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Using curious conversations to build better classroom relationships

One of the more interesting findings to emerge from studies of curiosity (which I share in my new book, Building a Curious School) is this: Curious people have better relationships.That’s likely because when we’re curious, we ask people questions—about their interests, values, and aspirations. In short, we learn what makes them tick. On top of that, the same studies find that curious people are generally more likable: We all enjoy being around someone who shows genuine interest in us—and conversely we feel irked when a supposed friend goes on and on about themselves without ever inquiring about our own lives.

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For teachers, physical absence is no barrier to emotional presence

As we begin (or for our Australian colleagues, continue) a school year unlike any in memory, I’m reminding our partner schools that good instruction is good instruction regardless of the location or platform where the teaching and learning happen. Of course, “good” is a subjective term, so how do I define good instruction? One concept has been my guiding light and always will be, regardless of what challenges the universe throws our way: Relationships.

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Leadership skills to help you navigate crises and challenges

As I’ve touched base with school leaders and former colleagues these past few months (before joining McREL I was a longtime principal and assistant superintendent), I’ve been struck by how often our conversations reinforce the idea that preparing for the predictable also helps you prepare for the unpredictable.

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Educational technology gets a new level of scrutiny

In an era when we all have access to copious information to help us make even the most trivial buying decisions, it’s odd that good data can be hard to find when the stakes are really high. When it comes to buying educational technology for classroom or administrative use, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is aimed at changing this by insisting that companies provide evidence that their products or interventions are effective.

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How the COVID-19 crisis could be a boon to curiosity

At an age when learning should be more engaging—high school students ought to be to exploring the deep mysteries of the universe, encountering great literature that reveals our shared humanity, and mastering the elegant language of mathematics that helps them solve complex problems—they’re bored out of their minds. Why should that be? Numerous studies point to the missing ingredient—something we observe in abundance in younger children, only to watch it slip away as they progress through school: curiosity. In this moment, teachers have the rare opportunity to engage students in some productive and semi-structured “unschooling.”

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Research Matters: Elegant simplicity in brain science

The May 2020 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership is all about learning and the brain, a topic that’s near and dear to McREL. Our Bryan Goodwin and Darienne Day contributed a Research Matters column that encourages educators to consider knowledge about how learning happens as they design lessons—knowledge that, they say, has been “hidden in plain view” for decades.

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The power of journaling for professional growth

I’m Pete, and I’m a journaler. I actually started as a storyteller, back in the day, when I kept a dozen sketchbooks full of tales of teddy bears, game summaries of make-believe baseball teams, and lyrics to various rap songs (some jotted painstakingly from the radio, others I made up). I wrote while hunkered down under my bed, I wrote sitting on the deck, I wrote at the kitchen table. The point is, I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I keep doing it (witness this blog: yeah, I wrote it). And I feel there are tons of benefits to writing in a journal.

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Communities of practice in this social distancing moment

Whether a teacher team is called a Professional Learning Community (PLC) or a Community of Practice (CoP) or simply a grade-level team or subject-area department team, most educators are accustomed to maintaining a consistent team meeting schedule during the school year. Often, this team time is used to examine student work or assessment results, compare notes about lesson plans, share strategies about different instructional moves, or seek advice about engaging students in a tough unit of study. Depending on district and school resources and directives, educators may also find themselves discussing shared team leadership, collaboration, or identifying “people who need to be at the table.” Again, these meetings have been the routine “normal” for just about all of us for our entire teaching careers. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools and shifted us all to online teaching and learning, these routine meeting schedules have in many cases been temporarily suspended while educators try to normalize the virtual classroom environment.

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