12 Days of Podcasts

I started EPSD PD Podcasts with the intention to create a culture of lifelong learning in our school district. My wish is to bring conversations about teaching and learning to our school community that can be enjoyed whenever and wherever you want. My hope is to inspire teachers and spark conversations about teaching and learning. Not only is it intended to create a culture of learning in our school district, but also to celebrate the wonderful learning that is happening everywhere in our schools. Since starting this project last fall, I have published 12 podcasts. If you have some time over the holidays, you can listen to the podcast series while you decorate the house, bake goodies, travel, or workout. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do. It’s the holiday season and my gift to you is 12 days of podcasts.

Episode 1: Learning and the Brain

Listen to elementary, middle, and high school students describe what it feels like when they have learned something. Hear interview with Ivy Anderson, sleep neurologist, about how sleep, exercise, and healthy eating have huge impacts on the brain’s capacity to learn and process information.

Episode 2: The Science of Gratitude

Learn about what research says about routinely expressing gratitude. Students in 2nd Grade, 6th grade, and 12th grade express what they are grateful for at school. Teachers express gratitude toward students.

Episode 3: Inside the Brain of English Learners

Students acquiring English as a second language share the struggles they have had in school where from kindergarten through 12th grade. Learn from your own students how you can help them be more successful at school.

Episode 4: Global Outcomes in BAM Company

The high school business and marketing class, aka BAM Company, shares the new way of learning that their teachers, Bob Regan, has orchestrated for them and how valuable it is to them as learners and as future adults. Students share why this class teaches them the Global Outcomes that will prepare them for success in today’s knowledge economy.

Episode 5: Intercultural Summit 2019

Teachers at Estes Park High School partner with teachers at Eagle Rock High School to provide students with the opportunity to tackle difficult issues that teenagers are struggling with today regarding race and gender identity. These student build relationships together and find solutions to problems at their schools.

Episode 6: What’s Happening in the Classroom?

A reflection of the great teaching and learning that is happening in all the schools across Estes Park School District.

Episode 7: 2019 Mountain Festival

Listen to the sounds of the Mountain Festival, a celebration of learning in the Estes Park community. Teachers implement Global Outcomes through project-based learning and students share the projects they have brought to share at the Mountain Festival.

Episode 8: Passionate Goal Writing

At the beginning of the school year teachers get together to look at data, evaluate strengths and weaknesses, set goals for the school year. Discuss tips for making goal writing more passionate work that inspires us and propels us into action.

Episode 9: Zero Waste Interns

Listen to an interview with Alex, Sarah, and teacher Alex Harris as they tell the story about how the zero waste project was born and hope for the future of the project. Sarah and Alex share the Global Outcomes they have learned through their experience as Zero Waste Interns.

Episode 10: Instructional Technology with Anne Dewey

Anne Dewey shares her insight on how technology can be used to put students at the center of instruction, and make students owners of their own learning and creators in the classroom. She makes great app recommendations for teachers in this episode.

Episode 11: Celebrating Diversity Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos has become a tradition in our community and in this episode you get to listen to the music and laughter as the community comes together to celebrate diversity in our schools and in our community.

Episode 12: The Science of Gratitude Part 2

This is a follow up of episode 2 about the science of gratitude and how it has a positive impact on health and wellness as well as learning. Listen to students from every grade level in the district express their gratitude for school and their teachers.

The Science Behind Being Grateful

Click to listen to Episode 12 of EPSD PD Podcast

We just wrapped up the Thanksgiving holiday and just around the corner in a few more weeks will have our winter holiday break.  This provides a great time in our lives to refocus and reflect on what we are grateful for. 

In this episode of EPSD PD Podcast you will hear the voices of students throughout the district.  You will hear what students from Kindergarten through 12th grade are grateful for and what research supports about how expressing gratitude improves health and wellness.  One of the Global Outcome competencies for students is social emotional and physical wellness.  For that reason, it is important that we teach our students about the importance of gratitude for their own wellness.  

Research published by Psychology Today describes the top 7 health and wellness benefits of expressing gratitude:

  1. It increases mental strength and cognitive processing. 
  2. Improves self-esteem.
  3. Improves Sleep.
  4. Increases empathy and reduces aggression.
  5. Improves overall psychological health.
  6. Increases physical wellness.
  7. Improves relationships and increases positive relationships with others.

That is why I made my way to each of our schools to provide opportunities for students to express their gratitude about school.  I set up my microphone in the lunch room and let students come up and express what they are grateful for at school.

There is no doubt about it that expressing our gratitude makes us feel good.  I enjoyed watching the smiles get bigger and bigger on the faces of these students as they shared their gratitude toward each other. Sharing our gratitude with each other can build relationships between students and teachers and help us understand one another and with understanding one another comes compassion which is a Global Outcome of ours and when conflict does arise the likelihood of building empathy increases.

The Negativity Bias

As humans, we are all negative thinkers.  Don’t beat yourself up about it. It is part of your evolutionary past and it is the way that all of our brains work.  It is supported by loads of evidence and research and is just the way we humans are.   It is called Negativity Bias.

Our brains have what neuroscientists call Negativity Bias.  This means our brains are built with greater sensitivity to unpleasant news, information, and experiences.  Zaretta Hammond writes about negativity bias and its implications on learning in a book many of us have read called Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain.   Our brain remembers and responds to negative experiences up to 3 times more than positive experiences. This originates from our limbic system (our reptilian brain) designed to be on the lookout for threats to our safety and psychological well-being.  That is why in our teacher preparation programs we were taught for every corrective or negative feedback we give a student, we should also give 3 pieces of positive feedback. That didn’t come out of nowhere, there is research behind why to do that.

One of the things our brain does when we get stressed, anxious, or feel a threat to our limbic brain is produce large amounts of cortisol.  Cortisol is a hormone in the brain that puts a stop to learning and information processing for at least 20 minutes and can stay in the body up to 3 hours.  Keep this in mind in the classroom when your students are upset, they can’t really access their brain for the next 20 minutes. This is why an inclusive environment and positive relationships is so important!

We have a tendency to lean toward the negative in every aspect of our lives.  But once we are aware of this and can identify it in our thinking, we can change it. Be aware of your negativity bias, and one of the best ways to counteract this in your brain is by routinely expressing gratitude. In Alex Korb’s article The Grateful Brain and in an article by Jessica Stillman called Gratitude physically Changes Your Brain they both cite research studies that suggest by practicing gratitude you can train your prefrontal cortex to appreciate and retain the positive and happy thoughts and deflect the negative ones.

Tips for the Classroom

  • Teach students the difference between grateful and thankful.
  • Take some time for students to verbally share what they are grateful for and listen to each other.  You could add it to a restorative circle conversation. 
  • Pick a student each day and share with them why you are grateful for them.  Follow up with a phone call or email to their parents expressing why you are so grateful for their child.
  • Tell a coworker why you are grateful for them. This will go along way in building the culture of your workplace.
  • Create a grateful wall in your classroom where students post pictures and stories of what they are grateful for.  You could do this on Schoology or SeeSaw or they could make a Clips video to share.
  • Keep a grateful journal or have your students keep a grateful journal.  Write down every day something or someone or an experience you are grateful for.
  • Volunteer somewhere and do some service learning with your students.
  •  Be conscious of your thinking and your students thinking and recognize negativity bias.  Being aware of your brain’s negativity bias allows you to counter it every chance you get. 

Elena Aguilar blog on how Gratitude Can Fuel School Transformation she suggests many different tips for how to routinely express gratitude and the impact it can have on changing the culture and climate of schools.

If you have other tips for the classroom, please share them by commenting on this blog post!


Celebrating Diversity at Dia de los Muertos

In Episode 12 of EPSD Podcast you will hear some of the sounds from the Dia de los Muertos celebration in our community on Tuesday, November 5th.

Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout most of Mexico, mostly in central and southern Mexico.   It is a day to celebrate the life and death of our loved ones. Many of the Mexican families in our community celebrate Dia de los Muertos, and the significance of sharing in this celebration of culture for our entire community promotes unity and belonging.  Celebrating cultural heritage is important in uniting communities and developing a sense of belonging and appreciation for culture in our community. 

A Tradition Created

The event has grown in size every year over the past 5 years because more and more community members come each year to celebrate the diversity within our community.  Over 500 community members attended the event this year!

This event is not just important for our community but also for our school district, because over the last decade the number of Hispanic and Latino students at our schools has grown.  It is now about 30% which is about ⅓ of our population. We look for opportunities to celebrate our growing diversity in our schools and bring diverse cultures together because it is important to us to build belonging in our district. Dia de los Muertos is one event that allows for this. The festivities are held in our high school commons, which is important because our school district is the hub of our community. It is a place where members of our community gather and where people can come together and feel a sense of belonging within our community.  It is important to us that the school district act as a catalyst that unites people and brings them together in celebration. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching

The largest challenge facing our district today is closing the achievement gap for our Hispanic and Latino students. We are working hard as a staff to close this gap because we believe in Excellent Educational Experiences for Every Student in Every Classroom Every day. This is our vision, and while this achievement gap between our students remains, we are falling short of this vision. That is why this year we have identified 5 major improvement strategies to improve this including becoming culturally responsive teachers. What does being culturally responsive mean?

I appreciate the quote from Zaretta Hammond in her book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain that states, “All teaching is culturally responsive, it is just a question of whose culture is is responding to.”  Culturally responsive teaching is recognizing students’ ways of meaning making which is formed from cultural knowledge and their personal Worldview. The culturally responsive teacher understands the importance of being in a learning alliance, which is much more than just building a positive relationship, and responds positively and constructively with teaching moves that build independent learning. Check out these great videos on an Edutopia post to learn more!

Thank You!

In large part the success of the Dia de los Muertos event was due to the Organizing Committee of dedicated Latino parents and staff members José Almeida, Sue Strom, Alicia Rochambeau, and Adriana Hoschtetler. This is a community event organized by some of our very hard working and dedicated families within our community.  Families for which we are very grateful! They meet months ahead of time to plan the decorations, food, and music for the event.  

It also could not happen without the monetary support of many sponsors. The Village Thrift Shop, Town of Estes Park, Estes Park Elementary PTO, Estes Park Education Foundation, The Mex-Kal Family Mexican Restaurant, Chelito Mexican Restaurant, Poppys Pizza and Grill, McDonalds, and Sweet Basilico.


Teacher Self-Care

The teaching profession is recognized repetitively as one of the most stressful and most demanding professions that exist. And why shouldn’t it be when teaching is the profession that creates all other professions. In my opinion, being a teacher is the most important and most valuable profession in the World. We grow brains, and care for and nurture humans. More than any profession we make a profound influence on the type of World we live in. That is also why the teaching profession attracts the most kind, empathetic, compassionate, and loving people on the planet.

What we know about kind, empathetic, compassionate, and loving people is that it is hard for them to say “no” to things they care about. For that reason, they have a tendency to meet the needs of everyone else before meeting their own needs. Sometimes educators don’t realize they need to take care of themselves until it is too late and they are already experiencing physical or emotional symptoms of stress. That is why maintaining self-care regularly becomes especially important in our profession.

My husband is a paramedic/firefighter first responder and to be a better support for him, I attended a class on post-traumatic stress. What shocked me was that I learned way more about myself through the class. I was a principal at the time and dealing with a lot of very emotionally charged situations. Through the class I learned about empathic distress which is like secondary post-traumatic stress. Empathic distress is being exposed repeatedly to the trauma of others. It has profound impact on those of us that experience it. If you are a teacher, take some time to read this very valuable article from Edutopia that validates what you are going through When Teachers Experience Empathetic Distress.

A meta-analysis out of the University of Zurich provides a basis for why this happens. It turns out that brain imaging shows similar activation patterns in the brain for the person experiencing the pain and the person who is empathizing with the person experiencing the pain. Your brain is in some ways experiences the same pain, which builds up and causes stress.

There are a lot of resources out there for teachers to turn to for advice on how to practice self-care. There are twitter feeds and Facebook pages galore. Many offer some great advice. One I recently became a follower of is Self-Care for Educators. Many tips include prioritizing, eliminating, saying no, and making choices to save time and make your work place more efficient. For this reason, self-care is a personal journey for each of us. The only person that can make those difficult choices is you. Check out Angela Watson’s advise for saving time in your day at this Cult of Pedagogy Blog Post 5 Powerful Ways to Save Time As a Teacher. She offers some great advice surrounding prioritizing, scheduling, and eliminating.

3 Self-Care Non-Negotiables

There are 3 things I recommend moving to the top of the list when it comes to practicing self-care. When things get busy and your task-list is full, these are the 3 non-negotiables that should not be sacrificed. They are Exercise, Sleep, and Self-awareness.


Make exercise a priority for your physical, emotional, & mental health. There is loads of research out there that support the impact on cardiovascular exercise and brain function. If you are feeling busy and time constrained, don’t sacrifice your daily exercise routine. Even if it is for just 10 minutes it can make a huge impact on your brain function and help regulate your mood. Exercise releases hormones such as endorphins which enhance your mood, and it decreases cortisol which causes stress and anxiety. In addition, it produces brain-derived neurotrophic factors (hormones) which aid in neuroplasticity and help grow your brain by making new neural connections. If you want to learn more about it dig into this great read by John Ratey called Spark, or if your short on time, take a peak at this Scientific American article. Make it a priority to add at least 10 minutes of walking, running, biking, swimming, dancing, aerobics, jump-roping, etc to your daily routine.


Putting sleep as a priority is so important and most teachers are not getting the sleep they need. Sleep is important for brain function. If you missed my podcast with Dr. Ivy Andersen, Sleep Neurologist at the Colorado Sleep Institute, check it out below. Dr. Anderson discusses why sleep is so important for brain function. During sleep the brain cleans out waste products which is important for memory recall and processing information. If sleep deprivation continues it can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, chronic memory loss, and other disorders. The average adult needs 8 hours of sleep. Are you getting 8 hours? If not, stop what you are doing and go to bed. Nothing is more important than your own brain function.


Check in with yourself throughout the day. You will be more able to respond positively to someone experiencing pain without changing your own emotional state if you take time for yourself. Find a space alone. Take a deep breath and check in with yourself about how you are really feeling. Raise your level of awareness about yourself and put yourself first. All day long teacher put everyone else’s needs before their own. Find times in your day to put yourself first and check in with yourself about how you are feeling and what you need now. Take care of your needs first before you attend to compassion for others.

In Episode 71 of Cult of Pedagogy Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Angela Watson who runs a 40 hour work week teacher club to help teachers work less and practice more self-care. She suggests finding something that can become part of your regular routine that you can maintain permanently (not going to the spa once a year) that will have a positive effect on your daily routine. That could include a daily ritual such as journaling, reading, exercising, listening to music or a podcast, mindfulness practice, meditating, etc. The list could be endless.

She also talks about pairing a new self-care routine with an already established routine. I recently had success with this. Two things I was not doing for my own well-being was drinking enough water and taking my daily vitamin. One thing I never forget is drinking my coffee in the morning, so two weeks ago after listening to her podcast I began putting an empty glass holding my vitamin container in front of my coffee machine. This reminds me to drink a whole glass of water with my daily vitamin. When I’m done I put the glass with vitamin container back in the same place. I can proudly say I have taken my vitamin for 14 straight days at this point. Try pairing a reminder for yourself with a daily routine you have already established.


New Podcast: Interview with Instructional Technology Coach Anne Dewey

Meet Instructional Technology Coach Anne Dewey

Anne has worn many hats throughout our district over the years. She first came into our district as a 6th grade language arts teacher, but that is not where she started. She started teaching 9th grade English, journalism, and yearbook in Kansas and Missouri. She became an early adopter of technology and digital resources through her experience teaching journalism and yearbook. In this podcast she talks about how her teaching has transformed as technology has changed, and how she went from teacher, to librarian, to media and iPad support, to instructional technology coach.

Apple Education’s Marriage with Global Outcomes

Creations, teamwork & communication, personalization of learning, critical thinking and real world engagement are the foundations that Apple Education believes in. Independently we as a community in Estes Park believe the Global Outcomes competencies of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, global awareness & compassion, perseverance, and social, emotional & physical wellness are what will prepare our students for a successful future. Anne talks about how these are a perfect marriage.

Hot Digital Apps & Resources


Keynote gives you the most bang for you buck in the eyes of Anne Dewey. It is an incredibly versatile app that allows for drawings, animations, sounds, music, video, presentations, layered voiceover or music. It is scalable and each slide can be an independent creation or all slides together can be a product, and you can export it to other apps such as iMovie.


You can’t do much better than Google according to Anne Dewey. Teachers are using Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Sites, Google Drawing, and Google Forms to have students collaborate on creating products with each other and share their knowledge. One we haven’t explored much is Google Jamboard which acts as a virtual whiteboard that everyone can draw on or add to at the same time.

Personalizing Learning

You can customize iPads with accessibility features to meet the needs of various learnings such as font size, screen readers, color adaptations, translations, etc. The other great ways that teachers can personalize learning for students are through Schoology to provide individualized assignments and resources for students of various unique needs. Teachers are able to personalize the learning for students without making the student feel different from peers. Google Translate is a great tool in Google Docs to translate documents into other languages for non-English speaking students. Watch this Video to see how.

Real-World Engagement

Websites such as empatico.org and ePals provide students and teachers the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with teachers and students all over the World. This can really increase Global Awareness and Compassion competencies for students.

SeeSaw and Schoology allows students to publish work in a moderated social media type environment.

Podcasting is a great way for students to create products for an authentic audience of listeners. Garage Band is an app on all student iPads and Soundcloud is one of many sites that allows for publishing free open source podcasting.

Critical Thinking

Using applications to provide students the opportunity to be curators of the information they are consuming is a great way to demonstrate critical thinking. Students can showcase what they are learning on a particular topic by using Wakelet. Teachers can also use Wakelet to curate resources for students.

We Our Us

One thing that holds teachers back from using digital tools for learning is fear. Instruction is evolving with the evolving resources in the digital world allowing information to be consumed and shared increasingly rapid rates. We are in this together. Anne is here to walk with you side-by-side as you explore and take risks in your classroom. You do not have to do it alone.


Learning Targets

A clear focus for a lesson with high expectations for student learning is a promising teaching strategy that both John Hattie and Robert Marzano agree has high impact on student learning. Stop, take a deep breath, and look at the learning target in your classroom right now. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a learning target? If the answer is “no” keep reading.
  2. Is my learning target a complete sentence? If the answer is “no” keep reading.
  3. Is my learning target what all my students shout be able to do by the end of today’s class? If the answer is “no” keep reading.
  4. Would my students know what this learning target means and be able to reflect on their progress toward this learning target? If the answer is “no” keep reading.

What is a learning target?

Do you have an instructional objective or a learning target? What is the difference? Both objectives and learning targets are goals for what the student should know and be able to do that are derived from our standards. Standards or evidence statements are broad statements describe how the students will demonstrate understanding. Both objectives and learning targets are more specific measurable student learning outcomes of what a student should know and be able to do. Both guide teaching and learning in the classroom. So what makes them different?


An instructional objective measure the student learning outcome for what a student should be able to do at the end of an instructional sequence, such as a unit. Objectives guide instruction and are written from the teachers point of view of what students need to know and be able to do.

Learning Targets

By contrast, learning targets measure the student learning outcome for what a student should be able to do at the end of today’s class. Learning targets are written to guide the learning and use language that students can understand and use to guide their own learning.

In a nutshell, instructional objectives are broad and measure what a student should be able to do at the end of an instructional sequence, and learning targets are specific and measure the learning within the class period. Objectives guide instructional moves while learning targets guide the learning moves.

Here are some tips for evaluating the clarity and rigor of your learning targets.

Tip #1: Make it a Complete Sentence

Let’s face it, teachers are busy. We are often rushed and sometimes that includes being rushed to write our learning targets. We have all written learning targets that are phrases such as “multiply fractions” or “physical and chemical changes” on the board and not complete sentences. We know what that means, but do the students? Writing a clear learning target is important and research supports that it does have high impact on learning especially when the students can use it to reflect on their own learning. Slow down and prioritize the time to write your learning target in a complete sentence that contains a learning action. Turn “multiply fractions” into “I can explain how to multiply two fractions and how it is different from addition.” Turn “physical and chemical changes” into “I can explain evidence for why a change is physical or chemical.”

Tip 2 Involve Students in Learning Targets

Students become more motivated when they understand the task, know it is within their reach, and can experience success within a short term. Read through your learning target and make sure it is in language your students understand. Ask the students to explain what it means or how it would look if they could demonstrate understanding. Students are motivated when they have a sense of purpose. In the book Leaders of Their Own Learning by Berger, Rugen and Woodfin the authors provide many examples of ways to involve students and use learning targets with students throughout lessons. Check out this video of how one teacher uses learning targets throughout the lesson. Have students reflect on the progress they have toward a learning target, or the strategy, attitude or effort they use to reach it. Assess each students progress toward the learning target today with a quick ticket out the door so you can plan your next instructional moves for tomorrow.

“Students who can identify what they are learning significantly outscore those who cannot.” – Robert J. Marzano

Tip 3 Small, Manageable Chunks

Our state standards are not written to be individual learning targets. One standard itself contains many different skills and learning outcomes. Learning targets break down abstract content standards into many smaller learning tasks. Consider the standard from math: Determine the unknown whole number in a multiplication or division equation relating three whole numbers. This one standard could be broken into many different learning targets in small chunks throughout many days of instruction. Learning targets along the way might include:

  • I can explain how repeated addition and multiplication are related.
  • I can explain how repeated subtraction and division are related.
  • I can show how to solve a problem with repeated addition.
  • I can show how to solve a problem with multiplication.
  • I can explain how multiplication and division are related.
  • I can prove my answer to a multiplication problem is correct by using division.
  • I can solve a division problem by using a related multiplication problem.
  • I can prove my answer to a division problem is correct by using multiplication
  • I can write multiplication and division number sentences relating 3 numbers.
  • I can determine the missing parts (quantities or symbols) in number sentences.
  • I can find the missing number in a multiplication or division problem relating 3 numbers.

There are likely a number of other learning targets that you could break down further into smaller learning chunks to meet the needs of your learners or limited class time.

Tip #4 Add Language to your Learning Target

Keep your English learners in mind and add language acquisition to your learning target. How will students read, write, listen, or speak about what they are learning. English language learners in the classroom are acquiring language skills at the same time as content skills. SIOP or Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol provides research supporting the importance of developing your objectives into language objectives to help your English Learners. What does this mean? It means being transparent right from the start of how student will demonstrate their mastery of the standard through language. You are clear about whether students will read or listen (receptive language skills) or speak or write (productive language skills). This sets your English Learners up for success when they know what the end goal is, and how they will be asked to demonstrate their knowledge through language. For example, a learning target of “I can understand the events that led to the Civil War.” can be changed to “I can write about the reasons different events led to the Civil War.” It makes it clear that by the end of the period they will need to write about these events, not just explain them. This changes how students may engage or record notes throughout the period with that end target in mind.


New Podcast: Zero Waste Interns

Episode 10: Zero Waste Interns. Listen to an interview with Mr. Harris and his students and the vision they have for making EPHS a zero waste school.

The Vision

Mr. Harris, EPHS science teacher, had a vision to provide an experience for students beyond the classroom walls that would allow students to apply Global Outcome competencies, get real work experience, and apply their knowledge of environmental science. Visionary teachers like Mr. Harris in our school district are changing the way that we think about education and preparing students for job opportunities in our knowledge economy. His creative approach to project-based learning has inspired students to take something they are passionate about and create a program for the school.

Zero Waste Interns

Sarah and Alex, Zero Waste Interns at EPHS, talk about the goals they have for moving their school toward zero waste. They have worked with their peers in the Environmental Club to build “The Clean Machine” to separate compostables, food waste, and landfill items. They have spend their first 20 days educating teachers and students in their school about composting and the actions they can take to reduce waste. They have big goals to expand the program to the elementary and middle school, as well as apply our school to be an Eco-School designation.

Zero Waste Interns, Alex and Sarah next to the Clean Machine in the school cafeteria.

Global Outcomes

Communication and perseverance are the two global outcomes that they feel they have most acquired in the first 20 days on the job. As you listen to the podcast you will hear them identify other global outcomes such as critical thinking & problem solving, social emotional wellness, collaboration, as well as global awareness and compassion.

What do Alex and Sarah want everyone to know?

  1. You create more waste than you think you do.
  2. Your choices make a bigger impact than you think you do
  3. By changing small habits, you can have a positive Global impact
  4. Your habits can cause a chain reaction
  5. Together we can make a huge difference!

A Culture of Learning

Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Continued learning has always been important in our profession, and in every profession, but progressively more in education recently. The rapid growth of the information technology industry as well as the change from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy has caused rapid change and transformation from what we understood as traditional public education practices to very innovative practices. This means teachers, counselors, and school administrators have to learn at a rapid rate. At EPSD our staff has wholly embraced the belief that we are all lifelong learners, teachers, and leaders. Over the last year, 70% of our staff members have participated in our in-house professional learning book studies courses and classes, and 59% participated in more than one class.

I’m blogging to share the impressive amount of learning our staff has been doing in just the first 20 days of school.

Middle School Team Uses a Protocol to Find Evidence for Student Learning in Math Reasoning

Professional Learning Communities

This year, one of our major improvement strategies is to improve the impact of our professional learning communities (PLC’s) through developing leadership capacity in our district. We have a team of district leaders that came in for a leadership retreat to learn together about promising leadership practices and how to increase the impact of the PLC team they lead. We adopted PLC’s as a promising practice in our district a decade ago, so what does that word impact mean?

In the busy life of an educator when there are so many decisions to be made, problems to solve, and emotions to support, the day can fill up quickly. It is easy to lose focus. High impact PLC’s establish the purpose of the team is to maximize impact on student learning and believe in the collective efficacy of the team. They use evidence to make impactful decisions using formative evaluation of student work. Our district leaders are studying together, learning from each other, and keeping the focus on evidence for student learning. Paul Bloomberg and Barb Pitchford offer great a great model for high impact PLC teams combining formative assessment and collective inquiry in the book Leading Impact Teams.

Professional Learning with TeachUnited

Building Leadership Capacity

A team of middle and high school teachers are participating in professional learning through TeachUnited to increase their own knowledge and capacity in providing personalized and blended learning opportunities for students. Our vision for the future is to provide personalized learning for students. This group of teachers developing their own personal knowledge and skills will enable them to lead and support other teachers in their PLC and school.

Instructional Coaching Personalizes Professional Learning at the Elementary School

Instructional Coaching Personalizes Professional Learning

A second of our major improvement strategies is to personalize professional learning for teachers based on talent and need and make professional learning job-embedded. We have made a commitment in our district to increase instructional coaching opportunities. It brings me so much pleasure to write that we have 4 instructional coaches in our small district bringing personalized learning to our staff every day. They bring support to teachers for what is needed now to improve student learning in the classroom.

New Podcast: Passionate Goal Writing

EPSD PD PODCAST Episode 9: Passionate Goal Writing

This latest episode offers 5 tips for putting passion into your goal writing. Inspired by chapter 8 of Dan and Chip Heath’s book The Power of Moments, I offer some suggestions to educators how these ideas can be applied to goals that improve student achievement.

Tip #1

Make sure it is something you are passionate about and care about deeply. Invest some time really reflecting about what makes you really motivated.  After writing your goal ask yourself these questions:

  1. How will I feel when I have completed my goal?
  2. How will I feel if I don’t achieve this goal?

If thinking about the prospect of achieving this goal fills you with joy and excitement and thinking of the prospect of not achieving this goal puts a pit in your stomach, then it is a good goal and you will achieve it. 

Tip # 2

Set milestones along the way and level them up, meaning make them more challenging along the way. 
In The Power of Moments the Heath brothers talk about why video games are so motivating because you achieve levels and then when you accomplish a level you get to level up, and then level up again, and again always feeling a greater sense of accomplishment and then getting the next challenge.  Do the same with the actions steps and milestones you set in your goals. For example, your first milestone may be to have students reflect on the feedback you give them, the second may be to have them assess their own writing and give self feedback, the third may be to have them provide feedback to a peers. Keep leveling up and by the end students have completed a self assessment portfolio of how they have met all 10 learning targets.

Tip #3

Make your milestones passionate measures that fill you with pride. 

Consider my guitar goal. What if I take those same milestones but now write with meaningful measures that will fill me with pride. Consider these milestones:

  1. A student tell me how much they learned or that they did something they never thought they could do.
  2. See one of my students with disabilities celebrate after a big accomplishment in class. 
  3. Students compare a sample of student work from August with a sample of student work on October and celebrate the improvements with my students.
  4. Hear a student turn a negative self-talk comment about themselves and their abilities into a positive one.
  5. See one of my English Language learners get over a learning barrier independently and smile with pride.
  6. Receive a compliment from my evaluator after they walk through my room. 
  7. Receive a glowing thank you from a parent for how much they feel their son/daughter is learning in class.
  8. Students gather an artifact for each of the learning targets that show their best work.
  9. Host an end of year achievement celebration with my students to celebrate learning.

Tip #4

Every time you reach one of these milestones treat yourself!     Since you have set milestones that are passionate, there is going to be an intrinsic reward and sense of accomplishment already, but what gift do you want to give yourself when you reach your milestone?

Tip # 5

Write your goals down.  I mean don’t just write it down, but post it somewhere where you will see it every day! Make them visible.  You can do this digitally too! You could set a reminder on your device to remind you of your goals each week. How about setting your browser to open immediately to your goals? Find what works for you whether that is physically posting them or digitally posting them, but make sure you see them frequently and make them visible.

One final bonus tip that I will leave you with is this … Share your goals with others.  Talk about them. Find a colleague who will support your efforts and share your celebrations with them.  Share your celebrations with your instructional coach, PLC teams, or evaluator. 

I am sharing a few of my goals with you! See how I attempted these tips here.

Resource: Goal Writing Template