Maintain Focus on Instruction!

I believe that focusing attention on  high leverage instructional practices impacts learning, adult

LCS Faculty dialogue - Instructional Principles for English Language Learners

LCS Faculty dialogue – Instructional Principles for English Language Learners

learning and student learning.  That is my intent and this is influencing recent topics at faculty professional learning meetings.

What are those instructional practices that we are exploring?

Earlier this year, I asked  faculty to set two professional goals related to the following areas. These areas were identified as potential high leverage practices related to research from John Hattie.



Identifying Learning GoalsSetting clear learning expectations

Appropriate level of challenge for students

Clear success criteria (exemplars, rubrics, etc)

Feedback processes 

Clear exemplars

Clear and specific feedback

Use of formative assessment


Questioning techniquesTeacher talk & Thinking time

High level questioning and discourse within classroom

Classroom positioning and classroom discourse


Simply put, if teachers do these things well, students learning will improve!


Great teaching is hard. It requires intense thought, planning, and instinct. We are trying to maintain a focus in the Secondary School on several specific areas that, if done well, are definite elements of great teaching!

  • Clear learning goals & targets.
  • Clear language goals & targets (“all teachers are teachers of language”)
  • Goals & targets for students that are appropriately challenging.
  • Scaffolded instruction to support students in meeting targets
  • Differentiated opportunities to support students (“differentiation is a mindset”)
  • Formative assessment that provides clear and specific feedback
  • Minimizing teacher talk and maximizing classroom discourse

If we work hard to become even better at our craft and expand our understanding, knowledge, and skills in these areas, we will be better teachers and student learning improves.  This is my belief.

I think finding and maintaining a focus around instructional strategies and best practices is incredibly challenging.  If teachers can really try to find those few areas to focus upon, latch onto, dig into their professional learning, and experiment with then adult learning will take place.  If adults learn and expand professionally, student learning expands.

“Learning for All” Includes Parents!

Everyone in a school community is learning.  That’s the bottom line.  Clearly students are learning (we hope!) and, in my schools where I am determined to lead, teachers are learners.  If they aren’t learning, they aren’t on the essential path of continuous improvement.   As well, and equally important, parents should be learning.  Parents should be engaged as learners and much of this ongoing learning can, and should, be focused upon their children.  The art and science of parenting is often described as the most difficult job one will ever love.  For non-parents, it might be hard to get one’s head around that last sentence!

So, if parents need to be learners where do they learn about their kids and parenting?  I do remember when my kids were young (they’re now in their 20’s) and our bedside tables were loaded with parenting books.  They were of some use, some of the time.  For me, the best learning came from conversations.  Conversations with my wife, conversations with friends with kids, and conversations among other adults who concurrently shared the challenge of parenting. It didn’t matter if we were good friends or shared similar values, expectations, or approaches to parenting.  What mattered in those conversations was that we shared the love of parenting. You learn alot from listening to others talk about the challenges they face as parents.  In my experience as a school Principal, just about all parents care deeply about what lies ahead for their kids and how best to respond as parents.  Many are open and eager to engage in conversations to explore ideas and hear about the approaches from others.

I have facilitated numerous parent discussions in workshops and evening presentations over the past 15 years.  I believe schools have an obligation to support parents in their learning.  Promoting evening workshops facilitated by administrators, teachers or counselors is always appreciated and always provides strong support for parent learning.  Moreover, it builds bridges between the school and the parent community. It is important!

Last week, our counselors facilitated another such evening (I contributed to a degree).  Below is a .pdf of the presentation. It’s worth reviewing.

ParentingTeens-LCSNov2013 pdf

As well, I believe in trying to provide solid resources to parents.  There is so much online for parents to review.  Here’s an absolutely terrific site for parents.  So much is addressed within this site and this organization.  It is rich with potential.   Here’s the Common Sense link:

This web site is a truly excellent site!  As well, check out the links on my blog for parents and students. There are many resources that I have tried to identify for parents and students.

Finally, another site that I found through my twitter feed in recent days is this:

This has little to do with direct parenting, but it is a really interesting site, very provocative!  I’ve been passing it along to teachers and colleagues in recent days.

Stay connected and continue to communicate with your friends, your school, and, most importantly, your children.  Communication, honesty, trust, integrity are the essential ingredients. Ensuring there is a communicative relationship is the most important advice and the most essential skill in the tough job description of parenting!

Finally, yet another link to a brilliant article that every parent should read is this one:

Passion of Parenting 

If you take anything from this blog post as a parent, take this article!

What do you do to grow your knowledge and understanding of parenting? Who are your resources?  If you are an administrator, are you connecting and supporting parents in their challenging roles? If you are a parent, with whom are you exploring ideas and approaches?  How are you learning and making those connections?