Friday, October 28, 2016

A Place of "Yes, and...."

This week's entry comes from Stephanie.  It all started one day when she looked down, and.... Well, a picture might be better than an explanation!

From Stephanie: Yes, and...

Yes, and…I made it through one morning meeting before realizing these were the shoes I was wearing. This busy morning mama gets dressed in the dark!  #sameheelheight

After much laughter and a quick shoe change (I keep extras in the car) I was able to reflect about how this image really captures what we do in classrooms each day. We are yes, and people. We’re the “we got this” breed. We just keep swimming. We get the most bang for our buck. We look for connections.

Let’s consider these examples of yes, and

Yes, and…these fourth graders are using digital and print resources at the same time. They are evaluating art pieces and recording their angular attributes on their recording sheets. They are conducting Indiana history research and recording notes for their further research work.  #blended

Yes, and…Dr. Flessner from Butler University is working with teachers and students to help us learn more about how conceptual thinking and procedural thinking work together.  #multiplestrategies

Yes, and…Dad can nap while keeping an eye on kiddos on the beach.  #dadfail

Yes, and…our youngest writers are making books all year. They’re using the craft of writing and traditional conventions in purposeful and meaningful ways.  #writersworkshop

Yes, and…this kiddo substituted an eyelash for a tooth with the tooth fairy.  #quickthinking

Yes, and…third graders look at pieces of text from their novels to evaluate the use of punctuation and grammar techniques. #userealtext

Yes, and…the candy is put away and that won’t stop me.  #problemsolving

Yes, and…this just makes sense. My pencil is right where I need it. #chicteacher

Yes, and…seeing our math work in action while recording our operations.  #mathematiciansareactive

Yes, and…I can add text to label images and create meaning. Creating a classroom culture of high expectations for text use adds meaning and rigor.  #writinginK

Yes, and…the work we do in Readers’ Workshop helps us read like writers. Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop fits together.  #mentortext

Where do you see the "yes, and..." in your day?  What happens when we look past the "No, but..." and look for the "Yes, and..."?

Respond to Stephanie at

Yes, and 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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Best-Practice and Dissonance

This week's post comes from Lisa Lederach, the principal at Cumberland Road Elementary School.  Originally, she wrote this entry to share with the teachers at her school, but her words may resonate with you as well.

From Lisa: I Don't Want to Learn This!

Conversations around HSE21 Best Practices often cause dissonance. Dissonance is unsettling. It is uncomfortable. It doesn't always feel good. Yet we know that learning often involves dissonance as one takes on new ideas and learning.

Steve Loser, one of the assistant principals at FHS, says, "Education should always be supported discomfort." I agree.

There have been many things with my kids that make me say, "I DON"T WANT TO LEARN THIS!" One of those has to do with American Sign Language. I don't want to have to continue to learn American Sign Language. It's so much harder than I thought. I feel stupid when I have to sign in front of people who are deaf. I hate making so many mistakes. I am completely out of my comfort zone. 

Isn't there a faster way to learn this than having to actually work at it?"

I get frustrated and anxious. I avoid going to Deaf Community events because I don't want to feel this dissonance. Yet I know that I need to continue to learn ASL because deeper conversations with my girls depend on it.

So what do I do with this dissonance? What will make it go away? The obvious thing is to put myself out there and continue to learn. Until I know as much sign language as I can, I'm always going to feel this dissonance, this discomfort.

An Example

I took my daughter Grace to a therapy appointment last week. We were saying good-bye to one therapist, Bethany, and hello to a new therapist, Naomi. Therapy sessions are not for the faint of heart, so I am always incredibly relieved to have an interpreter present. You can already guess the next part of the story. Yes, no interpreter showed up for this very important passing of the baton from one therapist to the next.

My heart sank. I could feel my breathing change, and I knew I was going to have to be the one totally in control of expressing myself in ASL. Talk about discomfort. Maybe a better way to think about it is "way out of my comfort zone."

People in the Deaf community are incredibly kind if you put your best foot forward and simply try. They are gracious, they are forgiving, and they honor the intentions behind the mistakes. So I plunged in and spent 45 minutes in an English free environment as we all talked about Grace, her goals, her progress, and therapy plan. There were actually times when I didn't even think about the fact that I was signing.

And mistakes? I made so many, but I gutted through them, identified that I was making mistakes, and just kept going. These 45 minutes were too precious to waste being afraid I might mess up.

The baton was passed, Grace left with a smile, and I said good-bye to Bethany and Naomi.

HSE21 Best-Practice

The dissonance of HSE21 Best-Practice probably won't go away for a very long time, just like my discomfort with American Sign Language won't go away for a very long time. Learning ASL is a lifetime commitment for me. Supporting HSE21 Best Practice is a career life commitment for me.

Live in the dissonance. Know you are not alone.  We all feel discomfort and work to find our way through the HSE21 Best Practice maze. It helps to think about it as a five-year journey, so extend grace to yourself and others. Don't waste precious time being afraid you'll mess up.

We are running a marathon, not a sprint, and the baton passing is done by a team, not alone.

Respond to Lisa at

We hope you had a good Fall Break and 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, October 14, 2016

High Impact Thinking

This week's entry comes from Laura Schultz, fifth grade teacher at Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate and Junior High School.  You've all heard the saying, "It's like riding a bike...."

Laura takes another look at what that might mean for us and for our students.


From Laura Schultz...

Failure and Growth:  A Recursive Connection

In my fifth grade classroom, we lightheartedly call ourselves “The Best Failures” in the school! 
These learners know that to be a “great failure” means that with help, success is just around the corner.   They can articulate this to anyone who should warrant an explanation for such a seemingly ludicrous comment because they consider themselves collaborative learners and understand that the impetus for true learning is derived out of mishaps, blunders, miscalculations and, well…failures. 

One metaphor we use for this is “riding a backward bicycle.”  Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage that occurs in steps and is much like the learning process itself.  Beginning bike riders come to know that the most intense learning is born from the bumps, bruises, and scrapes that occur during the failure-to -launch stages. Deep understanding requires high impact thinking on the part of the learner.

Backwards Brain Bicycles and Metacognition

Last school year, Dr. Loane introduced us to a video from the Smarter Every Day series that highlighted the stages the vlog’s host and narrator, Destin Sandlin, went through while relearning how to ride a bicycle that had been “tricked out” to operate in an opposite fashion than what he had trained his brain to do from the beginning as a bicycle rider. 
This screenshot is from the YouTube video.
What if it's not like riding a bike?

This entertaining video emphasizes all of the stages Destin experienced while relearning this process. Throughout, he graciously accepts his failures as opportunities to be successful.  The reflective nature of the video itself highlights for the viewers the necessary application and transfer of skills required to conquer his personal learning outcome. 

When deciding to discover what my learners understood about their own “thinking about thinking” reading strategies, the bicycle video immediately came blasting into my brain. So, they watched it.  Needless to say they were enthralled.  They couldn’t wait to share their own stories of failures and successes about learning how to ride a bike!  The video and the subsequent enthusiasm for failing turned out to be a great segue into the reading experiment that was about to follow.
Watch the video at:
Backward Bike

Zones: Confidence, Learning and Panic

Dr. Michael McDowell, the keynote speaker at a recent Indiana Middle Level Education Association conference, likened learning to a three-ringed target where each of the rings is a zone. The very middle of the target is a confidence zone, the middle ring is the learning zone, and the outermost ring in the panic or chaos zone. 
Which zone are you in most of the time?

Obviously, the confidence zone is the easiest place to live, but living there is impossible without passing through all of the other zones, often more than once. After many discussions about what type of learning occurred in each of the zones for our backwards bicycle rider, my students watched the video once more labeling the zone that Dustin was in and the reasons why he fell into any one particular zone while on his journey to reach his learning outcome. 

I wondered aloud if the learners in front of me could speak to the zone they were actually in during the reading process. Would they panic?  Would they fall off the metaphorical bike?  Or, would they confidently ride off into the sunset?   

Most took this as a challenge, and so our work began.

Data and Kidblog

Paired learners went to work listening to one another read an article I purposefully assigned that was at their frustration levels. The readers read while thinking aloud about the metacognition they were using during the reading process itself.  The listeners used a tally mark system to count the number of times they heard the reader comment about a learning strategy they consciously used to make meaning. 

Once they finished, they switched reader and listener roles, and the data was returned to the appropriate reader and analyzed for metacognition. The results drove a further discussion about what zones they felt they were in regarding the use of reading strategies during this process. 

What amazing comments ensued from the learners! 

They spoke about being in a panic zone, falling off a bike, and needing help. Students blogged their ideas as an assessment for all to read.  In this way, they learned from many more of their peers, and not just from the one they were originally paired with.    

A few comments from the blogging site Kidblog have been copied below.  I’m hopeful that many more comments and conversations cycle around our Humanities class regarding problem solving when traveling from one zone to the next.

A Follow Up: The Learning Pit

I encourage everyone to visit James Nottingham’s (founder of Challenging Learning) website.  There you will see a video that likens learning to landing in a pit.  The premise is that learning involves being stuck in the pit, feeling confused, and experiencing failures. 

The only way to climb out of a pit is through challenge and collaboration.  

At HIJH, we seek to challenge, collaborate, and together experience growth for all stakeholders in the learning process.

Respond to Laura at
We hope your week is spent sometimes in the Comfort Zone, but often in the Learning Zone.  If you get into the Panic Zone, check out the ideas on the right side of the Learning Pit!

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, October 7, 2016

The Deep End

This week's entry comes from Jeff Harrison.  Do you ever feel like you're in over your head?  (That is a rhetorical question for educators!  We all feel that way at times.)  When you do, Jeff has some advice he learned while celebrating his daughter's birthday.  Enjoy!

From Jeff: Taking Risks

Wear a life jacket and stay at the shallow end,
or use the slides at the other end....
To celebrate my daughter’s eighth birthday, we held a pool party at an indoor pool. The pool was a zero entry design (starts off very shallow and progressively gets deeper).  It was divided at about the three foot depth with two water slides on the deeper side. For liability reasons, the facility required a swim test. If a child did not pass the swim test, he or she had to stay on the shallow side with a life vest. Those who passed the swim test were permitted to use the entire pool and best of all, go down the water slides.

The swim test allowed the kids to use whatever stroke or strokes they preferred, and they could take as long as they needed. However, they had to go the entire length of the lap pool (25 yards) without touching the bottom or the sides.

There was one child—we will call her Marge—who was intimated by the swim test. Marge had taken swim lessons and swam all summer, but something about going 25 yards caused panic.
She had the skill, but it looked so far away.

During Marge’s first try, she jumped in and took off but had to stop about a quarter of the way. She didn’t give up.  She got out of the pool and back in line. Her second attempt was not any better, and frustration began to get the best of her.  

She was tempted to leave, but she had adults and pool staff who encouraged her to give it a third attempt.

The third time she was coached beforehand.  She was advised to jump in, stand up, look at the end of the pool, and then begin swimming. She was encouraged to start easy with the back stroke, and when she felt comfortable, to roll over. As she began swimming, one of the lifeguards walked along the length of the pool, encouraging her with every stroke.

Before she knew it, she was at the halfway mark. A few strokes later, however, panic set in.  We could see it in her eyes.  The lifeguard at the side of the pool assured her that she was almost there.  He asked her to give it 10 more strokes, and he counted down with each stroke she took.  When she hit zero, Marge touched the wall and had passed the swim test. She was relieved and elated! 

Swimming in the Educational Pool

Marge had the training and skills to pass the swim test, but she had to take a risk to jump in and try—more than once. When she struggled, she had mentors ready to coach and encourage her along the way.

This experience reminds me of what educators are encouraged to do all the time: take risks!  John F. Kennedy said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

It is only when we take risks that we can grow in our practice. The great thing is that we can take risks without fear. Just like the lifeguard on the side of the pool, we have Teacher Leaders, Media Specialists, Teacher Development Specialists, Instructional Coaches, Department Chairs, and building and central office administrators ready to jump in, provide support, and help us reach our goals.

The advice to Marge is good: Jump in, stand up, look at the end goal, and begin swimming.  Start with an easy stroke.  Move on to other strokes as you go.  When panic sets in, listen to advice from others, but keep swimming.  

It’s much more fun to play in the deep end!

Jeff, when not in his office!

Respond to Jeff at

Have a great week, HSE.  Jump in and have some fun!

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

Can you relate to this?