Friday, July 26, 2013

The Art of Education Update and Invitation

A few months back, I began writing a new blog for my educational advising service, Thrivapy. That blog, The Thrivapy Blog, has developed a similar tone and message to the articles I shared here on The Art of Education.

Initially, I struggled with what to do with The Art of Education and have tried to find a place for updating this blog in my schedule. What I have found is that I cannot with the regularity that I expect from myself. In other words, my work here on The Art of Education cannot meet my minimum standard of expectations.

Therefore, I want to announce that I am taking a break from The Art of Education for an undecided amount of time. This will allow me to focus more on my full time work as a Head of Middle School, write for The Thrivapy Blog, work on my next book, and serve the limited number of clients I have for Thrivapy.

Oh yes, and be a father and husband!

I am NOT deleting this blog. I believe it contains a valuable record of my work and a number of useful resources for students, parents, and teachers. As a matter of fact, I intend to republish my more popular articles from The Art of Education on The Thrivapy Blog.

I want to thank all of you who visit The Art of Education and invite you to join me at The Thrivapy Blog.

Now, back to work....

Monday, July 8, 2013

3 Reasons to Help Students Set Goals

There are many reasons why setting goals helps one find greater success. However, when it comes to helping students set goals, there are three benefits that can go unnoticed.

1. Relationship building

One of the more important characteristics of successful students is the nature of their student/teacher relationships. Engaging with students in goal setting provides an opportunity to help students outside of the usual classroom setting. This interaction can help enhance your relationship with students, especially if you take a FRITR (Friendly, Responsive, Interactive, Reliable) approach.
2. Foundational clarity

Helping students articulate their goals ultimately requires some reflection on mission, beliefs, and vision. These foundational elements provide a sense of purpose in school, what success looks like without barriers to achievement, and a set of values upon which you are willing to take action. Clarity on all of these points helps bring specific, actionable goals to the forefront of the conversation.
3. Partnership platform

Setting goals with students also provides a platform from which you can strengthen your partnership with parents. Sharing goals with parents and engaging with them to be on the watch for progress helps surround students with another layer of support. Also, once benchmarks are met, you can partner to celebrate progress.

Goal setting, on the surface, may seem easy. However, it takes an investment in time and patience to guide students towards goals that are specific, flexible, challenging, and realistic. Once those goals are articulated (and committed to), the benefits mentioned above are more likely to appear.
This post first appeared on The Thrivapy Blog on May 20, 2013.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Estimating Completion For Time Management

When working with students, especially in middle and high school, time management almost always becomes a topic of discussion. There is much asked of students today. When you factor in school life, home life, and social life, the "to do" list can seem overwhelming. One tip I offer is for students to assign an estimated time for completion (ETC) for each assignment.

For example, if a student gets a project with a future due date, she should take a few minutes to go over the project requirements and make an educated guess on how long it will take HER to complete the project. The important part here is HER timeline, not how long it should take the class. By applying a personalized ETC, the student can then fill in her schedule so that she meets the teacher's deadline without rushing to finish on the night before it is due.

The same process can work well on regular nightly assignments. In a previous article, I advised students to add "When?" and "Where?" to "What?" and "How?" for every assignment. Having an ETC will support an appropriate answer to "When?" because it forces the student to factor time into the process.

Time management is a difficult skill for many students (and adults!) to master. In the rush to keep up with the demands of life and school, time is an often overlooked factor in planning and execution. By taking a few moments to estimate how long an assignment or obligation might take you to complete, you can give yourself an advantage against last minute cramming and/or turning in work that is less than satisfactory.

This article originally appeared on The Thrivapy Blog (May 7, 2013).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When Waiting Until Tomorrow Might Be Better

Trying to stay organized or "in front" of the many demands on your time can be quite challenging. Because of this, it is easy to understand the wisdom behind never leaving until tomorrow things you can do today. However, there are times when waiting is probably your best course of action.

Here are a few examples.

Responding to an emotionally charged email

We all get them. An email from someone that elicits an immediate negative emotional response. Your reading of the message makes you feel under attack and defensive. Your natural response is to fire back a similar message defending your position and pointing out how the other person is wrong.

In almost every situation, writing and sending your emotionally motivated email will not only NOT help, but also make the situation worse.

Instead, draft your response to allow yourself to vent. The emphasis here is on DRAFT. Do not send it. Wait a day or so to allow your initial feelings to subside and read your draft. Measure your draft against your goals and the role your relationship with the sender plays in accomplishing your goals. Edit your response accordingly. If after two or three emails, the issue isn't resolved,  it may be time to invite the person for a face to face meeting.

Checking messages late in the evening

One habit with which I struggle is checking messages late in the evening. I have never received a message later in the day that I could effectively address before going to bed. On the other hand, I have read plenty of messages (either good news or bad) that have kept me most of the night. The result: lack of sleep and diminished ability to focus the next day - when I actually need to address the message!

Sure, technology makes staying communication easier and we are essentially connected 24/7. However, that doesn't mean you need to be immediately available and "on" 24/7. There is tremendous value in "unplugging" and taking time for yourself and your family. If it is an emergency, someone will call you. Emails are rarely, if ever, true emergencies.

Finishing a project for the sake of finishing it

Establishing your minimum level of satisfaction is a piece of advice I often give. This means that with any work you do, establish your personal minimum acceptable standard for satisfaction for that project - and hold yourself to that standard. Following this path helps build independence, responsibility, and ownership. You may be tempted to "set the bar" low, but remember that in a connected society your work is most valuable when you are able to share it for the benefit of others. Poor quality that is accepted because you simply want to move will get poor feedback. This can either be in the form of grades on a test or comments by customers. Either way, a connected world values those who have quality to share.

If you cannot put in the effort today to meet your standard of satisfaction, it is probably better to wait until tomorrow.  Of course, this does not exempt you from meeting deadlines. Part of your acceptable level of satisfaction needs to include proper planning and time management. My advice is, when given a task, knowing when and where you are going to do it is as important as knowing how. Having all three of those pieces in place provides a great foundation to get quality work done on time.

Having a goal is only part of the equation. You also need to take action. Depending on what you are ultimately trying to accomplish, the best action today may be to take no action at all.

A version of this article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on May 2, 2013.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Better" Thinking for Greater Student Ownership

Anyone who reads either this blog or The Thrivapy Blog, knows I am a big advocate of growth mindsets and the potential impact "get better" thinking has on student achievement. This is one reason why having a growth mindset is one of the seven principles of Thrivapy. One of the many reasons why I encourage "better" thinking over "be the best" thinking is how well "better" relates to developing ownership and responsibility (taking ownership is also one of the seven Thrivapy principles).

"Be the best" thinking depends on comparing one's performance against another group or another individual. As a former athlete and coach, I have no problem keeping score to measure wins and losses, but when it comes to personal development, which is what school is supposed to support, measuring against others to determine gains presents an obvious problem - you have no control over how well someone else performs. You only can control your own efforts. Measuring against someone else not only can make a great effort on your part seem less important than it really is, but having another person in the equation provides a student with an easy excuse for their performance, especially if it was less than satisfying.

Excuses are "anti-ownership missiles"!

If you want to build ownership and responsibility, try "better" thinking. Using this mindset, there is only the student and her efforts to evaluate progress. Progress is measured purely against one's own results over time. If things go well and progress is seen, it is easier to highlight that progress without another's "score" visible. If things do not go as well as expected, there is no built in excuse to deflect responsibility.

Learn from the experience and try again with a new lesson learned and a better ideas of how to be more successful next time.

A version of this article was originally published at The Thrivapy Blog on April 23, 2013.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Strengthen Parent-Teacher Relationships by Asking These 3 Questions

Parents play a significant role in the success of a student. As a important member of the student's learning team, parents should be informed and appropriately involved in their child's school experience. However, this role takes different forms as students mature and move through different developmental stages. As a result, the nature of parent involvement also changes, which can lead to misunderstanding and an unnecessary strain on the parent/teacher relationship.

Recently, a parent of a school aged child ask me about how to establish a better partnership with his child's teacher. I suggested that the parent engage in a conversation with the teacher using the questions below as a guide.

1. How can I, as a parent, best support your work as the teacher?

2. What should I expect in terms of development from my child this year?

3. What are your expectations of my child in terms of effort?

These questions not only allow the key developmental issues to emerge as the basis of the conversation, but also recognize and respect the fact that the parent is the expert on their child and the teacher is the expert on the instruction.

This article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog (4/16/2013)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Wealth of Knowledge

The wealth of knowledge does not have anything to do with having A wealth of knowledge.


Because knowledge kept to oneself serves little purpose and has virtually no value to anyone other than the holder of the information. The value (wealth) of knowledge is not based on having it. Rather, the value of knowledge is found in sharing it.

Value is created when someone is willing to give something in exchange for something else. The currency can be money, goods in kind, attention, time, etc. Having knowledge does not create value, making your knowledge available so others can improve their own understanding adds to the collective wisdom and, thus, has value - especially in a world where the long tail affects practically all markets (including knowledge).

In essence, the wealth of knowledge is directly linked to the sharing of knowledge, not the storage of knowledge. This act of sharing also creates knowledge for those who were previously less informed.

For those looking to assign value to their educational experience, this logic suggests that reflecting on the opportunities to share and create knowledge may be a good place to start.

Originally published on The Thrivapy Blog on April 11, 2013.
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