Lowered Expectations

Teaching is one of the most fulfilling professions ever. Ask any teacher who’s had a previous student return to talk fondly about their time in the classroom and you’ll know what makes this job so rewarding. But along with this fulfillment comes some of the greatest challenges – committing to lifelong personal growth and professional development and being willing to shift beliefs, personal and professional. We can’t be great teachers if we don’t agree to change and adapt practices to suit every new group of students we receive every year.

I think this is one of the baffles for pre-teachers or non-educators – why not simply teach the way we were taught? Why not run classrooms and schools like they were 10/20 years ago? Straight rows, teacher at the front of the class answering questions, 10 neat problems on a sheet of paper, raising hands, etc. We know this way and how things can be. The problem with this thinking is we have had years to look at why and how this model ends up marginalizing different learners and different types of learners in the classroom. By embracing new and better, we can truly change our practice to reach more students where they are and grow them as learners and citizens.

I was recently sharing with a great group at NC Association of Compensatory Educators and we started talking about the need to shift thinking and teaching practices to reach all students, especially in our most challenging schools. Its easy to settle or make excuses for what we think is the good of students. Settling can come from a good place but it has harmful consequences.

Lowered Expectations is a New Form of Discrimination


When we accept student limitations or make judgements/predictions based on their family or neighborhoods or race or gender, no matter how we phrase it or who we speak to, we are putting them in a box. The bias we are creating eventually becomes a reality of practice in the classroom or school.

The above visual is one of my favorites. The first box represents the one size fits all classroom it is so easy to create. Its easy to see how the student who needs us the least gets the most, often unnecessarily. And our neediest student, who may not always ask for help or doesn’t know how to ask for help, gets left out or hurt the most.

What can we do to ensure we have high expectations for our students?

  • Embrace PBLs;
  • Hugs and high fives every class period;
  • Build time in classrooms to have interviews/one-on-one talks with kids to find out what they know, don’t know and what YOUR role is in making sure they truly grow;
  • Commit to learning about personalize learning and find a way to implement in your school, classroom or department;
  • Let students listen to music in a classroom while they work and give them a choice of where to complete the high level work you are developing;
  • Commit to getting honest feedback from a planning partner/PLC about the quality of learning activities developed and that there are real opportunities for discussions with students;
  • Have real data talks planned;
  • Change your learning environment to reflect comfortable spaces;
  • Being willing to be a voice of change that benefits students.

We have to agree that all students can learn at a high level. We have to agree that  all students can grow, that they can leave us better than when they came to us. And we have to accept this will be hard, great work to see it through.

Our parents send us the very best they have, we have to do the very best we can to improve every aspect of their lives the best we can.



BYOD – More Than A Guest Network

As I was making my rounds last week, during our first week of school, I stopped in the room of one of my 8th grade math teachers, Ms Sams. She was explaining some first week rules and working in some creative review when I noticed this cell phone cut out on the desk. I asked one of the students what it was for and got blown away by the answer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t record that student because it was end of class but here I’ve recorded Ms Sams and her detailed explanation about the policy and what students need to know:

Letourneau_BYOD1.pdf Love this poster! @Lisa Bijit @Sunny Williams @Barbara HumphreysM
s Sams is one of our deep and early adopters of technology and integrated practices. We are fortunate to have many teachers like her who see and understand the value add that technology brings to learning and teaching. I am particularly proud of the next level Ms Sams has gone to incorporate and plan for technology usage in her classroom. I ended the video a little early but she shared that all 8th grade teachers are using this same approach to plan for cell phone use in the classroom. We try to standardize some practices but not all. This is one the great times when we have a grade level that has taken some great initiative and put some great plans in place ahead of time to make sure kids see structure AND the value we place on integrated tech practices.

We have a BYOD policy in place. It took a while to build our official plan because we wanted to make sure teachers would not only understand it well but that they would be encouraged to implement it. I once heard a teacher say that any school that has an open guest network, has a BYOD policy default. That’s not so. A BYOD policy is more than allowance or capability – its understanding and structure and protection as well. One thing that our teachers brought to the table early was the need of clear rules for students to understand and follow.  We made efforts to build a good framework that classrooms/grade levels could operate within.

We want students to bring their devices to school and use them. Its a responsibility of schools to show students that their devices serve different functions, social, personal, educational and that they are all intertwined.

Weekly Bookmarks from @mccoyderek (weekly)

Great standout resources this week on blended learning, BYOD, and Twitter resources!pearson-literacy-teacher-infographic-close-reading--final-1-7-13

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A Great Lesson

 These are pictures and notes I’ve taken from an observation with a new teacher, Mr. Caquias. Caquias is an 8th grade Social Studies/Science teacher. I visited him while he was teaching a lesson on properties. He has been an active co-planner with an 8th grade Science teacher who is impactful with students and instructional planning and delivery.

 There are several things that stand out about this lesson, things that get me excited about seeing a teacher enter the teaching field:

  1. The great noise – Students were up, active, talking on task and about the assignment.
  2. Real Life Connection – Students had to discuss properties of different objects and one of the objects is an automatic air freshner!
  3. BYOD[ish] – Our school has several computer labs, and multiple laptop carts. This year we have also purchased iPad Project carts. But for this lesson, simply allowing any student that had a smartphone, or their own tablet, that’s internet ready to conduct research, not only got the job done but was a best practice as well. At the core, this activity was designed for discussion and that’s what happened. For tech integration, we don’t always need a computer lab or a cart.
  4. Evidence of planning – If you want great learning, maximize your collaboration efforts with teachers. This lesson was about the teacher getting out of the way of the kids and their learning. The activities in the room aligned with the learning learning artifacts in the room, including the vocabulary wall and EQ.

I captured this video on my phone, it wasn’t planned but I had to make sure I recorded the engagement and focus on this lesson.

Great lesson! This is how we get our kids ready, not just for a standardized science test at the end of the year, but also for critical analysis, collaborative work – skills beyond this 8th grade experience