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Dr. Goodin's Multimedia Blog

Blog EntryBlog: Thursday, November 20, 2014

Responsibility, Authority and Leadership

I have often been asked, “Hey, how does it feel to be at the top?” I have to chuckle at this because I often don’t feel ‘at the top’, rather I feel the load of responsibility. Fortunately, along with the responsibility comes a degree of authority that allows me to handle the responsibilities of my position. I have met people who have authority but have no responsibility. My observation is that this condition leads to tyranny and the abuse of that authority since there is no responsibility for the how the job is done or the outcomes. There is simply the command to do this or do that with little thought of the difficulty of the task. I have also known those who have a tremendous amount of responsibility but little authority. This leads to frustration and a feeling of being overwhelmed; always knowing what needs to happen but not having the power to make it happen. Leadership requires a balance of responsibility and authority. Having responsibility helps to keep the abuse of power in check while authority gives the muscle to get things done. The only other ingredient needed for solid leadership is motive. Why are you a leader or do you aspire to a position of leadership?  Is your motivation to serve others or to serve one’s own self? I want my motive to always be the desire to serve others, otherwise authority and responsibility mean very little.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 3:51 PM | 2 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Friday, November 7, 2014

There is more to success than being 'smart'

I have often wondered why some people are successful and others are not. Is it simply a matter of intelligence? Or is it luck? Or is it a combination of both? Are other factors involved that go beyond our notions of being smart or being lucky? I am currently reading Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence. According to Goleman, there are other factors that play a significant role in an individual’s success. There are many who may be ‘smart’ in the classical sense of having a high IQ, but flounder, while others who may not be as ‘smart’ are successful. Goleman identifies areas of emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, zeal and self-motivation, empathy and social deftness. I think many would agree as to the value of these characteristics in any calculation of success. What I find intriguing is that all people have the seeds of emotional intelligence, but exhibit varying degrees of maturity in each area.  For example, early in my career I knew a man who told me that his earning a doctorate was not indicative of his intelligence, rather the accomplishment was a product of his willingness to work hard. Interestingly enough, he was a very intelligent man, but certainly did not come off as aloof or give the impression that he considered himself smarter than the next guy.  Rather, I knew him to be an extremely hard worker. It has been my observation in life that there is no substitute for ‘hard work’ or effort. All of those characteristics identified by Goleman are major contributors to an individual’s success. The question is whether or not you are willing to let the seeds of greatness grow in your life. My grandfather, who I consider a great man, was not a wealthy man nor would he be considered smart in the popular sense of the word, but he was motivated. He worked hard. He often told me that there was nothing I could not achieve if I was willing to work for it. Nor would I ever go hungry if I was willing to work. I appreciate the lessons he taught me, and have tried to impart these lessons to my own children. Being ‘smart’ is no substitute for those areas of emotional intelligence identified by Goleman. The measure of emotional intelligence, while not measured in a test like the PSSA, is measured by the ultimate high stakes test. It is called life.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 12:08 PM | 2 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What does 'good teaching' look like?

I would like to use this blog post to start a discussion about what good teaching looks like. I will start off the conversation with some of my thoughts on the subject. Feel free to comment and share what you believe good teaching looks like as well.
When I envision ‘good teaching’ I think about a place where the students and the teacher are active and enjoying what they are doing. There are a variety of activities going on in the room and the students and the teacher are involved in the process. Whether the students are working together or independently, it is evident that they are involved in what they are learning. The ‘buzz’ in the room is focused on the topic. The room is interesting to the eye and has several focal points that demonstrate student work. Good teaching is evident when, after only a few minutes in the room, the observer can sense a clear purpose for the lesson that is tied to a relevant, real life problem or situation. When asked, students can answer two questions: why are they learning this and why is it important for them to know or be able to do. I also envision an environment where differences in ability are accounted for and the teacher is constantly checking for understanding. Good teaching leaves an indelible impression on the student.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 5:05 PM | 8 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Welcome Back Spring-Ford Area Staff

A new school year presents opportunities for various beginnings—new classes, new faces, sometimes new courses, and often new materials. Summer and vacation can be great healers; and as we approach the opening day of a new school year, the end-of-year pressures that plagued us in June seem quite remote and inconsequential.
Newness alone, however, cannot produce transformation. We ourselves must be willing to be caught up in the rebirth that is possible with each new year. Starting a new year gives us the opportunity to make new plans, design new strategies, and implement new ideas. There is a special kind of joy and satisfaction in planning lessons and activities for a new class; for although the subject or grade level is the same, the students are new, and they appreciate the planning that is done for them. Whether one's responsibility is administrating, supervising, teaching, preparing lunches, maintaining a building, or managing an office, there is always room for improvement and for new ways to do a good job even better.
We can be proud of what we achieve in the Spring-Ford Area School District -in our classrooms, in our offices, and on our playing fields and stages—but our achievements are not due to complacency and satisfaction with the status quo. Our program is what it is because a staff of dedicated, aspiring men and women have a common goal—to do what is best for students—and are always looking for ways to achieve that goal.
This year, as in the past, we must concentrate on the processes that spur continuing advancement: evaluating what we have, determining what we can do to improve, and identifying what we need to make those improvements.

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 12:11 PM | 0 comments
Blog EntryBlog: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Building a Better Teacher

I subscribe to the Marshall Memo, which is a weekly summation of educational articles from various journals and magazines. In this article in Parade, Elizabeth Green shares some of the main points of her new book, Building a Better Teacher (Norton, 2014). It’s a myth that teaching is an innate talent, she says: “Researchers have found that the most effective teachers can be extroverts – or they can just as easily be introverts. Some are humorous, but others are serious. Some are as flexible as rubber; others are as rigid as a ruler. It’s not personality that makes a teacher great, but a specialized body of knowledge that must be learned – and that often goes against what comes naturally.” Here are five teacher actions that she believes have the greatest impact on student learning:
            • They use students’ mistakes to improve instruction. Researchers have found that teachers who are best at spotting why a third grader would think that 307 – 168 = 261 are the most successful at improving students’ math performance. “The best teachers put themselves in their students’ shoes,” says Green, “and grapple with how they arrived at the wrong answer in order to set them right.”
            • They are precise in their instructions. Green approvingly cites Doug Lemov’s observation that saying “Shhhh” to a noisy class is ambiguous. “Are you asking the kids not to talk, or are you asking the kids to talk more quietly?” asks Lemov. Best practice is to eradicate ambiguity, respond to misbehavior with specificity, and describe the desired behavior rather than the problem. To get distracted students back to work, a teacher might say, “We’re following along in our books.”
            • They encourage deeper thinking. Researchers who observe classrooms internationally have noticed that there are more “explain how and why” questions in higher-performing countries like Japan, Singapore, and Finland – questions that get students thinking at a higher level – for example, How did you find the area of this triangle? Why is the area 17? In American classrooms, there are more “name/identify” questions: What kind of triangles have we studied? What is the length of this shape? One study found that in the U.S., students helped initiate the solution to a problem in only 9 percent of lessons, compared to 40 percent in Japan. “By asking questions that pushed students to think on their own, Japanese teachers taught them more,” says Green.
            • They cold-call. Calling on students whose hands are not raised gets much more mileage from each question, increasing the chance that all students will be thinking through the answer. It’s also effective to ask the question first, pause, and then call on a student.
            • They show more than tell. Telling students to read a passage again or make a weak essay better is not very helpful. It’s most effective to show students the invisible mental steps that go into effective performance – making your thinking visible. “By taking students through each mental leap, one at a time, teachers can help them see the exact processes they’ll need to complete to be a better reader, write a better essay, or make a better argument,” says Green.
“Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green in Parade, August 3, 2014 (p. 6-9), www.parade.com

Posted by Dr. Goodin at 9:25 AM | 0 comments
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