Make mattering a way of life

Tomorrow marks the back-to-school convocation for White Oak ISD, featuring keynote speaker Angela Maiers.

Angela brings a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience to education through her 25 years of work as an educator and through her passionate pursuit of literacy and learning. Her experiences in public school and at the university level, coupled with instructional coaching, research, writing, and publishing have given her the opportunity to launch a global movement. The YOU MATTER Manifesto, Classroom Habitudes, and Mattering IS the Agenda – A Toolkit for Transformation, are just a few of the resources she has created to help school districts capitalize on their work with students.



You Matter from Choose 2Matter on Vimeo.

The YOU MATTER Manifesto is a call to action. Before we can convince anyone else that we matter, we must first convince ourselves. You are called upon to acknowledge and put to use the gifts that have been entrusted to you. Empower yourself and realize the importance of contributing to the world by living your genius.

Angela Maiers you have influence

Mattering is a process, not an event. It has no expiration date; it’s a new way of life. Knowing that we matter is essential to our existence. Consider this Manifesto an acknowledgement of your significance and that….YOU MATTER.

Angela The You matter manifesto

In Angela’s words, “people need to matter. They need to be noticed, valued, and honored. Significance is ever more important than success.”

August 18, 2015 Agenda

–  Sign in begins at 7:45 am

– Breakfast will be provided

-Keynote begins at 8:30 am


Preparing for the start of something new

Involve me and I learn

Many of us have spent a great deal of time plotting and planning this summer. Plotting to find ways to provide our students with a ‘this century’ education. Plotting to find ways to better create student-centered classrooms, to write powerful and engaging lessons, to empower students with voice and choice, and to find a balance between relevant learning and real-life lessons.

The planning side calls for us to make decisions about timing and pacing, and to look at what we have time to teach and what we don’t. To ask ourselves if we can meet all of the required elements and simultaneously provide lessons that stretch our students’ imagination, creativity and curiosity. I sure hope so. In fact, I’m counting on it.

The planner and organizer in all of us also calls for us to find the best approach to actively engage our students in the learning process while we make the journey along beside them. Then it is up to us to follow through and put our plans into action. If we plan but do nothing to move those plans forward, then we’re back to square one and, ‘the best laid plans’ are of no value.

Either way, plotting and planning is challenging work. Every day that we have with students is a day of opportunity. Every minute with them counts and we should invest our time seriously because the difference we make in their educational experience and in their lives is what is at stake. Time is precious and everything we are called to do comes to us in one day installments—make the most of it.

As we prepare for the start of a new school year we must ask ourselves these questions:

  • Are we excited about this new journey? Are we ready for the exploration and deep thinking that can impact ALL students if we let it?
  • Are we open to our classrooms being more about students and less about us, the teacher?
  • Is the learning process about what we can give our students or about what we can give each other?
  • Are we prepared for the difference that we, as teachers, can make in the life of a student? And, can we handle it?
  • Are we willing to make changes that positively impact students—even if the changes are outside of our comfort zone and cause us to spend more time crafting the experiences?

I hope the responses to the questions were an overwhelming and resounding yes.

You see my wish is for each of us to help students see their value and worth while they are in our care; to help each of them move forward as they pursue their hopes and dreams; and to do all we can do to prepare them for a future beyond what we can imagine.

249 Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs For Critical Thinking

This is a great read and a powerful resource for any teacher’s tool box. The chart and short article from te@chthought provides examples of how to use when unpacking standards, identifying a possible learning sequence, using in lesson planning, differentiating instruction, and personalizing learning. This resource fits perfectly with our district focus of Transforming Classroom Instruction.

Mile wide, inch deep curriculum

As educators we continue to hear about how Texas has a ‘Mile wide/inch deep’ set of curriculum standards. To further prove that point, Dr. Bill Daggett of the International Center for Leadership in Education says, “Texas hasn’t met a standard it doesn’t love.” As if we didn’t know that.

As we look at several examples provided by Mary Ann Whiteker, Superintendent of Hudson ISD, we know we are responsible for a wealth of information with three sets of standards per subject to teach during a school year. Take a look at the information provided and see how our teachers are doing an outstanding job at taking a poorly designed STAAR system and getting positive results.

It’s time to be daring and adventurous!

We are hours away from kicking off our back-to-school week for teachers and staff, and we are in for a real treat as Dave Burgess (Teach Like a Pirate) leads our district in bringing passion, transformation, enthusiasm and more to our classrooms.  The book, much like a treasure map, provides key steps to move all of us to greatness. It won’t be easy. The journey to change never is.

Last week I started counting down the days on Twitter until Dave arrives in White Oak. I also included some specific key points from the book to get us ready for what’s to come. He will encourage all of us to develop a classroom climate where students feel like doing the outrageous; where the out of the ordinary and sometimes silly are the norm. One quote from his book particularly resonates with me because it is on transformation–the specific focus of this district. Dave tells us:

“Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.” In other words, “we have to have a vision of what the ideal experience looks like if we have any hope of creating it.” In moving toward transformation there are two questions included in the ‘Transformation’ chapter that ought to make us all think about the future and what it takes to teach a ‘this century’ student.

#1 If your students didin’t have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?

#2 Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?

I couldn’t begin to guess how many of us have thought about what we do from this perspective, and what it would take to be truly outrageous. But as we prepare for tomorrow, here are some final thoughts from Dave’s book: “Much of your success as an educator has to do with your attitude towards teaching and towards kids. The rest of your success is based on your willingness to relentlessly search for what engages students, and then having the guts to do it.”

And finally, “Being truly great requires a significant amount of extra time and effort. It demands relentless pursuit of excellence, self-improvement, and a never-ending commitment to grow and stay on the cutting edge.” Thank you for the encouragement Dave Burgess.

Now for the rest of us–let’s be daring and adventurous, and the time is NOW!

10 Ideas for transforming your teaching this school year


I was reviewing some of the blog posts I had written or posted in prior school years. This was posted back in 2012  because it provided ideas that supported our district initiative of transforming instruction. It continues to support our focus, and it reminds us to ask high level questions, promote student-centered classrooms instead of teacher-centered classrooms, give our students voice and choice, and create lessons that provide collaborative settings.

As we move into the 2014-2015 school year, we should be looking at what we can do to stretch ourselves in terms of how we create lessons and provide instruction. How can we become more creative when we’re designing lessons?  Do we have high expectations for our students? Are we consistently asking questions that lead to creative and outside-the-box thinking? The list goes on and on, but if we are to truly reach today’s learner and provide a ‘this century’ classroom then what are you waiting for?

  1. Ask a question that has many answers or no answer at all.
  2. Give your students the reins for one class period. Give them the topic or learning objective, then ask how they would like to learn about that topic. They might suggest a game, project or exploration with technology.
  3. Allow your students to choose how they will be assessed for one topic. They might suggest a project, game or another method.
  4. Ask your students what they really are interested in learning and for the day, allow them to interview an expert in that field online. Your students can search for the e-mail address, blog address, Facebook account or Twitter handle of that person. For example, a student might be interested in skateboarding. Have that student connect with Tony Hawk on Twitter or another famous skateboarder.
  5. Tell your students everyday for a week that you are glad to be their teacher. Do this by greeting them at the door with a smile, handshake or high five.
  6. Conduct a class in a different environment, such as outdoors or in another part of the building.
  7. Stand for an entire classroom period. Break students into groups or pairs and move around constantly, asking them questions or taking notes about the way they learn.
  8. Play a fun game in your classroom. Find a way to incorporate games and play to teach your subject matter. Scavenger hunts, board games and video games have all been used to teach various subject matters.
  9. Contact each parent and share with them specific ways their children made you proud of them.
  10. Have your students work together in performing an act of kindness for either a charity, organization or other students. This could be as simple as creating books and reading them to younger kids or volunteering to clean up the campus.

Grading Smarter Not Harder

Take a look at a new book, Grading Harder Not Smarter, offered by ASCD and authored by Myron Dueck. Knowing that school is right around the corner may have you thinking about assignments and grading. What could you do differently? How can you motivate kids to learn? Dueck makes it very clear that the journey to productive assessment and grading is not easy and mistakes are made. But we should also have the confidence to move past the mistakes or missteps and look beyond to doing what’s best for students.

He identifies four key lessons to focus on: 1) Teachers should grade smarter, not harder 2) We are often better coaches than teachers 3) Learning is  more important than grades and 4) Relationships are crucial. If nothing else, this book should encourage us to reflect on our own grading practices and help us to make adjustments that benefit students. I encourage you to take a look.