The Secrets of Effective Teaching Revealed!

Another one from my “recently published elsewhere” collection:

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Ms. Glazer : Student :: Me: Kitchen Staff

There are a few things that come to mind when I think about what I do that makes my teaching “useful” and “good.” If you’re reading this and you’re a teacher, then you already know most of them: I give kids multiple contexts for dealing with the material. I make them practice skills. I tell them that I care about them and their success, and then support those sentiments with how I treat them. I do other stuff, too. …


Thoughts on the cultures of wellness in education.

Note: I was inspired by a friend to throw some of my recent writing up here for others to read. So I’ll try to remember to do that. This piece was originally published here.

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File footage of me at the gym.

For the first time in two decades, I ran a mile this week. It took me 8 minutes and 30 seconds. I don’t mean to brag here (with a time like 8:30, there’s nothing to brag about), but for me, it’s a significant thing.

Don’t get me wrong; I still hate running. This post is not an announcement of my intention to transform myself into some sort of mid-life runner. Running is the pits. Don’t focus on the thing itself, instead pay attention to why I just ran my first mile in 20 years: It’s because I’ve been going to the gym regularly (roughly three times a week) since September. This is definitely a thing that I’m proud of, and a thing that has made a big difference in my life. At some point between age 27 (the last time I ever went to a gym with any regularity) and 38, I took my eye off the physical fitness ball. Kids, career, and life in general probably have something to do with that. But really, it’s my own fault. But now, having moved across the globe, I find it easy (easier, at least) to go to the gym regularly. …


Happy Holidays, Major Thanks, and Best Wishes

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kiss by Aneeque Ahmed from the Noun Project

This is the last post on AdminThoughts for 2017. Regular readers will recall that I only write pieces for the Fridays of weeks that school is in session. And this is the last one of those this year. But when school comes back into session in January, there won’t be any new posts here. This is the last post on AdminThoughts, full stop.

I started AdminThoughts a few months after I started in my current role as the Curriculum Associate for Science & Technology in my district. The science education podcast (Note: Episode RSS probably isn’t working anymore) that I had co-hosted for the previous 2.5 years was drawing to a close due to our changing roles, and I can’t go for too long without a “creative” outlet for doing my thinking in public. This place was the perfect place for that. …


Just because a thing exists, doesn’t mean it has to.

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Kremlin by Ben Davis from the Noun Project

I caught this recent episode of the “Every Little Thing” podcast which covered the mysterious numbers that live on pasta boxes. What is the meaning of these denotations?

For a moment, try to avoid listening and see if you can think up a possible list of reasons for these universal pasta box accoutrements. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with 3–5 possible meanings off the top of your head. If you want bonus points, try to get more then 10. Then, when you’re ready, listen to the episode, or scroll down below to find out the real reason.

Spoiler Below. Proceed with Caution

You have been fairly warned

The real answer is…nothing. There is no significance to the numbers on pasta boxes outside of historical precedence, product design habit, and the whims of pasta-mongers. They could disappear tomorrow, and your cavatappi would remain unchanged. …


Whine & Cheese

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Vision by Aldric Rodríguez from the Noun Project

This is the final piece in a series of posts about observing lessons. Readers may find it helpful to consult the first post for some background information, and the second post for the clinical details of my district’s observation cycle before they dive into what follows. But far be it from me to stop the bravest among you from forging boldly ahead

Let’s get it out on the page right up front: I have some problems with our current observation framework. This isn’t the same thing as me saying “it’s terrible,” or that observation to help determine a teacher’s continuing employment should not be a thing. …


Making the Sausage

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Vision by Aldric Rodríguez from the Noun Project

This is the second in a series of posts about observing lessons. Readers may find it helpful to consult Part 1 (“Setting the table”) for some background information, but I’d like to think that this one can stand on its own.

Special thanks to “Mr. L.” for allowing me to use a recent observation script for this post.

This is going to be a pretty clinical discussion of our “formal” observation cycle. Mostly because it’s the most complete version of the observations that I do, so I can describe all parts of the process. …


Setting the Table

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Vision by Aldric Rodríguez from the Noun Project

It’s observation season at work. Over the next few posts, I want to tuck into observing lessons and what that looks like in my position. This first post is just laying the basis for what’s to come. It might not even be worth reading until at least the next piece is posted after Thanksgiving. Unless you have also felt similarly about your observing to me, in which case I hope you’ll be glad to know that you are not alone.

Without question, the thing that I was most nervous about when I started in my current position was conducting teacher observations. I’d bet I’m not alone in this feeling. From where I stand, acting as an observer is probably as close as an administrator gets to something truly sacred in the job. There’s a duty to try to record as much of what they see as possible in a manner that is objective as possible. That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s also the main thing that I will do in my work that contributes to an official record of teacher performance. I owe it to teachers to do as good a job observing as I can. All of which helps explain why I think observations are a pretty big deal, and my initial nerves related to them. I still don’t think that I observe nearly as well as I can, but I’ve been reassured over the past 1.25 years that I do a solid job. …


What are the things that must be, and how do we separate those things from everything else?

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hills by Bintang Anandhiya from the Noun Project

I won’t pretend to have the only answer to that question, but I have found a heuristic that works well for me when trying to draw the line. I ask myself the following question:

Is this the hill that I want to fight and die on?

Like so much else that is useful in my working life, this is not something that I came up with on my own*. This type of thinking (what I’ll call the “Hill test”) goes way back. But it is handy for helping me determine the importance of things. I think the Hill test works well because it takes things to an immediate extreme. I’m not going to have to fight about most things that I decide to do. Even if I do, many of those battles aren’t going to result in the death of my efforts. But by assuming the worst case, I am presented with a lens that helps me figure out if I’m going to be okay investing my efforts in a possible failure. …


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finger pointing by BomSymbols from the Noun Project

I had an interesting conversation with one of the new members of my department this week. The initial topic was stress, and how to handle it. There’s plenty of reason for that. The first year of teaching is a genuinely hard experience. My first year as a teacher was the first time in my life that I ever felt like I was trying my best just to keep my head above water. Other teachers may feel differently, but I think that my own experience is pretty typical. At least I could commiserate with my new colleague.

As the conversation continued, we moved to a different topic; feeling like you are a fraud. Feeling that you are just faking your way to your current station in life and that you don’t actually know what you are doing. The notion that you don’t deserve your current job, or the responsibilities that come with it. This is “impostor syndrome,” and it’s a sentiment that is as widespread as the work-stress of the first-year teacher, only unlike the former, impostor syndrome never really goes away. At least it hasn’t for me. …


At least if you are a non-teaching department leader.

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ironieteken” from the CPNB

Let’s start with a list. In the past two weeks, I’ve attended the following-

  • A Visible Learning conference featuring John Hattie and Peter DeWitt
  • The fall conference of our local chapter of the Science Teacher’s Association of New York State (STANYS).
  • A meeting of local science coordinators (#1 of 3 for the year).
  • A site visit to a local high school to see how they have implemented the blended model in their chemistry courses.

Two weeks from today, I’ll be heading up to Rochester for the annual statewide STANYS conference. Then I’ll go to the fall conference for the local science leadership association. I had the opportunity to go to the annual National Association of Biology Teacher’s conference the following week, but I passed due to other commitments. I am, however, attending the annual National Science Teacher’s Association conference in March, and may also be attending a few other things before the current school year is buttoned up. …

About

David Knuffke

Did you ever hear the one about the teacher who became an admin. and then fled the US to become a teacher again?

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