C.A. Gray Junior High School

Be respectful, Be responsible, Be safe, and Choose to work SMART.

Professional Learning at C.A. Gray

At C.A. Gray, our professional communities are structured like an umbrella. We have the whole staff community in which we share/learn about best practices  regarding teaching and learning. Under the larger umbrella, we are organized into smaller 'communities' in our various departments. Each one of those departments works as a collaborative team with collective responsibility. They work and learn together.

We are blessed at Gray to have many of the structures and supports in place to take advantage of the opportunity to work productively in professional learning communities. Some of those Include:
  • common departmental planning time that occurs daily within the school day
  • each department often includes a gifted instruction specialist, special education teachers who see through a differentiation lens, and CP teachers with a variety of strengths/gifts
  • an established mission that we as a staff believe in 
  • an established norm of common units and common assessments within a course  (with on-going examination of our practices and revision as needed)
  • a school schedule with first period as an additional planning for department heads to work with their department members (class visits, being an co-laborer  in working with students, department head coverage of a class so that a teacher can do a peer observation within his/her own department
  • a school schedule that allows for larger community meetings (professional learning trainings) during planning within the school day which reduces after school trainings
  • additional learning opportunities made available at no cost to the teacher through our RESA (other trainings and endorsements to which a cost is attached that are offered through RESA are often much more affordable than those at other agencies; RESA also offers some online opportunities which help teachers manage their time more flexibly)

Master Teacher: "Six Myths about Technology and Learning" -- 5.19.17

What is your position based on the evidence?

A few years ago, R.M. Tamin and colleagues conducted and study and concluded that despite the amount of resources allocated to increase the presence of technology in schools, there is little evidence this investment has generated significant improvement in student learning. However, rather than conclude that technology could not have a major impact on schools and learning, the study found that it is the manner in which technology has been employed that leads to the absence of impact.

Here are six myths about technology and learning, -- and how we can increase the impact we have with students through its use.

Myth#1 Students are naturally more engaged when they use technology.
When technology is used as ta tool to perform the same tasks students have been doing without technology, the novelty quickly wears off. When this happens students can become more actively disengaged and begin to employ technology to perform unrelated tasks and shift their attention away from what we are asking them to learn.
Myth #2 When students use technology they naturally learn better.
Technology can open the door to types of learning tasks not available without technology. Still, rich learning can be generated through a variety of activities, many of which require little or no technology. The key is to be clear about what we want students to learn and then to decide what approaches and activities hold the greatest promise to generate that learning. It is not the technology that generates the learning, it is the experience and reflection that make the difference.

Myth #3 Technology presents so many options and so much information that students become overwhelmed and learning is reduced.
The answer is not to shut out access to technology, but to help learners sort information and focus their attention in ways that support intended learning.

Myth #4 Technology-based games may be fun and young people may find them compelling, but they aren't good for learning.
Educators must pay attention and learn from what game designers know about generating motivation, building persistence, increasing time on task, and nurturing learning -- especially for our most reluctant learners.
Myth #5 Today's students have grown up with technology, so we do not have to teach them how to use these tools.
Often student knowledge is confined to a narrow set of uses. We still need to teach students key skills and approaches (how to sort what is accurate information, how to conduct formal research, and how to evaluate applications that will best support learning).

Myth #6 Technology will reduce the cost of education by reducing the need for the presence of teachers.
While it is true that technology can reduce the role teachers may have to play as sole source provides, of information, technology actually increases the need and opportunity for teachers to play a more active and crucial role in helping students become skilled learners.

The Master Teacher sees the potential of technology but keeps the essentials of good learning and teaching in sight.
Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 05/19/2017 @ 2:45 PM

Master Teacher: "Less Is More When It Comes to Quality Assessment" -- 5.11.17

Some of the major points are given here, but be sure (later:) you really read the details of this one.
  • Quality feedback is timely and specific.
  • "Good job" or "at least you tried" aren't helpful in providing strategies, resources, and input students need to improve.
  • Traditional assessments answer, "Do students know it?" and performance assessments answer, "Can students use it?"
  • Testing fatigue can weaken a student's immune system and dampen motivation (like stress does to teachers).
  • High quality assessments add value to learning and gauge varying degrees of understanding. 
  • To create a high-quality assessment, we need to identify results we hope to see, create a scoring guide with clear criteria, and provide work samples that show students what the final product should look like. We might show them what a"terrific" product, an "average" product and a "needs more work" product looks like.  (Sounds like backwards-design, doesn't it?)
Essentials of feedback:
  1. Any feedback we give should be specific to what students are doing right or wrong.
  2. Feedback should be used to nudge students toward the stated outcome.
  3. Feedback has to come at the right time (while students can still use it to affect the outcome).
The best way to deliver quality assessments is to ensure our students know what quality work looks like.
Posted 05/11/2017 @ 6:05 PM

Master Teacher: "Real learning begins when students feel stuck" -- 5.5.17

Feelings of being stuck often precede breakthroughs in learning. There are times when we struggle and feel stuck -- often just prior to our developing key insights, gaining new skills, finding new answers, and solving some of our most intractable problems. The same can be true for our students. It is vital that we teach students to understand the value of struggle to their learning.

Our task is to support students to employ good strategies, persist, and utilize the resources available to them.

-- Times of struggle may be times when students are open to trying something they would have rejected or avoided otherwise.
-- We can coach students to shift their perspectives. Students who are accustomed to learning coming easily may need reassurance and reframing of the situation before being able to move forward.
-- We can expose students to and support them to find more effective tools to support their learning. Those tools may be digital or virtual, shared by other learners who have found them useful or tools we have found useful to other students. By helping students start trying new tools and seeing what might work, we help position them to be part of the search rather than waiting to be told what to do and what will work.

The Master Teacher coaches students to focus on giving smart effort as they work their way through their struggles and feelings of being stuck. We want students to persist, but know informed and targeted persistence will more likely give success.

The key is for students to see that they control a wide variety of options, possibilities, and approaches that can move them beyond feeling stuck. The Master Teacher knows that we, too, can face times of struggle and feeling in our personal and professional lives. These same strategies can help us see our opportunity to learn what will take us to the next level for new learning rather than a sign of our failure.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 05/05/2017 @ 12:20 PM

Master Teacher: Six Soft Skills We Must Teach -- 4.14.17

Employers are looking for the total package. Industry insiders have said, "We train for skill, but hire for fit." Fit is determined by soft skills-- the personal attributes and habits that make for a well-rounded employee. Soft skills represent the everyday attitudes and dispositions students will need to succeed in college, career, and life. Soft skills are transferable to any industry. However, soft skills don't come in pre-packaged lesson plans or practice problems in the textbook. Nor do they emerge from getting all A's.

-- The number one skill is communication - oral and written - which is the lifeblood of any industry. Good communicators are clear and convincing.
-- The second skill is adaptablility. Today's students will see their careers evolve many times. To help students learn to be flexible, help them develop the big picture perspective, learn to improvise, and pursue different ways of doing things.
-- Thirdly, we must teach resourcefulness which calls upon students to apply analytical thinking under less-than-ideal conditions.
-- Another is entrepreneurialism. Fostering an innovative spirit in learners builds creativity.
-- A fifth skill dependability. Students learn that being dependable means fulfilling obligations even when it requires unexpected sacrifice. Students will learn quickly that when they follow through on their commitments, they earn the trust of peers, parents, and teachers. Trust is the currency for more responsibility and autonomy.
-- The sixth soft skill is teamwork. Students need ample opportunities to interact with peers to achieve common goals.

The Master Teacher equips students for the jobs of tomorrow, not the jobs of yesterday. Master Teachers work with their principals and peers to develop universal practices around the six vital soft skills.
Posted 04/14/2017 @ 10:05 AM

Master Teacher: "The Yin & Yang of Creativity" -- 4.11.17

Often, the characteristics that highly creative people have seem to be at war with one another. These seemingly opposing forces are actually a necessary symbiosis that creates the conditions from which creativity can emerge and grow. Many highly creative individuals are traditional, conservative, and classically trained in their area of expertise; yet, they are also rebellious and iconoclastic (i.e., Sting and Albert Einstein). They can be both highly intelligent and naive. Many creative individuals exhibit high levels of energy when engaged in creative work, followed by sometimes long periods of idleness necessary for incubation and reflection. It seems both energy and rest are required for the creative juices to flow.

Both curiosity and drive are necessary for creativity.  Curiosity seems to be stimulated by positive experiences with family, a supportive emotional environment, a rich cultural heritage, exposure to many opportunities and high expectations.  But perseverance and drive seem to develop from the opposite - a rocky emotional environment, a dysfunctional family, economic stressors, or feelings of rejection. Creative people seem likely to have been exposed to both circumstances.

There are several actions we can take as to nurture our students' creativity.

1. For our highly curious and highly supported students, we can raise our expectations appreciably.  Many students have not had enough experience to build toughness and tenacity that comes from overcoming challenges on their own and thus develop "drive."

2. Dysfunctional environments have supplied students with grit, but not opportunity. We can expose them to rich stimuli (field trips, museums, concerts, literature, new tastes/smells/environments are essential, especially for those who would never have the experience otherwise).

3. The right "head nod" from someone the student respects can be inspirational. Recognition from someone older with expertise can make a crucial difference for a student. 

Not only are Master Teachers fully aware of the yin and yang of creativity, they actively nurture multiple sides of this complicated process. They raise expectations and expose students to rich resources to amp up the creative level of all of their students.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 04/12/2017 @ 11:24 AM

Master Teacher: "How to Help the Brain to Learn" -- 4.4.17

Although we see our students become taller, bigger, and more mature, the brain doesn't reach full maturity until sometime between ages of 17 and 29. The frontal lobe of the brain which controls attention, planning, self-control, goal-setting, abstract thinking, and the inhibition of emotional impulses, can be more than ten years away from maturity if they are 18-year-old high school seniors.

This means that wherever students are physically and mentally now is not final. Fortunately, there are things we can do to help student brains develop. Remembering the acronym FACES can help us.

Focus the attention of students as often as possible. The attention span of the brain is short -- seven to ten minutes. Divide your lecture into ten-minute parts and use different activities to keep or regain student attention. Focusing student attention helps develop the brain. (Verbalize the E.Q. and focus standard at the beginning of the lesson. Reinforce the learning target during the lesson. Close the lesson with a TOTD/Exit slip, summarizing activity, etc. that assesses whether students 'got it' or not.)

Align activities as often as possible, including assessment activities, with both learning activities and learning materials. Research shows more than a 15 percent gain in ability when learners are asked to recall instructions in the same context that were received. (Make sure students have practice with learning items that are formatted like test items.)

Critical Thinking Skills - Hone these. The brain performs better and matures with practice. You can help student brains develop - if you focus on the acquisition and then practice higher order thinking skills. (Although student abilities vary greatly, and some students have not yet learned to skillfully organize their thoughts into written products, all students can be exposed to/have opportunity to participate in debate/discussion requiring evidence to support analysis or argument. There are many issues that students feel strongly about and that lend themselves to engaging our students.)

Exercise. Promote physical exercise. We can't always do daily exercises in class, but we can promote exercise (and include some movement - do Brain Gym hookups, line dance, calisthenics, stretches, carousel activities,stations, etc.).

Sleep. Promote and endorse sleep. Without reservations, learners who get regular sleep achieve significantly higher gains in learning. Research also shows that both exercise and sleep produce higher learning gains - even when exercise and sleep result in less study time.

The Master Teacher remains fully aware that students face huge challenges to maximize their learning during a time when their brains are in significant development - and are years away from their prime. And the frontal lobe, which affects judgment and other prime learning assets, is years from maturity. FACES in our teaching can give us a teaching advantage, and in turn give our students an advantage that cannot be ignored.
Posted 04/04/2017 @ 5:35 PM

Master Teacher: "Teaching students a neglected life and literacy skill" -- 3.20.17

This issue proposes five strategies for teaching students to be active listeners, to listen well.

1. Say it one time. Prepare students to learn that it is necessary to stay on their toes and listen. We still may have to repeat for some, but slowing down, accentuating important points, and using visuals will help all students learn how to listen.

2. Teach active listening by giving students a listening task in regular lessons. For example, you might say, "I'm going to describe the process of _____. I'll pause and ask you to turn to a listening partner and explain exactly what you heard me say." Ask students to take turns as the listener. Walk around observing student conversations to check for understanding. This takes time, but not as much time as repeating everything you say three or four times.

3. Develop student signals to reinforce listening habits and skills. You can use four signals: sounds, signs, words, and phrases. For example, you might say, "I am going to read _________. When I'm finished, you'll share your opinion by holding up one finger if you agree, two fingers if you disagree, and three fingers if you are undecided or have a question." This strategy promotes whole-class engagement, participation, and a chance to respond. It can be used many times daily and lends itself to variations.

4. Pay attention, pause, and paraphrase. Designate in pairs (or larger groups) who will have the speaker role first. Ask students to listen carefully to whomever is speaking without interrupting or thinking about their answer while a classmate talks - simply listen, focus, and absorb. When the speaking student stops talking, insist that all students take a breath before speaking and silently paraphrase what they believe the speaker said. Then the paraphrasing student follows with an "I" statement, such as "I see what you mean . . ." or "I am not sure I agree . . ." It is incredibly helpful for students to see this activity in action and experience how well it works. Paraphrasing and meaningful communications are vital skills which must be taught and practiced.

5. Have students think and create questions while listening to a lesson/lecture, watching a documentary, hearing a story read aloud, or listening to a report. Stop a few times and have students write a question or two about what they just heard. This increases the level and depth of student focus.

The Master Teacher knows good listeners are valued, respected, and easy to talk with. They stop doing other tasks when spoken to - whenever possible. They make eye contact quickly and show interest. And lastly, they don't cut into or cut others off in conversations. Listening is a skill that can make the difference between being highly successful and being average. It's crucial for success in work, relationships, and careers.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 03/20/2017 @ 3:14 PM

Master Teacher: "Motivating Students - One Size Won't Fit All" -- 3.13.17

Every student is motivated by the Primary and Secondary Needs.

Individual thinking-not group thinking-determines the actions of students. Even when a whole class does as we ask, each student actually decides and chooses to do so. All students have the same human motivators, but they have these motivators in varying degrees and intensities. The anchor for our ability to motivate each and every student lies within the Primary and Secondary Human Needs These are the real motivational "hot buttons."

The Primary Needs are physiological, unlearned, and inherent in every human being. The seven are: hunger, thirst, sex or sexuality, air, rest, escape from pain, and elimination of waste. These must be met before a student is motivated by Secondary Human Needs. For example, a hungry student is motivated to eat before he/she will be motivated to achieve in school. Whenever a student falters, the Primary Needs are the first place to look.

The Secondary Human Needs are psychological and learned. It's within these needs that each person tries to fulfill their hopes, dreams, and goals - are are motivated to work hard and excel in school. Every student has all eight of these needs, all students are motivated by each. The intensity varies - and we (they) may be driven by one or more of them. All eight of these needs can be met in your classroom by the curriculum and activities available to every student. Learning how to personalize these needs in different ways for different students will give us a powerful tool for reaching, motivating, and teaching.

While employing the Primary and Secondary Needs, we also need to know that all people, including our students, learn by what they hear, what they see, or what they handle and touch. Therefore, all students audio learners, all are visual learners, and all are kinesthetic learners. But it's believed that each person has a preferred way to learn - and it's the way we learn best.

-- To motivate auditory learners, it's best to talk to them using words/messages that inspire and affect how they think and feel.
-- Visual learners need pictures, charts, graphs, and visual media; a lecture may not reach them.
-- Kinesthetic learners are motivated by a lecture but are inspired by (for example) working on a computer. They must touch it, feel it, and handle it to learn. These are our future surgeons, engineers, programmers, and electricians.

The Master Teacher knows it's difficult to motivate all students with the same approach or teaching technique. Listening and responding to what we hear lets us personalize and individualize our teaching.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 06/18/2017 @ 5:02 PM

Master Teacher: "What are you doing that students should do?" -- 3.3.17

In nurturing and supporting children to become competent, successful, and independent people, we teach children key life skills necessary for them to function independently. If we step in too quickly, we may be depriving them of the learning experiences they need to become independent learners. Several areas in which we need to support learners can help them develop these skills.

Setting goals is a good place to start. Sometimes these are academic teaching goals, and other times they are taught through how and what we choose to grade. But the goals that really make a difference and prepare students for life are those that students set, own, and pursue. If our students don't learn how and why to set goals for themselves, they won't do so in the days ahead when we aren't around to step in and help them.

We must begin with what students already know and can do to achieve the goals they have set. When we invite students to participate in this process by identifying activities, resources, and tasks to support their learning in addition to what we intend to provide -- we give them an important measure of control that can increase motivation and engagement in everything they choose to do in life.

We can and should support student autonomy in monitoring their learning progress. Understanding the progress they are making is a key contributor to life success that will benefit them throughout life.

We can help students development the skill of self-assessment. Students need to know how to determine whether their learning is meeting important standards of quality, complexity, depth, breadth, and utility that will support their achievement and success. By sharing criteria against which to monitor and judge performance, we can engage students in developing their own criteria, rubrics, and other vital tools. The expertise to self-assess is a game changing skill when it comes to success in life. (Our routine practice of providing students with rubrics and exemplars prior to beginning tasks and projects is one way that we nurture these skills. Not only are we providing guidance for the academic task, but we are teaching the skill of identifying critieria, assessing against criteria, revising to meet standards/goals, and monitoring one's own progress.) The Master Teacher understands that as we seek to build goal-setting practices, we need to teach action planning, learning monitoring, and self-assessment skills.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.

Posted 06/18/2017 @ 6:36 PM

Master Teacher: "Body Language That Contradicts Your Words" -- 2.24.17

Experts claim that body language accounts for ninety percent of all communications between human beings. Studies show it's actually more powerful than our verbal communication and that if our body language contradicts what we say, the nonverbal communication will be believed most of the time.

Teachers communicate verbally and non-verbally continually. To be credible, we can't be guilty of sending mixed messages to anyone.

Six professional guidelines when communicating with anyone are:

1. Always remove any physical barriers between you and the person you're talking with if you can. Desks can be huge communication barriers (choose times when it is appropriate to sit for better communication purposes).
2. Get on the same physical level as the person you are talking to. Remember, it's a mistake to be "above" or "below" he person you're talking to. Standing over students conveys power first, communication second. Consider your position.
3. Know you'll communicate more accurately if you focus on both thoughts and feelings. And if you gesture with your hands, you'll activate the section of the brain that produces speech. As a result, your hands can actually help you speak more clearly and concisely.   Be aware that talking with your hands or your hips can be perceived as "daring" or "challenging". For best results, keep one hand visible at all times. Don't point or wag your finger at anyone or anything (even the sky or the ceiling). Remember if your body language contradicts your words, your nonverbal message will be the one believed.
4. Think. Then say what you mean - and mean what you say.
5. To avoid "mixed" or misunderstood" messages, the rule is that you must stop what you're doing and look the student in the eyes.  Without staring, keep a nice, pleasant, engaging gaze (friendly face, body relaxed); keep nodding to show your assertiveness, acceptance, and approval continually. Ask students to repeat anything you don't understand - and always offer to answer their questions.
6. Check the feet of students. The feet are a real gauge. Students can control their body, but their feet always tell the real story when it comes to body language. When you see nervousness behaviors, stop and put the student at ease by asking questions in a friendly and non-threatening way.

The Master Teacher knows communicating effectively involves words and actions. Knowing body language is the dominant communication style, especially when our body language contradicts our verbal communication, our body language will be the communication that's believed.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 02/26/2017 @ 3:43 PM

Master Teacher: "Don't Think Experience Equals Expertise" -- 2.17.17

If our experience keeps us from continuing our learning, we will never gain expertise.

Webster defines experience as, "A practical contact with and observation of facts or events, knowledge, or skill gained over time."  Webster defines expertise as, "Great skill or knowledge in a particular area."  If we don't learn the right lessons from failure, time can cause failure to become our most frequent experience. It's the skill and knowledge acquired by analyzing and understanding how to achieve successful outcomes, engaging in reflection, and then continually practicing, honing, and growing those skills to obtain mastery that defines whether we have expertise.

In teaching, there is nothing as valuable as experience if it helps us produce results and informs our knowledge and practice. Decades ago when someone graduated from high school, that person typically knew about 75% of what he or she would need to know for the rest of his or her life. Today it's 2% - and knowledge is exponentially increasing. We have to continually learn and innovate in order to keep up with a changing world. This is not possible without continuous professional learning and reflection.

The Master Teacher may have considerable knowledge and expertise but rarely claims to know everything in any area or skill. He or she knows there is simply too much to know and understand and that knowledge is increasing by the day. 

Teachers are forever curious about new and better ways to create breakthroughs for learners. It keeps them on a continuous and fresh path of discovery and reflection that allows them to try new paths and achieve more successful outcomes.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 02/26/2017 @ 5:39 PM

Master Teacher: "Winning Over Today's Parents" -- 2.9.17

Today's parents are different. These Millennial parents tend to be better informed and more experienced than Gen X and Boomer parents.  
  • They are raising their children differently than they were raised, and their expectations of how learning should be may not always conform to the way we think learning should look.
  •  "Helicopter parenting" is less intense. With smartphones, tablets, and apps, Millennial parents can collect data and tract their child's every move from afar.
  • Over two-thirds of Millennial parents tap into social media and online parenting communities for advice.
  • Millennials have the skills and sophistication to sift through new ideas that promise to make their children better learners.
There are specific actions that can help you win over today's parents.  Actively communicate what is happening in your classroom in a personal way and provide resources that will help parents support learning at home.
Also, encourage and reinforce parents for what they do educationally for their children. We need to let parents know they're doing a good job.  Sending a "job well done" text or email will pay dividends.

What distinguishes Millennial parents from previous generations is a belief that child-rearing and family should be customized. As such, they track how their child's unique needs and interests are being addressed. The more we personalize students' experiences, the more impressed their parents will be.  Students and parents need to see the relevance of what is being taught in the classroom.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 02/09/2017 @ 6:33 PM

Master Teacher: "Compassion - A Prerequesite to Resiliency" -- 2.3.17

  • Academic research focused on the science of compassion has yielded a number of important findings about compassion.
  • Experiencing compassion can alter behavior toward others, and compassionate thought patterns can be taught with a variety of techniques.
  • Researchers are finding that compassion may also be a prerequisite to resiliency.
  • Educators should be interested because we may feel that compassion can lead to coddling, which is the opposite of building resiliency. 
Developing compassion in students is critical to their success in life. There are several ways we can influence this.
1. We can and should be validated that our own inborn compassion is valuable  - to ourselves and our own resiliency - but also that it's extremely valuable to our students who are the recipients of our compassion.
2. We can know that building compassion in our students is critical for their current and future happiness and success in life.
3. We can adopt the position that in a compassionate classroom all students are supported to reach high goals.
4. We can adopt the stance that we cannot have true compassion unless we take the time and commit the energy to truly know our students.

Master Teachers understand that compassion is something they can learn to embrace along with students - as they talk together about the highs and lows of life and how compassion can help deal with them. Teaching students compassion makes them resilient, when the world, perhaps, is teaching them a different lesson.
Posted 02/09/2017 @ 11:43 AM

Master Teacher: "The Right Distance Between Prior Learning & New Learning" -- 1.27.17

1. Background knowledge is a lever to new knowledge, and sometimes it is hard to gauge the distance between the two.
2. Assessing prior knowledge may mean asking a few questions about what students already know or  pre-teaching key vocabulary.
3.Without sufficient background knowledge, students may not be able to organize new information in their 'cognitive closet.'
4. The first step is to assess baseline knowledge. (Pose an essential question, do a KWL chart, etc.)
5. Set "learning intentions"  (otherwise known as learning objectives, outcomes, performance tasks, learning targets, what students will understand/know/be able to do).
6. Experts say that should know about 90% of what you are asking them to master.

Next, design lessons students want to participate in. By making topics interesting and challenging, you can enlist commitment.
Then activate new learning by building learner confidence.  Student confidence comes from past success, quality teacher feedback, appropriate scaffolding of tasks, and peer encouragement. The more confident students are, the more comfortable they'll be tackling new material.

Expecting great things isn't enough. Regular interactions during the learning process give expectations their true power. Whether it's a simple nod or a deep conversation about what a student is thinking, our touch points become the compass for new learning. However, without actions that show we mean it, our words don't matter.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 01/29/2017 @ 7:34 PM

Master Teacher: "First come stereotypes, then prejudice, & eventually discrimination" -- 1.17.17

These three behaviors, stereotyping/prejudice/discrimination, are ordered and progressively developed. These three behaviors adversely affect the climate and culture in a classroom and school. Each gets in the way of student learning and everything else we want schools to be for every student.

All three behaviors are destroyers of relationships. 

Stereotypes are magnified and simplistic characterizations of a person or group. Stereotypes can be positive or negative, but never fully accurate, truthful, or honest. These sweeping generalizations do not allow for variation, either individually or socially between people. Our professional responsibility is to stop, resolve to maximize the potential of each student, and know that even positive stereotypes are inaccurate, narrowing, and limiting to the person.

A prejudice is an opinion, prejudgment, or attitude about a group or its individual members. Prejudices are formed by a complex psychological process that begins with an attachment to an "in group" or to a close circle, such as one's family - and is aimed at "out-groups."  Prejudices are often accompanied by ignorance, fear, or hatred.

Discrimination is behavior that treats people unequally because of their group membership. Discriminatory behavior often begins with negative stereotypes and prejudices.

The Master Teacher believes it's the responsibility of all of us to continually try to make schools better places for all children to learn, grow, and take their places in society. This isn't possible when we allow the presence of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination to go unchallenged. If we start by stopping the stereotyping, we may stop the other two as well.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 01/29/2017 @ 1:24 PM

Master Teacher: "Techniques to Lead Students to Optimism" -- 1.6.17

All research supports that success, happiness, and health are prevalent in much higher degrees in those individuals who are optimistic rather than pessimistic. In combating negative feelings, such as anxiety and fear, optimism can be an unparalleled tool.  

The master teacher will take up the challenge to infuse optimistic and opportunistic views into students' psyches.  If we are optimistic, students will feel and notice it. We need to proclaim it as a wise choice.  Although there are many negative things that happen in our world and to our students which cannot be sugarcoated away with an optimistic attitude, we can help students become more optimistic thinkers with these six strategies.

1. We can help students understand the destructive force of negative beliefs. Sometimes, a negative belief that develops can be more toxic than the original adverse experience.

2. We can help students learn to create some distance from negative beliefs.  We need to explain that bad events can happen to anyone and that certain people are not "targeted" or "destined" to have negative things happen to them.

3. We can help students choose to generate alternative beliefs. Most events have many causes. Pessimists have a way of focusing on the worst of all possible causes. We need to help students focus on the changeable, specific, and non-personal causes of an adverse event.

4. We can help students decatastrophize events. Pessimists tend to make small setbacks seem huge. We can teach students perspective.

5. We can encourage and help students redeploy their energy and attention by thinking of actions that will lead to a better today and tomorrow. Help them see they have a choice. Teaching students to envision a better future is the first step towards realizing it.

6. We can help students find the evidence. A pessimist often clings to attitudes or facts that are false. Pointing out distortions in our students' thinking can help them find the facts that lead to a balanced perspective.

The Master Teacher knows the power of positive thinking in giving students the tools to take control of their beliefs and keep going. Negatives can destroy hope and lower expectations. Our students need thinking frames to deal with events and experiences intellectually and realistically. That's why these six strategies will serve us now and our students for a lifetime.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016. Print.
Posted 01/11/2017 @ 6:34 PM

Master Teacher: "The Art & Action of Being Fully Present" -- 12.9.16

Being a superb teacher day in and day out is not an easy achievement. (Understatement?)  Several realities that teachers face every day need our constant attention because they are always present and will never go away. Every teacher faces them. As professional educators, we have to handle these realities without fanfare and with grace and competence.

Realities that need constant teacher awareness and action include:
  • A teacher has to wear many hats, and each hat requires different kinds of knowledge, skills, duties, responsibilities, and actions. We need to perform these tasks well and on-demand--without advance warning or time for preparation.
  • No two days are ever alike and each day brings differences of every kind from the students, colleagues, and parents that we have to handle while being surrounded by a room full of students and with lessons to teach. We work on stage all day long serving a wide range of people and their needs.
  •  While working in a "fishbowl", we must be "100% there" all the time. This professional responsibility is an art and skill that requires specific actions. This requires a very wise, intelligent, caring, strong, and mature adult.
Teacher attitudes that can equip us to do this are as follows:

1. We need to actually embrace and take pride in the fact that we have multiple opportunities to meet the needs of students and the school's work and mission. We must believe that we chose the work and mission of education, and we value it highly.
2. We have to willingly commit to tackling our different responsibilities with competency, grace, elegance, and dignity. These are characteristics that allow us to make a difference and bring out the best in students and us.
3. We must know that being successful in teaching requires seizing the opportunity of the moment, whether it's teaching a lesson, handling student attitude or behavior, giving advice, or maximizing abilities. It means continually being 100 percent focused on what we are doing.
4. Motivating students to engage, participate, work, and achieve all the time means communicating opening and freely -- in positive, productive, and constructive ways. 
5. You must continually build, protect, and maintain relationships with students. 

Research confirms the belief that the classroom teacher is the most vital factor in giving students a quality education.   

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 12/09/2016 @ 10:30 AM

Master Teacher: "Do's & Don'ts for Handling Verbally Aggressive Students" -- 12.2.16

"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes." Abigail Van Buren

This issue gives eight actions to use in responding to the angry, verbally aggressive students.
1. You must hold these students accountable for their misbehavior (just do not attempt to do so at the moment they are being aggressive).
2. Never think for a moment that fighting fire with fire will put out the fire. It won't. More often than not, such action will just increase these students' anger and the aggressiveness of their response.
3. Do not touch them. Keep in mind that those who carry a big stick in volatile situations may get hit with it.
4. It's best to stand where you can keep your eyes on the angry student and the class. Try to show the class that you have a measure of control. Stay between them and the misbehaving student to keep them out of harm's way. 
5. Do not let the class talk to one another or to the angry student. The class must not be involved with the angry student. Remember, it can be easy for a member of the class to make the student angrier. 
6. If the angry student stops, it's usually best not to do or say anything for a moment. Just give the student time to cool off and settle down.
7. You may want and need to use quieting and calming language to settle the student down. However,  your major objective is not to make him or her angrier. Just offer facts - no opinions or conclusions.
8. After order has been restored and the student returns to a calm state of mind and behavior, it's time to talk -- privately.

The Master Teacher believes that if the behavior is not physically aggressive, he or she can handle the situation. The teacher's response can help him gain influence and control of the incident - and keep it from escalating or affecting other students.  This action with strengthen teacher authority and ability to manage the classroom.
Posted 12/02/2016 @ 9:20 AM

Master Teacher: "How to Respond When You Get an Attitude" -- 11.4.16

There are four reasons or purposes behind student 'attitudes':

attention, power, self-confidence, or revenge.

1.When students are acting out for attention, teachers must focus their attention on positive and constructive behavior in the classroom, not on the negative and unproductive behavior.
2. When student acting out reveals a need for power, teachers must help students see that responsibility is real power and that sustainable power is grounded in productive and successful handling of responsibility.  (Power may be equated to control, and research tells us that often students may feel that they have little control over their lives.)
3. Sometimes students act out due to a fear of failure, and they would rather be seen misbehaving rather than unable to do the work. We must help these students gets measure of success. Get them to set modest goals and help them achieve them.
4. A fourth reason for the 'attitude' is scary: It's revenge. Sometimes students do not feel that the world is a safe place - and they're striking out against everyone and everything they think has contributed to their failure. Their attitude is an attempt to seek revenge against "the system" that's not working for them.   They do not need isolation and rejection; what will work is what they seldom experience: acceptance and consideration. 

The Master Teacher knows that once you observe an "attitude", stop. Put your ego in your pocket and begin the real interventions that will work. Look at the reason for the misbehavior. Then focus all your efforts on what needs to be done, what skills need to be learned, and which of the four causes are driving the student's behavior. The key is to create new attitudes and behaviors to serve the students' success. (CAG's "teaching appropriate behaviors" stance at the beginning of the year and reteaching throughout the year)

The Master Teacher knows yelling, punishing, ignoring, or rejecting won't work. Neither will long lectures that focus on all the ugly behaviors the student exhibits. What works is our reaching them and influencing their positive behaviors.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016.
Posted 11/07/2016 @ 2:26 PM

Master Teacher: "Best-Kept Secrets for Handling the Nonparticipator" -- 10.17.16

The Master Teacher knows we must ask ourselves two questions before we can help the nonparticipator; "Do I really want this student here or do I want to drive him or her away?' Our answers will determine our attitude and actions. If we really want to keep them in school, we'll eagerly make the adjustment necessary to do so. If we don't, we likely won't do any adjusting.

1. Various degrees of disinterest, boredom, and indifference are the warning signs that students may become nonparticipators. Our first clue is when students fail to bring materials to class, come late, and don't listen to instructions. It's wise to give them the materials they need to participate in class.
2. Many students who are not participating are not drawing attention to themselves or creating a disturbance; they may go overlooked. Research shows that the nonparticipatory students are prone to get behind and become defensive or apathetic. 
3. We must see the need to give them attention; otherwise, students may display three negative attitudes: feelings of confinement, comparing school with serving a jail sentence, and a contempt for authority.
4. Here lies a valuable secret: Never move away from these students in any way. Rather, move in closer and ask, "Why?"  Their surface behavior is seldom the cause for nonparticipation. Failure is.  The key to changing their behavior is to back up, revise, innovate, and find a way for them to start experiencing success with academic work.
5. Our refusal to quit (give up on them) is our best strategy.
6. Find out what their interests are and create a relationship rather than reject them.  They may have few, if any meaningful relationships with adults. 

The Master Teacher knows helping the nonparticipator takes times and a willing attitude about giving our time. If we won't make adjustments, little change is possible. These students need adult connecting. With it, we may find them among the most loyal and appreciative students we have ever taught.

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher/Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. RickabaughPh. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016. 
Posted 11/09/2016 @ 4:12 PM

Master Teacher: "Homework and Learning..." -- 9.22.16

If positioned correctly, homework can increase student motivation to learn, but poorly positioned homework can lead to decreased learning interest and commitment. There are six aspects we can use to leverage its advantages and avoid its pitfalls.

1. Realize that homework may have a differentiated impact on students. Students with advantages such as ready access to technology/resources/background information have an advantage over students who are less advantaged.  Counting homework as part of students' formal grades can actually increase academic achievement gaps.
2. Assigning homework in which students practice new concepts and skills can reinforce students' confusion and have them repeat errors, thus increasing the time it takes for the teacher to help students unlearn what has been practiced.
3. Assigning too much homework can diminish its benefits. Research indicates that requiring about an hour to an hour and a half for high school students is optimal. For middle school students, the greatest benefits are found in homework requiring less than an hour (total homework time, not time per class).
4. The greatest benefits come from homework students complete, not the amount assigned. Unless students find the work to be valuable, realistic, andaccomplishable, we may be unable to convince them to do the work. Thus, the intended learning will not result.
5. Providing formal, after-school homework completion assistance can be beneficial. The benefits are likely to be increased motivation and improved work habits which can lead to increased achievement.
6. There does not appear to be a direct link between the type of homework assigned and resulting increases in achievement. (Consider the details!)

The Master Teacher is careful to avoid structuring and assigning homework that will work against learning goals and increase the gaps in students' opportunity and achievement that already exists. The Master Teacher assigns homework with care and confines tasks to those that students can do, are likely to do, and that will make a positive difference in their learning.


Posted 09/22/2016 @ 12:35 PM

Best Practices for Serving ESOL Students -- 9.20.16

  • FOCUS:
  • * ESOL facts.
  • * Current information about the ESOL students attending C.A. Gray this year.
  • * Information related to achievement of our ESOL students.
  • * Instructional strategies.
  • * Opportunity to share methods you have found successful.
Posted 09/19/2016 @ 3:35 PM

The Lexile Framework for Reading -- 9.12.16

PowerPoint + Overview Handout + SRI Log-in

Posted 09/12/2016 @ 3:35 PM

Writing across the Curriculum -- 9.6.16

Presenter: Mr. Allen Edwards

Topic: Writing Across the Curriculum 
(Specific writing strategies- handout attached; best practices)

  • Present Milestones scores and potential for growth/deeper learning for our students (District Improvement Plan and School Improvement Plan),
  • District guidance  - "students are to react IN WRITING to what they learn"
  • District guidance - "Activities that involve all students and expect them to stay engaged in order to participate:" If students are told at the beginning of class what they will gain from the class/that they will be required to write this/about this at the end of the class, are reminded of the learning objective during the class, and then held accountable for the writing activity during the closing, the percentage of engagement is increased.  Many teachers struggle to actually do the 'Closing' component of class because they 'teach 'til the bell.'

Implementation: Mr. Smith's direction is that writing strategies are to be used a minimum of two to three times per week as the Closing component in the workshop instructional format in all classes at C.A.Gray as well as implemented during instruction.

Next steps: Within collaborative lesson planning, determine which strategies work well with which lessons. Write those into lesson plans.  Explain and model a strategy before expecting students to use the strategy.  After modeling the strategy for the students, do it with the students, and then expect students to complete the strategy on their own. Click HERE for handout.
Posted 09/06/2016 @ 3:35 PM

Master Teacher: "Motivational Mistakes..." -- 8.29.16

Demotivating mistakes can impact every students in class!

The Master Teacher knows that sometimes the best way to motivate students is simply to avoid teacher action that will demotivate them. The four we need to eliminate are inconsistency, inflexibility, little or vague feedback, and the habit of minimizing the importance of school work and the students who do that work.

Consistency is the key to student security. Students can't feel safe and secure in a constantly changing or unpredictable environment. Students count on your consistency to feel psychologically safe, work freely, take risks, and follow your leadership in the classroom.

Inflexibility works against learning, creativity, relationships, and fairness.  When inflexibility establishes that a rule is a rule and demands compliance without regard for extenuating circumstances, students may think that doing anything without teacher permission is a foolish mistake. 

Without feedback, the vast majority of students will not know what is required for them to be successful or where to place their efforts. Without emphasis on feedback for every student, we are missing the use of a powerful motivational tool.

Two things are always key to student motivation in the classroom: The important work students do- and that every student is doing that important work. We always want parents to know that students are working and learning every day.

Don't forget the Better Learner Tips on the back of the brochure.  (Positivity is a must for fruitful student and adult relationships in the workplace.)

Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D. The Master Teacher /Weekly Pd PROGRAM. Manhattan: Robert L. DeBruyn; James R. Rickabaugh, Ph. D.; Tracey H. DeBruyn; Suzette D. Lovely, Ed. D., 2016. Print. 

Motivational Mistakes That Will Affect Every Student
Posted 08/29/2016 @ 3:35 PM

Data Director Training -- 8.23.16

9th Grade Math Lab with M. Bishop.
Posted 08/23/2016 @ 10:24 PM

Master Teacher: "Position Yourself to Inspire Students" -- 8.15.16

  • The surest path to having inspired students is to plan and work to inspire them.
  • We can position learning to connect with the lives of students.
  • The Master Teacher knows that when we inspire students, we may be creating a spark that will last a lifetime.
Five ways to position ourselves in our relationships and interactions with students so that motivation, commitment, and inspiration are more likely to be present are given as follows:
  1. Consistently focus on the purpose of the learning. Help students understand the purpose of the learning as it relates to what is compelling and important to them. When students understand that the learning will increase their ability to influence and control their environments, you will have created a condition for inspired learning.
  2. Help students see that they work primarily for themselves, that their work is aligned with their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. 
  3. Connect learning to the interests and experiences of students. Consider aspects of popular culture, current issues, and items from the news to tap the experiences and ignite the passions of your students. 
  4. Intentionally build community with your learners. Students need to feel welcomed, respected, and validated as people.
  5. Intentionally build your relationship with each student. This creates the most influential position you can take.  Your belief in students can be a source of assurance of their value and inspiration for future effort and success.
The Master Teacher knows that when we position ourselves to inspire students, we give them an important gift that includes the transfer of responsibility and direction for learning from adults to them.

Consider how you will continue to get to know your students, connect to their interests/experiences, and communicate the relevance of your class to their lives.  
Posted 08/15/2016 @ 3:35 PM

EOG/EOC Resources from the GA DOE - Wednesday, 1.27.16

8th Grade Science Hall Computer Lab.Posted 01/20/2016 @ 5:02 PM

De-Escalation Training - Friday, 1.15.16

In Computer Lab G113.

Posted 02/23/2016 @ 9:11 AM