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Dr. Goodin's Multimedia Blog

Blog EntryBlog: Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What does 'good teaching' look like?

I would like to use this blog post to start a discussion about what good teaching looks like. I will start off the conversation with some of my thoughts on the subject. Feel free to comment and share what you believe good teaching looks like as well.
When I envision ‘good teaching’ I think about a place where the students and the teacher are active and enjoying what they are doing. There are a variety of activities going on in the room and the students and the teacher are involved in the process. Whether the students are working together or independently, it is evident that they are involved in what they are learning. The ‘buzz’ in the room is focused on the topic. The room is interesting to the eye and has several focal points that demonstrate student work. Good teaching is evident when, after only a few minutes in the room, the observer can sense a clear purpose for the lesson that is tied to a relevant, real life problem or situation. When asked, students can answer two questions: why are they learning this and why is it important for them to know or be able to do. I also envision an environment where differences in ability are accounted for and the teacher is constantly checking for understanding. Good teaching leaves an indelible impression on the student.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 5:05 PM | 8 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Welcome Back Spring-Ford Area Staff

A new school year presents opportunities for various beginnings—new classes, new faces, sometimes new courses, and often new materials. Summer and vacation can be great healers; and as we approach the opening day of a new school year, the end-of-year pressures that plagued us in June seem quite remote and inconsequential.
Newness alone, however, cannot produce transformation. We ourselves must be willing to be caught up in the rebirth that is possible with each new year. Starting a new year gives us the opportunity to make new plans, design new strategies, and implement new ideas. There is a special kind of joy and satisfaction in planning lessons and activities for a new class; for although the subject or grade level is the same, the students are new, and they appreciate the planning that is done for them. Whether one's responsibility is administrating, supervising, teaching, preparing lunches, maintaining a building, or managing an office, there is always room for improvement and for new ways to do a good job even better.
We can be proud of what we achieve in the Spring-Ford Area School District -in our classrooms, in our offices, and on our playing fields and stages—but our achievements are not due to complacency and satisfaction with the status quo. Our program is what it is because a staff of dedicated, aspiring men and women have a common goal—to do what is best for students—and are always looking for ways to achieve that goal.
This year, as in the past, we must concentrate on the processes that spur continuing advancement: evaluating what we have, determining what we can do to improve, and identifying what we need to make those improvements.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 12:11 PM | 0 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Building a Better Teacher

I subscribe to the Marshall Memo, which is a weekly summation of educational articles from various journals and magazines. In this article in Parade, Elizabeth Green shares some of the main points of her new book, Building a Better Teacher (Norton, 2014). It’s a myth that teaching is an innate talent, she says: “Researchers have found that the most effective teachers can be extroverts – or they can just as easily be introverts. Some are humorous, but others are serious. Some are as flexible as rubber; others are as rigid as a ruler. It’s not personality that makes a teacher great, but a specialized body of knowledge that must be learned – and that often goes against what comes naturally.” Here are five teacher actions that she believes have the greatest impact on student learning:
            • They use students’ mistakes to improve instruction. Researchers have found that teachers who are best at spotting why a third grader would think that 307 – 168 = 261 are the most successful at improving students’ math performance. “The best teachers put themselves in their students’ shoes,” says Green, “and grapple with how they arrived at the wrong answer in order to set them right.”
            • They are precise in their instructions. Green approvingly cites Doug Lemov’s observation that saying “Shhhh” to a noisy class is ambiguous. “Are you asking the kids not to talk, or are you asking the kids to talk more quietly?” asks Lemov. Best practice is to eradicate ambiguity, respond to misbehavior with specificity, and describe the desired behavior rather than the problem. To get distracted students back to work, a teacher might say, “We’re following along in our books.”
            • They encourage deeper thinking. Researchers who observe classrooms internationally have noticed that there are more “explain how and why” questions in higher-performing countries like Japan, Singapore, and Finland – questions that get students thinking at a higher level – for example, How did you find the area of this triangle? Why is the area 17? In American classrooms, there are more “name/identify” questions: What kind of triangles have we studied? What is the length of this shape? One study found that in the U.S., students helped initiate the solution to a problem in only 9 percent of lessons, compared to 40 percent in Japan. “By asking questions that pushed students to think on their own, Japanese teachers taught them more,” says Green.
            • They cold-call. Calling on students whose hands are not raised gets much more mileage from each question, increasing the chance that all students will be thinking through the answer. It’s also effective to ask the question first, pause, and then call on a student.
            • They show more than tell. Telling students to read a passage again or make a weak essay better is not very helpful. It’s most effective to show students the invisible mental steps that go into effective performance – making your thinking visible. “By taking students through each mental leap, one at a time, teachers can help them see the exact processes they’ll need to complete to be a better reader, write a better essay, or make a better argument,” says Green.
“Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green in Parade, August 3, 2014 (p. 6-9), www.parade.com

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 9:25 AM | 0 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Monday, June 16, 2014

Parting Thoughts to the Class of 2014

I started this year speaking to a group of new teachers and I asked them to write down exactly what they were feeling at that moment. I then asked them to keep the notecard in a safe place and pull it out in ten years. If upon reading the card in ten years they did not feel the same way as they did on their first day about their chosen career then they should find something else to do. Today you are graduating from High School. How do you feel right now? Do you feel excited about what the future holds for you? Do you anticipate tomorrow? Do you feel that you are about to conquer the world? I challenge you to hold on to that feeling and never let go of it. The world is full of possibilities for you and nothing can stop you.
There are many differing answers on how many times Thomas Edison failed before he successfully invented the light bulb. Some say that it was 10,000, while others say it was 1,000. Another source says he tried 3,000 times. It's safe to say that he tried over 1,000 times. When a reporter asked him about his many failures, Edison simply said, 'It just meant that I was that many times closer to success.'
I tell you this because failure is not an end; it is an opportunity to make a new beginning.
When describing failure Edison remarked that “Failure is really a matter of conceit. People do not work hard because, in their conceit, they imagine they'll succeed without ever making an effort. Most people believe that they'll wake up some day and find themselves rich. Actually, they've got it half right, because eventually they do wake up.”
 I want to remind you that those of us in the Spring-Ford Area School District Community have taught you not only how to make a living but also how to live. There are no substitutes for hard work and determination. Character is not optional on the road you are about to travel. Character is everything and will be the only lasting thing you will ever be remembered for.
This evening you will graduate from the Spring-Ford Area Senior High School. You will leave behind friends and teachers. It is my hope that you will not leave behind the lessons you have learned about the merits of hard work and determination.
I congratulate you this evening on the first of many accomplishments. Well done Class of 2014. Thank You.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 8:51 AM | 0 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Real Blessing

There are many aspects of my job that I love. Right up there near the top of things that I love are the opportunities I have to interact with students. After all, the reason I got into this business was to teach and work with children. As superintendent these opportunities don't come along as often as I would like, but when they do I am always blessed by the experience. Today, for example, I had the opportunity to read to some second graders from Ms. Dietrich's class at Limerick Elementary School. The students were so attentive as I read them a story titled 'Rocking Horse Land'. I had a great time!. After I finished reading to the students, Ms. Dietrich told me that the students decided to write a book for me. Each student contributed a picture along with a description of the picture. As I read through the book all the students excitedly stood around me and commented on each page. I thought I would bless them by reading to them but the real blessing was their gift to me. It will be one of those things I treasure for the rest of my career. Thank You boys and girls. I will never forget my afternoon in your classroom.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 3:39 PM | 1 comment
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