Teacher Autonomy with Jason Bodnar Transformative Principal 060


Jason is an assistant principal at a middle school who taught for 9 years as a science teacher at the high school level. After working with Assistant Superintendent on 1:1 initiative and creating his own classroom, he realized that he was able to see education in a different light, and chose to go into administration.

  • Having a say in what is going on in your classroom can only lead to good things.
  • How he gives teachers autonomy in what they are doing.
  • Helping teaching find a way to try something new without fear of failure.
  • No matter how old you are, there are people older and younger that are smarter than you.
  • It’s not that you don’t like science, it is that the instruction you have had has not reached you.
  • What makes people great is having a knack for giving students a strong voice.
  • Differences between working with high school and middle school students and staff.
  • If you’re trying new things and doing what’s best for students, you’re going to be successful.

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Sue Szachowicz was a student, teacher, assistant principal, and principal at Brockton High School.

Article about the success of Brockton High School. New York Times article. Letters to the Editor.

State Tests started in 1993 in Massachusetts and the school was living in denial of whether or not the state would deny a diploma based on the state test. Why would a student continue going to school if they know they are not going to get a diploma?

  • How to create a sense of urgency when it doesn’t seem like there is one.
  • Front page of the Boston Globe in 1999, failing our kids.
  • Is this the best we can be?
  • Creating a restructuring committee - meeting over the summer.
  • Looked at the released test questions.
  • Major Fail - Shakespeare Focus
  • It can’t be about a test.
  • What are the skills kids need to be successful on this test AND what are the skills kids need to be successful in their classes AND what are the skills kids need to be successful in their lives?
  • Answer to these questions led to a school-wide literacy initiative.
  • What is missing from your class, and what do we need to say differently so it passes the 7–11 test?
  • Skill is the centerpiece, context is the supporting element.
  • How do you bring literacy to life in the classroom.
  • Wanted to pick something that was easily measurable in all content areas.
  • Active reading, followed by writing a response to the reading.
  • Writing is thinking.
  • Teachers taught other teachers how to implement writing process.

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Bill Daggett is the founder and Chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education. He has worked all over the world helping schools improve and currently hosts the model school conference which showcases the 40 top performing schools in the country.

  • Other nations were doing some things better than us, but not everything. One thing we do much better is educating ALL students.
  • No nation in the world that would do what public education was doing for my family.
  • Spoke in 29 nations in 2 years.
  • Pulled company back to focus on America.
  • Carefully interviews people who need help, and mentor the schools to help them.
  • 5,000 - 8,000 people at Model Schools Conference in June.
  • Teaming is important. We have created artificial silos that don’t help students learn in real-life situations. School
  • Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships for ALL students
  • Schools are organized for ease of the teachers, not students.
  • Schools are organized for the top 1/3 of the students.
  • Want to motivate kids? Better make it relevant for them.
  • Interdisciplinary teams.
  • To start find two people who are willing to work together and go from there.
  • Build your master schedule around them.
  • Takes about 3–5 years for these initiatives to work.
  • We need the common planning period between disciplines.
  • Gotta pick the battles you are going to fight.
  • That’s too revolutionary and revolutionists get killed.
  • Breaking staff into thirds - Lunatic Fringe (let’s do every new initiative), Realists (I need some data to change first), Over My Dead Body (I’m not changing for nothing!). And it is not always broken down into even thirds.
  • Just leave the bottom third alone. Spend your time and resources on the top third.
  • Took 7 years working with that district for Brockton High School to start changing.
  • Teachers need an ongoing network of people beyond their own building.
  • Running Interference: Find ways to unlock teachers potential and remove roadblocks (state regs, parents/kids, union).
  • Get parent advocates. Talk to the parents of students who are doing a really great job. Get that parent to run for school board. Over time, it grows.
  • Public education has been around for a long time, you won’t change it overnight.
  • Measure what matters.
  • Academic Tenacity - do kids feel school is relevant? Do they feel safe? WE Surveys help find out if kids feel connected to school.
  • Do students and teachers agree that what is being taught is relevant?
  • Student and parent engagement are important.
  • Content, Methodology, Academic Tenacity, Parent/Community. We are so hung up on Content, that we can’t get to next three items. High performing schools don’t begin with content, they begin with getting the kids engaged.
  • Culture trumps strategy.

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Please take a moment to rate this podcast in iTunes or on Stitcher

Please follow me on Twitter: @jethrojones for the host and @TrnFrmPrincipal for the show.

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  • There is a little audio issue at about 2:15 (and at the end) from my new microphone that I used for this. I couldn’t remove it without removing the whole piece. Please forgive me. ;)

Randy Barron Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. More info here

  • Kennedy Center teaching artists integrate arts into the curriculum. Much more focused on students creatively solving problems.
  • Arts integration is an approach to teaching where students create an art form to solve a problem.
  • Still want to have art taught as an art form,
  • Find ways to make kids guilty of learning.
  • Find ways to show movement with content areas.
  • Science and Poetry are areas that naturally relate to movement. Math is a little more difficult, so it may not connect with skills, but it does still connect with concepts.
  • Kids solve problems. Kids make water cycle through dance.
  • First drafts are not all that they do, it is just the beginning.
  • Integrating close reading of text and other strategies to make sure students understand content, as well as dance.
  • Playing with purpose.
  • Outside of comfort zone is in their learning zone.
  • Students use drawings, demonstrations, writing, and more to show what they are doing. Each child has their own record.
  • Randy started dancing at age 19.
  • Art integration is incredibly efficient.
  • Using verbal, physical, kinesthetic modalities.
  • Movement and dance gives them more of a reason to know something, makes it easy for kids to understand and remember.
  • Uncover the content versus cover the content.
  • Interleaving (or spiraling)
  • Tip for getting started: Find a Kennedy Center partnership to get started.
  • Principals: Make sure you let your teachers have a little breathing space.
  • http://kennedy-center.org
  • Contact Randy here
  • Web site

New Episode of @TrnFrmPrincipal


Please take a moment to rate this podcast in iTunes or on Stitcher

Please follow me on Twitter: @jethrojones for the host and @TrnFrmPrincipal for the show.

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Show notes on TransformativePrincipal.com

Download Paperless Principal.  


New Episode of @TrnFrmPrincipal


Please take a moment to rate this podcast in iTunes or on Stitcher

Please follow me on Twitter: @jethrojones for the host and @TrnFrmPrincipal for the show.

Buy Communication Cards Use code TRANSFORMATIVE to save $10!

Show notes on TransformativePrincipal.com

Download Paperless Principal.  


New Episode of @TrnFrmPrincipal


Please take a moment to rate this podcast in iTunes or on Stitcher

Please follow me on Twitter: @jethrojones for the host and @TrnFrmPrincipal for the show.

Buy Communication Cards

Show notes on TransformativePrincipal.com

Download Paperless Principal.  


New Episode of @TrnFrmPrincipal