Category Archives: Educators

Commentaries on teaching practices and learning experiences to help increase success, for all students!

Still learning after all these years!

I have my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in education, but I am most proud of my recent education – learning to be Papa.

I clocked thousands of hours in the classroom, but over the past few years, the education I have been getting from my grandchildren has been an eye-opener. It’s also a challenge.  After all, I’m an adult and a teacher, so shouldn’t I be showing them what to do?

When they are doing a puzzle, they may begin to struggle a bit, get frustrated. They look to me for just a little suggestion, and perhaps a quick bit of praise.  I’ve learned it’s not about saying “Good job”.  It’s encouraging the small achievements along the way, “Wow, you’ve got that whole corner finished already!”   I get it now and we enjoy each other’s company and the reward comes when they turn to me and say, “I did it. All by myself!”

I am careful when to step in and I’m ready to quickly step back, so I don’t de-rail their mission. It’s like being a soccer coach on the sideline of the field.  I can step onto the field during a short time to give some suggestions out, but then must back away to let the game to continue. After all, it’s their game to play… right?

My grandchildren have convinced me that what I am doing in Act 2 of my career as an educator matters. Kids, especially younger children, need an advocate, a spokesperson to say what they often cannot express, “Please let me learn this for myself, so I feel capable and proud.”

I’m re-energized! I’ve got a plan! I’m looking forward to helping kids in this way.

If you are also interested in how we help kids learn – so they can enjoy a lifetime of learning, check in, I’ll be here!

Angelo Truglio, PAPA, BS, MS 

TAKE A PIANO LESSON

“This must be what my students are going through!”
L.R. 2nd Grade Classroom Teacher, NY

A few years ago Linda, a second grade teacher, attended my professional development workshop on the topic of motivating students.  After the workshop ended she asked if I would teach her to play the piano, since I was a music educator. She was eager and ready for the challenge.

After a few lessons, I could tell she was struggling with feelings of frustration and doubt. She stopped suddenly, turned to me and said, “This must be what my students go through!”  The experience of playing the piano was challenging and enlightening to her as well. She saw the connection of her experience on the piano with her students who struggled to learn to read.

One of the key activities I include in my PD workshop “Students Make Learning Their Mission”, is to ask the participants to play a simple familiar tune on a wood xylophone. Putting teachers in the place of students with a challenge such as this works very well to help teachers be mindful of what students experience.

For a moment pretend someone has convinced you that playing the piano is something that you can accomplish and will add joy to your life! You decide to give it a try.

From the outset you are thinking that taking piano lessons will be an interesting experience, but you have some concerns as to whether you will succeed. You are focused on the outcome; will you really be able to play enjoyable music on a piano?  You are probably not thinking about how learning to play will require persisting beyond many, many mistakes and failed attempts. You are not aware that there is a strong possibility for frustration, anxiety and avoidance as you are expected to play and demonstrate your progress.

As educators we can recall the most recent personal challenge we undertook to remind ourselves what our students are going through. Reflect on what obstacles we experienced,  how we responded and how we were taught. Doing so can help us connect with our students and consider what we might do differently at our next lesson.

Have you have tried this?

Resiliency Program – A Move In The Right Direction.

“It’s a dream of what school should be like.” – J. Kelly, HS English Teacher

This past summer middle school students from the Smithtown School District in Long Island, NY had the opportunity to attend a unique summer program. Through the efforts of educators Joel Sidwell, Program Coordinator and Elizabeth Stein, Assistant Coordinator and with the support of the district’s BOE and Administration, students participated in a Resiliency Program, a model for teaching and learning that I am hoping spreads like wildfire!

I visited the first and last week of the program. I was fortunate to have been invited to shadow Elizabeth Stein, a Special Education Teacher, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Instructional Coach and coordinator of the district’s mentoring program.  Since meeting via an educator’s chat group on Twitter, Elizabeth and I have exchanged ideas about education; our passion and mission are aligned, working to raise the voice of students and help them take ownership of their learning.

From the first minute of the morning preparation meeting, it was evident this was not going to be “more of the same” and that was exciting. The teachers were led through guided meditation by Josh Hendrikson, LSMW, a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) expert.  They received guidance and on-going support throughout the six week program in SEL, UDL and Growth Mindset development. Morning and afternoon sharing sessions offered teachers time to share personal experiences, talk through challenges, and support each other’s efforts.

Students were presented with projects and asked to choose which they were interested in undertaking. Project choices included planting a vegetable garden and creating a meal from the vegetables grown; creating and video taping a public service announcement.

Students were encouraged to problem solve, add their creative ideas, collaborate with each other and see the project through to completion. It was apparent that teachers were focused on connecting with the students, engaging them to add their voice and creating teamwork.

I visited the next to last day of the program. I spoke with several teachers and sat in on the closing of the day staff meeting. Teachers shared their experiences and what they observed from students.  From the comments it seemed that these middle school students would take away much more than merely the information they learned by participating in their project. Some of the comments were:

  • The students have become more thoughtful.

  • Students got to choose, make decisions. They became aware that they have choices.

  • There has been a great deal of confidence building, students realizing what they can do.

  • Students expressed that they made many great friends.

Overall it seemed to me that a significant mindset and social and emotional transformation occurred for many students. One teacher shared an example. A student who started the program was very withdrawn. When she spoke you could barely hear her voice and there were other indications through her manner of dress and body language. At the end it was obvious through her smiles and conversations that she felt much better about herself. As this teacher continued to speak about the student it became apparent that her project had made an impression on everyone in her group. She had made a contribution – she mattered.

Another teacher shared a heartfelt comment:

“The support for teachers and students in this program was amazing. It’s a dream of what school should be like.”  – Jim Kelly, HS English Teacher.

Consider that today’s learner may have careers that have not yet been created, or that may even become obsolete during their lifetime. Many education leaders remain committed to certain instructional methods that put great emphasis on mastering content. However, teachers must be provided the means and opportunities to encourage students to work with each other effectively, to be creative and resilient, so they realize what they are capable of achieving and can act on that realization.

There are always barriers to change and obstacles to overcome. I am excited by the Smithtown School’s Resiliency program, one that provides an innovative and promising approach for learning. More of this please! As this school year gets underway look at ideas like this and find the first step to take. Take it – and then run with it!

Are you in?

~Angelo Truglio

Can difficult be fun?

There are three thoughts I found helpful to keep in mind while looking for an answer.

First, to sustain or revitalize a student’s curiosity and love for learning.   Beliefs about one’s capabilities are being established during those defining moments – when learning is difficult.

Second, to provide the tools and strategies for students to be able to help themselves during those defining moments.  We can do this without separate “how to learn” lessons, removed from actual lessons or projects.  Every learning challenge a student faces is an opportunity for them to develop and strengthen an “I can” mindset.

Third, to be aware of when to step back and let students experience learning for themselves.  Throughout my years as an educator I came to realize how easily my words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and actions could send a message that would interfere with a student’s opportunity to act on their own.  I am very mindful of this as I want to be sure they learn to think, say or do for themselves.

I watch children as they play.  While playing they are learning and it’s fun.

They are typically engaged by games that are challenging.  They overcome obstacles that interfere with their progress.  To improve or to win they learn to focus, bounce back from failure and persevere.  When we present a learning challenge lets connect the dots for them and help them realize, “Been there, done that”Learning challenges may be difficult, yet fun.   

Shift from the role of teacher, one who presents a learning challenge and solution, to coach, one who prompts students to think,  “This is difficult, so what can I do about it?” – just as they do in a game!

Rather than putting the emphasis only on the lesson goal,  step back and support the child in ways that help them take ownership of the process.  They will begin to realize that the process matters and it’s how difficult becomes fun!

I created OBST to represent obstacles, OBST_ 3 Stages_2015a fun way for students to view the learning challenge they face – as an opportunity to outsmart OBST.  When they focus, bounce back from mistakes, problem solve and persevere OBST begins to fall apart and eventually collapse.  It is a way to reach that one particular student, or to create a class culture of: “We make difficult possible!”  

I welcome your thoughts on how to help students realize that  “difficult” can be fun.

For more about Outsmart OBST:  http://atmotivate.com/?p=676

Angelo Truglio Founder of www.icandothatkids.com    

Educators At A Crossroad

What a fantastic summer!  I’ve been reading recommended books that I have found to be inspiring and I attended EdCamp Leadership, a unique full-day education “unconference,” where those who attend create the agenda of what will be discussed.  The sessions and people were all positive and upbeat and it seemed that all the educators left energized ready to put new information into practice… yet there was still more summer ahead!

EdCampBlogPic

I was invited to observe a Summer Resiliency Program, a middle school camp offered by the Smithtown School District in Long Island, where the day began with mindfulness and meditation – a very effective way to create focus, teamwork and collaboration.   Participating in Twitter Education chat groups such as #edchat, #NYEdcht, #whatisschool, #nt2t has provided the opportunity to exchange comments and ideas with teachers throughout the U.S. and globally.  Throughout the month I’ve had phone or face-to-face dialogues with educators or administrators, still the a great way to connect and collaborate!

The discussion has been about changes in education necessary for children to be productive and successful in an undefined future:

  • teacher and student mindset
  • self-regulation
  • gradual release of ownership
  • resilience
  • supportive parents and supporting parents
  • eliminating the use of rewards in the classroom.

There are many passionate educators spending time this summer preparing for the upcoming school year; working on how they will engage their students and create rewarding learning experiences. They are collaborating in order to improve their skills and knowledge base.  These teachers are models for their students. They demonstrate that learning does not stop over the summer – learning happens anytime, anywhere – not just in school.

I am reassured and energized because I’m learning there is a way for education to move forward in a positive direction.   It can happen, and we can’t wait for the next state regulation to be put into place or for the next national “no child shall or race to wherever” initiative. Education can move forward in a positive direction without edicts because of the passion, learning and open dialogues occurring among dedicated educators and administrators.  As teachers shift their approach and develop or polish fundamental teaching practices, combined with the available technology, positive outcomes will result.  Isn’t this what we want for students?

Educators are at a crossroad.  They can choose to think, “this too shall pass” or they can become part of a “Great Conversation”, as described by author Jamie Vollmer in his book I recently read, Schools Cannot Do It Alone.  They can be part of expanding discussion among educators, administrators and parents who will do what it takes to get students fired up about learning, rather than making them think, “How many days until the next school break?”

Who’s in? I am!

I will share what I’ve learned from my past teaching and current coaching experiences. I have a personal stake, my grandchildren, ages 4 and 2.  I see how excited they are to learn and want to show me what they have learned. Their learning energy is endless and their “I can” mindset is developing. These traits however are as precious as they are.  They can be affected positively or negatively by the manner in which they are nurtured and by the learning experiences they are exposed to.   I know what I want to see happen.  How will you contribute to the effort?

Still learning,

Angelo Truglio, Instructional Strategies Coach

An “I Can Do That!” Framework

Students aren’t the same from day to day. They are “a work in progress”, different today than they were yesterday, last month, or at the beginning of the year. Even for those students we think we know well, sometimes we can predict how they will respond, and at other times they will surprise us, even amaze us.  To teach, we need a framework, beliefs and expectations that guide our teaching practices.

Here are guidelines I have for myself:

  • Stay in tune with what students think as they face a challenge;  teach in a way that helps them feel capable of achieving.
  • Stay in the moment; take an “if – then approach” – modify and readjust  instruction based on the responses I am getting.
  • Know at least one “success story” for each student, one thing they feel proud of having accomplished. Point to that success to highlight their strengths and help them realize, for themselves, they are capable of achieving.

From my teaching experiences I learned that children want to have a voice in the learning process.   A teaching framework should create a learning environment that fosters learning as their mission, rather than an assignment.

To be active participants and successfully take ownership of their learning all students need to learn core strategies – what to think, say or do in the face of a challenge – so they will think positively, problem solve, bounce back from setbacks and persist.  A challenge, which is often perceived as a threat, should be presented as information or skills that have not been learned- YET!

When obstacles to learning come up, it is a game-changing moment in the student-teacher relationship.

If emphasis is put on the process, HOW to get around obstacles, students come to realize  that how they work at a challenge is valued.  They will be less likely to become discouraged, frustrated, or resist working at challenging goals.

Students that realize failed attempts are expected and viewed as opportunities to learn are energized to keep trying.

Delaney teaching the class

Teaching with an “I Can Do That!” framework means nurturing mindfulness, self-regulation and self-efficacy – a feeling of “I am capable”.  These are essential character traits for students to make learning their mission.   Students are able to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of learning and are less likely to seek out or expect external rewards.

Regardless of the issues in education and what metrics are used, when students are excited and want to learn they will do better.

What do you think?

Angelo Truglio,

Instruction Strategies Coach and Creator of the “I Can Do That!” Framework.

The Last Months Of School

I can vividly remember the teachers who had a positive impact on my life and everyone remembers their favorite teachers.   BUT,  how many Girl smiling w homeworkof us fondly remember a standardized test we took?

What everyone’s favorite teacher inspired in them was confidence, resilience, and perseverance.  These are the things that will matter for a lifetime of learning and therefore long term success.

What do you think?

The Testing Turmoil

“Kids want to learn, unless we make it dull and frustrating.” – Steve Nelson, Head of the Calhoun School, NY.

I’m seeing our children suffer from competing interests that put them in the background instead of the forefront of our education efforts. Instructional time is diminishing, focus on test statistics is growing in prominence, but the real test is what our children learn and what they take with them for the rest of their lives.

Education should be about creating skilled learners and effective citizens who can adapt to the pace of our world, not what they do on a particular test, over an hour, a day or several days.

Measuring performance is necessary but performance metrics alone do not guarantee a good long term outcome.

As an educator and advocate for children, each day continues to be about working towards solutions, and sometimes that simply means taking time to listen to a child.

Confidence, Resilience and Perseverance

Confidence, resilience and perseverance are essential traits that cannot be “downloaded”  or instilled.

A visual tool that I created and like to share with educators or parents is the POWER UP! Meter.  It helps find a starting place for a learner to develop  these 3 essential learning traits.

The I Can Do That! PowerMeter

A learning energy meter!

Ask, “What are you thinking?” , “I can’t”, “I’ll try” or “I can do that!”

A learner thinks about what they are thinking,

and how it affects their effort.

The three bars depicted help visualize how learning energy increases as we shift our thinking from “I can’t” to “I’ll try”.   We have the most energy when we tell ourselves, “I Can Do That!”   Just as with exercise, the more effort we put into doing it, the more our overall energy increases.

A teacher or parent can explain:

  • Everyone needs learning energy when they work at “hard stuff”.

  • It’s not unusual or bad to think, “I can’t do this” if something is difficult, but it is not ok to get stuck there. Think , “What’s making this difficult, and what can I do to make it easier!”

A learner’s response provides teachers with a “real-time” assessment for differentiating instruction and to determine if lesson plan modifications are needed.

    • Assess how capable and ready a learner feels.

  • Modify the approach if necessary.

A gradual shift of the responsibility for learning occurs if a teacher prompts the learner to think about what they can say or do to shift their thinking; what strategies will help them get past any obstacles and get them closer to their goal?    What strategies will keep them stay fully charged?

The Red, Blue and Yellow stars suggest corresponding strategies that I teach to help students shift from “I can’t” to “I’ll try” and to develop an “I can do that!” mindset.  The strategy names are one or two words, such as FOCUS, and are either red, blue or yellow to indicate when they may be most needed.  They are accumulated as the learner shifts toward I Can Do That!

The POWER UP! Meter and strategies are included in the I Can Do That! Educator’s Kit. For more information about  I Can Do That! Resources:  www.icandothatkids.com

Stanford Research Report – Trouble Ahead for Kindergarteners With Low Self-Regulation.

Here are some interesting points presented in a Stanford University report:

  • Stanford researchers see trouble ahead for kindergarten students with low self-regulation unless parents and teachers help.
  • Children’s self-regulation skills may affect the course of children’s academic trajectories in elementary school.
  • Teachers can learn to provide a better classroom environment for all students.
  • Teachers should get professional development opportunities to help them create a non-reactive, low-conflict classroom environment.
  • Parents can help students improve self-regulation.

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/october/kindergarten-first-grade-10-23-2014.html

By implementing resources that help students self-regulate educators may be assuring a child’s success with learning.

I Can Do That! Kids – www.icandothatkids.com – offers  “child-friendly” Action Stars for teaching children HOW to work at difficult tasks. They are grasped easily by kindergarteners who see them as “helpers” when faced with a challenging task.  Young children begin to self-regulate their responses to learning:  “I need to try again!” and develop essential learning traits. 

Learn more: www.icandothatkids.com