What is an EPSE?

Public schooling has been under attack recently.  The view of the public school teacher has been negatively portrayed in the media lately. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro reform in public schools, but I am pro informed reform!  As a principal and teacher I see the daily work and care my teachers pour into their students and I think it’s time we school leaders promote some deserved recognition and appreciation.

I am blessed to work in a school district that has a proactive superintendent who is an advocate for best practices, students, teachers, and public schooling.  My superintendent, Dr. Jeff Swensson, recently wrote and article in the Indianapolis Star that inspired me to write this post and share his article.  Please take 5 minutes to read his article here: EPSE Awards

I agree with what Dr. Swensson said, “I recommend that each of us takes a moment to award an EPSE. What will be the result when you send your e-mail, make that phone call or have a brief conversation to present an EPSE?”
Leaders, get involved in promoting a positive pat on the back for your teachers in your community!  I hope the following creation can help you get started!  I have created a certificate that parents and students could fill out and give to their teacher to say thank you!  You can access it here: EPSE AWARD CERTIFICATE FORM —– CERTIFICATE (NOT IN FORM MODE)
Please feel free to share this!  My hope is that this helps build on Dr. Swensson’s idea and that we can spread some love and appreciation, as well as a positive perception, toward our public school teachers who work hard to make our students successful!
Original Photo Credit: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Jeff the Trojan; Manipulated by Chris Atkinson

Pictures To Inspire Writing

If you do not regularly read, or subscribe to, The Big Picture blog then you are missing out!  This wonderful blog, published by Boston.com, weekly shares different series of inspiring photos that take you into new worlds, news, and events.

In the classroom these pictures could be used for writing inspiration!  Check out some of the newest pics out of Egypt that they recently shared:


A Cool Quote…

I read a book on grading tonight in preparation for an admin. meeting tomorrow and I ran across this quote:

“The test of a successful education is not the amount of knowledge that a pupil takes away from school, but his appetite to know and his capacity to learn. If the school sends out children with the desire for knowledge and some idea how to acquire it, it will have done its work. Too many leave school with the appetite killed and the mind loaded with undigested lumps of information.”

– Sir Richard Livingston (1941 – President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford)

I like this quote. I think it could use some 21st century words like create and collaborate, but I still like it. 🙂

Found in:

A Repair Kit For Grading by Ken O’Connor

Inspiring Text

I have been rereading some books this summer that I really enjoyed a few years ago.  One book I am rereading is What’s Worth Fighting For in the Principalship, by Michael Fullan.  I really like this book, it’s a quick read and holds some great nuggets of inspiring text for school leaders.  I’m going to be adding some of my favorite quotes here over the next few days, so enjoy:

  • -School leaders improve learning indirectly through and most powerfully through their influence on staff motivation, commitment, and working conditions (NCSL – England, Seven Strong Claims About Successful School Leadership).

– Leadership is not about making clever decisions and doing bigger deals, least of all for personal gain.  It is about energizing other people to make good decisions and do better things.

  • Effective leadership inspires more than it empowers; it connects more than it controls; it demonstrates more than it decides.
  • Effective principals spend their time creating the conditions for teachers and teacher leaders to zero in on effective instructional practices, and to use data on student learning both as a leverage for improvement and as a source for external accountability.
  • …focused collaborative cultures generate greater student learning
  • Six components of a PLC: a focus on learning, a collaborative culture, collective inquiry, an action orientation, a commitment to continuous learning, and a concentration on results (from Dufour, Dufour, and Many (2006)).
  • Synthesized statement (my words): In a study done by Sisodia, Wolfe, and Sheth in Firms of Endearment when companies focus on changing culture their productivity soars!  The companies in this study were compared to Jim Collins set of 11 (2001 Good to Great), and they outperformed his set, over a ten year period, by 1,026%.
  • …the heart of what’s worth fighting for within the school is creating deep cultures that work daily on purposeful, continuous learning.
  • …system context is always more powerful than that of a single school.
  • …district wide reform depends on schools leveraging one another forward.
  • De-privatizing teaching involves opening up the world of the classroom ro scrutiny and continuous development of instruction
  • Leading knowledgeably must be the core role of the principal.  (24)
  • Leading knowledgeably
  • Marzano’s studies have shown: ” Students who have a teacher at the 75th percentile in terms of pedagogical competence will outgain students who have a teacher at the 25th percentile by 14th percentile points in reading and 18 percentile points in mathematics…students who have a 90th percentile teacher will outgain students who have a 50th percentile teacher by 13 percentile points in reading and 18 percentile points in mathematics.”
  • Leading knowledgeably means bringing all teachers to a high level of pedagogical effectiveness; but more than that, it means fostering interactions that keep teachers at that level through continuous application and refinement. (25)
  • Gawande says it is all about cultivating habits of “diligence,” “doing it right,” and “ingenuity.”
  • So, it is essential for school leaders to foster relentless consistency relative to those practices that are known to be effective practices that come to have the statis of being “non-negotiable.”
  • Pedagogical leadership is more effective than transformational leadership (paraphrased)
  • “effect sizes” of principals promoting and participating directly with teachers in the formal and informal learning of the use of data to influence appropriate instructional activities was more than twice as powerful as any other leadership dimension.
  • Knowledge is literally the substance of change
  • First, principals must make teaching and learning the driving focus.
  • I am saying principals should make ongoing instructional expertise a priority for themselves, as well as for their teachers.
  • Molding good leadership by coaching, praising, and empowering others (Munby, 2007)
  • There are many reasons principals should seek peer interaction with other schools.
  • No matter how you cut it, school principals have new opportunities and new obligations to help their schools participate in purposeful peer networks.  The school benefits, the system benefits.
  • Stimulating purposeful interaction – horizontally and vertically – provides the glue that helps complex systems to focus.
  • Six guidelines for principals:
  1. De-privatize teaching.
  2. Model instructional leadership.
  3. Build capacity first.
  4. Grow other leaders.
  5. Divert the distractors.
  6. Be a system leader.
  • One of the most powerful instructional practices involves assessment literacy – the strategic use of data to improve teaching on a daily basis (assessment for learning), and the capacity to monitor results and engage the external accountability system.
  • Six tasks of leadership identified by Tim Brighthouse (2007)
  1. Create energy
  2. Build capacity
  3. Meet and minimize crises
  4. Secure and enhance the environment
  5. Seek and chart improvement
  6. Extend the vision of what is possible
  • Districts need to promote transparency while playing down judgmentalism.

Collaborative and Creative Learning Environments

I have been reading a lot lately about Stanford’s D.School on Fast Company’s Blog.  The posts I have been reading have gotten me thinking a lot about classroom environments and school building architecture in general.  Bottom line: it’s safe to say that students can optimize their thinking, learning, and sharing to the maximum in an environment that fosters collaborative and creative thinking; like the D.School at Stanford.  Research shows that their is a correlation in facilities and student achievement (Uline & Tschannen-Moran, 2008).  I hope that school administrators and other key stakeholders understand the importance to get rid of drab musty buildings and replace these outdated facilities with state of the art, collaborative, technology laden learning environments.

“Suck it up and try something that you haven’t done before, and absolutely be willing to fail”  – Scott Whitthoft (Co-director of the environments collaborative at the D.School Stanford)

Shaping Space: The d.school’s Environments Collaborative from Stanford d.school on Vimeo.

I remember my trip the the Google Offices in Boulder, CO for the Google Teacher Academy in 2009.  The work environment was like nothing I have ever seen before.  I walked away thinking about how stinking cool it would be to have a classroom designed like that!  Climbing walls, Rock Band, Big Bean Bags, Healthy brain food, reliable wireless networking, giant monitors, adjustable desk…oh to have fountains of money and no limitations for building!

Google Offices - Boulder, CO
Google Offices - Zurich

So start slathering on that IDEA PAINT and rethinking classroom, and building, design any way you can!

Other Resources To Inspire:

Using Blog Badges To Motivate Students

My 4/5 GT students all have their own blogs, which can be found on the sidebar of my classroom blog, and they are all extremely proud of their blogs and get visitors and comments from students all across the country.  Ok, so you get the picture: my students blog and THEY LIKE IT!

Well, we recently completed an interactive simulation on establishing a colony.  This simulation lasted three weeks,  almost everyday for 15-40 minutes, depending on the day.  My kids loved this simulation and were excited to find out which colony had the most wealth units and was to be declared “Mr Atkinson’s Most Successful Colony of 2010.”  Of course I painstakingly deliberated over what I could do to celebrate this, and since my school can’t use food as any type of award I had to think outside the box.  That’s when it came to me…

Badges and Certificates!

I decided to create a badge that the winners had the privilege of displaying on their blog, as well as give them a paper certificate to be able to hang at home.  This, to my surprise was a huge hit!

Here is a picture of the badge I created on Adobe Illustrator:

I like the idea of using badges to promote healthy competition and a sense of pride with certain competitive projects.  I downloaded the vector for the badge here:  Web 2.0 Badge Vectors

Once I created the badge to be what I wanted it to I stored it in the public folder of my Dropbox and used an image embed script to add it to a “text” widget in Edublogs on each of the winning students blog sidebar.

In conclusion I like the idea and plan on expanding on it more in the future!