College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

Authors Posts by JFY Networks

JFY Networks

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What educators can learn from the Red Sox, Good of the Student

Humans do not always perform according to algorithm

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

The Red Sox won the World Series this fall for the fourth time in fourteen years. If any of my friends had told me in 2003 that the Red Sox would collect four World Series championships in the next decade and a half, I would have told them they were crazy. (Disclosure: I strongly believe most of my friends to be crazy anyway.)

Championships do not happen by fluke. The cosmic forces of the universe have to align to create just one instance when a team is permitted to accomplish such a feat. Okay, having great talent helps: but the team with the most talented players does not always win– and often does not. It takes a myriad of little things to make a championship happen. A former boss of mine used to preach to the staff: “Worry about the little things. Big things take care of themselves.” For the Red Sox, those little things began on the very first day of Spring Training. For us fans in the world of education, there are lessons to be learned here.

Communication

From the very first day, manager Alex Cora made his philosophies and strategies clear to his players. Much of it had to do with rest. He was preparing the team not just for the 162-game season but for a deep playoff run as well. He made this clear to the players and communicated days in advance when a player was to have a scheduled day off. When Xander Bogaerts received such a text during the first week of the regular season he replied, “You really weren’t kidding about those days off?”

Communication is vital to the success of any endeavor. When an administrator issues a blanket policy to teachers without explanation or any type of logic, it can cause a backlash among the staff. The same thing goes for a teacher to students: if students do not understand why the classroom is run the way it is, or why they are doing an assignment, they may not fully buy in. Complete buy-in was essential for the Red Sox. Alex Cora’s players would run through walls for their manager by mid-season. Many were at that point much earlier. He gained their trust and he had a plan. Which, it turned out, worked exactly the way he intended.

For the good of students, it takes a team

Right vs Wrong

Cora could seemingly do no wrong during the playoffs. His moves were inscrutable. Brock Holt was the first player ever to hit for the cycle in the playoffs. He was pulled from the lineup the next night. Eduardo Nunez pinch-hitting for Rafael Devers? Three-run home run! But there were times during the season, and even once in the playoffs, when Cora admitted a mistake. “The game got a little bit ahead of me,” was a line he used more than once during the season. He frankly admitted leaving Eduardo Rodriguez in for one batter too many in World Series Game 4, resulting in a three-run homer. Shades of Grady Little.

A manager admitting a mistake was unusual and refreshing. It earned him respect from fans and the media alike. Administrators and teachers are much like managers and coaches: we hate to admit when we’ve made a mistake. But teachers will have great respect for an administrator who concedes that an idea of his wasn’t exactly what the school needed; and students will respect a teacher who admits that “The class got a little bit ahead of me. ” It is usually abundantly obvious to both teachers and students when mistakes are made. Not admitting them demonstrates a lack of humility and can even project a sense of arrogance. No one is buying in when arrogance rears its ugly head.

Trust Instincts

Cora and the crew who crunch numbers for the team did an outstanding job behind the scenes. Cora had a wealth of information about his own players and the opponents for each game. But every once in a while, he played a hunch rather than going strictly by the numbers. There is a quirky human factor in the game of baseball, and sometimes things happen that make absolutely no statistical sense.

In education, the wealth of standardized testing delivers ample data for teachers and administrators. But as professional educators, we know our students. Teachers and even administrators are human, and humans do not always perform according to algorithm. The people in the trenches and on the front lines know their students best, and know when to let instinct trump statistics. The hunch played in a classroom can result in an academic grand slam for a student.

Listen

Early in the season, J.D. Martinez made the unprecedented request to have his batting practice sessions videotaped so he could analyze them. It did not take long for all the players to request the same thing and suddenly the team had a new resource to improve hitting.

Administrators may find that the best ideas come from teachers, and teachers can discover a new idea or method of presenting material by listening to students. If the staff and students have truly bought in to the goals set for the school, everyone has a stake in the game and everyone will find a way to contribute.

Best for the Team

One of the best moments of the World Series came in the middle of the ninth inning. For the entire playoff run, the pitching staff threw their concerns about protecting their arms out the window. Players who threw over 100 pitches one day were volunteering to pitch the next. Immediately after the 18 inning Game 3 marathon, Alex Cora had no less than four pitchers in his office volunteering to start game 4. One of them was Nathan Eovaldi who had just finished throwing 97 pitches in more than six innings of relief.

In the ninth inning of Game 5, Chris Sale, the originally announced starter, began warming up in the bullpen. As the bottom of the ninth began, the bullpen door opened and all the pitchers lined up and applauded Sale as he entered the game. It was a sight even veteran baseball fans had never seen. Most players want the ball, and while they may never admit it, they get a bit jealous when another pitcher gets the call. This group were all about what was best for the team. They checked their egos at the bullpen door.

Our focus as educators always has to be on the good of the students. It can be hard to focus on the task in front of us and not stew about the colleague who has an easier schedule or has students who are more focused and teachable. Borrowing a page from the Patriots playbook, everyone on the 2018 Red Sox did their job and showed no qualms about the assignments handed to other teammates. The result was another duck boat parade.

It takes an entire organization to shepherd a team to success. From the very top down, everyone must find a way to buy in, trust each other, and always focus on the common good. It isn’t easy. It takes a very special type of leadership to foster such trust and commitment—even when it takes until 3:30 a.m. to see the results. The more students find ways to make great plays, the more teachers can celebrate, and administrators can plan for the duck boat parade.

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JFY Partner School Spotlight

Sometimes We Need to Be Reminded…
… that our schools are full of great kids, hard-working and creative teachers, overworked and underappreciated administrators, and effective programs.

Read more about some of these outstanding people, schools and communities in our series: Spotlighting JFYNetWorks Partner Schools… November 2018 edition.

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#GivingTuesday 2018

Donate to Help a Student Today

 
 

#CollegeCareerReadiness through #BlendedLearning

College and Career Readiness is LIFE READINESS.

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Enter Connected, Hyperlinked Students

Reaching and teaching the hyperlinked student

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I recently had a conversation with one of the teachers I work with about a course she is teaching this year. The content is intriguing, relevant and full of rigor. It has to do with social media, networking, media bias, and how we humans are adapting to these rapid changes. It is a course I would have been dying to get into in high school or college.

I left the conversation excited for, and slightly envious of, the students who would be part of this class experience. Over the subsequent weeks I have thought a lot about the course and read some of the materials the teacher shared with me. It’s easy to see the relevance to the world we’re living in.

Phones are an issue for virtually every school. There are policies in place, but students can always maneuver around policies. It’s what teenagers do best. Schools block sites and have secret passwords for Wi-Fi, but kids always manage to outflank the defense.

As the adult in the room who needs students to pay attention, I struggle with the reality that everyone is connected all the time. The question now seems to be: how do we, as educators, capitalize on the connectedness that students live in?

I am of the generation that is still awestruck at the amount of power we have in our pockets. I marvel that I can access a calculator, look up a math formula, find articles on Darwin’s theory of evolution, read or listen to a book, and even talk to someone– all on the same small hand-held device.

I know it’s old news. Having this technology in our pocket is commonplace and has been for years. But we are still in the early stages of learning how to navigate and manage all that information, teaching people how to navigate it well, and understanding how it alters the way we interface with the world and process information.

It’s a new school year. New classes are meeting and there’s excitement in the air. I am eager to learn about and see firsthand the innovations our teachers will produce. Teaching is not a flat transmission of information. It’s the creation of a physical and mental space where curiosity can flourish, and discovery can unfold.

School is in session.


Related ‘3rd party’ content worth sharing
U.S. Teachers See Digital Devices as Net Plus for Education
Gallup Panel web study published 4/2018

The Advantages of Using Electronic Gadgets in Teaching in School
Classroom.com, 7/2018

Debating the Use of Digital Devices in the Classroom
Concordia University-Portland, updated 7/2018

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Frederick Wiseman, When gods walk the earth

Frederick Wiseman, Chronicler of the Western World

by Gary Kaplan, Unbounded Fan of ‘Fred’

I was at a conference this morning and felt the need for another cup of coffee. The conference was in a lecture room at the front of the building and the food in another room at the back. I sat for a few minutes debating whether to make a spectacle of myself by exiting the room. Caffeine withdrawal finally settled the issue and I slid as silently as possible out of the lecture room and into the corridor. I tiptoed to the rear of the building, decanted my cup of brew, and headed back toward the front. All this, from the first caffeine craving to the return, took perhaps four minutes. Just as I approached the doorway back into the lecture room, a diminutive figure emerged from another doorway and came toward me down the carpeted corridor. It was a small old man with cameras strapped all over his slight frame. Recognition was instantaneous. “Fred!” I blurted. “What are you doing here?” As if it was any business of mine, and as if he knew me from a hole in the wall.

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JFY Partner School Spotlight

Sometimes We Need to Be Reminded…
… that our schools are full of great kids, hard-working and creative teachers, overworked and underappreciated administrators, and effective programs.

Read more about some of these outstanding people, schools and communities in our series: Spotlighting JFYNetWorks Partner Schools… October 2018 edition.

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Language Arts and Math

Two disciplines with a common purpose

by Cathie Maglio, blended learning specialist

Ever since fifth grade I wanted to be a math teacher. I fell in love with the subject at that point and never wavered from it.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in math, I knew I wanted a master’s degree but didn’t know in what. It took twenty years to find the right program, a Masters of Education with a concentration in Technology in Education at Lesley College (now University). The program was being offered at a local school one week-end a month for 22 months.

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Minding the Gap… GAP Year that is

Should you take a year off after high school?

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

If you’re a senior, you are probably thinking about college. The traditional pattern has been to attend college right after high school, but many students now are taking a year off before enrolling in college. The so-called “gap year” got a lot of attention when Malia Obama decided to wait a year before attending Harvard. Her decision attracted both praise and criticism. Was it a good decision? Let’s examine the gap year option.

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Astronomy in the Fenway

Reading the Red Sox’ Stars

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

    “I’m amazed you can see Venus with all the lights around Boston,” my friend Tyler commented as we walked back to the car after a Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

    “That’s not Venus,” I assured him. “That’s Mars.”

    “It can’t be Mars. It’s too bright to be Mars.”

    “Actually, Mars is at its brightest point in 50 years right now. And the only time you can see Venus is right after sunset or right before sunrise. It’s too late for Venus.”

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Is access to literacy a constitutional right?

Of Literacy and Democracy

Is access to literacy a constitutional right?

by Eileen Wedegartner

On July 5, 2018, Thomas Birmingham and William Weld co-authored an opinion piece in the Boston Globe titled, “Mass. has to return to its high standards for education.” The former governor and senate president re-visited the 1993 Education Reform Act on its 25th anniversary, praising its successes and making an argument to raise the ante and not relax the push for high standards that has brought Massachusetts success in education.