Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gives Me Hope, Part Four

I have a copy of a wonderful book called "Gives Me Hope: The 127 Most Inspiriting Bite-Sized Stories".  It is worth every penny!  This week, I'll be sharing five stories from the book.

In our school, each student has to make a report in front of the class about someone they admire, my friend reported on a quiet girl in class, admiring her kindness.  We all cheered in agreement.  The girl was crying.  Later, I found out that was the day she'd decided NOT to kill herself.  The student gives me hope.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Giving Me Hope, Part Three

I have a copy of a wonderful book called "Gives Me Hope: The 127 Most Inspiriting Bite-Sized Stories".  It is worth every penny!  This week, I'll be sharing five stories from the book. 

My friend's younger sister was coming home by herself when a guy on the bus began hassling her.  An elderly man on the other side of the bus stood up and demanded that the guy "leave his granddaughter alone!"  The guy stopped, and got off at the next stop.  The elderly man, who was a stranger, gives me hope. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Giving Me Hope, Part Two

I have a copy of a wonderful book called "Gives Me Hope: The 127 Most Inspiriting Bite-Sized Stories".  It is worth every penny!  This week, I'll be sharing five stories from the book.

My friend and I won toys at a fair and gave one to a mentally disabled boy.  He said, "Thank you."  His father cried.  The boy hadn't spoken in months. Children like him give me hope.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Giving Me Hope, Part One

I have a copy of a wonderful book called "Gives Me Hope: The 127 Most Inspiriting Bite-Sized Stories".  It is worth every penny!  This week, I'll be sharing five stories from the book.

Years ago I told my best friend Matt that I couldn't go to the senior prom with him because my parents couldn't afford to buy me a dress.  The night of the dance, Matt showed up at my door with a beautiful red dress, matching shoes and corsage, and two tickets to the prom.  Three years, a marriage, and one child later, he still gives me hope.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Success in any area requires constantly readjusting your behavior as a result of feedback.  Michael Gelb

Do your students adjust what they are doing based on your feedback?  Do you adjust based on what you see?  Isn't that the purpose of formative assessment?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Common Core Resources, Part Three

Another great site is the Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project. This site, which says it's by teachers for teachers, gives some good information.  It then links to books published by Jossey-Bass which are extremely detailed, but I have them and they are worth the cost. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Common Core Resources, Part Two

The main website for the standards is the first stop for any questions about the Common Core State Standards.  This is the official site, and it's filled with descriptions of the process, which states are using the CCSS, etc.  You can download the standards and the appendices, but there's another resource that is a must have:  the publisher's guidelines.  The publisher's guidelines give detail on the "how" of the standards, what to focus on instructionally.  If you don't have it, download it now!  Scroll to the bottom of the page and choose whether you want the K-2 set, or the 3-12 set (or both). 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Resources for the Common Core

I'm asked more and more, "What are some good resources for implementing the Common Core State Standards?" One of the best is ASCD's Resource Central.  Hands-down, it's my number one go-to site when I'm looking for specific resources. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Common Core State Standards: Positive or Negative?

I was on a Twitter chat recently where the Common Core State Standards were discussed. The focus question was, "Do the CCSS limit your creativity?"  As you might imagine, the discussion was quite spirited, with people on both sides of the issue. 

I am a pragmatist, so first, know that I believe they are here to stay, so we need to deal with them, rather than complain about them.  Second, I believe that it's never the standards, it's what you do with them.  So my bottom line is, you can choose. 

Are the CCSS negative for you, or, as my husband said, do they mean Curriculum Can Still Sizzle? I'm going to go with his idea!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Best Teacher Ever?

I purposely held this until after Teacher Appreciation Week.  I mean, shouldn't everyday be Teacher Appreciation Day?  On this site, you can read responses about describing "your best teacher." And you can post your own.  Here's a sample (spelling, etc. is left as is):

My favorite teacher was my freshman math teacher. He was one of the the goofiest people I ever knew, but incredibly nice and you could really tell he cared about the subject and all of his students. His class was always the best - I felt most confortable in the environment he set up and it was fun every day. I had hated math up until that point, but he taught me to love it! He was always so clear in his explanations and I could always understand what he was trying to get at. He always came into the classroom bring a positive attitude that set us all going.

The best teacher I had was a lady named Mrs. Browning. She was my third grade teacher. It was she who inspired me to be a teacher in the first place. She also lead me to be a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan and a better person.

my favorite teacher is mrs. Baldinelli. She is my math teacher right now. i'm in seventh grade.She is my favorite teacher because she tells alot of funny stories. she also make funny faces like raising her eyebrows. one day she put up a trick question on the board. (the answer to it was yes) a boy in our class almost said no but blurted out that her face looked funny! she said "WHAT" in her angry but funny voice. well i mean your face it looked funny. "What" she said again. i mean i could tell it was supposed to be tricky the boy replied. it was so funny! another great thing about Mrs. Baldinelli is that when we grade our homework she acts like she's going to say one number(we all freak out) and says another. there are so many other great things about her. Mrs. Baldinelli is the best teacher ever, i will never foget her.

Believe it or not my favorite teacher was named Mr. Yelle. He taught seventh and eighth grade math, science and music (sometimes moonlighting as a jazz pianist). He spoke to us "at eye level", and had infinite patience and tolerance for anything except unkindness. We did incredible projects for the scinece fairs. To this day (and I'm talking 40 years ago) I remember our lessons on meteorology (we built a weather station!) and on human anatomy (which 12-year-old boys and girls were able to take seriously with not an offensive word, leer or sneer). By the way, he didn't yell.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is Instructional Rigor?

What is rigor?  As I've said before: rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Notice we are looking at the environment you create. Our tri-fold approach to rigor is not limited to the curriculum students are expected to learn. It is more than a specific lesson or instructional strategy. It is deeper than what a student says or does in response to a lesson. True rigor is the result of weaving together the elements of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in a way that maximizes the learning of each student.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Implementing Rigor through Policies?

I spoke with a policymaker the other day, and his perspective about increasing rigor was simple:  put a policy in place and enforce the policy.  

I support policies that ensure equitable access to high-level classes, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses. I believe that we need to assess what we are doing in our schools and develop plans for school improvement, whether that is evaluating and adjusting our standards, providing professional development that is focused on vertical alignment, or ensuring that our students who are most at risk for failure have a high-quality teacher. 

However, I believe that real change, lasting change, change that impacts the students who need it the most, happens at the classroom level. The true power of making a difference for a student lies in the hands of the teacher. The teacher is always the key. It’s not the textbook, or the latest program on the market, or even a policy. It is how an individual teacher—it is how you use the textbook or program with your students. It is how you implement the policy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Students' Perceptions of Rigor

How do students perceive rigor?

  • I would want to quit. I would need help. Robert
  • I really don’t mind it. I prefer to be challenged rather than bored. Tim
  • I don’t like work like that because if I spend a long time on just one problem and can’t find the answer I get stressed and that just makes it harder to do. Amy
  • I think it’s okay. I mean, I don’t prefer it, but it’s not as bad as most people think. Sometimes I prefer to have a little bit of a challenge. Kyle
  • It makes my head and hand hurt. Hayley
  • I don’t like doing rigor but everything in life isn’t easy so I just try my best to do it. Dominique
  • I feel that rigorous work needs to be explained better than normal work so I understand the material. Benjamin
  • I feel that challenging work would be better for people that think
  • their work is too easy. Sumerlyn
  • OK, but if it’s hard, I want it to be fun too. Keith
  • I feel that rigorous work is made for some people and some people just might get frustrated and give up. I guess everyone should at least try it and if they can’t do it they don’t have to. Mason
  • I honestly don’t mind it every once in a while but not every hour of the day. Devon
  • I guess it’s ok if I’m in the mood for it. Kayla
  • It makes me feel stupid. I don’t ask anything and I just shake my head like I understand and say yes I get it. Emma
  • Sometimes I like it ... sometimes I don’t. Joseph

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is Rigor a Bad Word?

Should it be rigor?  Vigor?  None of the above? Are you or your school embroiled in a conversation about the word rigor?   Ultimately, the longer I work with teachers and administrators, the more I believe we have to move beyond outside pressures and harsh terminology and focus on the real issue: how to positively impact each student we teach to increase learning. As Karen Hickman, an assistant superintendent in Texas said, we need to move toward “implementation of rigor instead of so much talk about it!” 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Where does creativity start?

Imagination is the beginning of creativity.--George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Leadership and Culture

The cover story in the Gazette over at teachers.net is Shaping the Culture of Your School:  4 Tools for Leaders.

The culture of a school is a powerful tool for shaping the behavior of those who work there because it reflects the important values and underlying assumptions of that school. Culture is a powerful set of rituals, traditions, and practices that are often transmitted without question from generation to generation.  Let’s look at four tools that can help you encourage a culture of growth in your school.

Check it out! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The ABCs of Making It to the End of the Year

Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything going on right now?  A friend of mine sent me a hilarious A to Z list of all his tasks to do before the end of the year.  I tried to make one, but decided the first two covered everything:

A is for "attitude, keep a positive attitude" and keep saying that to myself over and over again.
B is for "breathe in the midst of chaos".

Think that will do it for me!  What is your list?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seven Myths of Rigor

Last week, I wrote a series of blog posts with five myths about rigor.  Here's a wrap-up with a bonus of two more:  The seven myths of rigor.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Myth 5: Resources Equal Rigor

The fifth myth about rigor is that if you use a certain resource, then that is rigorous.  I've said this before, but resources are not the solution.  It's what you do with those resources that makes a difference.  It actually undervalues your work to give all the credit to a textbook, or technology tool.  Rigor is about how you implement high standards--it's your instruction.  Use great tools, but remember, it's what you do with them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Myth 4: Support Means Lessening Rigor

Myth #4: Providing Support Means Lessening Rigor
In America, we believe in rugged individualism.  We are to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do things on our own. . Working in teams or accepting help is often seen as a sign of weakness.
Supporting students so that they can learn at high levels is central to the definition of rigor. As teachers design lessons moving students toward more challenging work they must provide scaffolding to support them as they learn.
Ron Williamson, my co-author on my leadership books,  asked teachers and parents about their experience with rigor. Both groups repeatedly told stories of how successful they were on rigorous tasks when they felt a high level of support, a safety net. Often people described tasks that were initially not successful. Only after additional time or effort did they experience success. In fact, many people said that they would not have been successful without strong support.
The same is true for students. They are motivated to do well when they value what they are doing and when they believe that they have a chance of success. The most successful classrooms and schools are those that build a culture of success, celebrate success, and create a success mentality.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Myth 3: Rigor is NOT for Everyone

Myth #3: Rigor is Not for Everyone
Some teachers think the only way to assure success for everyone is to lower standards and lessen rigor. This may mask a hidden belief that some students can’t really learn at high levels.  You may have heard of the Pygmalion Effect--students live up to or down to our expectations of them.  -
I was recently working with a school where they had one solution for increasing rigor—put all students in advanced classes.  That may be an option, but I’m not convinced that is the best way to increase rigor.  First, not all students are ready for an advanced class without extra support.  Second, that choice sends the message that the only teachers capable of rigorous instruction are those who teach advanced students.  I know from my own experience as a teacher of struggling students reading far below their grade level that any teacher can be rigorous, and any student can reach higher levels with the right support. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Myth 2: Rigor Means Doing More

Myth #2: Rigor Means Doing More
Many parents and educators believe that a rigorous classroom is characterized by requiring students to do more than they currently do, that rigor is defined by the content of a lesson, the number of problems assigned, the amount of reading, or the number of requirements.
True rigor is expecting every student to learn and perform at high levels. This requires instruction that allows students to delve deeply into their learning, to engage in critical thinking and problem solving activities, to be curious and imaginative, and to demonstrate agility and adaptability (Wagner, 2008a).  Simply, more is not necessarily better, especially when more is low-level or repetitive.