Friday, March 17, 2017

Trauma-Informed Schools

From Simon Senek: The Golden Circle.
What is our "Why"?
Last week I attended a conference on alternative education, which provided lots of good information and a really good reminder.  While most of our students in HSE Schools do very, very well, it is good to remember that we also have students who could benefit from a whole different kind of school experience.  

These are the alternative education students, and each one has a unique reason for why the traditional setting is not working.  

At the heart of what we do in HSE Schools and why we exist is learning for all students, even the ones that struggle with school.  These students who need a different approach are also "our" students.

Let’s be clear. The work of alternative educators is not to “fix” the student.  Rather, it is to provide the best possible opportunities for the student to learn and be successful.  In order for this to happen, trauma-informed educators can use very specific approaches to dealing with struggling students, but the first and most important step is to learn to know their students and build strong, positive relationships. 

This is an illustration of the categories of
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Of course, this applies to any educator in any setting, doesn’t it? 

Adverse Childhood Experiences

One of the main strands of the conference on alternative education was on the topic of Trauma-Informed Schools.  This work is based on a study completed by the Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called “Adverse Childhood Experiences.”  The results of the study may not be surprising: The more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) a child has, the higher the risk for health and educational issues.

What is surprising, even for educators who see all kinds of students daily, is how many of our students experience multiple ACEs.
Yes.  These are national averages, but HSE
is not immune.

In order to get a feel for what Adverse Childhood Experiences are, take two minutes to complete two tasks.  Click the link below and then click again on the blue box labeled "What's Your ACE Score?" 

Take the test twice.  It will help you get a feel for what might be happening with some of our students.

  1. Take it for yourself, and see what your ACE score is.
  2. Make some guesses and take it for someone you know who struggles in school.

Take the test twice, and read the
article if you have time!
Whether your ACE score is high or low, it’s good to recognize that being healthy and successful is not dictated by the score.  You may or may not have hurdles to overcome.  As educators, however, we should be informed how ACEs are affecting our students.

The rest of the NPR article in the link above is worth reading as well.

For us in education, the first step is to recognize that we have students in our classes for whom ACEs are very real experiences.  The next step is to consider how this impacts their performance in school and what we can do to ensure that our schools are places where we can meet their needs and help them learn.  That might take more work and study, but even awareness can help.

Try It This Week

As we close in on Spring Break, you are likely to see some behaviors that make you think about the ACE study.  If you do make this connection, before you react, pause briefly to remember that what you say and do next will escalate or deescalate the behaviors. It's a simple step, but it may make all the difference for one student.

Let me know if you are interested in more information about trauma-informed schools.  I would love to talk with you about how it can improve interactions with all of our students.

Have a great week, HSE! 

Respond to Phil at

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Extending the Classroom

This week’s entry comes from Brandon Cloud, a guidance counselor at Fishers High School.  Outside of school, he is also an EMT/Fire Fighter in Tipton County.  In this role, he developed a relationship with the Tipton County Corner, which grew into an opportunity for his students at FHS.  Warning: If you are squeamish, you may want to avoid this entry!
Real life experience can help
students make future choices.

From Brandon: Building Experiences Beyond the Classroom

One of the goals we have at Fishers High School is to expand the classroom beyond the walls of the school.  In fact, we use this saying as a mission statement for our internship program.  We do this in lots of ways, but one of the most intense and memorable experiences for our students is a visit to the Medical Academic Center Cadaver Lab.

A student tries the arthroscope.
Some background may be helpful. Often, when students think about medical careers, they think about being a nurse or doctor.  You may not be aware of this, but we have many courses that prepare students going on to become a nurse or doctor, but also can prepare them for a wide variety of careers in the medical field. There are many other options, and the sooner students are exposed to these options, the better choices they can make about high school and college classes.

Education outside the walls
of the classroom....
For example, our students can take a Ball State University course in Anatomy and Physiology, they can become Certified Nursing Assistants through a course taught in our high schools, they can take Project Lead the Way Biomedical courses, or students can participate in a medical internship.  We are also adding opportunities for students to train to become an EMT or a Pharmacy Technician.

Few high school students in
the world have an opportunity
like this one.
This is our second year of visiting the Medical Academic Center.  FHS teachers Elizabeth Good and Stacey Young joined FHS guidance counselors to take about 160 students from our medical courses and internships on this experience outside of the classroom.  At the Medical Academic Center, the dissection lab was divided into four stations: Heart/Lung organ dissection, full lower extremity (with hip) dissection, knee arthroscope video manipulation of a leg, and full torso dissection. 

Each student was able to physically participate at each station.  As you might guess, most medical students do not have a human cadaver experience until they are in graduate school, but our high school students had a chance to experience what could be in store for them if they go into the field of medicine.  Students came away from the experience knowing much more than theory, and they are in much better position to make decisions about future career options.

In education, we often talk about real-world experiences.  It doesn’t get much more real than this!

Brandon with his students
at the lab.

Respond to Brandon at

We hope your week is a good one, and that you find ways to expand the walls of your classroom.  Keep it real, HSE!

On a related note, take a few minutes to watch how a few words at the right time can change the life of our student forever.  You never know what will come of providing opportunities for your students and encouraging them to pursue their goals.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team

  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, March 3, 2017


Chris Edwards is a social studies teacher at Fishers High School.  He also works closely with universities, state legislators, and educational organizations to provide teacher training opportunities.

As a student of history, Chris is convinced that education is at a turning point.  He makes the argument below that we are in a time of revolution, and now, more than ever, is the time for educators to shape the vision of the future.

From Chris: There is Only One Word for It

Sometimes revolutions don’t look all that revolutionary. Revolutions sometimes come about not because of any massive uprising against a system but instead because of a gradual removal of key restrictions, the evolution of new technology, the slow development of a research-based consensus, and the vision of a small number of early practitioners who are willing to begin work in new fields of knowledge. Hindsight only makes it possible to see that a series of connected factors actually made a change so radical that the word “revolution” applies.
Revolutions are not always a massive uprising, bur rather arise
from a series of connected factors.

This was the case with the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century and it is likely the case in education right now. In the Scientific Revolution, a few “natural philosophers” began to trust the results of their experiments over the authority of the ancients, they published in an environment of relatively free speech with the relatively new printing press, shared ideas, and created a new vision for what could be accomplished using their new methods.

A revolution in education: Teachers can create a vision and
realize it to the benefit of students and other teachers.
This same process is now occurring in education. Research has indicated, time and again, that the individual proficiency of teachers is the key for improving student learning. Teachers are beginning to trust they can build curricula that is superior to what has been created by the people at the textbook-and-workbook companies. Hamilton Southeastern School District is building in time for teachers to collaborate and develop classroom-ready curricula. Universities are changing the way that incoming teachers are prepared. Legislatures are removing requirements for textbook adoption processes and the DOE is creating an open-source network (you will be hearing more about this) so that teachers can create a body of work that we can add to and benefit from. Teachers can create a vision and realize it to the benefit of students and we can help each other in the process.
Join the Revolution!
Email Chris for details and to register.
There is no cost for HSE teachers to participate.

Connect all of these factors and we see a change in the image of a teacher. For too long, teachers have been seen as passive instruments who implement visions created by people outside of the classroom. The new image of the teacher is of someone who defines and shapes a vision individually and a field collectively from the classroom outward.

That’s a change so radical that there’s only one word for it. 

Respond to Chris at

As Chris states so eloquently, we are in a time of change. As you enter this week, take time to consider the opportunities you have to shape the future of education.  How will you join the revolution?  We think you will find that these opportunities and options are both a little frightening and incredibly exciting.

Have a great week, HSE.  Continue your work of changing the world!

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Keep Living!

This week's entry comes from Bev Redmond, our Director of School and Community Relations.  As she prepares to move on to the next stage of her life, Bev takes time to reflect on her time here at HSE and to challenge us to continue the journey we are on.

From Bev: My Corner-Man

Keep Living! My dad, Willie A. Smith, Sr., taught me this powerful statement as a child. He has always been my corner-man in the ring of life, one of my chief strategists. Every once and a while, I would challenge his wisdom. Like a master teacher, he never chided me for asserting myself and interjecting my own voice. Instead, he would give me that “Smith” half smile, cock his head, and say, “Keep living.”

He let me find my way and come to my own conclusions. He was, and often still is, my guide on the side.
Bev  was walked through life and down the aisle by her dad,
Willie A. Smith, Sr.

This mantra not only gives me insurance against the things that I have yet to learn, but it also gives me reassurance that great experiences are ahead if I keep moving forward. I cannot tell you how many times his words have courageously supported me to maximize my moments and embrace with gusto the opportunities set before me.

In October 2014, I walked through the doors of Hamilton Southeastern Schools ready to serve as your Director of School and Community Relations. The largest school corporation of my career to date, HSE is 21 buildings and 21,000+ plus students strong and growing. The weight and responsibility of being part of the team that cares for the wonderful staff and families of the fourth largest school corporation in the state has been an incredible honor.

Collectively and individually, you have taught me, in your own way, to keep living. The joy and pleasure has been all mine. Through each phone call, project, plan, meeting, Tweet, post, and Skylert, I have had the fortune to work with incredible parents, dedicated leaders, and brilliant visionaries, who dare to dream big and challenge the status quo in order to create a boundless future for all students. You have reinforced my unwavering belief in the power of public education to transform and shape a community.

On March 31, 2017, I will walk through the doors of my office for the last time. I am moving to the Chicago area to pursue new opportunities, both professionally and as a new wife and stepmom. Know that I will miss you but have taken every experience to heart. Once again, my inner ear is open and listening for my dad’s familiar refrain as a fresh journey unfolds.

As I take my leave, allow me to encourage you to do the same.

Keep living HSE! Always keep living!

Respond to Bev at

Thanks for all you've done for HSE Schools, Bev.  You will be missed, but we wish you all the best in the Windy City.

And thanks to you HSE, for all you have done and will continue to do make sure you continue to transform our community and world.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, February 17, 2017

In Praise of American Educators

Several weeks ago, we lost one of the giants in education.  Rick DuFour came to prominence as the leader of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, which is still widely recognized as a model for school reform based on the Professional Learning Communities framework.  He became a prolific writer and speaker and has influenced a generation of teachers and administrators.
DuFour always placed emphasis squarely on student learning.

It would be easy to continue to fill this entry with information about his life, his books, and his impact as a champion of public schools.  Instead, most of what I have included below are Rick’s own words.  

This book was written and
published after his diagnosis.
Those of us who have read his books or heard him speak will likely recognize some of these quotes.  If you haven’t had the chance to read or hear Rick, you will immediately recognize his wisdom—and you will quickly see that the heart of his message is about student learning.

In the months before his death, Rick DuFour published his last book, In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better.” In the first words of the introduction, Rick shares the experience of being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and states simple, “there is no stage 5.”  A few pages later, come these words:

The best way to improve student learning:
Have educators work together!
As I assessed my career at this crossroads of my life, I felt more frustration than satisfaction.  Through history, Americans have criticized their schools—it is more of an American pastime than baseball.  I am frustrated, however, that politicians and the media seem to be waging an increasingly aggressive war not just on the public school system but also on the educators within it. Their unfair characterization of teachers and principals as lazy incompetents who are unconcerned about the well-being of their students is nothing like the amazing educators with whom I have worked both directly and indirectly.  I am frustrated that members of the profession I love are receiving none of the recognition they deserved for what they are accomplishing in the face of incredibly challenging conditions.

The remainder of the book is both a defense of educators and a call to action.  Educators must look both at what we are doing well and at what we can do better.  He states, “Our profession will not benefit from either unloving critics or uncritical lovers.”  The challenge for us, says DuFour by quoting Martin Luther King Jr., is to be confronted by the “urgency of now” because “at no point in American history have the stakes for our students been greater.”

According to Rick DuFour, the way forward is by working together toward a common purpose.  He lists "Three Big Ideas" that capture the essence of professional learning communities.  See if these Big Ideas resonate with you: 
Teachers as leaders is at the heart of PLCs.

  1. The purpose of our school is to ensure all students learn at high levels.
  2. Helping all students learn requires a collaborative and collective effort.
  3. To assess our effectiveness in helping all students learn, we must focus on results--evidence of student learning--and use the results to improve our professional practice and respond to students who need intervention or enrichment.

In the coming months and years, you will hear more about Rick DuFour and his work.  There is no question that he will be missed, but there is also no question that we can continue to learn from this master teacher.
This is pure Rick DuFour: putting our beliefs into action.

Rick DuFour worked up to his final days.  If you have sixteen minutes, listen to Rick talk about his most recent book: 

Don't have sixteen minutes? Try a shorter clip.  He just sits and talks, but he knows his stuff!

Have a great week, HSE.  We hope that you find joy this week in working together to improve student learning.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, February 10, 2017

Diversity is Our Strength

This week's entry comes from Crystal Thorpe, principal of Fishers Junior High School.  She shares about a FJH tradition that has grown into a major school and community event.

From Crystal: FJH International Fair

Fishers Junior High School believes in the notion that our diversity is our greatest strength.  Cultural diversity has helped make America a more robust country; and therefore, a more interesting place to live.  Our International Fair not only acknowledges our differences but also help our students celebrate and embrace our differences.

Many years ago, what started out as basic information on tri-folds being shared in the large group instruction room has, with hard work, transformed into an amazing night of food, festivities, and fun that brings together our students, our staff, and our community.

This year we celebrated more than 50 countries with food, crafts, and performances.  All 7th graders are expected to participate, and they select the country of their choice.  Students are include fundamental information in their projects, with many going above and beyond expectation.  Some students presented videos using their iPads, while others proudly wore their traditional native garb.

Along with informational tri-folds, students were encouraged to bring food from their countries, such as baklava, empanadas, rice dishes, banana bread, biscotti, lemon cookies, and spring rolls.  Our Spanish teacher also contacted high school students who were former Chargers who painted our student's faces in honor of the Mexican holiday, "The Day of the Dead."  One art teacher, as well as other volunteers, sketched henna tattoos (a form of decorative art from Northern Africa, South Asia, and India) on our students’ hands.  Student artwork was displayed, and the science department had students create displays of scientists from around the world acknowledging their contributions to society. 

The band and orchestra students displayed their talents in the fair as students performed musical selections.  The FJH Dance Company performed as well as the African International Dance Company of Indianapolis.  We had Bollywood student dancers, Samurai sword demonstrations, and a parent from India played the Sitar.  We’ve even had French mimes entertain our guests.  This year, we included story-telling in our library with students reading about cultures from around the world.

Our PTO participated in the fair by creating passports, along with official stamps, for countries such as the United States, India, Kenya, Mexico, China, Australia, Brazil, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy.  Craft stations were in each of the rooms where students created maracas, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Kenyan masks, coat of arms, and more.  Videos and music played in the background of those rooms and offered more information on those countries.  For the first time this year, students submitted recipes for the FJH International Fair, and our Triangle Club created a cookbook so others could recreate some of their favorite International foods from the fair.
Our fair is a community event and everyone is welcome.  More importantly, it is very comforting and encouraging to immigrant families and those new to the Fishers community to see themselves represented in our schools. Every year we get parents from all around the world with tears in their eyes, expressing their gratitude and how much they appreciate this event.

Our goal at FJH is to let ALL of our students know they are welcomed, they are appreciated, and they are valued.  We look forward to next year as our International Fair just keeps getting better and better!

Respond to Crystal at

As Crystal says, diversity is our strength.  Celebrate it today!  Have a great week, HSE.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, February 3, 2017

Worksheets, Fire, and Text

From Stephanie: The Challenge

Looking for a challenge?  Please join me for an “In Text” Challenge.

In Text Challenge: Find it. Burn it. Proceed.

  1. Find one worksheet assignment or task per day that could be done in text.
  2. When you find that worksheet task, set it on fire, and proceed with the lesson in text. J
In a Foreword to Jennifer Serravallo’s book, The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook, Ellin Oliver Keene askes us to evaluate how our assigned tasks give us information about what readers and writers need.
Guide them wisely....

What are we to make of all of these things and these piles of work? We pour through work samples and assignments to realize that too often we’re not sure what the data or information shows. Is good old-fashioned kid-watching and careful analysis of children’s behavior in text enough for us as we guide them wisely and help them find their intellectual power?

What if we expected our students to use a blank piece of paper, note card, marker-board, post-it, or digital representation to record their thinking or their response to an assigned task as a commitment to a more rigorous expectation?
The best worksheet?
A blank piece of paper

The simple of act of providing a blank sheet of paper or more open-ended task asks students to organize their thinking and generate a plan for communicating their understanding of an assignment or task.

Too often our worksheets offer spoon fed plans for information retrieval. Overly arranged, simple formats hinder the heavy lifting required in rigorous and thoughtful work. Giving them the tool to get organized requires the executive functioning to develop a plan for communication.
How do you help your readers and writers find the right "lens"?

Readers and writers are expected to communicate their understanding of the content or task but more importantly know for themselves that they’re ready for our next reading or writing conference.  They begin to act like photographers, adjusting their lenses and finding just the right “scene” to capture, so they can communicate their understanding. Their lens becomes refined and they develop a sense of how craft and skills work in text. Readers make discoveries that begin to jump off the page.
Maybe we need to develop
a healthy fear of the copier!

Seravallo asks readers and writers to communicate a sense of focus, structure, elaboration and convention work.

Below are some examples of skill or task work in text…along with a great clip from Teacher’s College at Columbia University.

Let me know how your work in text is going….And if you’re spending less time at the copier and more time enjoying conferring! 

A Chair for My Mother, Vera B. Williams…
Great page for small moments, developing setting, and use of commas.

Crow Call, Lois Lowry…
Great page for making small moments big, setting, and character development.

Brown Bear,  Brown Bear, What Do You See? Eric Carle...
Predictable text, pattern work, high frequency words, one-to-one correspondence, and sing-song language work.

Click this link for a video from Teacher's College
Reading and Writing Project
Whole Class Instruction--Rereading Texts

Respond to Stephanie at

Have a great week, HSE.  We hope you take Stephanie's challenge: Find it.  Burn it. Proceed!

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education