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Jun 14, 2016 by Jennifer Berkshire

What is the Purpose of School?

Lawrence is in the midst of a turnaround. There's a lot of emphasis on boosting academic achievement there. If you listen to the students, they envision the purpose of school as being about education through experience, with an eye toward helping them be leaders who can transform their own communities. The different schools of thought, I would say, are almost like different sizes of thought. How big your vision is of what's possible ends up determining your answer for what school is for.

You see in some communities a huge effort to tie schools to particular kinds of job training, where kids basically pick their occupation early on and get trained for it. Students who are being trained for a health career, for example, will attend a health academy. Or you might end up at a academy. Think about how much narrower that school of thought is, the school as a kind of vocational training center, versus what the kids in Lawrence are talking about, where they see school as broadening their horizons. 

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Topics: classroom challenges, standardized testing

Mar 30, 2016 by Francis Vigeant

Steps to Create a Science Inquiry Environment in an NGSS Classroom

Establishing background knowledge requires nonfiction reading and Socratic dialogue, helping students connect new knowledge to their personal experiences and build important connections that will help them engage meaningfully with the content.

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Topics: NGSS, classroom challenges, Three dimensions

Mar 10, 2016 by Francis Vigeant

Leading Effectively: Recovering from Mistakes, Closing Communication Loops & De-Escalation

Preventing and recovering from mistakes will form a huge component of successful NGSS STEM integration. It is necessary to revamp the idea of failure from minor or even major setbacks. These are not failures. Failure, rather, occurs when we walk away, or when we discover there is absolutely no chance for success. As educators, we are truly unlikely to encounter the latter, and we have a choice in the former. Let’s move away from fear of failure and start moving forward from mistakes wherever and however possible. 

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Topics: classroom challenges, Closed-Loop Communication

Mar 6, 2016 by Francis Vigeant

Defining What Matters: How We Go About Our Work as Teachers

Some values will resonate with us, and some simply will not. Modes of instruction like test prep, for example, are not going to resonate with the values of schools and districts where authentic student-centered instruction is a value, because the drill-and-kill nature of test prep is simply at odds with authentic teaching. To participate in that is a violation of the values of the school and of the district.

How we go about our work matters deeply for how successful we are in introducing effective STEM instruction into our schools. It also matters deeply for how successfully you manage to knit your team together and earn their respect as a leader. In the example here, we can see that the what and the why of everyday instruction must align to our values, or we won’t get very far. Instead, mode of instruction (the what) must match our values (the why). 

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Topics: NGSS, classroom challenges, Value

Mar 3, 2016 by Francis Vigeant

Questioning Value: Why Your School Exists & Why Teaching Matters

If you haven’t really thought about it, the values teachers might ascribe to their classrooms, their schools or school in general might look like a blank page to you. However, everyone brings their own values and core beliefs to the table. 

Let’s take a step back from the Next Generation Science Standards, which set the stage for the challenges ahead, and talk for a bit about how to manage the change they will require in the context of our teaching teams, our school buildings and even our districts. 

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Topics: NGSS, classroom challenges, teachers

Feb 24, 2016 by Francis Vigeant

How Closed-Loop Communication Helps Teaching and Learning Science


Communication is the No. 1 place leaders lose focus and buy-in. Being clear, consistent and open is a must. 

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Topics: NGSS, classroom challenges, teachers, School Climate and Culture

Feb 22, 2016 by Francis Vigeant

Understanding What the NGSS Are Asking For

If you want to avoid a Next Generation Science Standards showdown in your school or district, the first step you can take is to understand the design of the NGSS standards and, most important, that they are performance expectations. They are categorically not about recalling facts. Therefore it’s very important that you avoid adopting resources that label themselves “now next generation aligned,” “now next generation ready,” or any other euphemism meant to disguise resources based on the traditional model of science instruction.

This is crucial. Even if a resource is from a giant company, the recall-based model of instruction is simply not compatible with the next generation of STEM instruction. 

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Topics: NGSS, STEM, classroom challenges, teachers, ELA

May 2, 2014 by Sara Goodman

5 Tips to Prepare for Your First Classroom Observation

Preparing for a classroom observation, whether it’s your very first or your fiftieth, can be a nerve-wracking experience—but it doesn’t have to be. Use our tips below and make your first classroom observation a success!

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Topics: education, classroom challenges

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