• Some Needed Perspective

    Posted by David Jeck on 7/11/2022 12:05:00 AM

    My son Caleb and I drove across the country recently. We took our time, saw the sights, camped, fished, played golf, listened to great music and, most importantly, we talked. We talked about the future, the past, our joys and our frustrations. We laughed a lot and sometimes cried. It was an amazing trip...a once in a lifetime trip, really.

    I have one takeaway from the trip that dwarfs any other: life is short and the things in life that seem so critically important to us in the short term often are not. Sometimes they just don't matter. Spending time and energy worrying about things that we cannot change, things that won't matter to us a week from now, only succeeds at diverting attention away from what does matter: our families, our faith, and our friendships.   

       

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  • Baby Steps

    Posted by David Jeck on 6/7/2022 1:05:00 AM

    A renowned educational author and researcher, Dr. Bob Marzano, identified the nine most effective instructional strategies after observing over 5000 teachers. They are as follows:

    Marzano's Strategies
    • Identifying similarities and differences.
    • Summarizing and note taking.
    • Reinforcing effort and providing recognition.
    • Homework and practice.
    • Nonlinguistic representations.
    • Cooperative learning.
    • Setting objectives and providing feedback.
    • Generate and testing hypothesis.

    The MOST impactful: Summarizing and note taking. Surprised? I was when I read his book "Classroom Instruction That Works" many years ago. The problem is that we over use that strategy while neglecting the others. Marzano advocates for, encourages, and provides evidence that those teachers who utilize multiple strategies consistently and with fidelity will get better results. 

    I'm writing this on the heals of a great meeting wherein we discussed, among other things:  boredom, student behaviors, and instructional planning. The bottom line is that we want teachers to utilize multiple strategies and to develop innovative lessons within those strategies perhaps a little bit at a time for those who aren't comfortable, don't have the tools, or who were never expected to do so. Baby steps. Principals who observe teachers aren't looking for a three-ring innovation circus when they enter classrooms. What they are looking for is variety, multiple strategies designed to appeal to kids who learn differently. If we do this and recognize that our kids are in a much different place now than they were two years ago, we will likely see very different behaviors from our students.    

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  • Gun Violence

    Posted by David Jeck on 6/6/2022 12:05:00 AM

    On the heels of yet another school shooting we are experiencing what we’ve experienced after all other school shootings: an influx of thoughts and prayers and not much else. I believe in the power of prayer, but I also recognize that "faith without works is dead."  

    Since Uvalde, there have been 13 mass shootings in the United States and a total of 42 school shootings so far this year. I say so far because it is very likely that there will others. In fact, there was a school shooting in New Orleans three days after Uvalde where three people were killed. Shootings have become so common that those involving smaller numbers of victims don’t receive much coverage. The Washington Post has found that at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured this year alone.

    Since Uvalde, we’ve heard the usual explanations regarding why the US   Here is a partial list:

    • These are mental health issues, not gun issues
    • We aren’t enforcing the laws we have on the books now, so why should we pass more?
    • Owning any sort of firearm (in any quantity) is protected under the second amendment (key term here being “amendment” which has happened to the constitution 33 times)
    • Our national response to COVID e.g. virtual school, vaccinations, mask wearing has caused an uptick in the number of school shootings
    • Should have locked the doors
    • Should have an armed guard in all school buildings
    • Shooter grew up without a father
    • Shooter didn’t go to church
    • Shooter used drugs
    • Shooter made threats via social media that were ignored

    It seems that there are plenty out there who will point to anything  other than easy access to guns as the reasons why so many mass shootings occur in the U.S. Anything. Other countries surely have folks with mental health issues, who use drugs, who had one parent, who don’t go to church, who had to wear masks. So, why are the overwhelming majority of these murders occurring here? Why has gun violence become the number one killer of children in the United States?

     

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  • What's Next For Them?

    Posted by David Jeck on 5/19/2022 6:30:00 AM

    Graduations are extraordinary events and an absolute joy to attend. Its hard to put into words the pride and joy I feel as students walk across the stage, beaming with happiness, and ready for life's next challenge. I shake each of their hands and look into their eyes and wonder: What's next for them? Where will they go? What are their fears? What gives them hope?

    This year's graduations have been bittersweet and extremely emotional for me personally. I hadn't expected that sort of reaction,  but I suppose I should have. The loss of my son this year has been devastating beyond words. I am only now able to write and/or talk about it (which turns out to be very therapeutic). As I watch those kids walk by I can't help but think about my beautiful son. He had his whole life ahead of him just as each of our graduates have theirs. In a strange way, I feel as though each of these kids is a surrogate for David. 

    Hold your loved ones tightly. Tell them you love them. Don't take for granted any of the time you are able to spend with them.  Laugh with them, cry with them, and celebrate with them. 

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  • Example Worth Sharing

    Posted by David Jeck on 5/3/2022 6:15:00 AM

    I am obviously very happy that we were able to provide a 13% average raise for our teachers. By doing so we are, for the time being, actually above market average for teacher pay...but there is more to this story that I'd like to share.

    Many of our teachers, especially sole bread winners within their families, take on part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. One of our teachers, someone who works three part-time jobs, sent me this message regarding the impact of his own pay increase:

    "I just want to say thank you for advocating for your teaching staff in the county for pay increase.  I have been a teacher in this county since the 2013-2014 school year.  During this time I have received three raises, most of which have been related to my educational attainment.  I never thought about the fact that my previous jobs in the private sector guaranteed yearly raises as long as I was doing my job to the best of my ability. However, since becoming a teacher, I have come to value each of the pay raises that I have received and have earned. 

    I currently work full-time as a Humanities Educator at MVGS in addition to working three part-time jobs.  I do not know if I will get the average of 13% for a pay raise, but I would sure be grateful.  What a 13% raise would be to me and my family’s income is that I could potentially earn an addition $6,700.  To put this number in perspective, I have earned, on average, $2k a year working miscellaneous athletic events for Mr. Potts at LHS over that last several years.  I am also a Reader for the College Board for 7-10 days in June each year where I have earned between $1,500-$2k, depending on whether I am grading in SLC or at home.  Finally, I DoorDash during my “free” weekends were I make around $150 in tips in 3 to 6 hours of Dashing.   In total, I expect to make $7-8K combined in my three part-time jobs, which is just a little more than the 13% raise that is being discussed between FCPS1 and the local county government.   I can only imagine for now what my work-life balance might look like if it is not necessary for the additional part-time jobs to help cover bills for my family of four. 

    Again, thank you for advocating on the behalf of your faculty and staff for pay increases.

    Best,

    Chad Patterson"

    Practical example of the importance of valuing our people!

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  • Too Much Time to Reflect

    Posted by David Jeck on 4/19/2022 12:05:00 PM

    Prior to break, I was able to meet with each of my student advisory groups. My takeaway is always the same: there is so much to learn from our kids. They have so much to offer. Whenever I hear someone say something like you/I/we "need to talk to the kids more" I always think the same thing, "no, we need to listen to our kids more." Beyond the articulated stuff, this is what I hear:

    My voice matters 

    My rights matter

    My opinions matter

    I deserve to be heard 

    I deserve to be respected 

    I deserve to be understood

    I matter  

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  • Does it matter?

    Posted by David Jeck on 3/31/2022 1:00:00 AM

    All of our great ideas, new initiatives, exciting programs, and guest speakers will not move the achievement needle one bit if our teachers don't buy what we are selling. Students are much more willing to listen, to engage, and to focus if they understand why it matters (the "it" being what is being taught). Teachers are no different when it comes to staff development. They need to recognize why it matters and how it will ultimately help kids. Trying to improve our instructional models without getting buy-in from our most important resource is futile.

    In education, we've seen the pattern play out over and over again: New software, devices, curriculums, maker spaces, sensory rooms, project-based learning, and so on don't take any of us to a new place unless we follow a very simple model built around common strategies familiar to us, strategies that ensure buy-in. Books have been written about these strategies:

    Build Trust: Do what you say you're going to do. Be visible. Listen more than you talk. Smile. Support and defend your people. Always tell the truth. When you make a mistake, admit it and move on.

    Observe: Take walks in your building or buildings regularly and leave the evaluation hat in your office. What are the kids doing? Focus on their level of engagement. Be willing to confront the stuff that you don't like.

    Investigate: What are the true needs of your school and/or school community? These needs may simply require improved relationships, not necessarily the need for a new program or product that may end up on the shelf in a couple of years.

    Collaborate and Listen (with and to Everyone): Collaboration is energetic  communication—not just talking. Genuine listening occurs when your goal is to understand and generate questions. Combine the two—collaboration and listening—and you've got healthy, meaningful, and trust-building dialogue.  

    Measure: Is the new product/strategy making any difference? Products and resources may help and may make your life easier. But they are never going to be more than one piece of a very large puzzle. Although it is difficult to measure emotional growth, problem-solving skills, resilience, and the ability to work with others, it doesn't mean we can't. We monitor what we value, and these are the skills that we have thus far not measured with fidelity.

    Recognize and Reward Your People: When it comes to recognition and reward, a little goes a long way. It will go even further if recognition and reward are accompanied by consistency, sincerity, and a bit of enthusiasm. 

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  • Do you believe this?

    Posted by David Jeck on 2/18/2022 3:00:00 AM

    Please consider these questions:

    Do you believe that we should provide ALL kids with what they need in order to be successful?

    Do you believe that kids at the "top" and the kids who consistently struggle BOTH deserve programs, opportunities, and resources necessary to be successful (we can do both, by the way)?

    Do you believe that the instructional system that has been in place for over 125 years needs an update?

    If you answered yes to these questions, then it is very likely that you believe in instructional equity for kids because this is how we define it.

    I was asked recently at a leadership conference if FCPS1 is seeing "learning loss" as a result of the tumultuous nature of the past two years. The answer is, of course, yes, but it is typically much, much more pronounced among kids with fewer resources at home, two working parents, language barriers, poverty, etc. 

    Now more than ever, we need to provide an equitable approach to instruction that meets the needs of all kids. Make no mistake, if we do not, our kids will suffer and, ultimately, so will our community. 

    We can debate how we get there, how we utilize scarce resources, and how we transition to a more equitable model. Let's have that debate! It is a worthy and necessary conversation. In the meantime, let's stop viewing equity as some sinister, politically motivated plot to indoctrinate kids because it is none of those things. Those conversations have become white noise quite honestly.  Let's figure out what we agree with and then decide how we help all kids. 

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  • Money Matters

    Posted by David Jeck on 2/14/2022 4:05:00 AM

    Some people like to think that teachers do what they do because they love teaching and would probably do it for free. While this may be true of some teachers, the vast majority are just like all the rest of us: They have families to raise, mortgages to pay down, tuition to cover, and other bills to pay. Money matters to them, and the difference of even $5000 in a teacher's salary is significant. It is hypocritical for any of us to begrudge a teacher who chooses to move to a wealthier, better-paying school division in order to make more money. The same logic holds true for school administrators, bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers, and school nutrition workers. In short, money matters.

    The current teacher shortage has got to serve as a wake-up call nationally, statewide, and Fauquier County-wide. We can't afford to lose any more good teachers. The individuals who will suffer will be our students.   

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  • 13%

    Posted by David Jeck on 1/19/2022 12:10:00 AM

    13%

    This morning, on the front page of the Fauquier Times, there appears a story regarding my proposed FY23 budget which includes a 13% raise for teachers. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we provide this increase. We have an opportunity to fix a problem that we have kicked down the road for several years. With a significant influx of funding in the Governor's proposed budget, we have an opportunity to show teachers that we value and respect them. Teacher turnover is a monumental problem throughout the country, and while money isn't everything, it is important and it does help us retain and attract the best teachers. Our kids deserve this. 

    Please support this initiative.  We can do this!

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