The Last Two Weeks: Getting it onto the Page

It’s been an interesting three weeks in which I’ve had the opportunity to learn from several “edulebrities,” and my head is just about full.  It came to a boiling point today during Diana Laufenberg’s “Embracing Failure” session at the NJECC Conference when I realized that some of the ideas we were sharing had appeared in several of the other experiences over the last three weeks.

So what follows below are a few ideas that I’ve decided to put out here in raw form.  The three conferences I was able to attend, NJASCD Annual Conference, TeachMeetNJ, and the NJECC Conference, all pushed me to think deeply and collaboratively, as all the notes were taken with groups of people.

TeachMeet NJ

Harkness Method.

This was shared by David Korfhage who teachers History at Montclair Kimberley Academy.  I had heard of the Harkness Method, but David did a wonderful job explaining how he employs it.  It reminded me of Socratic Seminars, but less structured.
•    arranged desks in a circle (ideally a big table).
•    once the discussion is going is to let the students drive the discussion (at least 80%).
•    teachers need to be comfortable with silence.

Lyn Hilt.  Lyn, who is someone I have followed on twitter for a while, really impressed me with her stories about changing professional development within her building.  She described how she employed Atlassian’s idea of “FedEx Days” at her school during one of the scheduled Professional Development Days.  If you’re not familiar with this idea, essentially she gave her staff the day to work on whatever they wanted to, but at the end of the day, they had to present their idea and the work they did to their colleagues.


From Linda Darling-Hammond:
On Testing culture and the cult of one right answer:

  • “There’s a lot of scrimmages, but not a lot of games.”  This is due to feedback.
  • Feedback needs to be given not only the “scorable” aspects of learning, but also on how to problem solve.
  • Kids never become habitual in their capacity to become competent–meaning that they don’t see themselves as able to solve things well.
  • once kids take on ownership of the bad side “I’m not good at…” then it is very difficult to remove them.
  • It’s less threatening to not do their homework, than to do it and get it wrong for fixed mindset.

ON Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset:

  • is intelligence fixed?  Or is it elastic?
  • Two types of kids get trapped by a fixed mindset:
    • GT kids.
    • kids that figure things out quickly early on.
  • There is no correlation between when your kid learns to read and how well they read later on.
  • Great teachers move kids out of a fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

PDA: Professional Development Academy

  • to ready teachers to lead and ensure the success of a professional learning community.

The district created an academy focused on keeping a cohort of teachers together for one year, and provided them with resources, time, and consistent support outside of the classroom.  Interesting piece they did to establish the continuity between the program: long-term subs were matched with teachers so that they began to understand the functions of the individual classrooms.


Diana Laufenberg keynoted the conference and really struck a chord with me regarding her use of improvisation with students and her desire to put them in real spaces and let them do meaningful work.  Diana has a unique ability to trust that the students she teaches will rise to the challenges she gives to them without smothering their thinking or tainting it with her own ideas.

  • Diana is talking about change as meaning incompetence in what we already did.  I love framing it this way
  • I really like how she used the term “mourn the loss,” when referring to asking teachers to change what they do.  They must first mourn the loss of the old.
  • School trains them to be less curious.  Let’s flip that around.  We are natural explorers.
  • The idea of teaching improvisation as a skill
  • We need to change our classrooms into spaces that are less us more them, where there voices are heard and honored.
  • Another great piece from SLA: their LMS designed for reflection was outstanding.  Each space allows kids to not only turn in assignments, but also reflect on them in public.
  • Let’s teach failure.  Not how to do it, but rather, what to do once it happens.

One thought on “The Last Two Weeks: Getting it onto the Page

  1. I really enjoyed the notes! Much to chew on. Look at Jeff Howard’s Efficacy Institute . His thought mirror much of the ideas of iq as fixed vs. fluid. He also provides information about how to get kids and teachers out of this mindset.

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