Category Archives: Uncategorized

The One and Only Ivan

“At its heart, of course, an animal fantasy is as much about humans as it is about animals – about things we most fear and things we most love, about pain and sadness, but also about redemption and hope.”

“In Ivan’s story – both real and fictional – there is hope.”

“Children know all about sadness.  We can’ tide it from them.  We can only teach them.  We can only teach them how to cope with its inevitability and to harness their imaginations in the search for joy and wonder.”

“Nothing, nothing in the world, can do that better than a book.”

Katherine Applegate shared these words as she accepted the Newberry Medal in 2013.

My words, related to The One and Only Ivan, are: Read it!  Read it to kids of all ages, much like you have read Charlotte’s Web to children of all ages. Read it for yourself, too.   Give this book as a gift to readers, beginning readers and future readers.  This is a book for families to enjoy together – to read and reread The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.



The time is NOW to influence daily classroom practice


 The Reading Teacher Volume 66 pp. 520 – 530, 2013

“When I was a graduate student, one of my professors told us that it took 50 years for research findings to influence daily classroom practices! I recall that my peers and I were aghast at that thought. “Surely he is wrong. Surely he is too pessimistic,” we said to each other during our class break. Now, 40 years later, I tell my graduate students roughly the same thing.”

I was one of those grad students in the class break conversation with Dick (yes, he is Dick to me – he was in our wedding party). Too many students have not learned who could have learned.  The time is now to influence daily classroom practices in ways that will increase student learning!

Here is what Dick recommends and I agree with:

“It Is Not a Lack of Money That Prevents Us from Teaching Every Child to Read –

Before you throw up your hands and shout, “I’d love to provide what research says is necessary but we don’t have the money to do that,” let me point out a few money-saving opportunities that could well provide the money you don’t seem to have. The following is a list of fairly common instructional options that currently use the dollars (and time) that could be spent to provide the research-based instruction that all children deserve.

■ Eliminate workbooks—No study has ever identified completing workbook pages as effective practice (Anderson, Brubaker, Alleman-Brooks, & Duffy, 1985; Cunningham, 1982; Fisher & Hiebert, 1990; James-Burdumy et al., 2010; Lipson, Mosenthal, Mekkelsen, & Russ, 2004; Turner, 1995). In addition to having no evidence of producing positive effects on reading achievement, workbooks are consumable and thus an annual expense (Jachym, Allington, & Broikou, 1989) that we could tap to fund evidence-based practices.

■ Eliminate test prep—What test prep is good at is generating profits for the test publishers (Glovin & Evans, 2006). However, no research has demonstrated that test prep actually improves performance on standardized tests of reading development, much less fostered improved reading behaviors (Guthrie, 2002; Popham, 2001). Again, test prep produces annual expenditures that could be instead invested in research-based practices.

■ Eliminate paraprofessionals from instructional roles—Following the advice of the federal Title I program noted earlier, reducing annual expenditures for paraprofessionals also provides funds that could be invested in research-based practices.

■ Eliminate expenditures for computer based reading programs—Although computer-based reading programs have become this decade’s most popular educational fad, no research supports the expenditure of education dollars on computers, computer software, or computer-based reading curriculum (Campuzano, Dynarski, Agodini, & Rall, 2009; Slavin et al., 2011).

Eliminating money wasted on things that don’t really matter seems the most logical place to begin our effort to teach all children to read. In many schools, eliminating all of the aforementioned items from our current expenditures would provide between $250,000 and $500,000 annually to fund research-based instructional efforts. In addition, eliminating things that have never made a positive difference in reading outcomes would mean that we would also have time to implement the many research-based instructional improvements that all readers need.


We can change the future for struggling readers. However, to do so requires that we rethink almost every aspect of the instructional plans we currently have in place. What benefits children who struggle with learning to read the most is a steady diet of high-quality reading lessons, lessons in which they have texts they can read with an appropriate level of accuracy and in which they are also engaged in the sort of work we expect our better readers to do.

The instruction we currently provide struggling readers too often focuses on isolated lessons targeting specific skill deficits. Too often these lessons involve the least powerful instructional options as we expect struggling readers to complete worksheet after worksheet, skill lesson after skill lesson, and engage them in round robin oral reading activities. We’ve known for two decades that when classroom reading lessons for struggling readers are meaning focused, struggling readers improve more than when lessons are skills focused (Knapp, 1995). Nonetheless, skills-focused instruction still dominates the lessons we offer struggling readers.

One thing that every educator who reads this article might do is to respond to each of the following characteristics of research-based reading lessons for struggling readers:

■ Do we expect our struggling readers to read and write more every day than our achieving readers?

■ Have we ensured that every intervention for our struggling readers is taught only by our most effective and most expert teachers?

■ Have we designed our reading lessons such that struggling readers spend at least two-thirds of every lesson engaged in the actual reading of texts?

■ Do we ensure that the texts we provide struggling readers across the full school day are texts that they can read with at least 98% word recognition accuracy and 90% comprehension?

■ Does every struggling reader leave the building each day with at least one book they can read and that they also want to read?

We can teach virtually every child to read. Now the question that we face is this: Will we use what we know to solve the problems faced by the children who struggle to become readers? Unless you were able to respond positively to each of the five questions just posed, then there is work to be done. However, the time has come to recognize that struggling readers still exist largely because of us. If every school implemented the interventions that researchers have verified and if every teacher who is attempting to teach children to read developed the needed expertise, struggling readers would all learn to read and become achieving readers. However, it remains up to us, the educators, to alter our schools and our budgets so that every child becomes a real reader. I hope we are up to the challenge.”

The quotes above are from the article: WHAT REALLY MATTERS WHEN WORKING WITH STRUGGLING READERS by Richard L. Allington from The Reading Teacher, Volume 66, pp. 520 – 530, April  2013


From a Competitive Contest to a Collaborative Learning Experience

Jeremy Rifkin is a best-selling author and one of the most popular social thinkers of our time.  In his book: The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis he presents a picture of our current civilization and questions the future if, in fact, citizens of the world do not become more empathic.

Here is his challenge: “The most important question facing humanity is this: Can we reach global empathy in time to avoid the collapse of civilization and save the earth?”

As he explores that question he looks at the role education is currently playing and could play in the future related to contributing to a more empathic world.

He writes: “New teaching models designed to transform education from a competitive contest to a collaborative learning experience are emerging as schools attempt to catch up to a generation that is grown up on the Internet and is used to interacting and learning in open social networks where they share information rather than hoard it.

Those educational innovations are helping to nurture a more mature empathic sensibility. The traditional assumption that ‘knowledge is power’ and is used for personal gain is being subsumed by the notion that knowledge is an expression of the shared responsibilities for the collective well-being of humanity and the planet as a whole.

Early evaluations of student performance in the few places where the new empathic approach to education has been implemented show a marked improvement in mindfulness, communication skills, and critical thinking as youngsters become more introspective, emotionally attuned, and cognitively adept at comprehending and responding intelligently and compassionately to others.”*

As an educator and as a citizen of the world, I see a great need for collaboration. From my point of view, citizens of the world will need to listen to and understand each other as we embrace the challenges of the future.  We will need to think together.

*The quotes taken from Jeremy Rifkin’s book can be found on pages 3 and 15


Organizational Development – Quote Bank 2


1.    Coming together is a beginning

      Keeping together is progress.

        Working together is success.
        — Henry Ford

The strength of the team is each individual member…the strength of each member is the team.   — Phil Jackson3.    Effective teamwork will not take the place of knowing how to do the job or how to manage the work. Poor teamwork, however, can prevent effective final performance. And it can also prevent team members from gaining satisfaction in being a member of a team and the organization.  – Robert F. Bales4.    The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.   – B. B. King5.    One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.—Robert E. Quinn6.    People don’t resist change.  They resist being changed.  – Peter Senge7.    Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm.  — Peter Drucker8.    A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.  — David Gergen9.    Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.  — Harriet Beecher Stowe10.    If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.—Andrew Carnegie11.    Leaders who make it a practice to draw out the thoughts and ideas of their subordinates and who are receptive even to bad news will be properly informed. Communicate downward to subordinates with at least the same care and attention as you communicate upward to superiors.—L. B. Belker12.    You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.—Lee Iacocca13.    The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality; The last is to say thank you.  In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.—Max De Pree

Adaptive Leadership

Roland Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky in their book – The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (2009 p 13-17) write about how Adaptive Leadership has roots in evolutionary biology.  I think they make a lot of sense and I share some of their thoughts for you to consider.

Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive. Successful adaptations enable a living system to take the best from its history and the future.

The concept of thriving is drawn from evolutionary biology, in which a successful adaptation has three characteristics:

  • it preserves the DNA essential for the species’ continued survival;
  • it discards (reregulates or rearranges) the DNA that no longer serves the species’ current needs: and
  • creates DNA arrangements that give the species’ the ability the floors in new ways and in more challenging environments.

Successful adaptations enable a living system to take the best from its history into the future.

What do these concepts of evolutionary biology suggest for adaptive leadership?

~  Adaptive leadership is specifically about change that enables the capacity to thrive. – New environments and new dreams demand new strategies and abilities, as well as the leadership to mobilize them.

~  Successful adaptive changes build on the past rather than jettison the past. – More than 98 percent of our current DNA is the same as that of a chimpanzee: it took less than a 2% change of our evolutionary predecessor’s genetic blueprint to give humans extraordinary range and ability. A challenge for adaptive leadership, then, is to engage people in distinguishing what is essential to preserve … and what is expendable.  Successful adaptations are both conservative and progressive.

~  Organizational adaptation occurs through experimentation. Those seeking to lead adaptive change need an experimental mind-set.  They must learn to improvise as they go, buying time and resources along the way for the next set of experiments.

~  Adaptation relies on diversity.  In evoluntionary biology, nature acts as a fund manager, diversifying risk.  Each conception is a variant, a new experiment, producing an organism with capacities somewhat different from the rest of the population. The secret of evolution is variation, which in organizational terms could be called distributed or collective intelligence.  For organizations, adaptive leadership would build a culture that values diverse views and relies less on central planning and the genius of the few at the top.

~  New adaptations significantly displace, reregulate, and rearrange some old DNA.  By analogy, leadership on adaptive challenges generates loss.  Learning is often painful. One person’s innovation can cause another person to feel incompetent, betrayed, or irrelevant.  Nobody likes to be “rearranged.”  Leadership therefore requires the diagnostic ability to recognize those losses and the predictable defensive patterns of response that operate at the individual and systemic level. 

~  New adaptation takes time. – Although organizational and political adaptations seem lightning fast by comparison with biological adaptations that occur – they also take time to consolidate into new sets of norms and processes. Adaptive leadership thus requires persistence. Significant change is the product of incremental experiments that build up over time. And cultures change slowly.”





“Medical studies show that participation in community service increases people’s sense of well-being and even their health; their immune system are actually strengthened by volunteer service. Community service is a tremendous opportunity for personal renewal and it enhances the community.” ~ The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Guide to Positive Change by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom, Second Edition, page 147.

When I think about this quote, I think about all of the needs that communities, cities, states, regions and countries have. In other words, I think about all the community service that is waiting to be done. And, I see it connect. I see that you and I can heighten our service to our communities and benefit in very tangible ways ourselves.

So, it sounds like a ‘win–win’ to me. What does sound like to you? Does it make sense that helping others can be good for you? Have you ever been involved in a meaningful community project that left you both feeling fulfilled and healthy?

What can you do with your reactions to the concept that community service increases people’s sense of well-being, their health and immune system? Are there actions you can deploy for the good of your communities and for others in the near future that will provide meaningful service?

Here is a question posed by the authors, Whitney and Trosten-Bloom (cited above) from the same source: “Dream into the future: your organization and your community have a wonderful mutual partnership.  What does this look like?  What three things might have been done to create this partnership?”

And here is a ‘dream’ question from me: Dream into the future and see yourself, your family, school and/or work place deeply connected to and committed to effectively servicing several community needs.  The outcomes are positive.  You, your family, school and/or work place are making a difference!  What does it feel like to be part of these positive outcomes?


Image by Hyrck via flickr.

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