Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How are you today? Well... it's a Monday...

How do you respond in your workplace when someone asks how you are doing in passing?  The choice of words we choose says a lot about us as an organization and us as a person.  What do we hope to accomplish when we reply with, "eh...okay, or, well... it's Monday..., or even, it's Friday, and it's almost over..." Does your response to this question depend on the day of the week?  

We are all dealing with our own issues outside of our organization.  These issues range from health issues, to loss of a loved one, or maybe it was extremely difficult to get your kids to daycare on that day.  These comments seem very subtle, but over time bring us down.  Negativity kills organizations. Rath & Clifton (2009) found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with - for good. They also found that 9 out of 10 people felt they were more productive when they were around positive people.  

It's amazing how a simple response can impact an organization.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We need to promote our profession!

I recently attended the joint boards meeting with Career and Technical Education, Education Standards and Practices Board, and representatives from our teacher preparation programs in the state of North Dakota.  We talked in great detail about how we prepare our teachers, and more importantly about the teacher shortage we are seeing in North Dakota.  Janet Welk the director of ESPB mentioned that we are seeing far less graduates from teacher prep programs than in years past.

The teacher shortage is a complex problem.  In years past we would get upwards of 30 applicants for an elementary position.  Last year we received a total of seven.  Why are we seeing less people go into this great profession?  I think there are a myriad of reasons why, but I believe it stems down to respect for the profession.  We as educators do not do a good enough job promoting teaching as a career option.  I have heard comments from teachers directed at some of our best and brightest questioning why they would want to be a teacher.  Unfortunately, they believe they can do more.  I even caught myself wondering why my second grade daughter wants to be an art teacher.

If we do not promote our profession we will continue to see a low applicant pool.  This may impact our ability to fill positions with high quality people.  We need our best and brightest to choose education.  Those are the types of people that we need to do this very difficult job.  Teaching cannot be seen as a back up career choice for young people.  We need to sell our profession and talk positively about it with students heading to college.  We need high quality people to enter this profession that are passionate, and motivated to change lives.

Teachers - talk highly about what you do! You have the hardest, yet most rewarding job in the world!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Get caught reading!

In a recent report out of the United Kingdom, Cleverdon (2014) found that children who did not enjoy reading by age 11 are more than likely to have fallen behind their peers in school.  Cleverdon also found that there was already a gap in early literacy levels by age three.  This gap was about a year and a half between low income and high income families. The foundation for literacy is built prior to the school years.  The report mentions, “What happens beyond the school gates and in homes is critical” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. viii). Reading to and with children is important for both parents, but according to the report fathers have a great deal of impact after their child has started school.  Cleverdon explained, “Children whose fathers read with them less than once a week at the age of five had, by the time they were seven, a reading level half a year behind those who had been read to daily” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. viii).  Fathers should be reading role models to their children.  According to Cleverdon, “Children whose fathers spend time with them and read with them do better at school, an impact which lasts into adult life” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. 32).  Just ten minutes a day can make a huge difference in your child’s literacy levels.

In my experience there are many children that do not want to be seen as a reader.  To them reading is not cool.  Cleverdon explains, “being a reader is seen as geeky, uncool and boring to some children” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. 23). Close to 20% of children involved in the study said they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading.  This statistic is a shame.  Reading should be something all children enjoy doing.  Children that are ages 8-11 who enjoy reading are four times more likely to read at their expected level.  Only 6% of children who never read out of school read at their expected level.  Cleverdon suggests that we need to celebrate the enjoyment of reading in all areas of our community.  As mentioned above, it is imperative that reading occurs outside of school.  Children should not view reading as a school thing.  It should be something that we as a community and a family encourage every day. 

When children are very young they are building their foundation for literacy.  These early experiences prior to school play a pivotal role in their early language development.  According to Cleverdon, “A two-year-old’s language development can strongly predict their reading skills on entry into school, as well as their later attainment” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. 25).  Income levels play a role in levels of reading.  20% of the children involved in this study from low income families went from advanced at age three to behind at age 11.  In contrast, children from higher income families who were behind at age three had a greater chance of being advanced by age 11.  Poverty and reading levels are linked. 

Good schools make an enormous difference in improving literacy levels of all students.  At Rugby Public School District for example we are using our teacher collaboration time to focus on literacy in the elementary setting.  Our teachers work together on Wednesday mornings to establish precise standards that we expect all children to achieve and master.  At Ely Elementary, in particular we have created literacy intervention blocks where teachers and para-professionals work together to meet the needs of all students.  At Rugby High School, we continue to improve our student responsibility block (SRB) at the end of the day to meet more needs.  During SRB on Friday our students read a book they are interested in.  Improving literacy levels should be a job for everyone.  Improving literacy cannot solely fall on the school, or the parent, support also needs to come from the community.  We need to make reading cool and support our young children in developing a strong foundation of early language development.  Modeling is one of the best things we can do as a community and as a parent.  Find a good book from our local library and get caught reading by your children, friends or community members.   


Cleverdon, J. D. (2014). Read on. Get on. London: Save the Children.