Tag Archives: good teachers

Dan Bozzuto on Effective Teaching, Learning & Standardized Tests: Student Success Podcast no. 27

Dan Bozzuto explores the difficulties to replicate great teachers, the inherent problems with standardized testing, and some great ideas on how to address both.

Part 1/2, featuring Dan Bozzuto, award winning educator and inspired classroom teacher. Dan considers my question, “are good teachers replicable?” which takes him to standardized tests and other obstacles to student learning, including to question the very purpose of modern education.

This podcast is just a start to the essential questions of modern education, which Dan and Michael will carry forward in an upcoming Part 2 interview with Dan Bozzuto.

Student Success Podcast No. 27, published July 19, 2016 (recorded on Aug 9, 2015).

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Procrastinating in class: is classroom behavior a form of procrastination?

dreamstime_l_41815547_1150pxParents and teachers usually conceive of student procrastination as putting off homework or projects until the last minute.

It is.

We also tend to think of disruptive classroom behavior as “disobedience” or “acting out” over some issue, from disconnection or boredom to serious underlying troubles.  Which it is.

But those same processes of delay and avoidance over aversive tasks that are procrastination are also at work during class.

Student disruption as procrastination?

We have discussed on the Student Success Podcast and Blog how procrastination is an emotional response to task aversion.

When faced with an unpleasant task, the procrastinator chooses to defer that task for later in order to feel better now (relieve the stress of the aversive task).

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Introducing “Tips for Teachers”: building efficiencies to free you to teach (and not waste so much time doing everything else)

The number one teacher complaint is time.

Introducing “Tips for Teachers,” a series of blog posts, videos, lessons, and ideas from School4Schools.com LLC on helping teachers get through their routines and days more efficiently – so they can focus on what they love and what they’re there for: teaching kids.

Tips for Teachers will focus on teacher processes and the use of technology to build efficiencies in every day tasks.

Some coming posts include:

  • Using Outlook to get in control communication, tasks, calendars, and email management.
  • Using OneNote for organization, brainstorming, and task management, as well as some of its other cool features such as email integration and whiteboard.
  • Power of a WordPress teacher or class website.
  • Using an SMS system for student reminders and increased workflow.
  • Grading by voice recording and sharing feedback with students and parents by voicemail propagated through email.
  • How to make a simple, quick voice to text reader to use in the classroom or to help kids read texts you assign.
  • Outsourcing your grading.

Teachers, get your time back!

Check back for these and more coming Tips for Teachers, and follow us on Twitter, Vimeo, or Facebook.

Or subscribe to Tips for Teachers here:


Some background thoughts on why I’m so concerned about teacher efficiencies

by Michael Bromley, founder and president of School4Schools.com LLC & the A+ Club

Schools throw huge resources at teachers: Learning Management Systems (LMS) , smartboards, software, copy machines, computers… but how many PD days were ever spent learning how to use them, and if there were any, what follow-up support was there?

My ten years of classroom teaching was always tainted by administrative disdain for my time. We were given tools and expected to use them – without real ongoing support on how to actually use them.

For example, if your school provided you with the Microsoft Office Suite, I’m guessing there was never any PD attached to it, much less any serious guidance on how to use it effectively. Just look at how much a business will spend on teaching its professionals how to use Microsoft Office. A quick Bing search yields $2400 a day for training of 12 employees, or a four-day intensive course for $480 per student. Or, what about a $20 per month subscription to Lynda.com? Nope, not for schools. They’ve got too much money to spend on other things and none for your personal efficiencies and time.

Sure, at my school we had a couple demonstrations on a new system (never anything on MS Office, which most teachers thought consists of Word and PowerPoint.)  I was even asked to show other teachers some of my use of technology during a staff meeting or a PD or two.  But there was never any follow-through and no ongoing individual attention to helping teachers use these tools or build efficiencies. (Some of these same administrators even asked me privately to show them some of my tricks.)

Our tech guy knew hardware but wasn’t much help on how to actually use the things as a teacher. The best support we got was from the students helpers who could actually make a sound system or video work. Meanwhile, every time I dropped through the teacher lounge, I’d be asked to show another teacher how to do this or that on the school LMS or some other computer thing.

It’s something about education that its resources are seen through the lens of budgets and allocations, but not actual use.

Here are two stories to demonstrate it

1. When my daughter started attending my school, I was suddenly not just a colleague but a parent.  Now I saw my colleagues” grading habits, their assignment postings, and I heard the good and the bad from my daughter every day on the way home from school.

One of the most shocking things I discovered was how little her teachers used the very basic LMS program, Edline. It was a total waste (such as the teacher who put up assignments but had them repeated every day of the year, including weekends).  Assignments and grades were posted randomly if at all, and so many answers to my questions as a parent that could have been answered through Edline turned into email and hallway chases. And I was in the same building with them every day, so what about the frustrated parents who couldn’t get the answers I could only get through a personal shakedown?

I told our principal and facilities vice principal about my observations and how I personally had to spend minutes  every day that turned into hours every week helping my colleagues do simple things on Edline that nobody had bothered to show them before and how the school should really help its teachers learn how to use the system. The two of them laughed at me. Literally. They laughed, and I walked away.

So it was back to helping my colleagues one at a time and day to day figure out how to easily and meaningfully put up their assignments and grades for students and parents.

2. When my school replaced blackboards with whiteboards,  I purchased my own projector to take advantage of the ready-screen whiteboards represented. The school had one or two projectors that we were always taken, so I got my own. Now my kids had the benefit of my desktop in every class, and I had the benefit of prepping to it rather than hoping I could get one of the other projectors.

A couple years later the school got a donation for smartboard systems that used ceiling-installed projector that interacted with a device attached to the whiteboard.  Cool stuff. They put it in my classroom — yep, and left it at that.

The audio wires weren’t installed properly, and the tech guy couldn’t figure them out. So I bought my own little amplifier and set it up myself. The VCR system just didn’t work right, so I bought all my videos on Amazon and ran them straight from my computer. And so on.

The smartboard system had a magic wand that worked by interacting with a static electric field that was projected across the white board projector area by the attached device. However, the two 8-foot whiteboards were connected by a metal band that ran down the middle of that projector placement. Static-electricity field + metal band = I could only use half the smartboard screen at a time. The kids and I laughed it off every day, but it was a true annoyance that was daily wasting my time and impacting my lessons.

Moving the projector was an option, but I knew that would be difficult as it was a permanent installation in the ceiling. Why not, then, just cut one of the 8-foot whiteboards in half, move the other one to the middle and the two 4-foot pieces to the side? I asked the vice principal of facilities (the one who laughed at my idea for a PD to instruct teachers on how to use Edline) for help. He was furious. How dare I question what the donors had given me! Alright,  whatever.

See horse. See cart. The wrong one is in front.

Here’s the problem: administrators perceive teachers as service providers for the wrong set of clients. Students and families are not their clients, policy, pedagogy and the Department of Education are. If focus were upon students and parents as the real clients, schools would be very, very concerned about every aspect of a teacher’s day, especially how their teachers use their precious time to support their clients. Instead teachers are providers of pedagogy, test results and public policy.

What would I do as an administrator?

Good teachers know who their real clients are.  Everything else is backup and resource for the core aim of teaching.

My dream school is one in which kids truly are first, and in which teachers drive their teaching and not the school. The school’s job would be to support, guide, and help execute what the teachers themselves decided they can do best. Just dreaming here, but isn’t that what we believe we’re supposed to do with kids — and if so why, then, don’t schools approach teachers the same way?

Anything we can do to make a teachers’ day go a little quicker, a classroom a little more productive and effective, and to help along a teaching process or to lessen a frustration, I figure there is at least one kid who learned just a little more that day and one parent who felt good about it.

Yes, it is “all about the kids,” but it’s helping teachers help kids that concerns us. In our A+ Club student support program, we help kids help themselves. Through Tips for Teachers we hope to help teachers help themselves help kids, one efficiency at a time.

– Michael

The Late Work Game: teachers, do you want missing work, late work — or no work at all?

Welcome back to the late work game!

First semester is up and teachers and students across the country are recovering from that last minute freak out: get that missing work in!

Stressed kids near collapse trying to dig something out, anything to get the grades up. Desperate teachers giving up all pretense of syllabus rules and pushing, pulling, and excusing the kids across the finish line. Vice Principals peering over their shoulders, demanding mounds of paper work to justify failing this and that kid. Now into the new semester and it’s starting all over again. Continue reading

AP Exams! Are these classes really all that “advanced”?

Welcome to the Advanced Placement exams. But is it really the blank check it’s supposed to be?

AP exams start in a week (May 5 – 16), so, yea.

(Oh, and btw, we can help you prepare: we have experienced high school teachers to work with you  — real teachers, that is, not the just anybody’s who work at “tutoring” sites.)

So, you suffered through the class all year — supposedly it’s “college” level — and now you have to spit it back for a few hours. Best of all, it’s not for a grade. So if you didn’t prepare it doesn’t matter… right? The College Board says it’s good for you (AP Exam benefits) and I’m sure it is. It’s good for your teacher, too, because teach gets to pretend it’s a real class for a change. Continue reading

Encouragement from Mischa Beckett: empowering yourself & your college experience

Encouragement from Mischa Beckett: empowering yourself & your college experience

Student Success Podcast No. 19, Apr. 17, 2014

Today’s Guest: Mischa Beckett, Ph.D. Political Science and college lecturer.

In this interview, Mischa discusses her work with high school students in the A+ Club program. Mischa brings the view of a college teacher to the high school experience and discusses how all students of all levels and struggles can use encouragement and help in raising their self-awareness. Continue reading

Teaching it twice: ask your teachers to explain it again & in a different way

Can a teacher really expect you to learn it the first time?

Teachers forget that what they’re teaching they already know and that it’s usually the first time you’ve ever heard it.

This is why when a teacher is making sense to you it’s probably because  you already know it. At the A+ Club we call it, “PK” for”Prior Knowledge.” Learning is the process of turning new information into PK, and it takes explanation, practice, and application.

And you need to build that knowledge in steps, turning each new thing into the Prior Knowledge you need to understand the next.

Some teachers are good at engaging students in this process; others not so good. But don’t depend on good teachers alone: please, please don’t let your teachers get in the way of your learning. It’s your grade, not theirs, so don’t just accept “I don’t get it.”

The Most Important Thing in the World (to a teacher)

Teachers love their subjects and speak its language. To them it’s the most important thing in the entire world, and you’d better know it, too, or else your life will be ruined, or worse.

They forget that you have six other subjects and personal interests that have nothing to do with their subject. And you ought not forget that you don’t pay their salaries. You’re not going to get your teacher fired, and your not going to reduce their pay if they’re not doing a good job.

What you can do is take control of the teacher yourself.

Take control of your teachers!

As Master Teacher Liddy Allee-Coyle, reminds us, teachers need to be reminded that students don’t always follow what they’re saying.

By the time you’re hearing it, the teacher may have taught it three times that day, or if it’s the first, the teacher may not yet have figured out the best way to present it. Either way, teachers are going to do what they always do, and if that isn’t what you need, then you need to speak up.

Here are some things you can do to get in control of your teachers:

  • Insist that  your teacher explain it slowly, clearly, and in different ways. Say,
    • “Please repeat that, only use different words this time.”
    • “Can we practice that together before we move on?
  • Ask your teacher to allow the students to explain it to each other.
    • Maybe your neighbor gets it and can say it in a way you’ll understand.
    • If you can’t explain it to someone else, then you don’t get really it yourself.
  • Insist that your teacher allow you to learn it and not measure you on that learning just once on a quiz or exam.
    • If it’s so important, don’t they want you to really learn it?
    • Remind them.
  • Above all, ask them to explain it again, and differently, this time

Remember, it’s your education, your grades, and your future at stake here. Don’t give in to not knowing.

Just ask your teacher to say it one more time.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Liddy Allee-Coyle on teaching as a two-way street: the power of honesty & respect for students

Liddy Allee-Coyle on teaching as a two-way street: the power of honesty & respect for students

Student Success Podcast No. 18, Mar. 19, 2014

Today’s Guest: Liddy Allee-Coyle, Master Teacher, Ithica City School District

In this interview, Liddy discusses her work as a teacher coach to champion the student-first classroom in which students have trust with their teachers and their learning and  “choice, relevancy, and a reason” for learning.

As Liddy says, “Every kid wants to know why… if we answer that ‘why’ we get more buy-in.” Liddy’s ideal of relevancy for students is learning any lesson as practice for further learning and not necessarily that particular lesson, “to be life-long learners.” Continue reading