they should not be punished for not reaching the schools expectations. Give students complete and total freedom to pick every class they want. It’s not as crazy as it may sound, in fact it is the best option.

Be Positive: The Effects of Teacher-Student Relationships

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I just finished reading this chapter from the book, 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success, and want to make a few notes and reflect upon some of the key ideas.

  • The chapter’s main message: Learning requires positive relationships — whether between learners and teachers, or between learners and their peers.

These are the 3 major factors to developing positive relationships:

  1. teacher expectations
  2. teacher-student relationships
  3. reducing anxiety

“Keep in mind that everyone is capable of learning, even in  situations that seem hopeless.”

  • Students perform better in classrooms where teachers create “a sense of fairness, predictability, and thus safety to be engaged in learning, with all the related notions of making errors, seeking help, and working positively with others.”
  • Teachers can reduce student anxiety  by “creating conditions where it is OK to make mistakes in front of others, to actively explore other ideas and critique them, and to learn from others.”

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A smile is contagious.

“Just as a smile sends out positive signals about relationship building, a failure to smile sends out negative signals. Teachers who walk into the classroom grumpy should not be surprised that their students never laugh and are more inclined to be grumpy also…”

Rules and procedures and keeping your word also create stability and reduce anxiety in students.

Overall, the following is an important takeaway about the power of teacher-student relationships. (Teacher-student relationship: effect size of 0.72)

“When students do not know what to do next, when they make mistakes, or when they are confused, the power of the trust developed by the teacher and among peers can then really pay off.”

Coach to Personalize Student Learning

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This morning I read an article posted to the Getting Smart site entitled, Instructional Coaching for Secondary School Transformation and I’m intrigued by the idea of the use of coaches in the process of building personalized learning pathways for middle and high schools. My high school’s current problem of practice is centered around the notion of real-world and authentic learning experiences so our teacher leaders could definitely benefit from seeing the possibilities of designing personalized learning.

During a vision-setting day, the coach was able to lead discussions to determine teacher understanding of the concept of personalized learning, student need as evidenced by data and potential directions for building their instructional model of personalized learning.

“..the teachers began by identifying the differences between teaching for achievement and teaching for growth.  Through reflective conversation Lori asks probing questions to guide teachers towards a model of personalized learning to address both teaching for achievement and growth.”

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“After much discussion and brainstorming they determined as a team that students will move through tasks or learning zones based on student formative assessment data. This is the foundation for teaching both achievement and growth.”

After the initial vision setting, the teachers implemented the plan and the coach used questioning and data to support professional growth among the teachers. The coach also monitored teacher growth by outlining the currently reality for each teacher and, in an adjacent column, the next steps the teacher had committed to trying to move the plan forward.

“Early in the semester a veteran teacher was inspired–she moved desks and launched a station rotation model the next day. The teacher told Lori, ‘In one day I met one-on-one with more students than I talked to last week in my classroom.'”

That first step of changing a simple practice led to adding another simple change and another with one teacher then another then another – over time, those small steps added up to big gains in achievement and shifts in culture.

“The simple classroom innovation served as a slingshot, others saw her success and it helped propel the culture shift. “


For me, the following quote is the takeaway from this article which provides the direction and encouragement to determine the vision, start small and press forward.

“Think Big, Start Small and SCALE FAST.”

Integrate Disciplines

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Why Should Schools Embrace Integrated Studies?: It Fosters a Way of Learning that Mimics Real Life, Edutopia

“Integrated studies, sometimes called interdisciplinary studies, brings together diverse disciplines in a comprehensive manner, enabling students to develop a meaningful understanding of the complex associations and influences within a topic. A happy by-product of this approach, which is often coupled with project-based learning, is that it makes school more interesting and productive for students and teachers.”

“Creativity, adaptability, critical reasoning, and collaboration are highly valued skills. When it comes to fostering those skills in the classroom, integrated study is an extremely effective approach, helping students develop multifaceted expertise and grasp the important role interrelationships can play in the real world.”

Photo credit: Flickr

Build Positive Relationships 

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So excited that my latest Amazon purchase was delivered this week! Can’t wait to read it. Below I’ve included a few tidbits about the power of the teacher-student relationship which has a high effect size of 0.72. 


In 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning, Hattie and Zierer outline “powerful mindframes, which should underpin every action in schools.”

“… teachers are evaluators, change agents, learning experts, and seekers of feedback who are constantly engaged with dialogue and challenge.”


In order to make the greatest impact, teachers need to create “a sense of fairness, predictability, and thus safety to be engaged in learning, with all the related notions of making errors, seeking help, and working positively with others.”

Foster Fellowship

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As I reflect on this week and my coaching program up to this point, I need to remember the following.

  1. Continue co-planning, co-teaching and building relationships with the willing
  2. Continue sharing pictures, videos and brief insights from classroom visits in my SharePoint Coaching site IC-SPsite
  3. Create opportunities to communicate: invite staff to the Google Classroom Teacher Community (includes a Digital Pineapple Board)

Coaches “need to begin by cultivating strong relationships, collaborating on a regular basis, and demonstrating that every teacher has some expertise to share…” – Instructional Coaching in Action: An Integrated Approach that Transforms Thinking, Practice and Schools

“Coaching creates a relationship in which a client feels cared for and is therefore able to access and implement new knowledge. A coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practice, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated. Finally, a coach holds a space where healing can take place and where resilient, joyful communities can be built.” – How Coaching Can Impact Teachers, Principals, and Students

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Photo Credits: taken from Pinterest and Instagram – no credits listed