Does size matter? (37:365)



Now that I have your attention… Does class size matter?


There has been an ongoing debate in education regarding class size. In researching for this post, there were many research articles that basically said size didn’t matter, and those who said it did. Want to read a book about the debate? Check out The Class Size Debate .


As I walk-through classrooms, I can see a distinct difference in classes that are in the 25 student range and those around 18. I use those numbers because in my building, I see a vast difference when class sizes reach 25. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the teacher is new, seasoned, focused on Math or LAL. They all report similar findings. Here are some of the responses, I have heard from teachers and students regarding higher class sizes.


Large class size

  • I don’t have as much time to spend individually with students  – Teacher 
  • My teacher always has to balance their time with all the other kids – Student
  • There are more disruptions – Both teacher and student

Smaller class size

  • I can help students who are struggling, and spend more time with them – Teacher 
  • My teacher can concentrate on me – Student
  • There are less disruptions – Both teacher and student

What is the magic number? Is it different for different types of schools? Ages? Does technology assist or detract in this debate?

It’s all about perspective (36:365)



No two people see a situation the same way. Unless we use the scientific method and eliminate variables, it is difficult to truly see the same thing. In education, there are many examples of how our perspective can impact others. For instance, take the perpetually “bad” student.   If an early grade teacher has a negative experience with a student, chances are they will let the next teacher know. Then, armed with that perspective,  they can choose to fulfill the perspective or change it. Guess what usually happens? You guessed it…. and it goes on and on…


As an educator, how do you eliminate variables or others’ perspective? How do you see things from your perspective?

Where is the student voice? (35:365)

We talk a great deal about students. We create charts on their performance, discuss trends in their achievement, differentiate their instruction, but when do we listen to what they have to say? Let’s be honest, we as educators get mad when “no one listens to us” and the politicians, administrators or even Boards of Education make decisions. Are we doing the same thing to students?


I recently read a great blog post that could assist teachers with listening to student voices. The post Share This With All the Schools, Please discusses a parent/teacher conference session that ended up revealing something interesting about the importance of listening to children. In the post, the author talks with a teacher about how to help her son (and herself too) with math. After the lesson, she asks the teacher about students and trust. The teacher goes on to tell her about something she does every week.


Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who doesn’t even know who to request?

Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

– See more at:


According to the teacher, she has done this activity ever Friday since Columbine as a way to determine who in her class is isolated, alone, or just being overlooked.


Who is listening to your students’ voices?

Differentiation through Centers (34:365)

photo 3 (9)

Online programs such as SuccessMaker allow students to prepare for online assessments, receive differentiated common core based assistance, and increase student achievement

As we transition into 21st century learning, I see a purposeful trend emerging…. real “center” work. There are critics of “center” work because they feel that teachers can not control the learning. They claim that the variables are increased once the teacher is not at the center (no pun intended) of the instruction. I see something very different.


Purposeful centers in elementary school allow teachers to differentiate learning, integrate technology, and  even reach the goals of the common core. As teachers circulate throughout the room, or conference with individual students the learning opportunities become magnified. Students can work on projects collaboratively while other students could work on remediating their skills, while others can make connections to prior knowledge. To the casual observer, it may appear that the teacher is not “teaching” when in reality there are more engaged learning because it is personalized.



Guided differentiation can empower the learner

Guided differentiation can empower the learner

I do feel that whole group instruction is essential but I do not feel that teachers need to spend the entire lesson being the focal point of the learning. By empowering students to own their learning, and providing opportunity to do so in a purposeful manner, breaking students into “centers” can be an excellent opportunity.

Super Bowl: Winners and Losers (33:365)



In a few short hours approximately 140 million people from all over the world will watch Super Bowl 48. I will be one of them, but in doing research for this post, I came across some interesting statistics that made me feel we are not all winning with this game. I had to compare (some might say a major leap) this event with my occupation as a school principal.


The NFL is a “tax exempt” or non-profit league that generates about 10 billion dollars annually. In addition, when building their stadiums, tax payers (like you and I) have to foot the bill. An average stadium costs the tax payers about 200 million. Yikes. Not to mention the billions of dollars that the major networks pay to the NFL in order to broadcast these events makes me shake my head.


In education, we have been the subject of political, budgetary debates throughout the country. Teachers and administrators are often vilified in the press for their rising salaries, health care, work day, and even work year. School districts struggle to update, repair or (gasp) build new schools. The school I work in was built in 1929 and I am unable to have students with special needs, handicapped or temporarily handicapped (think: broken legs). The oldest NFL stadium was built in 1924 (Soldier Field) but was renovated in 2001-03 financed by, in large part, the taxpayers. Granted, the Chicago Bears will pay rent on the building, and like all of the big stadiums, the city will host other events that can generate money. Hey, I could start charging the local sports teams that use my gym on the weekend…. Hmmm?


So what is the message we are sending here? Who are the winners and losers?


Interesting article on NFL and taxes 

Go ahead and throw that snowball! (32:365)



Have I mentioned on this blog before how much I love my school? Well I do and it is because of the wonderful, creative minds on the staff that inspire me daily. Each month we have a Bear Bucks store for our PBIS program. Students who earn Bear Bucks for being safe, responsible, and respectful are given choices where they want to spend their bucks. We always have Bacon Bear gear in the store, or little trinkets for the kids. In addition, we have started to provide another choice…. the Bear Buck Challenge. Since we instituted the challenge, kids have been able to throw pies in my face, pick up rigatoni with spaghetti, and even blow bubbles across the gymnasium. We try to make the challenge something that kids will talk about, and look forward to participating in the following month. Part of the catch with this challenge, is that the kids have no idea what it will be. There is risk involved.




This month, our team came up with the “Winter Wonderland Challenge.” With all the snow that is still lying around our school, and rising temperatures (finally out of freezing) we set up 4 targets and allowed the kids to throw snowballs! How many schools actually let their kids throw snowballs? I know for a fact that no one ever encouraged them to throw a snowball on school property. I am sure in 85 years my school has been in session, many a kid got suspended for throwing snowballs. Well, when it is done in a structured manner, what is the harm? The kids (and the staff who participated) loved it! They were so excited. It wasn’t as easy as they thought because on 11 of the 80 who participated actually won. Once again, as a school we won! The challenge cost no money, and it just took a little outside the box thinking to institute.


For me the true test of the challenge was at dismissal. I stood at my normal post, and I saw kids running to their parents to talk about the challenge. “We actually were allowed to throw snowballs,” one kid said to their parent.


And not one student threw a snowball during dismissal.
Video of the Challenge:

One month down… (31:365)

Can you believe that January 2014 is over today? We are 1/12 through 2014. How are the New Year’s Resolutions? New gym memberships? Diet? Now is not the time to quit. There is many more miles to go.


Let’s here from some inspirational people. Maybe you can take one of these quotes and share it with someone who needs it. Or, it could help you achieve your goals for 2014.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Thomas A. Edison


Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.
Ella Fitzgerald


You never know where your influences are going to come from, or where you’re going to find your inspiration.
Page McConnell

Keep up the great work and remember, “To the world you might be one person, but to one person you may be the world,” Bill Wilson.



The Great Kindness Challenge (30:365)

This week our school participated in the Great Kindness Challenge. Our guidance counselor, Amy Spanbauer, and our PBIS aide, Kim Berry, organized the week.

The Great Kindness Challenge is a proactive and positively powerful anti-bullying tool. It is one week devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible in school, at home and in the community. All kids deserve to learn in a safe, supportive and dynamic environment. The Great Kindness Challenge provides a powerful tool that actively engages students, teachers, administration, families and community in creating a school culture of acceptance, tolerance, unity and respect.

During 3rd, 4th and 5th grade lunches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we had a Kindness Station set up in the cafeteria. This station was set up with various art supplies so the students could use part of their lunch period to make a card expressing their thanks to someone special to them.

During the assembly on Monday, the students were treated to a movie starring some teachers and administrators who were inspired by the challenge.


The entire week was exceptional and I hope that everyone continues to spread kindness.

The twitter inspired post… (29:365)

Every once in awhile I am going to turn to a random tweet and respond on the blog. For this one, I closed my eyes, scrolled down through my personal feed and pointed.


And the winner is…..  Derek McCoy who tweeted “How do parents think educational screen time effects learning? The link was to an article in Mind/Shift by Tina Barseghian.


There was a survey of 1,577 parents of kids ages 2 – 10. According to the results, there were some interesting findings.

Parents surveyed said they considered nearly half (44 percent) of their kids’ screen media use as educational. That amounts to 56 minutes out of a total 2:07 screen media per day. And more than half (57 percent) say their kids are actually learning from the educational media they consume, and take action after consuming it. For example, about a third of kids engage in imaginative play, and more than a quarter ask questions about what they watched or played, though only 18 percent asked their parents to plan a project or an activity inspired by that media. But as kids get older, their habits start to change — away from consuming more educational media.


I found it interesting that TV is still considered king. In my house, the kids (ages 6 and 9) are mostly watching their content on their personal learning devices (ipod and ipad). The content is usually created by other kids who are not in the “industry.” The article also discusses the similarities and differences of those surveyed by race and economic status. In the conclusion, there are some interesting graphs from the Cooney Center.


Thanks again to Derek for tweeting the article and winning the first “twitter inspired post.”

Top 5 Reasons to Start Blogging (28:365)

Do you think everything as already been said? Fear you have no time? Don’t know where to start? We have all been there, but in the 21st century we need to create digital content. How are you going to expect others (teachers, supervisors, students, parents) to do it but you don’t?


Let’s start with the why (I will share the how in another post)

1. The ability to share your learning with your Professional Learning Network (PLN)

2. To inspire others

3. To highlight the great things happening in your district, school, classroom or club/sport

4. To model the tenets of a 21st century learner

5. Because it can be fun and cathartic at the same time!


Turn the obstacles into opportunities!