ILASCD Fall 2022 Journal

Page 45


Impact • Service • Advocacy Quarterly Journal
0ctober 2022 Balance

would enjoy

Common Core,


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Balance. I recently spent time in Colorado. As it was my first trip there, I had no idea that it was the mecca of all things balanced and beautiful. However, there is the belief that the concept of balance in nature is cliche rather than valid. But, as I look around, there is balance everywhere…stone on stone or the tiny wildflower gently grasping a cliffside. What is it about nature that gives us the impression that balance is so effortless? Perhaps the concept just needs to be differentiated into macro-balance and micro-balance.

From a macro-perspective, nature is always always in flux, changing and evolving because of natural events like weather and artificial influences in the name of progress. From a micro-perspective, it is the everyday phenomena that exist all around. The tiny flower maintaining its stronghold and the giant boulder perched so delicately on its base. So, what does all of this have to do with balance in our education ecosystem? The macro-balance is at

3 A Letter from the President Quick Links
Belinda Veillon, President
5 Whole Child 23 Book Review: Shifting the Balance 27 Resource Corner 30 A Sure B+E+T 36 Balancing Both Sides of the MTSS Triangle 41 Fit, Not Balance 45 Adjust the Ingredients 50 Leading PLCs with Balance 56 Finding the Right Balance 62 Strong Leaders’ Strategy 66 Tipping the Scale 72 Upcoming Events

ILASCD Leaders

Belinda Veillon, President

Akemi Sessler, Past President

Scott England, President-elect

Amy Warke, Treasurer

Debbie Poffinbarger, Media Director

Amy MacCrindle, Secretary

Ryan Nevius, Executive Director

Bill Dodds, Associate Director

Task Force Leaders: Membership & Partnerships

Denise Makowski, Andrew Lobdell Communications & Publications

Joe Mullikin, Jeff Prickett Advocacy & Influence

Richard Lange, Brenda Mendoza Program Development

Bev Taylor, Terry Mootz, Sarah Cacciatore, Dee Ann Schnautz, Doug Wood, Amie Corso Reed

A Letter from the President (cont.)

the system level, things over which there is little personal control, such as the unexpected crisis or applied influences like mandates. Not to mention, evolving student needs that can impact one’s ability to feel equilibrium. Shifting focus to micro-balance can more effectively support personal wellbeing and increase one’s capacity to face obstacles including the macro-balance obstacles that can lead to a feeling of powerlessness. Maintaining balance looks different for everyone, and is situational. Just as it is very different for the tiny flower and the large boulder. Relish in every accomplishment no matter how small. Recognize every triumph no matter how small. Seek and share wisdom. FInd partnerships and reach out as needed. Breathe. So simple, yet so profound.


Whole Child

Developing Growth Mindset Through Communication: Considering the Whole Child Tenets

Reflecting on a Growth Mindset

Foundational to mindset research is the premise that there are differences in human qualities and these differences can have substantial effects on the individual’s cognitive, behavioral, and overall well-being (Gucciardi et al., 2015). Dweck (2017) asserts an individual’s mindset can influence successful achievement outcomes as it transforms the individual’s psychology resulting in life changes. Having a growth mindset does not mean an individual can do or be anything, or that with proper motivation or education everyone has the capacity of becoming the next Mozart or daVinci. However, individuals with a growth mindset do believe the individual’s full potential is unknown. The limits of the individual are impossible to foresee given time, training, passion, hard work, and perseverance (Yeager & Dweck, 2012; Dweck, 2017). Bandura’s (1994) psychological concept of self-efficacy aligns with a growth mindset as he asserts individuals with high beliefs in their capabilities approach complex tasks differently than people with lower self-efficacy beliefs. Challenges are handled as tasks to be mastered rather than be avoided (Bandura, 1994).

Dr. Annette VanAken

Educators have the critical goal of supporting students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills to reach their unknown potential and become productive members of society. While curriculums and methodology approaches are available to support educators in addressing this goal, gaps within them require educators to have a deeper understanding of how distinct variables influence successful outcomes.

Differences in human qualities, specifically mindset is one variable garnering much attention in educational research over the past decade. Opposing views of mindset suggest a fixed idea in which individual human behaviors and

Yeager & Dweck, 2012). According to the literature, individuals with growth mindsets are more likely to achieve success, as they believe in their own capacity to develop through hard work, good strategies, and instruction from others (Blackwell et al., 2007; Dweck & Leggett, 1998). Likewise, their behaviors lead to successful academic outcomes, as they persist through challenges, question, and act on constructive feedback (Valentine et. al., 2004).

Why Communication is Relevant to Growth Mindset

Reflecting on the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of growth

intellectual abilities are unchangeable (fixed mindset) or a malleable mindset, indicating that behaviors and intellect can be development (growth mindset) (Dweck, 2006). Recognition of the importance of an individual’s mindset, how they perceive their abilities and intellectual capacity, is not surprising. A growing body of literature shows that the mindset the individual holds influences their motivation and learning trajectories (Burnette et al., 2013;

mindset is a first step for the educator in improving their practices. During this exercise, the educator should consider specific factors within teaching and their function in fostering a growth mindset. A factor of importance is the educator’s mindset as it impacts the educator’s practices which can directly influence the child’s mindset (Rattan et al., 2012; Stipek et al., 2001). Analyzing educational practices, the examination of educators’ communication with children

Whole Child (cont.)
...educators’ comments to children have the potential to influence children’s mindsets about themselves (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).

and the power their feedback has as a communication loop to change mindsets is necessary. Although the educator’s mindset is not directly transmitted to the child, the words and non-verbal behaviors of the educator guide the process of learning and focusing the child on their abilities and performance (Haimovitz & Dweck, 2017). Therefore, educators’ comments to children have the potential to influence children’s mindsets about themselves (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).

Reflecting on how receptive and expressive communication plays a crucial role in the intentional/planned instructional practices, as well as the responsive situational interactions with children, impacts the development of mindset is essential. From the sociocultural perspective, children construct new knowledge through their attempts to communicate with the world around them (Otto, 2018). As a social construct, communication requires the educator to engage children in a communication loop that is interactive rather than passive. Communication skills, through both non-verbal and verbal conversational means, allow children to share information about their physical, social, and psychological needs, as well as demonstrate their level of contextual understanding. These conversations are an important component in the child’s demonstration of social rules

and knowledge surrounding language use and interactions as well as their understanding of the conversational content (Sims et al., 2019). In addition, research indicates the varied speech utilized (Tomasello, 2003), and the quality and amount of language used by adults relate to differences in children’s language proficiency development with long-term academic implications (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2005). Therefore, not only does specific language during communication with children have implications for the child’s future success, but the methods in which the communication is delivered have the potential to alter their mindset.

Supporting Growth Mindset Through Daily Communication

A key tool educators utilize within their daily practices is language: non-verbal and verbal, receptive and expressive. Research indicates educators’ practices shape children’s mindsets (Sun, 2015; Canning et al., 2019; Muenks et al., 2020). Ng (2018) proposes that feedback from educators related to mindset can have an observable impact on students’ attitudes and motivations transferring to long-term outcomes. Since motivation is relevant to an individual’s intrinsic desire to learn and obtain information (Ng, 2018) and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997) educators should ensure their non-verbal and verbal language


communicates a growth mindset (Zeeb et al., 2020). The messages educators provide, through daily communication to children influence whether the child

the educator and their students, as the educator’s mindset and mindset practices are correlated (Canning et al., 2019; Muenks et al., 2020).

focuses solely on their performance or if their emphasis is on their growth and development. However, prior to reflecting on specific communication experiences, an initial step in the process of effectively supporting children’s growth mindset development is for educators to reflect on their own mindset beliefs. As an educator:

• Do you believe that intellect and talent are malleable?

• Do you view academic challenges and mistakes as opportunities for children to learn and develop their brains?

Often educators respond yes to these questions, however, the experiences, lessons, and communication they provide children may not align. Take the next step and explain how you communicate this in your daily messages to children. Spending time reflecting on all components of teaching might prove valuable to both

In general, Sun (2015) suggests that growth mindset educator’s practices include:

• teaching for understanding

• asking students to explain their thinking process regardless of whether they had the correct answer

• providing feedback to deepen student understanding of the topic, evaluating, praising the process of learning, explanations of thinking, the process towards the goal

• providing opportunities to revise thinking and/or work

• engaging the child in developmentally appropriate, explicit discussions about why mistakes are important, and struggles are part of the learning process

Through communication, the educator can create an environment where children understand that challenges, mistakes, and effort, are part of the learning process.
Whole Child (cont.)

Following an examination of the educator’s own mindset, an introspective investigate of their methods for engaging with children in non-verbal and verbal communication loop should occur. Critical to this investigation of the communication loop is the educator’s ability to motivate children (Haimovita & Dweck, 2017; Rege et al., 2020). Simply possessing a growth mindset does not mean this is transmitted to another individual. Motivating the child through communication to view themselves as a person with limitless potential will require the educator to create a social environment in which children thrive. Within the educator-child exchanges the feedback, dialogue, and non-verbal communication need to convey the message that challenges, perseverance, mistakes, struggles, and effort are part of the process of developing and reaching goals (Hooper et al., 2016; Dweck, 2017). The conversations should focus on and acknowledge specific strategies and growth in learning, therefore demonstrating the educator’s belief in the child’s ability to succeed. For these communication exchanges to be effective in supporting the child’s development of a growth mindset, the child needs to be actively engaged in the communication loop (Lewin & Gold, 1999; Haimovita & Dweck, 2017) and the educator needs to consider how the

child is receiving and interpreting the interactions (Hattie et al., 2016). Thus, mindset is constructed in an interaction process (Zhang, 2022), denoting the power of the communication loop.

Growth Mindset, Communication, and the Application to the Whole Child Tenets

Mindset is essential to the healthy well-being of the child as it shapes the learning and motivational processes (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). The educator plays a critical role since their direct and subtle communication can influence the child’s mindset (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).

By using communication effectively, the educator can support a child’s growth mindset. This requires the educator to reflect on their interactions with children to convey a belief in the child’s unknown potential. Children are naturally inquisitive; however, it is possible that some children lose this innate mindset explaining why a child becomes fearful of challenges (Haimovitz & Dweck, 2017). Yet, through explicit and intentional communication, the growth-minded educator has the opportunity to support the child’s belief that their abilities and intellectual capacity are unknown. Through communication, the educator can create an environment where children understand that challenges, mistakes, and effort, are part of the learning process. Therefore, changing the child’s


Whole Child (cont.)and effort, are part of the learning process. Therefore, changing the child’s approach and self-confidence when facing them (Boaler & Dweck, 2016).

approach and self-confidence when facing them (Boaler & Dweck, 2016).

Growth mindset educators use effective communication practices to interact with children in meaningful ways. Likewise, the growth-minded child understands that active engagement is expected during learning. Feedback given is only part of the communication loop as the child given the feedback expects to receive, respond, and then participate in a process of building and expanding the discussion. To encourage growth mindset development, the communication loop should be process and learning-goal-focused rather than ability and performance-goal-focused. Research indicates children that with are performance-goal-focused – fixed mindset, who receive feedback on mistakes, tend to view their mistakes as failures (Kamins & Dweck, 1999) often succumbing to helpless responses (Elliott & Dweck, 1988). While the growth mindset environment creates a safe space where mistakes are part of learning, thus children grow to be more resilient when facing setbacks and challenges (Elliott & Dweck, 1988).

Growth mindset educators use effective communication practices to interact with children in meaningful ways. Likewise, the growth-minded child understands that active engagement is expected during learning. Feedback given is only part of the communication loop as the child given the feedback expects to receive, respond, and then participate in a process of building and expanding the discussion. To encourage growth mindset development, the

communication loop should be process and learning-goal-focused rather than ability and performance-goal-focused. Research indicates children that with are performance-goal-focused—fixed mindset—who receive feedback on mistakes, tend to view their mistakes as failures (Kamins & Dweck, 1999) often succumbing to helpless responses (Elliott & Dweck, 1988). While the growth mindset environment creates a safe space where mistakes are part of learning, thus children grow to be more resilient when facing setbacks and challenges (Elliott & Dweck, 1988).

Application Supporting Growth Mindset Through Daily Communications Intentional and Situational Communication General Supportive Communication Traits ! Pay attention to the child’s response and how they are receiving and interpreting the information ! Engage in dialogic feedback activities to enhance learning ! Communicate at the child’s level of understanding and scaffold discussion to support higher levels of learning ! Support children in their thinking through issue rather than telling. ! Avoid controlling or commanding communication ! Do not make assumptions about what children might know about learning, pragmatics, or other behaviors ! Communication supports interactive discussions ! Communication demonstrates value of learning and development by showcasing growth ! Actively engage in discussions regarding characteristics of growth mindset learners ! Discuss how learners, try, work hard, meet challenges, persevere, make mistakes, ask questions, and see opportunities Application

Hard Work/ Meeting Challenges

Purpose Open Discussions

! Communicate how to reach goals and objectives.

! Refrain from simply telling children how to reach goals and objectives. Demonstrate your belief in their ability to achieve through actions and interaction in the goal planning process for achieving success.

! Utilize questioning to support continued effort rather than leading questions that directly supply the answers.

! Give opportunities ideas and avoid controlling or persuasive appeal (Zhang, 2022).


! Communicate that effort is part of the learning process.

! Look for opportunities to discuss the child’s effort. Acknowledge perseverance or remind the child that this is an expect part of learning.

! Respond with strategies and additional opportunities to improve the situation/learning experience.


! Communication should specifically connect to objectives, tasks, goals, strategies.

Mistakes ! Messaging supports perseverance and understanding of what was learned as part of the process.

! Praise the actions that connect to the child’s efforts, perseverance, and other behaviors, that led to movement in learning. Make the communication clear and explicit. General communication such as, good job, well done, and super often produces a fixed mindset (Haimovitz & Dweck, 2017).

! Have children discuss how and why struggle, effort, and various emotions such as frustration are expected and useful components of the learning process (Hooper et al., 2016).

! Provide feedback that supports the process instead of the child’s ability.

! Allow many opportunities for practice and feedback.



! Questioning accompanied with clear feedback, encourages further inquiry and lead to progress towards goals. It should help children know they are able to learn at high levels and support how to get there (Boaler & Dweck, 2016).

! While lower-level questioning (e.g. yes/no, single word response) is often used with children. Follow the lower-level question by asking children to rationalize, justify, and describe the response.

! Open-ended questions should be progress focused rather than performance focused contributing to the child’s progress in understanding.

! Model how asking questions supports understanding and can lead to progress in addressing challenges.

! Acknowledge children who use questions when faced with challenges (Campbell et al., 2020)


! Communicate through verbal and non-verbal language how learners expect to be active in the conversation.

! The volume, tone, expression, pauses, and gestures used during conversations communicate to the child your belief and can play a motivational role. Often educators use a correcting or controlling tone when asking questions (e.g. What should you have done instead?) without realizing the message this communicates to the child.

! Give children the time to think, process, problem solve, ask questions, and respond.

! Listen and respond to the message the child is receiving. This responsiveness is a foundation for building the relationship and active engagement in the communication loop.

Pragmatic/Social Rules

! Communicate how the learner listens, speaks, interacts, and behaves during a conversation.

! Discuss, model, and acknowledge critical social rules such as making eye contact, taking turns, engaging in a communication loop following rules for listening, speaking, and social interactions.

Whole Child (cont.)

ASCD. Whole child tenets. https://www.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). Academic Press.

Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246-263. j.1467-8624.2007.00995.x

Boaler, J., & Dweck, C. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: Unleashing students’ potential through creative math, inspiring messages, and innovative teaching. Jossey-Bass.

Burnette, J. L., O’Boyle, E. H., VanEpps, E. M., Pollack, J. M., & Finkel, E. J. (2013). Mind-sets matter: A metaanalytic review of implicit theories and self-regulation. Psychological Bulletin, 139(3), 655-701. https://doi. org/10.1037/a0029531

Campbell, A., Craig, T., & Collier-Reed, B. (2020). A framework for using learning theories to inform ‘growth mindset’ activities. International

Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 51(1), 2643. 9X.2018.1562118

Canning, E. A., Muenks, K., Green, D. J., & Murphy, M. C. (2019). STEM faculty who believe ability is fixed have larger racial achievement gaps and inspire less student motivation in their classes. Science Advances, 5(2), eaau4734. sciadv.aau4734

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House.

Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset. Updated edition: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Robinson. Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256-273. https://doi. org/10.1037/0033-295X.95.2.256

Elliott, E. S., & Dweck, C. S. (1988). Goals: An approach to motivation and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(1), 5-12.

Haimovitz, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2017). The origins of children’s growth and fixed

13 References

mindsets: New research and a new proposal. Child Development, 88(6), 1849-1859. cdev.12955

Hattie, J., Gan, M., & Brooks, C. (2016). Instruction based on feedback. In Mayer R. E., Alexander P. A.(Eds.), Handbook of research on learning and instruction (2nd ed. pp. 290-324). Taylor and Francis. https://

Hooper, S. Y., Haimovitz, K., Wright, C., Murphy, M., & Yeager, D. S. (2016). Creating a classroom incremental theory matters, but it’s not as straightforward as you might think: Evidence from a multi-level analysis at ten high schools. [Poster presentation]. Society for Research on Adolescence, Baltimore, MD

Gucciardi, D. F., Jackson, B., Hodge, K., Anthony, D. R., & Brooke, L. E. (2015). Implicit theories of mental toughness: Relations with cognitive, motivational, and behavioral correlates. Sport, Exercise, And Performance. Psychology,4(2), 100112. doi:10.1037/spy0000024

Kamins, M. L., & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Person versus process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental

Psychology, 35(3), 835-847. https://

Lewin, K., & Gold, M. (1999). Group decision and social change. In M. Gold (Ed.), The complete social scientist: A kurt lewin reader (pp. 265-284). American Psychological Association. https://doi. org/10.1037/10319-010

Muenks, K., Canning, E. A., LaCosse, J., Green, D. J., Zirkel, S., Garcia, J. A., & Murphy, M. C. (2020). Does my professor think my ability can change? students’ perceptions of their STEM professors’ mindset beliefs predict their psychological vulnerability, engagement, and performance in class. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 149(11), 21192144. xge0000763

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network. (2005). Pathways to reading: The role of oral language in the transition to reading. Developmental Psychology, 41(2), 428–442. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1037/0012-1649.41.2.428

Ng, B. (2018). The neuroscience of growth mindset and intrinsic motivation. Brain Sciences, 8(2),

Whole Child (cont.)

20. brainsci8020020

Rattan, A., Savani, K., Naidu, N. V. R., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Can everyone become highly intelligent? cultural differences in and societal consequences of beliefs about the universal potential for intelligence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(5), 787803. a0029263

Rege, M., Hanselman, P., Solli, I. F., Dweck, C. S., Ludvigsen, S., Bettinger, E., Crosnoe, R., Muller, C., Walton, G., Duckworth, A., & Yeager, D. S. (2020;2021;). How can we inspire nations of learners? an investigation of growth mindset and challengeseeking in two countries. The American Psychologist, 76(5), 755767. amp0000647

Stipek, D. J., Givvin, K. B., Salmon, J. M., & MacGyvers, V. L. (2001). Teachers’ beliefs and practices related to mathematics instruction. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(2), 213–226. 4

Sun, K. L. (2015). There’s no limit: Mathematics teaching for a growth

mindset (Order No. 28120261). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2508005057).

Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Harvard University Press.

Valentine, J. C., DuBois, D. L., & Cooper, H. (2004). The relation between selfbeliefs and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review. Educational Psychologist, 39(2), 111-133. https://

Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47, 302–314. 520.2012.722805

Zeeb, H., Ostertag, J., & Renkl, A. (2020). Towards a growth mindset culture in the classroom: Implementation of a lesson-integrated mindset training. Education Research International, 2020, 1-13. https://doi. org/10.1155/2020/8067619

Zhang, J. (2022). What characterizes an effective mindset intervention in enhancing students’ learning? A systematic literature


review. Sustainability (Basel, Switzerland), 14(7), 3811. https://doi. org/10.3390/su14073811

Dr. Annette VanAken is an Associate Professor of literacy and early childhood education in the College of Education at Concordia University Chicago. Prior to joining Concordia, Dr. VanAken spent 19+ years in the classroom as an elementary educator, teaching grades Pre-K through 8th grade before earning her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Her interests include: early learning environments and assistive technology to enhance early learning experiences, early mathematics and literacy, as well as project-based learning.

Whole Child (cont.)

Whole Child

Finding Academic and Social-Emotional Balance: Supporting Gifted and Talented Learners

Gifted and talented learners are a population of students that possess complex social-emotional and academic needs that require support and fostering within the scholastic context. Educators must attend to the social-emotional and academic needs of gifted and talented learners to ensure that the needs of the Whole Gifted Child are met. Utilizing the Whole Child tenets, I discuss the Illinois Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ILASCD) Whole Child Tenets and contemplate how the tenets of supported and challenged can be used to support gifted and talented learners. Additionally, I discuss implications for teachers and administrators to consider to best support the socialemotional and intellectual needs of the Whole Gifted Child.

What is Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)?

Gifted and talented education (GATE) programming in elementary, middle grades, and high school classrooms educate exceptional children who demonstrate ability/ abilities (e.g., language, mathematics, artistic, etc.) that are well above the norm for their age. The purpose of a GATE program is to challenge high-ability learners in both regular classroom settings and in accelerated programs.


GATE services are designed to allow for the constant development of the gifted potentials of gifted and talented learners as they move through their years in school. Through GATE programming, educators and administrators are able to support gifted and talented students by providing them with educational experiences that will foster their cognitive, affective, and motivational growth and, ultimately, educate the Whole Gifted Child.

Defining Gifted and Talented Students

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) (2010) defines gifted students as individuals who demonstrate exceptional aptitudes to reason and learn. This includes students who have shown competence—documented performance or achievement in the top ten percent or rarer—in one or multiple domains in relation to national and/or local norms (e.g., language, mathematics, science, intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership) (NAGC, 2010).

Although students are compared against state and local norms when assessing their aptitudes in the various domains previously noted, it is important to acknowledge that giftedness is not a one-size-fits-all description. In fact, it is a misconception that giftedness is a trait that some individuals possess and others do not. Gifted children do not all look or

act alike; they have diverse characteristics that ought to also be considered by educators in an effort to help all learners reach their full potential and achieve to the best of their ability in GATE (NAGC, 2019). Additionally, since all gifted learners are not the same, it is important to consider the multi-dimensionality of gifted students to understand how we can educate the Whole Gifted Child to ensure that every learner feels supported and challenged in our GATE classrooms each day.

Why is it Important to Support the Whole Gifted Child?

To attend to the importance of educating the Whole Child, the NAGC Board of Directors created the Whole Gifted Child (WGC) Task Force to “present knowledge and research about the diversity of gifted children, their needs, development, and the importance of providing alternatives for their ongoing growth in school, home, and community” (NAGC, 2018, p. 2). The goals of this task force were the following: pinpoint what the field of GATE already knows about the multidimensional nature of gifted students, understand elements that may affect gifted students’ experiences, and conceptualize recommendations for stakeholders for how to develop the social-emotional, educational engagement and achievement, health,

Whole Child (cont.)

and well-being of students identified as gifted and talented (NAGC, 2018).

The ASCD Whole Child approach to education strives to “prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow by addressing

settings. Profoundly gifted children experience their emotions and social development in a way that can significantly differ from neurotypical children” (Davidson Institute, n.d., para. 2).

students’ comprehensive needs through shared responsibility of students, families, schools, and communities” (ASCD, 2013). To address this call, ASCD (2013) developed five Whole Child Tenets for promoting longterm student success—healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the Whole Child tenet— supported —to highlight how educators and administrators can actively work to support the Whole Gifted Child. Supported

“Being gifted is part of an individual’s identity and, as such, does not only apply to academic

According to the Whole Child Tenets, the tenet, supported, requires that “each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults” (ASCD, 2013). Understanding the socialemotional needs of gifted and talented learners is vital to being able to support these learners both intellectually and academically. The asynchronous development of gifted children make this understanding vital as

“their growth, academically, emotionally, physically, or socially, is not uniform. Profoundly gifted children in particular may be intellectually operating at a 10th grade level at age 9 but have

On an emotional level, gifted students tend to experience frustration as their intelligence is ahead of their physical and emotional development, causing these learners to lack the skills needed to cope with their emotions (Davidson Institute, n.d.).

not mastered riding a bike or handwriting at the same time” (Davidson Institute, n.d., para. 5).

On an emotional level, gifted students tend to experience frustration as their intelligence is ahead of their physical and emotional development, causing these learners to lack the skills to cope with their emotions (Davidson Institute, n.d.). Therefore, it is vital that educators are mindful of this reality when working with gifted learners to ensure that the socialemotional needs of these learners are supported within the classroom context.

The social development of gifted learners can be an area of struggle as well. The social development of gifted learners can be similar to their academic development and the struggles they encounter with that domain. These learners, oftentimes, are prepared for more mature friendships at an earlier age that their like-age peers, causing them to find frustration (Davidson Institute, n.d.). To support gifted learners, it is essential that educators help gifted students socially and emotionally by supporting them in finding

“the appropriate academic outlets [...] as gifted students may find like-minded peers once accelerated, through an academic [...] experience, or by engaging with a niche interest

and meeting others who share their passions” (Davidson Institute, n.d.).

Educators and Administrators: Supporting the Whole Gifted Child

Other areas of social-emotional struggles for gifted learners include areas like: perfectionism, heightened awareness, stress, or issues with peer relationships (NAGC, n.d.). It is viral that parents, educators, and administrators acknowledge these challenges and work to support gifted student well-being in these areas. In Figure 1 on the following page, you will find tips these various stakeholders can consider to support the social-emotional well-being of gifted learners.

According to NAGC (2014), giftedness is a complex phenomenon that impacts the development of the Whole Child. Therefore, it is important for educators, administrators, and other stakeholders to “work together to address the diverse academic, social, and emotional aspects of the development of children with gifts and talents” (NAGC, 2014, p. 1). Educators and administrators play an influential role in the lives and learning of gifted and talented students and it is vital for these stakeholders to foster the intellectual and academic abilities of these learners in an effort to help students reach their full potential. To assist in the education of

Whole Child (cont.)

the Whole Gifted Child, educators and administrators must attend to the reality that “seeing the child as an individual will allow us to look beyond academics” (NAGC, 2018, p. 13) and more fully understand and support the Whole Gifted Learner.

support gifted student well-being in these areas. In Figure 1 below, you will find tips these various stakeholders can consider to support the social-emotional well-being of gifted learners: Figure 1

The ASCD Whole Child Tenets offer valuable insights for educators and

administrators to consider when working to fully support the Whole Gifted Child. As we work to educate the Whole Gifted Child, it is vital that stakeholders understand and attend to the individuality of each learner as a human being to ensure that their academic, social, and emotional potential is fostered and that they are prepared for life beyond the classroom.

Tips for Supporting the Social-Emotional Well-being of Gifted Learners

Figure 1: Tips for Supporting the Social-Emotional Well-being of Gifted Learners

Parents Teachers and Administrators

● Offer enrichment opportunities in programs and activities outside of school (Davidson Institute, n.d.).

● Provide opportunities for children to interact with like-aged gifted learners (Davidson Institute, n.d.).

● Advocate for children and support educators in meeting the needs of their gifted child (Davidson Institute, n.d.).

● Promote an understanding of the needs of gifted and talented learners (Kentucky Department of Education, n.d.)

● Collaborate with colleagues on how to meet the learning needs of gifted students (Kentucky Department of Education, n.d).

● Encourage intellectual risk-taking and focus on student participation in learning as opposed to success or failure (Kentucky Department of Education, n.d).

● Support perfectionistic learners in developing realistic goals and goal setting (Kentucky Department of Education, n.d).

● Individualize discipline and lesson planning to align with the needs of a gifted learner (Kentucky Department of Education, n.d).

According to NAGC (2014), giftedness is a complex phenomenon that impacts the



ASCD (2013). Whole child initiative. http://

Callahan, C., Moon, T., & Oh, S. (2014). National surveys of gifted programs: Executive summary. http://www.nagc. org/sites/default/files/key%20 reports/2014%20Survey%20of%20 GT%20programs%20Exec%20 Summ.pdf

Davidson Institute (n.d.). Gifted social and emotional needs of gifted children. Davidson Institute. https://www.

Kentucky Department of Education (n.d.). Gifted and talented children: Addressing social-emotional challenges. Kentucky Department of Education.

NAGC (2018). Social & emotional issues. National Association for Gifted Children. resources-publications/resourcesparents/social-emotional-issues

NAGC (2018). The whole gifted child task force: Report to the NAGC Board of Directors. https://www.nagc. org/sites/default/files/key%20 reports/4.1%20WGC%20Task%20 Force%20Report.pdf

NAGC (2014). Collaboration among all educators to meet the needs of gifted learners. sites/default/files/Position%20 Statement/Collaboration%20 Among%20Educators.pdf NAGC (2011). Identifying and serving culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students. sites/default/files/Position%20 Statement/Identifying%20and%20 Serving%20Culturally%20and%20 Linguistically.pdf

NAGC (2010). Redefining giftedness for a new century: Shifting the paradigm. files/Position%20Statement/ Redefining%20Giftedness%20 for%20a%20New%20Century.pdf

Ramos, E. (2010). Let us in: Latino underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 17(4), 151-153.

Dr. Jenna Nelson is an Associate Professor of of Curriculum & Instruction and Assistant Division Chair for the Division of Curriculum, Technology, and Inclusive Education at Concordia University Chicago (CUC). Her current research is on curriculum and teaching practices for supporting culturally and linguistically diverse learners in gifted and talented education.

22 References
Whole Child

Book Review

Shifting the Balance

As educators, most of our answers to “why education?” revolve around our ability to grow and empower the students we serve. It’s easy to lose sight of this focus as we passionately advocate our beliefs. Currently, many literacy teachers feel a struggle with what some call “the reading wars”—the two different positions on how to best teach literacy. Taking a step back to view the approach through a lens of what is best for students removes the struggle and refocuses our work. This is exactly what Burkins and Yates (2021) do in Shifting the Balance, using research, tested practices, and student achievement

data to support their theories. This book serves as a bridge to demonstrate how balanced literacy and the science of reading can collaborate through six shifts in instruction.

An opening quote states,

“Chances are there are children experiencing reading difficulties in your own school, as well. And probably, if your data is reflective of historic and national trends, a disproportionate number of the children having reading difficulties are children of color, and/ or from marginalized communities” (Burkins and Yates, p. 1).

Click the cover to view on Amazon

Their discussion is centered around a focus on equity, reminding educators that we are called to provide students what they need, when they need it. To begin this conversation, the authors encourage readers to commit to the six commitments provided in Figure 1. I invite you to reflect on this conversation and how these six commitments might enhance your current practices and awareness to help grow your support of the students that you serve.

The Shifts

The book is organized by chapters focused on the six shifts to guide the work. Each chapter includes common misunderstandings that are unpacked using the science of reading research, the chapter then hones in on easy to implement instructional practices for classrooms. The authors provide high impact instructional routines that are simple to implement and that have received positive student response. A summary of each of the shifts, as well as quotes to support the shift, are included in the Figure 2 table on the following page.

Book Review (cont.) FIGURE 1

Shift Explanation

Shift 1: Rethinking How Reading Comprehension


Oral language development is crucial for our readers in order for their comprehension to grow.

Quotes to Support the Shift

“It means that in the early years, while children are learning to read—with texts that are necessarily well below their listening comprehension capacity—we must have an eye toward the future, focusing on stretching the limits of listening comprehension through oral language development and knowledge building.” —page 21

Shift 2: Recommitting to Phonemic Awareness

It is integral to ensure explicitly phonemic awareness instruction occurs in the classroom.

“In fact, research confirms that a lack of strong phonemic awareness is a contributing factor to the majority of reading difficulties. But the reverse is also true: with early and intentional instruction in phonemic awareness, many reading difficulties can be avoided altogether.” — page 42

Shift 3: Reimagining ways to teach Phonics

Systematic phonics instruction is not “bad”.

There are 5 misunderstandings that need to be reconsidered to better understand its’ purpose. High-leverage, engaging instructional routines are essential.

“What really matters is a strong and researchinformed scope (what you will teach) and sequence (what order you will teach it), alongside solid instructional routines (how you will teach), whether homegrown or purchased.” —page 67

Shift 4: Revisiting High-Frequency Word Instruction

Automaticity is important in developing strong readers. High frequency word instruction should be connected to how decoding and phonics skills are reinforced.

“Although it is true that some high-frequency words are less decodable, or rule-governed, than others, all words have some degree of decodability, even the most irregular ones.” — page 93

Shift 5: Reinventing the Ways We Use MSV (Three-Cue System)

Students need to be led by the letters on the page first when it comes to reading an unknown word before using their sense and meaning making skills.

“It turns out the real value of decoding a word is not figuring out the word! The underappreciated yet critical value in any encounter with an unknown word, especially for beginning readers, is how it adds to children’s learned store of letters sequences, preparing them to read future words fluently.” —page 120

Shift 6: Reconsidering Text for Beginning Readers

Authentic decodable texts are powerful options to integrate into a student’s reading options. They allow students to practice the reading skills.

“But much of the benefit of independent reading can be lost if students don’t spend the majority of their time with texts that match their current skills as readers. Of course, even the most beginning readers can read trade literature, such as picture books and rich informational texts, in ‘other ways’— talking about illustrations and making up or retelling stories. It’s also critical, however that readers have lots of time with texts that set them up to ‘read all the words’.” —page 145

25Figure 2.


Shifting the Balance highlights that educators must be open to implementing these shifts to best support student literacy. Burkins and Yates share an invitational tone, partnering with the reader to help erase educational paradigms and a potential resistance to change. This allows readers the opportunity to reflect on the shifts that may need to occur. Impressively, Burkins and Yates display their own vulnerability, their journey of rethinking their beliefs on literacy instruction, which allows readers to challenge their own misconceptions and to also be vulnerable. As I continue to reflect on Burkins’ and Yates’ literacy shifts, I’m reminded that Adam Grant, in Think Again, stated, “the purpose of learning isn’t to affirm our beliefs; it’s to evolve our beliefs.” Take the chance and be open to shifting your thinking.

Amy MacCrindle, Ed.D. began her career teaching Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies, also serving as a Literacy Coach. She transitioned into administration, growing her experience as an Assistant Principal (MS), Principal (ES), Director of Literacy (PK-12), Director of Elementary Curriculum, and is now the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Learning & Innovation in Huntley District 158. Amy’s passion and expertise are in the fields of change management, curriculum and instruction, innovation, literacy, and school culture. She teaches as an adjunct professor in the fields of leadership, literacy, and EL learners. Follow Amy @ Amy_MacCrindle on Twitter!

Book Review (cont.)

Resource Corner


Parents, educators, and the broader community have a responsibility to support all children as they reach for their personal best. It is essential to support the growth and development of the whole gifted child including their intellectual, social, emotional, and physical domains.




While many districts and states have made improvements in identifying and serving a broader range of advanced students, there remains much to be done

THE SIX SHIFTS PODCAST Click HERE to learn more!
we focus only on what has been lost, we will miss an incredible opportunity to find new paths and passions in schools. READ MORE...


Resource Corner (cont.)
Regular check-ins with a trusted adult at school can help students set achievable goals to improve their behavior and take ownership of their success. READ MORE... WHY A POSITIVE CALL HOME IS WORTH THE EFFORT Best practices for making positive phone calls home a manageable, sustainable routine. READ MORE...


The science is clear: Drawing beats out reading and writing to help students remember concepts. Click to WATCH...


The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened longstanding inequities, highlighted the shortcomings of traditional approaches to academics and social-emotional learning and brought into stark relief schools’ broader social functions. READ MORE...


A Sure B+E+T: A Balanced Middle School Social Studies Curriculum that Prepares Students for the Uncertainty of Today and Tomorrow

As leaders, we work toward creating a balanced approach to literacy and a balanced approach to math, but few districts have designed a balanced approach to social studies. One of the reasons is that Social Studies is not a content area measured on standardized tests. As a Teaching and Learning Department in Mundelein District 75, we are hopeful we have found a balanced approach in middle school Social Studies with the formula: A Sure B+E+T

A: ASPIRE is our District’s Shared Vision Across the Mundelein Community

All learners in our community ASPIRE to be ready for today and prepared for tomorrow. We encourage students and support them to become Agile—adapting to any situation; Self-Assured— showing up, standing up, and/or speaking up; Proactive—making things happen; Information-Seeking—seeking, acquiring, and evaluating knowledge from multiple perspectives; Resilient— making the most of challenges and overcoming adversity; Empathetic—valuing the feelings of others by putting ourselves in their situation.

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Mrs. Erica Denman

B: Social Studies Instruction Using a Basal as a Core Resource

Having a core resource available to students in both Spanish and English provides a common understanding of content, geography, and people/culture, within an accurate historical timeline for history to make sense across both languages. The basal provides this background information, along with supplemental materials for students with different learning styles. Students should have the opportunity, regardless of language, to grapple with big questions and big ideas, based on facts.

For many students, formulating their own questions and drawing conclusions is a very challenging task. Figuring out

thousands of years of history, much of which may seem irrelevant to students’ current lives, is critical to the continuation of democracy. All students are a part of history which evolves each and every day. This current group of students is especially unique as history is evolving at a faster pace than ever before. Not only is change happening rapidly, but the reporting of information occurs within hours, if not minutes, of an event taking place. A basal can ground students in a frozen moment in time and allow them to understand that throughout dark periods in history, people found ways to survive and make things better. This approach is developmentally appropriate for adolescents. See our sample of Essential Questions & Supporting Questions Template below.

32 A Sure B+E+T (cont.)
TRIMESTER 1 UNIT 1: LAUNCH - Length of Unit: 5 Weeks ESSENTIAL QUESTION: What are the lenses and tools that are most needed to understand history, geography, civics and economics? Supporting Question 1 Supporting Question 2 Who am I? What influences how I view the world? How do we view events through different lenses? Formative Performance Task Formative Performance Task " Identity Chart " Bio Poem " Students take an “event” (For example, Field Day) and write it from 2 different points of view " Celebration: Students share and figure out the lenses that others have chosen to write in Featured Sources Featured Sources " Bio Poem lesson " Identity Lesson " Examining Events Through Multiple Lenses


A classroom environment that is safe and nurturing, where student voice

choice are valued is the essence of social studies instruction. It is a journey for students to learn how to formulate their own questions and hypotheses. Creating intentional small groups, individual and whole group

experiences that are inquiry-based and require students to work with multiple primary and secondary resources is critical in order for students to own their own learning. Strategies such as Socratic Seminar, debate, and fishbowl discussions allow the development of skills and habits needed to create hypotheses and to determine solutions

through multiple lenses. The

using the basal

a consistent

which to

these units

identified to ensure the

would maintain collaborative and interactive learning.


Classroom Environment
teacher as a facilitator and learner, while
resource, gives a framework from
jumpstart proactive classroom dynamics and powerful discussions. As
were developed, specific classroom structures were
Taking Action Taking action is essential for today and tomorrow, and it is a pillar of the Illinois Social Science Standards and the C3 Framework. As we nurture citizens for today and tomorrow, students need to learn what others have done throughout TRIMESTER 1 UNIT 1: LAUNCH - Length of Unit: 5 Weeks ESSENTIAL QUESTION: What are the lenses and tools that are most needed to understand history, geography, civics and economics? Supporting Question 3 Supporting Question 4 How do we analyze primary and secondary sources? How does studying current connections help us understand ourselves and the world? Formative Performance Task Formative Performance Task " Use the same protocol/organizer to analyze a primary source. " Class determined product " Notebook Reflection Featured Sources Featured Sources " List of Primary and Secondary Sources " Primary Source Analysis Worksheet " Analyzing Primary Sources " Political Cartoon Analysis " Photo Analysis Worksheet " Textbook pp HT11-HT16 Current Connections Overview

history to take action. It is an essential skill for students to understand and implement. The basal, coupled with the environment, supports a student’s ability to take action. Using primary resources such as newspapers, blogs, podcasts, documentaries, photos, graphics, essays, etc., helps students understand how others have taken action, and the “why” behind the action. Greta Thunberg is just one example of a teenager who has become a youth role model and has motivated many students to gain new perspectives on what they can do to take action in their own communities. Students in D75 need to understand they can make a difference in their classroom, as well as within their school, community, and beyond.

social studies classes, students learned that an action of the heart could be as powerful as an action that required extensive research, formal advocacy, and funding.

In August 2022, A Sure B.E.T was implemented. Since that time, teachers, students, and curriculum leaders have been participating regularly in intentional reflection activities regarding the curriculum, the experiences, and the levels of student voice and choice. Like all new implementations, there is room for improvement. By having structured reflection, the staff and students can determine what needs to be tweaked, what needs to be transitioned, and what needs to be transformed. We are looking forward to using the inquiry model for instruction while pairing it with the balance of a basal as a primary resource to provide consistency across the District.

“Building Bright Futures Together!”

As a recent example, in July of 2022, students in D75 had the opportunity to take action by painting rocks of hope after the devastating mass shooting in Highland Park. Through their

Dr. Sarah Cacciatore is the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning in Mundelein Elementary School District 75 and has presented at a variety of conferences in the areas of change and leadership. With twenty years in education, she has come to value seeing instruction from multiple perspectives

A Sure B+E+T (cont.)

and aims to ensure a future-focused vision as she works to implement instructional practices with success.

Dr. Dale Truding is a highly experienced Consultant and Leadership Coach in strategic design, program development, curriculum implementation, and coaching. She has worked in multiple states and has been working with the Mundelein School Districts, D75 and D120, for the past five years to support and develop their instructional programs.

Mrs. Jill Unger is a Teaching and Learning Coordinator in Mundelein Elementary

School District 75. Jill supports teachers in implementing curriculum, with solid connections to literacy and best practices. She provides professional learning opportunities to support teachers with skills and strategies to increase student achievement and engagement.

Mrs. Erica Denman is the Director of Professional Development Training at Schoolwide, Inc. She recently completed her administrative internship at Mundelein Elementary District 75 and serves as the middle school professional development service provider in the areas of literacy and social studies.


Balancing Both Sides of the MTSS Triangle

Bring both sides of the MTSS triangle together to best support student growth. As educators we understand the importance of supporting students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) needs and also the importance of students’ academic growth. When students struggle in one area, they often struggle in both. When students struggle, consider the whole child when providing support, balancing SEL and academics, to avoid curricular silos that are disconnected and disjointed. But how do we find this balance, while also maintaining high levels of instruction and rigor? That is the million-dollar question!

This balance of both sides of the MTSS triangle has been a focus of mine for the past four years, as I have worked

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in an administrative role centered around MTSS and interventions; however, this focus was amplified over the last two

Consider implementing systems that allow students opportunities to complete homework at school, where support is

years as we saw students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs increase during Covid.

Let’s begin with tier 1 academic systems and think about how they help socialemotional wellness or cause possible triggers for students.

Is homework fair?

How does homework factor into grades? Are students being held accountable for things that are out of their control, such as not having the access to support at home or having a quiet place to complete homework? How are students being treated if they do not have their homework completed? When students begin the school day knowing that they are not prepared or that they are going to be greeted by a disappointed adult, they could be triggered with an emotional reaction that may impact their behavior in class.

provided. Recently I was working with a principal who found several barriers to students accessing the before and after school homework labs, so her team got creative and started “Ketchup Lab” during lunches. Students can use the lunch “Ketchup Lab’’ to get caught up on homework, study for tests, and have a teacher available to assist them. This is also a place where students can find a quieter environment, away from the loud lunchroom that can be overstimulating for some. When students are not completing homework, find out why and help find a solution.

Do grades promote growth? Does your grading system honor academic risk-taking? Does the grading system promote and teach a growth mindset or penalize students during the learning process? Another trigger for students can be the feeling of hopelessness about school and their

Consider putting systems in place that promote a growth mindset, perseverance, and academic risk-taking, which will in turn support students’ academic and social-emotional growth.

grades. Take a moment to think about what is motivating for any person— knowing you have the time and support to learn something new or knowing that if you fail at something it will impact you for an extended amount of time.

A common example of a system that promotes a growth mindset is taking the driving test. Most people wouldn’t think of the DMV as a place that supports social-emotional wellness, but they do promote a growth mindset! When anyone takes a driving test, if they fail, they are given the opportunity to go home, study and practice, and take the test again. The previous driving test is not factored into the new test. Consider putting systems in place that promote a growth mindset, perseverance, and academic risk-taking, which will in turn support students’ academic and socialemotional growth. Students grow when they receive reteaching and retakes and have options for how to demonstrate learning. Students need to be surrounded by adults who want them to succeed and help them find ways to learn how to “fail up.”

Where are they going and how are they getting there?

Do your students know what they need to do to improve their learning and their grades? Are students receiving clear and purposeful feedback meant to help them

grow and extend their understanding of the content? According to John Hattie, feedback is one of the most impactful factors on student learning and achievement (2012). A major impact of growing failure into success is learning how to improve (Yin, et. all, 2019). Failing without feedback and opportunities to improve is less likely to result in success later. Think about the frustration a highachieving, but anxious student may experience when they do not know how to improve their grades. How often do struggling students give up because they can’t see the path to success?

Helping students understand where they are going (the goal), how they are doing (progress), and where to go next (growth) will help them academically and have a positive impact on their socialemotional learning as well (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

Along with assessing how academic processes impact students’ socialemotional wellness, ensure that time is also carved out to be dedicated to tier 1 SEL instruction. Just as schools dedicate specified minutes to core content areas, time dedicated to SEL instruction helps to emphasize the importance of educating the whole child.

Beginning with tier 1 systems that promote academic and SEL success is important because it provides

Balancing Both Sides (cont.)

MTSS is not a place, it is a support system.

opportunities for success for all students, but some students need additional support to find that success. This is where a strong MTSS model is needed, which has a team to collect data on all areas of a student’s school experience. Over the past two years, our district has collaborated with teams of teachers and administrators to revamp our MTSS system to balance both sides of the MTSS triangle. During our work, we found that the RtI Action Network provided many resources to aid in this process. We also explored many MTSS or RtI handbooks from districts across the country, which helped this endeavor.

Balance the data and the plan

Data meetings are essential for a strong MTSS process. We developed our data meetings to occur after universal screenings three times a year, in addition to interim data meetings, occurring about halfway between the universal screenings. We have used an academic universal screener (NWEA) for years and added an SEL screener (Panorama) two years ago. During data meetings, teams use a checklist to stay focused and to ensure that they are looking at all aspects of the student. We look at the child’s attendance, grades, academic and health history, assessment data, SEL data, and

any discipline. We identify the student’s strengths and identify the specific areas that need interventions. From there, we determine who will provide interventions, what the intervention will look like, and what tier the student will receive support in. Through this process, the team felt it was important to make it clear that a student is not a “tier 2 student” but rather a student who needs tier 2 support. MTSS is not a place, it is a support system.

Once a student is determined to need tiered support, the interventionist develops an action plan. The action plan indicates the specific strengths and deficits and tracks progress. Action plans are developed for academic and SEL interventions. Each action plan follows the Plan - Do - Check - Act model. When interventions are working, assess if there is enough data to reduce the intervention or exit the student.

Team problem solving

When you are not seeing enough progress, it can become tricky and leave teachers feeling confused about where to go next. This is when the interventionist should change the intervention and begin a new progress monitoring cycle. If multiple


interventions have been tried or if a student is in more of a crisis situation, a solid problem-solving process can support decision-making. A problemsolving meeting should include all staff who are part of the student’s team, parents, and administrators. The best way to make a problem-solving meeting positive and purposeful is to have predeveloped guiding questions, focused on the student’s strengths and areas of need, interventions that have worked, and those that have not been successful. Explore how the student is responding to the intervention, academically, socially-emotionally, or behaviorally. As a team, determine the next steps. The purpose of the problem-solving meeting is to provide time for collaboration and developing plans, ensuring everyone who has an impact on the student’s success knows how to move forward to best support the child.

As with all things in life, learning is about balance

Educators know that students’ needs come in all shapes and sizes. Balancing the school environment to support academic, behavioral, and socialemotional growth and success will benefit students, families, and staff.

To view the Orland School District MTSS handbook and resources click here: Orland 135 MTSS Hub


Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Sage Journals, Vol 11, Issue 1, 2007. https:// abs/10.3102/003465430298487

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.

Yin, Y., Wang, Y., Evans, J.A. et al. Quantifying the dynamics of failure across science, startups and security. Nature 575, 190–194 (2019). https://

Jennifer Nichols has been in education for 21 years, working as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, school administrator, and district administrator. Currently, she is the Director for Curriculum and EL Services in Orland Park School District 135. Jen is also currently working on her Doctorate Degree from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL. The focus of her dissertation is on investigating the impact of restorative practices and traditional disciplinary systems on students’ academic and socialemotional needs.

Twitter: @JennNichols012

The Power of Yes (cont.)

Fit, Not Balance

P.J. Caposey

There is no shortage of tips, tricks, techniques, and hacks to help people from all walks of life, including educators, managing their time to find balance. There are two major problems with that sentence, however.

First, you have to embrace the fact that there is no such thing as time management. We all have the same 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 52 weeks in a year to get things done. Time is fixed. Time is not malleable. Time is not manageable. We simply shy away from a term like self-management because it is more personal and invasive. But it is true, and vernacular matters.

So, you have to think of it not as time management, but as self-management. As humans, we control our behavior and choices when it comes to work completion, prioritization, and efficiency. This has nothing to do with attempting to control the uncontrollable construct that is time—it only has to deal with us controlling ourselves.

Second, the concept of work-life balance is simply flawed. When I ask people what they visualize when they hear the term work-life balance most people either say the scales of justice or a teeter-totter. The issue is that when we attempt to stack work on one side of those implements and the rest of our life on the

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other we are NEVER going to be able to maintain balance.

I encourage people to abandon the concept of work-life balance and to adopt the mindset of work-life fit. If you

following practical tips to move toward that end.


Your first mindset shift is to be honest with yourself. Are you working toward cannot out efficiency a lack of priorities.

are going to visualize this, think of your life as a puzzle. The majority of people have some combination of up to 7 (not necessarily all) of these key elements of life they are trying to squeeze together. These elements include:






Personal Hobbies

“Side Hustles”

The most successful people I know have abandoned their desire to find balance and have driven hard to find how these core elements fit together for them to live their happiest, most efficient and effective lives.

So, if you have been trying to find balance in your life and continually set this as a goal only to let yourself down, I strongly recommend you take the

the life you imagined? Said differently, if I asked you what the most important legacy you want to leave in life is, is that dominating how you spend your energy and effort? If that answer for you is that you want to be the best possible parent, then measure your dedication to that goal.

Having this honest conversation with yourself is vital because, if you don’t, no matter how many time management tips and techniques you deploy, you will just fill the new time found by your efficiencies with other stuff. Said plainly—you cannot out efficiency a lack of priorities.

If you have this internal dialogue and come up with your priority, then I ask you to take a 60 day challenge. I sincerely believe that we can all carve out one hour in the day. What would happen for you if you gave yourself 60 minutes for 60 days. I bet you would move closer to your goals

Say Yes to Happy Kids (cont.)

and create more happiness than you have been able to create in your circle of sameness you have been living in.


Your next mindset shift is to be deeply honest with the ones you love, and expect honesty in return. Are you burdened by enormous and unnecessary guilt? Through radical candor, you can move forward and eliminate the monkey on your back. When my oldest boys were

1,000-pound weight from my shoulders. It was exponentially simpler than I was making it.

I then had a similar, but different, talk with my wife, articulating what it was that I cared about as her partner. To her surprise, what I wanted from her was considerably less than what she had assigned herself. The same unassigned guilt I had been burdened with was weighing down my wife. It was not until I

10- and 11-years old, I asked them what it would take for me to be a good dad. I was shrouded in guilt over traveling the country to speak, consult, and follow my professional dreams, and I worried about what they might say.

They thought about it, and a few weeks later they came back to me with their wish list. They wanted me to coach their sports when possible, take them to breakfast once a week, and play more video games with them. I double checked. I asked about the times I was gone for multiple nights in a row. They indicated they were so busy and so loved by the other adults in their lives that it had no impact on their happiness or their thoughts on my parenting. This lifted a

had the mindset shift to embrace radical honesty that we were able to identify and address these issues.

I share these two personal stories to articulate the point that most likely you have assigned yourself tasks, responsibilities, and, most important, guilt in areas that nobody else has. This guilt pulls in multiple directions, kills our joy, and creates a logjam of priorities that need not exist. 10 minutes of courage can create countless hours of peace-ofmind if we are brave enough to engage.


Ego has a connotation of hubris or arrogance. Ego in its simplest form means sense of self. The truth is that ego forces

10 minutes of courage can create countless hours of peace-of-mind if we are brave enough to engage.

far more of us to play small than to play big. I love to use the example of thinking back to our single days and whether or not we were willing to approach someone we found attractive at a social gathering. If the answer is no—that was your ego and your fear of rejection making that decision.

How does this fit into time management and work-life fit? That is simple— everything that we want is on the other side of fear. Many people are so afraid of their own ambition that they will not even share their wildest and craziest goals with the people that they love the most.

We must work on our ego so that if we pursue our goals and succeed or if we pursue them and fail, when we wake up the next morning we still feel the same way about ourselves. Too often, our egos are forcing us to play small and without honoring our innate ambition (think Maslow’s self-actualization) to be the best possible version of ourselves. We avoid this because the fear of failure outweighs the desire to succeed. If we are going to find a true work-life FIT—we must engage our egos in the process.

PJ Caposey is an award winning educator who has been recognized for his work as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. He is also a best-selling author and has written 8 books for various publishers. His work and commentary has been featured on sites such as the Washington Post, NPR, CBS This Morning, ASCD, Edutopia, the Huffington Post, and was featured in a Global Leaders Forum thinkpiece alongside the likes of General Petraeus and General McChrystal. He works in the Education Department of three universities, including within the Ivy League, and in a myriad of capacities with the Illinois Principal’ Association including Principal Coach and author of the first complete stack of MicroCredentials offered in Illinois. Additionally, PJ is a sought after keynote presenter, consultant, and provider of professional development and has recently keynoted several national conferences specializing in time management, the tyranny of the status quo, school culture, continuous improvement, social media, and teacher evaluation. He lives in Northwest Illinois with his wife, who is also an educator, and their four children.

Say Yes to Happy Kids (cont.)

Adjust the Ingredients:  How a Kindergarten Team Redefined Balance to Ignite an Appetite for Learning

During the global pandemic, educators lived in an unpredictable universe that required incredible perseverance, creativity, and resilience. Educators and children alike are forever changed. This school year we exhale the uphill climb and inhale the possibility of the future. With that in mind, how do schools keep a better lens on balance? Webster’s Dictionary defines balance as a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. At Elizabeth Ide School, a PreK-2 elementary school of 400 students in Center Cass School District 66 located in Downers Grove, Illinois, a team of kindergarten teachers believes that a balanced, wholechild approach ignites a fresh appetite for learning.

Over the course of ten years in a full-day model, this wasn’t always the case. With the drudgery of worksheets, over-assessing, and all-day academics, something was amiss. Together, with the support of leadership, the team decided to shift the ingredients.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2020 Current Population Survey found 3.7 million children

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in Kindergarten, a drop of 359,000 in one year, and the lowest since 2002, (Census Bureau, 2022). As school districts across the country face postpandemic challenges, implementing a full-day experience is essential. However, many find themselves doubling up on academics and compromising play, social-emotional learning (SEL), and developmentally appropriate practices due to high stake pressures. A child’s kindergarten year is unlike any other. How do we capture a child’s heart and mind while setting them on a trajectory of success? Are students more joyful in a balanced, connected environment? Here are a few considerations:

Keep the recipe balanced. Academic and socially balanced experiences are vital in a full-day model. Rigor remains prioritized and is paired with confidence and safety. If achieved, children are able to ‘dig in’ as they build early literacy and numeracy skills. Fusing the modern and natural world through responsive, flexible, and hands-on learning environments that include fine arts, makerspace, library, intentional technology integration, and outdoor learning pays off. With an eye on the scale, ‘fitting it in’ is no longer a constant stressor.

SEL IS the main ingredient. The social-emotional needs of our young learners are not an afterthought. The

Center for Disease Control agrees and states, “The early years of a child’s life are very important for later health and development. One of the main reasons is how fast the brain grows starting before birth and continuing into early childhood. Although the brain continues to develop and change into adulthood, the first 8 years can build a foundation for future learning, health and life success,” (2022).

At Elizabeth Ide, social-emotional learning is interwoven into every part of the day’s instructional experience including classroom design, books, calming spaces, brain breaks, and how money is spent on resource decisions.  A balanced day can start in many ways. Our teachers begin with a soft start. This simple routine promotes natural responsibility and self-regulation. Through interaction with intentional morning tubs, students explore, share, and communicate in a peaceful space.  From there, Morning Meeting sets the tone for the day, builds community, and encourages personal connections, identity, and belonging. Children are ready to embark on the learning day because they understand what is ahead. Social-emotional learning doesn’t stop there. After lunch, students are invited to a mindful moment which often includes dimmed lights, music, meditation techniques, and visuals; students reset for the second half of the

Adjust the Ingredients (cont.)

day. At Elizabeth Ide, students engage in other experiences such as the outdoor peace circle designed with tree trunks circled around a painted stone firepit and a prairie path. Connection with the natural world draws on the students’ senses and the world around them while reinforcing mindfulness and community.  Students are seen as unique individuals; stoplight or clip chart behavior systems are nowhere to be found, but rather a restorative, caring environment is built.  Play is a right, not a privilege. According to Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child, “The science of child development points to three core principles that can guide what society needs to do to help children and families thrive. These include: Supporting responsive relationships, strengthening

core life skills, and reducing sources of stress. Play in early childhood is an effective way of supporting all three of these principles,” (2022). Often we think of play as recess alone. However, with these principles in mind, in 2019, Elizabeth Ide School experienced a massive school remodel for future-ready learning. Teachers provided input resulting in a discovery zone (an open flex space to reinforce collaboration and play). Since then, 120 students flood and flex into this space on a daily basis for purposeful play. Students and teachers alike connect across the entire grade level. Students thrive in these structured and unstructured environments that include play, experiential learning, and activities that are developmentally stimulating. Rethinking space and how buildings are

Peace Circle

used can begin anywhere and guarantee a big return.

Mindset matters. From the beginning, students need authentic experiences so they see themselves as readers and writers. For example, during Writing Workshop, goal setting, modeling, conferring, and publication help to grow authentic learners. Prideful presentations showcase published pieces to the class after each unit. In turn, readers are grown through the science of reading paired with diverse, literature-rich environments that emphasize choice and voice. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves: do children understand their purpose; do children know their ‘why?’

Tenacious teams.

In the book entitled, Ridiculously Amazing Schools by Tracey Smith, the author writes, “The most essential conclusion of our research is that you cannot teach the ‘whole child’ without a ‘whole teacher.’ For education to be at its best, we must create environments where our teachers can be at their best. Education is as only good as the teacher,” (p.1).

These educators act as chefs— developing a child’s lifelong palate,

not just cooking up a meal. They model ingredients of safety, connection, and individuality that hold true in the classroom setting. A strong team also wonders, “Do we deeply understand what we are doing?” This is certainly the case at Elizabeth Ide. Every member offers humor, empathy, and a unique lens. Add in a school renovation and a two-year pandemic; this team isn’t taking any shortcuts. The commitment to the team’s well-being is a huge indicator of a balanced delivery.

As schools and districts consider tweaking the ingredients, marinate on this: Would your kindergarten model be good enough for your own child? That very question resonated with me. This resulted in registering my own daughter in a new school: Elizabeth Ide. Thanks to a district incentive to make this possible, compromising joyful learning isn’t an option for my child or any of the 120 kindergarten students we serve.

You can find the Elizabeth Ide team sitting together laughing, planning, and reflecting. As the conversation draws to a close, Mrs. Fitzgerald smiles wide: “Ultimately our goal is that our parents can say: you know my child. Your connection makes a difference.” Connection is in fact the magical ingredient that makes balance possible. It has been all along.

Adjust the Ingredients (cont.)

Early brain development and health. (2022, March 25). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www. early-brain-development.html

Play in early childhood: The role of play in any setting. (2020, November 3). Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. https:// resources/play-in-early-childhoodthe-role-of-play-in-any-setting/

Smith, T., & Waller, J. (2020). Ridiculously amazing schools: Creating a culture where everyone thrives.

US Census Bureau. (2022, April 21). National kindergarten day: April 21, 2022. https://www. kindergarten-day.html

Emily Lech has an elementary school principal in Center Cass District 66. Previously, she served as a principal in Yorkville District 115, assistant principal in Park Ridge District 64, and taught for a decade in Washington, DC and Evanston, IL. She’s currently earning her doctorate in education from the University of St. Francis. Her favorite things are caffeine, Anderson BookStore, and school dance parties.

Featured from left: Jamie Staiton, Jamie Martinez, Peter Pitassi, Jennie Halper, and Carrie Fitzgerald

Leading Professional Learning Communities with Balance

D300 has committed to becoming a highly effective Professional Learning Community (PLC). We have established that there is an organizational alignment to the foundational elements of PLC work:

• Focus on Learning

• Build a Collaborative Culture

• Focus on Results

This journey to implement PLCs has been lengthy, with frequent opportunities to clarify, learn, and realign with PLC principles. We are leading PLCs across 28 schools with balance.

In 2019 D300 relaunched our commitment to the work of PLCs. District leaders recognized that there were pockets of staff who engaged in highly effective PLC practices while other teams in the district were less clear on their implementation of PLC practices. One indicator of less aligned teams was their language. “We are going to PLC this.” “We can talk about that when we PLC.” “I can’t meet during second period because we are PLC-ing.” When these phrases were utilized, it helped to illustrate that there was a disconnect on the purpose and intent of collaborative teams.

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The First Demonstration

In 2018, working in collaboration with our union and union leadership, through the collective bargaining process, contractual language was added that clarified the expectations for staff to meet in collaborative teams. This was the first illustration that balanced leadership was needed for our PLC work to be successful. Because both association leadership and district leadership saw the value in PLC work, we are able to capture the importance of focusing on learning.

And the Second

In 2019-2020 a District PLC Leadership Team was created. Using our PERA Joint Committee as a model, the association selected ten members to participate in the leadership group alongside ten administrators. This was the second demonstration of balanced leadership. Key stakeholders recognized that if D300 were to successfully implement PLCs, predictable systems can be put in place to support student learning and there would be a focus on results. It was going to take a collective effort to make this happen across 27 schools. The District PLC Leadership Team engaged in rigorous professional development. As part of our professional development plan, we partnered with Michael Maffoni, a national expert in Professional Learning Communities who

is affiliated with Solution Tree. Maffoni provided leadership training for the joint committee and helped us reaffirm our commitment to this work. The District PLC Leadership Team identified that D300 was going to “reboot” PLC work in the 2020-2021 school year. We were going “Back to the PLC.” The District PLC Leadership Team also created a promotional video—showcasing both certified staff and administrators— discussing the importance of this districtwide effort. Watch our promotional PLC Kick Off video which features a balance between certified staff and administrators, while also providing a leadership message from the educator association president.

Other Steps Towards Balanced

Leadership of a PLC

D300 has taken other very specific steps to ensure a balanced approach to PLC leadership. It is as important that staff understand the purpose, impact, and potential of a PLC as it is for administrators to know how to coach



collaborative teams towards higher levels of efficacy. The following steps were taken:

• Creation of Guiding CoalitionsGuiding Coalitions are a school-based team of teachers and administrators who help to guide PLC efforts at each of the district’s 27 schools. These coalitions plan and deliver professional development, coach collaborative teams, and create a feedback loop for administrators and staff.

• Summer Symposium - D300 offers all staff an opportunity over the summer months to meet as a collaborative team. Teams are given suggestions on what can be worked on; however, they have full autonomy to use the time as their team determines. Staff are compensated for five hours of

engagement through Title 2 funds. Note: individuals cannot participate in Summer Symposium solo; they must be with at last 65% of their collaborative team.

• Creation of a District PLC Vision Statement - The District PLC Leadership Team created a vision statement to provide clarity about the purpose of PLCs at D300.

• Foundational Training for All Staff

- In partnership with Maffoni, our PLC consultant, we utilized a train the trainer model with our Guiding Coalitions. We provided five full day PLC Foundational training sessions for Guiding Coalitions from all 27 buildings. Following their learning with Maffoni, PLC Leadership Team members and Guiding Coalitions provided training to staff in their buildings on district-determined professional development days. The PLC Leadership Team provided a


core training template for Guiding Coalitions to follow to ensure that key outcomes for each foundation training was highlighted; Guiding Coalitions were able to determine ways to best meet the needs of their individual buildings in the delivery of the professional development. Working with a consistent expert in the field helped all staff develop common language and approaches to this work.

• Guiding administrators on how to coach the PLC process using a balance of pressure and support

- The District PLC Leadership Team and all 130+ administrators (principals, assistant principals, deans, division heads, etc.) read this article by Dr. Tom Many (long time Illinois Superintendent of Kildeer Countryside Community Consolidated School District 96) Making Diamonds: Top-Down Pressure and BottomUp Support. This article helped our joint leadership team have candid discussions on how to support the PLC process with balance. We recognized that PLCs would not be successful if it was a top-down mandate. We also recognized that schools and teams needed plenty of support differentiated for their next step in PLC development. Through a combination of pressure and support our organization is beginning to

recognize PLCs as a essential need in our daily work.

• Integrate PLC concepts into everything we do for Professional Development - District 300 invests in professional development. The philosophy and essential components of Professional Learning Communities are woven into many different professional development programs. We hire more than 100 licensed staff every year and during their induction they learn about PLC concepts. We have three leadership pipelinesAspiring Instructional Coach, Aspiring Administrator, and Aspiring Principal. During these year-long cohorts, participants focus on learning more about the essential elements of PLCs. All D300 administrators attend a Week of Workshops during the summer where they experience differentiated professional development on PLC leadership.

Our Next Steps

During the 22-23 school year we are field testing a Strategy Implementation Guide (SIG). This SIG is a simple framework that is a “flight plan” for collaborative teams and PLCs. This resource was developed during a two-day workshop with teams representing a balance of administrators and certified staff. The SIG will be used by collaborative teams to self-assess their


progress towards a fully implemented PLC process. Six schools have been selected to test out the SIG. Each staff member and admin will provide feedback through a survey so that the SIG can be refined for the 23-24 school year. The intent is for all 27 schools to work with the PLC SIG as a coaching tool during the 23-24 school year.

Lessons Learned

When D300 made the commitment to relaunch the work of PLCs and “reboot” PLC work in 2020-2021, we had no idea that this work was headed for a head-

is most effective to meet teams where they are at. Schools and teams are at different levels of implementation and differentiated supports can be provided for their success.

Another lesson learned is to seek out evidence that highly effective PLC practices are in place. We often ask leaders, “What evidence do you have for that statement?” This is not meant as a challenge but rather as a way to truly demonstrate that teams have engaged in the PLC process. Whether it is unpacking standards, discussing learning

We have learned that PLCs cannot be achieved with a single leader or with one collaborative team, rather it is the intent for the district to become the entity of a Professional Learning Community.

on collision course with a world-wide pandemic. The efforts of a balanced team of leaders—both from the association and from administration—helped to ensure success of this very important school improvement initiative.

We have learned that PLCs cannot be achieved with a single leader or with one collaborative team, rather it is the intent for the district to become the entity of a Professional Learning Community. We have also learned that it

targets, or determining an agreed upon proficiency level for a common formative assessment, having evidence of the work helps to ensure it has been completed and may provide a coaching opportunity for the team’s next steps.

We must articulate, protect, and promote that which matters most. By keeping PLCs at the forefront of what we do, and embedding these concepts throughout the organization, the practices and student-centered opportunities

Leading PLCs (cont.)

become stronger. With a systematic and predictable approach to learning for all students PLCs support equity and access for all learners.

Finally, we have learned that students are the ultimate beneficiary of a balanced approach to Professional Learning Communities. When the organization works together, in concert for student success, high levels of effectiveness can be achieved.

Kara Vicente is the Deputy Superintendent at D300 in Algonquin, IL. Kara Vicente has been an elementary and middle school classroom teacher, middle school principal, assistant superintendent over middle schools/high schools, and Chief Academic Officer. Vicente frequently presents at workshops and conferences. Vicente has a strong focus on Professional Learning Communities and impactful evaluation and

coaching practices. Vicente has a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Northern Illinois University. Follow Vicente on twitter @KaraKVicente Dr. Elizabeth Freeman is the Chief Academic Officer at District 300. Liz Freeman has been a middle school and high school classroom teacher, curriculum director, director of professional development, and assistant superintendent and is a frequent presenter at workshops and conferences. Freeman has a focus on Professional Learning Communities and transforming student experiences through innovative and high impact, modern instructional approaches. Freeman has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University and a Doctorate in Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. Follow Freeman on twitter @DrElizFreeman


Finding the Right Balance

It isn’t a work/life balance. It’s a meaningful/drudgery balance—at school and at home. Here are ways to maximize meaning and minimize drudgery.

For school leaders, the demands of the job make a 40-hour work week impossible. We regularly work 50+ hours. At the beginning and end of the school year, it’s like tax season for accountants: 12-hour days and weekend work as well. There are simply too many emails, meetings, reports, and children and staff to attend to. We can’t just “turn off” an email or decide to just leave when the child that didn’t get picked up is still there and work is piled high.

For leaders looking to improve schools, the concept of work/life balance can be laughable. Rather, we should think of a balance between meaningful work and drudgery work.

Revisiting Daniel Pink’s Drive helped me to depart from the concept of work/life balance and instead guided me to his concepts of autonomy, mastery, and purpose throughout my waking hours—school, home, and life. For ease of thinking, I wrapped these three pillars (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) into one word: meaning. To increase my time on meaningful work and decrease my

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time on drudgery, I charged myself with these two questions:

• How can I maximize my time spent doing meaningful work that leads to mastery for myself and my school and home communities?

• How can I minimize my time spent doing meaningless work?

Here are a few examples that might inspire in your days, increasing meaningful work and creating less drudgery.

Mastering a mentor program for new staff

For the past two years, teachers and I designed and piloted an in-house teacher mentoring program for staff new to the school. As a school principal, I never had time to mentor anyone, which we know is one of the most important teacherretention strategies; rather, drudgery ate up my time. In this new program, I contributed meaningfully to the teacher mentoring team in the construction and ongoing development of the programs.

Supporting teachers’ autonomy regarding a new math curriculum

A couple of years ago, a group of teachers came to me several times to complain about the inadequacies of our math curriculum. I was skeptical because our student learning was growing

steadily, and I was leery to marshal limited teacher time and fiscal resources to analyze the current curriculum and search for a new curriculum. I was already time-stretched!

With teacher-leadership and a math consultant riding shotgun, the team did the heavy lifting and countless details. The math team and I met regularly in the beginning and then infrequently as the implementation year’s roots grew deep. Listening to teachers’ common complaints/concerns led me to build an autonomous coalition that addressed a significant change.

Revisiting my career purpose: How to visit classrooms efficiently and to energize me Visiting classrooms is key for any school leader to have the pulse of the school, to get to know students and their learning, to celebrate with students and staff their successes, and to re-energize myself with a reminder of the reason I got into education—the delight of children exploring the world!

To stay on a path to visit each classroom about 40 times during the school year, I keep a simple chart of my classroom visit dates. With some 31 classrooms, that’s over 1,200 classroom visits! Don’t worry-- it’s doable. I committed to visiting 1-3 classrooms each time


the Right Balance

I leave my office—coffee, meetings, and greeting student upon arrival. It is working, I’m hitting my mark. That’s a serious investment for a timedeficit school leader. But it’s worth it because I have so much more credibility to connect with students, teachers, and

Minimizing drudgery: getting to all those emails

I make sure that I set three times per day for about 30 minutes each to tend to all new emails.

• For urgent questions from staff, I answer immediately.

I leave classrooms with lots of meaningful energy to tackle the drudgery.

staff about problems and to congratulate them personally on their achievements. I tweet photos or post photos in the weekly family newsletter, which connects the school and classroom learning to parents and the outside world. I leave classrooms with lots of meaningful energy to tackle the drudgery.

Revisiting my parenting purpose: how to make time to travel

Months in advance, I connect with family and friends to see what travel plans overlap. Then I book the hotel and flight or train. When my 17-year-old son, Connor, wanted to visit colleges, he and my other son went to southern California for Spring Break, 2021. Five months later, Connor and I went to Boston for a long weekend to visit more colleges. With the plans set, I had no choice but to go and enjoy my family time.

• For important concerns that could be led by other staff (Counselor, Case Manager, Grade Level Team), I loop in that leader to put the concern on their agenda. Such an email validates the importance of the sender’s concern while allocating time to address it by all the relevant team members.

• For emails from personalities who I know will turn the email into many exchanges, I schedule the response for the next day or 48 hours later. Typically in the email response, I empower the person to solve the concern. This slows down or often eliminates the response because they’ve already worked it out.

• For common answers, I extensively use google’s email templates. I have generic responses to position inquiries, reference requests, school


tours, congratulations to the staff for winning Donors Choose grants, and about 15 others. They vastly increase my email response rate, while still allowing me to personalize the email with a few word changes. The Gmail templates can be found in the “more options” (aka, three dots) at the bottom of an email you’re composing.

Minimizing drudgery: Don’t do others’ jobs

School leaders are capable and licensed to do just about anyone’s job in the school—from mopping floors to substituting in the classroom to administering assessments—but you shouldn’t. You have to have hard conversations with staff about their doing their work and your not doing it for them just because you can. Of course, spending five minutes cleaning the microwave while the staff is eating goes a long way in showing others that you care. That (very brief) drudgery is meaningful!

More ways to maximize meaningful time

My bucket list of books is shrinking as I listen to books on my bike or drive to and from school, while I do the dishes and laundry, and when I exercise. I’ve gone from reading a book every three weeks to reading four every three weeks. Try listening at 1.2 or 1.4 speed!

I coordinate celebrations for students, staff, teachers, and families. I try to spend little time actually planning elaborate parties but rather quick, symbolic, and public acknowledgments—e.g., hallway plaques honoring National Board Certified teachers; cafeteria plaques of student teams who won Battle of the Books; and framed play programs from the Drama Club’s productions. I make sure that staff and teachers can thank each other in the weekly staff bulletin as well as calling out heroic efforts by the building engineer and parent volunteers in the weekly family newsletter. These celebrations refill my sense of purpose in my career choice.

I look for short personal interest connections—e.g., math problems or math jokes with the Mathletes Coach, biking paths with the cycling Sped Teacher, theater updates with the classroom assistant who doubles as an usher supervisor at a downtown theater, and common plights and triumphs of our own children at home. These personal stories matter.

When a staff member or teacher has a personal crisis, I double my effort to lower their stress level immediately by tapping into our school network to divide up responsibilities. In this way, I don’t burn out by taking on even more but do make sure that they feel their stress level


goes down because they don’t have to worry. They then have the autonomy to care for their crisis and then re-engage when they can. Their autonomy is meaningful to me.

Of course, my list and solutions fit my life and job contexts and don’t project to everyone. You’ll make your own list and find unique solutions or better ones. For some school leaders, the current position is simply untenable and the emotional and physical toll is far beyond the concept of finding purpose, mastery, and autonomy; those leaders should leave the organization to find one that has opportunities to find meaning despite long hours. In the end, we should enrich our short time on this planet with as much meaningful work and as little drudgery as possible.

Erin Roche is the longtime principal of Prescott School in Chicago Public Schools and led schools for almost two decades. He also serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and a school administrator representative to the Illinois Balanced Accountability Metrics Committee. Erin completed his Ed.D. at Vanderbilt University with a collaborative study on PLCs in the Louisville system, and he currently co-leads a PLC with Chicago principals on operationalizing change based on equity audits. He is a National Board Certified Teacher (EA-ELA). Erin’s school leadership interests are teacher-leadership empowerment, operationalizing grading for equity, and data-driven instructional improvements. He can be reached at

Finding the Right Balance (cont.)

IL ASCD Area Representatives

In 2014 when IL ASCD reorganized our leadership team, the role of Area Representative was created. Our “Area Reps” as we call them are a link to and from the various regions of our state. IL ASCD follows the same areas established by the Regional Offices of Education.

Our Area Reps are led by two members of our IL ASCD Board of Directors, Denise Makowski and Andrew Lobdell. Denise and Andrew are the Co-Leaders of our Membership and Partnerships Focus Area.

AREA 1: (Green)

Andrew Lobdell

Principal of the Junior High School in the Lena - Winslow School District # 202


Current Area Reps

April Jordan

Jennifer Winters

AREA 2: (Dark Blue) Chad Dougherty

AREA 3: (Yellow) Heather Bowman

AREA 4: (Pink) Kelly Glennon

AREA 5: (Light Blue) Annette Hartlieb

AREA 6: (Gold) Vacant

Contact information for them can be found HERE.

The roles of the IL ASCD Area Representatives are:

• Encouraging IL ASCD membership to educators in their local areas;

• Assisting with professional development;

• Attend board meetings and the annual leadership retreat, when possible;

• Disseminating information from IL ASCD board meetings or other sanctioned IL ASCD activities to local school districts or other regional members

• Being a two-way communication vehicle between the local IL ASCD members regarding IL ASCD or any educational issues.

• Keeping IL ASCD Board of Directors apprised of pertinent information regarding personnel issues (e.g., job vacancies, job promotions) and district program awards/recognition within the local area.

• Communicating regularly with IL ASCD Executive Director and the Co-Leaders of the Membership and Partnerships Focus Area.

Denise Makowski Chicago 773.535.7252

Strong Leaders’ Strategy for Reducing Teacher Stress (A Practical Approach)

The affirmation mantra strategy must continuously be refueled daily for self-preservation and renewal.

Amidst the unexpected perils to society brought on by the pervasive influences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the onset of rising costs of consumer purchases, the ever-increasing incidents of gun violence on the streets and in schools, and the direct and indirect challenges of mental illness, it is not unusual to feel inadequate in performing one’s job duties. PreK–12 educators are no exception. In the role of building leader or classroom teacher, with ever-multiplying responsibilities, finding oneself seeking relief and even escaping anecdotes from the sometimes arduous-related tasks is admittedly common among the profession.

PreK–12 educators and school leaders across the country and the world at large most probably would agree that the way we do school has drastically changed. Even though many PreK–12 educators successfully adjusted to the forced transition of virtual school learning, or blended hybrid learning, the increased pressures and unforeseen challenges brought about by the trauma and

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fallout from the COVID pandemic often found principals, other school leaders, and PreK–12 educators struggling to find a mental escape.

Now that schools have generally returned to in-person learning, there are still potential stress factors that are not unique to PreK–12 educators. In schools, as in the outside world, emotions brought about by stresses of mental health and common life challenges are rampant. People seem less gracious, less cordial, less forgiving, impatient, and less pleasant towards each other. The hustle and bustle of our now new normal affect the outside world and PreK–12 educators as well: principals trying to fill teacher shortages, teachers who find themselves covering classes when substitutes are unavailable; students as well, who have experienced long periods without regular physical interaction with their peers. The resulting academic and emotional losses in schools help contribute to principal and teacher stress and burnout.

practical ways to not only deal with potential stress for myself but also ways to help my staff avoid the effects of potential stress-causing factors.

One such practical strategy came to mind as I watched the 2011 film The Help for the third time. Each time I watched I was always captivated by the lines:

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important. You is beautiful. You is somebody.” “...and that’s when I got to wondering, what would happen if I told her something good, every day?”

These lines are expressed by Viola Davis portraying the role of Aibileen in the film. As an educator, I accept the fact that the simplistic, grammatical profundity of the language fits the period of the drama. Each time I watched, I gained deeper insight into the caring nature of Aibileen for the child she kept.

There are many research studies and articles written to help educators deal with stress from their job responsibilities. Numerous approaches have been and continue to be presented. Some are scientific and some are simple and practical. There is much to be learned from them. During my tenure as a school principal, however, I always sought

You might ask what has that to do with job-related stress factors? What has that to do with leadership or teaching responsibilities? What it recalled was its resemblance to the caring nature of principals who can demonstrate strong leadership while reducing teacher stress. And I might add, similarly, the caring nature of most teachers as well. The quotes are built on three key concepts: helping others (students/teachers),


kindness, and self-respect/mutual respect. Being cognizant daily of these concepts is key to remaining stress-free while fulfilling one’s leadership and teaching responsibilities.

These three concepts are essential to relationship building. The first order of business in any organization is relationship building. Schools are no different. It is impossible to build a successful and sustainable school culture without establishing good relationships. This includes principal-teacher relationships. This includes teacher-

Teachers and students. Simply for who they are—human beings. In the role of principal, leader of the school, it is your responsibility to ensure that your faculty and staff and students feel welcome and safe. That they are an important part of the school family every day of the school year. That they have value, and that value is appreciated.

Likewise, teachers have the same responsibility for their students. Teachers have the responsibility of designing learning experiences that engage students in opportunities to explore

student relationships. This includes school-parent relationships. This includes central office-school relationships. Collectively, the accompanying potential stress from navigating these relationships and the ever-increasing disparities of society can hinder PreK–12 educators from demonstrating their top game.

What would happen if principals told their teachers, and teachers told their students something good about themselves, daily? That they are accepted unconditionally? With unconditional positive regard (UPR).

and inspire their interests and their future ambitions through intellectual risk-taking without fear of failure or negative consequences or these negative consequences will play out in the form of stress. Demonstrating these two respective responsibilities can become potential stress factors for both adults and students.

Principals must be committed to building mutually respectful trusting relationships with their faculty and staff; with the expectation that faculty and staff will establish the same with their students.

...a continuous ongoing process that is established over time and must be consciously and consistently nurtured.
Strong Leaders’ Strategy (cont.)

This is a continuous ongoing process that is established over time and must be consciously and consistently nurtured. If principals told teachers, and teachers told their students, something good about themselves daily, I posit that the stress level and potential for burnout can be significantly reduced. Doing so does not detract from a principal demonstrating strong leadership. It does not detract from teachers providing effective teaching. In fact, I believe it strengthens both. When principals and teachers are at their highest levels of effectiveness, student outcomes are positively influenced. The contrary is also true. Principals and teachers at their lowest levels of effectiveness negatively influence student outcomes.

Utilization of the above-mentioned affirmation mantra strategy is most effective in environments with a culture and process of working and learning together where there is demonstrated shared ownership and accountability for student learning and relationships are built on mutual respect. The affirmation

mantra strategy must continuously be refueled daily for self-preservation and renewal. Principals, unfortunately, too often must seek ways to utilize the affirmation mantra strategy as a means of encouraging themselves. There is a correlation between the stress level of faculty and staff and that of the principal. Stress reduction in schools is a two-way street.

Dr. Noah L. Riley is an educational strategist and a seasoned re-fired educational leader with eighteen years of building-level administrative experience. His roles have included Instructional Leader, Change Agent, and Turn-Around Principal in both low-performing and high-ability suburban, urban and inner-city schools. In addition, he has seventeen years of successful K–12 teaching experience and one year of success as a superintendent intern. In the role of Educational Strategist, he focuses on developing practical solutions for school environments to improve teaching practices and increase student learning.


Tipping the Scale: How to Find Balance at Home and at Work

According to The U.S. Department of Education (2019), women comprise 78% of the teaching profession. Many of these female teachers are also mothers who struggle to balance the care of twenty-eight tiny humans with the needs of their personal children, which is no small feat. Because women make up such a large constituency in education, they have a unique opportunity to change the discourse about this “give until you drop” mentality.

Putting work above all else

Three years ago I was honored to accept a leadership role as principal of Circle Center Grade School, a preschool thru third-grade building in Yorkville, Illinois. It was 2019, and at the start of that year, I never could have imagined that schools would shut down and that I would be working tirelessly to help support over 80 staff members, 500 students, and my own children with the transitions we would face. I, like many educators, jumped feet first into the unknown—putting work above all else—which tipped the already unbalanced scale for teachers and administrators across the world. This “give until you drop” mindset, along with changes in educational policy, state mandates for COVID-19, and the search for safe ways to bring our students into the buildings for the

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2020 school year, had the staff from Yorkville 115 working well into the evenings, weekends, and throughout the entire summer.

Balance isn’t educators’ strong suit

Prior to the pandemic, it would not be uncommon to find an educator working in the evening or on the weekends. The pandemic only made things worse, emphasizing the fact that balance is not something educators do well. It is an unwritten rule that educators are expected to work weekends, evenings, and attend unpaid school events. In my dissertation entitled, “The Making of a Female Teacher and Who She is Becoming” (Hamm, 2022), I discovered that women teachers have been produced to believe they need to prove themselves and their abilities to be a mother and work outside the home. This need to prove oneself results in an unbalanced life of trying to give 100% to both their families and their students.

Martha Nussbaum (2001) suggests that life is full of contradicting commitments and sacrifices. She indicates if we care about more than one thing it is impossible to honor everything at the same time. Something will undoubtedly be neglected, which can create deep pain. She sees this as the difficulty and tragedy of trying to live a good life and that this human goodness is a fragile

thing. Because of this deep-rooted discourse that has been accepted as the status quo for women, in particular, educators are second-guessing their career choice and leaving the field at alarming rates. In an article published by the National Education Association (NEA) in February of 2022, a survey of teachers showed that “55% of educators plan to leave education sooner than planned because of the pandemic and 90% of educators are experiencing burnout” (Walker).

Addicted to work

After three years of grinding to do whatever it took to support my students and staff, I had a startling realization that I was addicted to my job. Even in moments when I could be with my family, I was finding myself checking emails and preparing for the worst, convinced this would help me get ahead. This relentless pursuit of “more work” was taking a terrible toll on my relationships with family members, as well as my own mental health and physical well-being. I knew something had to change, but I wasn’t sure what I could give up. These unhealthy habits had become my routine—how could I turn things around? It was the lowest point in my educational career.

But, there is hope, and I am proof!

After reaching the breaking point, I took two major steps to find joy in my career


Tipping the Scale (cont.)

once again and bring balance back to my life. I was able to find balance without hindering my job performance, my ability to be present for others both at work and at home, and most importantly, time to focus on my personal needs. In this article, educators will learn how to take small steps each week to tip the scale back towards a healthier and happier life!

Step One: Accept and Set Priorities

One of the biggest steps I took toward a more balanced life was accepting the fact that I will never get all of my “to do” items complete. This lesson was a direct result of the pandemic. Each day, I would have the best intentions of getting something done until COVID would rear up its mighty hand! Whether it was jumping into a classroom last minute to substitute teach, or spending hours contact tracing and notifying families, these tasks took time away from my goals and objectives for the week. I knew something had to change and the answer was prioritizing my ”to do” list.

To combat this problem, each Sunday, I sit down and review what I accomplished the week prior and set my goals for the current week. Once I have prioritized my three most important tasks for the week, I then plan specific time into my schedule for that upcoming week to complete

these priority tasks. By scheduling my priority tasks, I guaranteed that I would get them done by the designated day and time. For example, one of my goals was to visit all classes within at least two grade levels each week. To do this, I scheduled an hour of my time on my daily tasks and in my calendar for a minimum of two days a week. I found that from 9-10 a.m. it is pretty quiet in the building, so I have continued to add this to my schedule each week at this time. Soon, I started reaching my weekly and daily goals and began to feel a sense of accomplishment instead of a continuous feeling of failure and never keeping up.

To start this process follow these simple steps:

1. On Sunday or a day of your choosing, schedule one hour of your time to look at all of your “to-do’s” and deadlines for the upcoming week.

2. Prioritize three of your most urgent tasks for the week.

3. Schedule time on your calendar for the week to complete these tasks.

4. Set three mini tasks (goals) for each day. When you begin, you may need to start with just one goal per day and work your way up to three per day.

I will never get all of my “to do” items complete.

Step Two: Set Boundaries and Rules for Yourself

The next thing I had to do was set boundaries and rules for myself to stop the addictive cycle I had gotten so used to. Prior to my realization that I was indeed addicted to my job, I would check

email, or even pick up my computer on Saturdays. And do you know what surprised me the most? By prioritizing my time and taking time off on Saturdays for myself, I was still getting what I needed to accomplish done! However, when I told you the addiction was real,

my texts and email every night up until I passed out, and then again first thing in the morning prior to even getting out of bed. While I thought I was doing this to prepare me for my day and to get ahead, all it did was cause more anxiety. This was the first habit I needed to break in order to be healthier and find balance. So, the first thing I did was to set my phone to silent mode and “do not disturb” from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. for anyone or anything related to work. I told people from work if I didn’t answer it was because I was prioritizing my health and my family time. This was and still is the most challenging thing to do because I use my phone for other things as well. It is very tempting to check those emails while lying in bed!

The next step I took was to give myself Saturday’s off. Do this for a month at first, until you have gotten yourself into a new routine. I did not check

I was not exaggerating! My first month of Saturdays off led to emotional meltdowns and feeling extremely guilty. This was shocking to me and reinforced my need for new practices even more. Once I had gotten past the initial shock of not working on Saturdays, I made the decision to not work on Friday nights. I am now at the point where I don’t work on Sundays either! So, I am now getting a whole weekend to focus on myself and my family. As mentioned earlier, I don’t count my weekly planning and goal setting on Sundays as work, since it helps me to prioritize my time for the upcoming week.

Another boundary/rule I set for myself was to leave work by a certain time on a typical day and be done when I get home. Of course, as an educator I will have board meetings, open houses, curriculum nights, and family nights; these are just some of the events I must attend in my

My first month of Saturdays off led to emotional meltdowns and feeling extremely guilty.

Tipping the

role as principal. But, what I have gotten better at is getting to work early to have some quiet focused work time and leaving each day at a designated time. Each week I send a detailed newsletter to families and my staff, and I take time each day to work on it. On weeks when I am busier, I put an hour on my calendar and shut my door to get it done. Additionally, I have a forty-minute commute, so if I still have calls to make or people to contact at the end of the day, I often do this on my drive to or from work. This alleviates me from taking time away from my family once I am home.

If you are a teacher, one of the best parts of work is the friendships you make. Don’t be afraid to shut your door and let your team know that you need that plan time for getting your “big three” done for the day! When your peers see you having family time and looking less stressed, they will also want to know the secret of setting boundaries and rules for themselves so they can bring joy back into their teaching life as well!

Educators, especially women educators, care deeply for their students and their families. There is no way for us to give 100% to both our families and our students. There is a way to enjoy our jobs, and have time for ourselves and our family once again. It means taking the time to prioritize weekly and daily

tasks and setting realistic boundaries and rules for ourselves. It may mean muting a group text conversation after a certain time each evening and jumping back in when you are up and ready for work. It also means we are tipping the scale back towards a happy, healthy life that has the professional fulfillment we deserve while also being the best version of ourselves for family and our own well-being.


Hamm, S. (2022). The Making of a Female Teacher and Who She is Becoming. Nussbaum, M. C. (2001). Upheavals of thought: The intelligence of emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Walker, T. (2022). Survey: An Alarming Number of Educators May Soon Leave the Profession. National Education Association. February 1st. https://

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics.

Scale (cont.)

Shannon Hamm is an elementary school principal at Circle Center Grade School in Yorkville District 115. Previously Shannon worked in Valley View 365 U as an Instructional Coach, self-contained gifted, and first-third grade teacher. She was also the principal of Saratoga 60 C in Morris, Il, and assistant principal in Troy 30 C in Shorewood, Il. Shannon is a mother to 5 grown kids and has a beautiful granddaughter who fills her weekends with smiles and laughter. Her favorite things are spending time with family, playing disc golf, and going for family bike rides.


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