Enter to Win Gifted Resources

This month we’re giving away a book bundle that meets the unique needs of gifted kids and their teachers:

When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers
Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom
Differentiation for Gifted Learners

The Survival Guide for Gifted Kids
The Gifted Teen Survival Guide
The Essential Guide to Talking with Gifted Teens

To Enter:
Leave a comment below telling us how you help gifted kids and teens.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks that you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight, March 27, 2015.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around March 31, 2015, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2015 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

Posted in Free Spirit News, Gifted Education | Tagged , | 169 Comments

Guest Post: The Texting Principal

By Susan Stone Kessler, Ed. D., coauthor of The Principal’s Survival Guide

Susan Stone Kessler, Ed.D.As a principal of a large high school, I needed to figure out how I would develop connections with my students when there were so many of them—nearly 1,700—and only one of me. Like many educators, I work full time as a principal and a parent. One thing I’ve noticed with my own children is that communication via text message elicits an almost immediate response. It occurred to me that if this is how teenagers communicate then I need to communicate with them this way.

I publish my texting phone number on a banner in the school lobby and promote the number on our school website and in publications. It is a dedicated number, used just for texting with my school community.

The topics students text me about are as varied as my students are. I receive questions about policies and procedures, suggestions for things students want to do, concerns about grades, and so on. Occasionally students contact me about serious issues. For example, school was out for a holiday and a student texted me about her classmate being “thrown out of her house by her parents.” It was snowing that day and her friend had nowhere to go. Through texting back and forth with the students that day, we were able to find alternate living arrangements before the day was over.

Students have texted to tell me about rumors about a fight. Warnings like this help me plan to prevent disruptions. I have also been able to get students in touch with resources to help them if they need clothing, healthcare, and so forth. Although I receive an occasional complaint about a teacher, I get far more “my teacher really helped me” messages from students. Many students text to praise the school for the improvements we have made at the school. The day after the first homecoming dance we had had in years, a student texted, “Thanks for letting us have a dance last night. I had a lot of fun.” That message made my day.

It’s a challenge to feel close to students as the principal of a large high school; however, texting with students has enabled me to begin relationships. Every day, students come up and say, “I am the one who texted you about . . .” I always ask: “Did I text you back?”

They smile and respond affirmatively, knowing that they have access to me if they need me.

texting anonymity (c) Free Spirit PublishingWith 1,700 students texting me, there is no way I can keep track of who owns which number, and I have never tried. When students text me with a concern, I reply and ask them to identify themselves so I can help them. I have referred students to resources for depression, pregnancy, homelessness, families needing basic necessities, etc. I have never had a student refuse to identify himself or herself when I asked. The trust that texting has helped build has been significant because students know if they ask for help, they will get it.

Teacher Response
When I announced my texting plan, it was a surprise to the teachers. Some worried that students would get mad during class, take out their phones, and demand to text me on the spot. I assured them this wouldn’t happen, and in the 7+ years I have been texting students, it hasn’t happened even once.

Parent Response
The parents of my students have been very supportive. They appreciate that their child can contact the principal anytime. Many parents text me, and I frequently get messages from students asking that I call their parent. Parents value the communication and the access that text messaging provides.

Occasionally, a student reports a problem to a parent in the evening. It could be a disruption on the school bus or an issue with a student bothering them, etc. These can be emotional issues, but instead of the family reeling and being upset all night, they can text me. Usually I cannot do anything until the next morning, but texting allows them to “hit the pause button” on the upsetting incident and wait for me to investigate and contact them the next day. For that parent, being able to reach me matters.

Time Management
Texting is quicker than a phone call, an email, or an appointment. If I did not text, I would still need to answer all the questions I receive. Since texting is faster, it is not another thing to do; it is a smarter thing to do.

PrincipalsSurvivalGuideDr. Susan Stone Kessler is an award-winning educator who has spent the past 21 years working in schools with Middle Tennessee teenagers. She has been a teacher, an assistant principal, and a high school principal in two Tennessee school districts. She is coauthor of The Principal’s Survival Guide: Where Do I Start? How Do I Succeed? When Do I Sleep?

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2015 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Share the Wealth: Integrated Healthcare in a School-Based Health Center

By Laurel Lisovskis

Part 2 in our Share the Wealth series. Click to read other Share the Wealth posts.

Laurel LisovskisAt 6:30 on a Thursday morning, I found myself driving to Salem, Oregon, with a fellow intern and a small group of sleepy-eyed middle and high school students. What on earth would draw these teenagers to voluntarily wake before dawn and show up to the Bethel Health Center (BHC) to drive to Oregon’s fine capital city, you ask? To attend Oregon’s School-Based Health Center Awareness Day—an annual effort by the Oregon School-Based Health Alliance (OSBHA) to highlight the impact of school-based health services on student health and academic achievement—to advocate for their school district’s school-based health center, of course!

No. Seriously. They really did. They filled out a mountain of paperwork and even prepared advocacy statements for their governing officials to boot. I had to ask the question, so I set my coffee down, turned the music off, and turned to them. “Why did you guys decide to come to this today?”

“Because it seemed important.” That’s Mariah, a thirteen-year-old seventh grader. She designed an open group at Shasta Middle School called Hot Topic Lunch that meets during lunch to discuss relevant issues like bullying reduction, self-harm reduction, grief and loss, and how to be a better ally. Share the WealthMariah knows that if the Bethel Health Center hadn’t offered mental health counseling and links to services like girls’ empowerment groups, she wouldn’t have known there was this kind of mental health support for students—and she wouldn’t have had the brilliant notion and supportive adult networks to make Hot Topic Lunch come to fruition.

Another student, Samantha, explained, “I just moved here with medical issues, and the BHC saw me right away, helped me get my insurance, and sent me back to class quickly. And I’m interested in government.”

Research and common sense tell us that on-site school-based healthcare decreases absenteeism and increases the overall health of student populations. But did you know that it also pays for trips up to the capital where a girl who can appreciate this on a personal level can share her experience in a way that is educationally meaningful to her, and could potentially drive her academic success as well?

Rase, an eighth grader, came along as our journalist for the school newspaper, but he explained that his experience as a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance, implemented at Shasta Middle by a student receiving on-site counseling services through the health center, was his inspiration to attend. He felt like it was important for everyone to feel comfortable at school, and to be themselves.

Interns and Students meet witn Oregon legislators  (c )  Free Spirit Publish by L Lisovskis

PSU MSW interns for the Bethel Health Center, Andrea Hopkins and Laurel Lisovskis, and students Samantha, Mariah, and Rase met with Oregon House Representative Val Hoyle, District 14. We also met with Senator Chris Edwards, District 7.

Well over half of the nearly 2,000 school-based health centers operating nationally today include mental health services. Integrated healthcare is innovative because it combines services like mental health in a primary care setting, allowing for a more holistic approach to wellness. Anyone who works within any healthcare system can understand the fragmentation that can occur as a result of the referral process. Access issues are significantly reduced when professionals are on site, and this saves time and money.

What I noticed while talking to folks in Salem, however, was that most people don’t know much, or anything, about this preventative piece of school-based healthcare—even those who seemed familiar with school-based mental healthcare. The OSBHA has provided funding for programs that address topics such as healthy relationships, teen dating violence awareness, youth research, education, action, and more. All of the programs I have had the pleasure of assisting at Shasta are eligible for funding through OSHBA grants. In fact, Mariah caught up with me this morning in the school library to talk about how we could enhance her Hot Topic Lunch group. T-shirts? Posters? Awesome Ally Awards? Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I hope I have roused your curiosity about what your state has to offer. To see our amazing School-Based Health Center Awareness Day, and to learn more about Oregon’s School-Based Health Alliance, visit the website. For more information about whether your state has an affiliate to contact, you can get links by visiting the National School-Based Health Alliance website.

Laurel Lisovskis, BSW, is in her second year of graduate school working toward clinical licensure in social work at Portland State University. Her field placement is at the school-based Bethel Health Center, one of the innovative programs conceived through an alliance between state healthcare initiatives and public schools to bring services directly to students and families at school sites. Her intern experience includes doing individual and group therapy, as well as traditional social work roles such as resource utilization, collaboration with internal and external supports, and case management. Laurel is also working within the clinical setting to streamline integrated care services. With over ten years of expertise in counseling in both healthcare and public school domains, she lends a unique perspective of the connectivity between mental health and the well-being of middle school student populations.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Women in Education: A Bit of History and a Few Trailblazers

Abigail Powers Fillmore

Abigail Powers Fillmore

In 1817, nineteen-year-old Abigail Powers was a school teacher in Sempronius, a small town in central New York. She also ran a lending library, not yet a common thing even in larger cities. Among her students was eighteen-year-old Millard Fillmore, who later became a lawyer. A few years later, after Abigail had opened a school for girls in Lisle, New York, she and Fillmore were married. He went on to become the 13th president, and Abigail Powers Fillmore became the first First Lady to continue in a career after her marriage.

During Women’s History Month it seems fitting to reflect on the changing status of women as educators since the establishment of public education in the early United States. Abigail lived in an era when few people considered education beyond the basics to be a valuable thing for girls, yet teaching was becoming a fairly common occupation for unmarried women. Women and children were working in factories and mills, sometimes as indentured workers. But social standards were evolving, and the role of women as teachers—even college professors—grew considerably throughout the 1800s.

In their book Women’s Work? American Schoolteachers 1650–1920, historians Joel Perlmann and Robert A. Margo look at the numbers of women teachers as well as the factors that made teaching a respectable profession. They found that by 1860 between 61 and 76 percent of schoolteachers were women, with northern urban regions having the highest percentage. The view of women as nurturers, and of teaching being an extension of nurturing, may have driven some of this; so too may have the increasing changes in available work as the Industrial Revolution spread. Most of these female teachers were under 20 and unmarried, and few continued teaching after marriage. Pure economics surely had a role as well; female teachers were often paid less than half the rate of their male counterparts.

While women teachers were common, dozens stand out as people who created change in how children are educated, and how women are viewed as educators. This list gives a quick look at a handful of these trailblazers:

  • Sarah Jane Woodson early

    Sarah Jane Woodson Early

    Sarah Jane Woodson Early (1825–1907) graduated from Oberlin College in 1856. She went on to become the first black woman college professor and also served as a teacher and principal in black schools in Ohio and North Carolina.

  • Margaret Bancroft (1854–1912) founded the Haddonfield School for the Mentally Deficient and Peculiarly Backward in 1883. There she and other teachers developed new approaches to teaching developmentally disabled students, supporting their emotional growth as well as their education. Renamed as the Bancroft Training School, she has left a legacy now known as Bancroft, which specializes in neuro-rehab, autism, and special education.
  • Marie Clay (1926–2007) was an innovator in ways to build literacy in children and developed the Reading Recovery intervention program. From its start in Clay’s New Zealand homeland, it spread around the world and led to significant changes in how at-risk readers are helped to advance their skills in the shortest time possible.
  • Maria Montessori (1870–1952) was the first woman doctor in Italy, and her work in a mental health institution triggered her desire to find new ways to train and nurture children through individualized instruction. With her background in medicine, education, and anthropology, she opened a childcare program in 1907 as she formalized her theories of how children learn naturally. Her program is now well established in over 100 countries.

Abigail Powers Fillmore was not the last First Lady to have been a teacher before moving to the White House. Looking ahead, perhaps one day a woman educator will assume the presidency. And, just as the Industrial Revolution influenced the role of women as teachers, female students in today’s tech revolution will have the opportunity to become trailblazers in education through new teaching technologies and methods yet to be discovered.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Suggested Resources
Making the Grade: First Ladies and Education, a compilation of stories from the 2007 exhibit assembled by The National First Ladies Organization
Women’s Work? American Schoolteachers 1650–1920 by Joel Perlmann and Robert A. Margo

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Guest Post: Top Ten Classroom Life Hacks for Teachers

By Patrick Kelley, author of Teaching Smarter

Kelley-Patrick-Free Spirit author1. Need an idea for your next class project or assignment? Have students write a half page description of “The absolute best assignment a teacher has ever given you to do!” Or try this prompt: “Of all the assignments that you have ever done since you entered school, which one was the most fun? Why?” Or this: “Of all the assignments that you have ever done in any class, which one did you learn the most from?” Collect the work, and you’ll likely find at least two ideas worth trying. All you need is one!

2. Use Socratic Seminar discussion cards. Some students have difficulty participating in a group discussion. Sometimes the discussions lack insight. I have about forty 3 x 5 cards printed with suggestions for improving a discussion or helping a student enter it. For example, one card might say, “I agree with what John said but I would like to add this to his statement . . . ” With the cards, everyone participates without fear of being judged critically.

3. Here’s a trick to stop cheating on multiple choice tests. I number my tests version 1, version 2, version 3, etc. I tell students, “Please write the version number on your answer sheet. There is no need to attempt cheating now. Did you notice that there are different version numbers?” They always buy it even though all copies are the same. And, if you look at my wording I did not lie. Just a little irony, I suppose.

FileStack_retouched from AlMare wikimedia commons4. No time to grade that three-foot stack of homework? Instead of grading, give credit. Give one point for completing the assignment. Once a week tally up the points. You just saved yourself hours upon hours that can now be spent on other, more important tasks.

5. Is much of the work students turn in copied? Have them write a sworn statement with a signature at the end of each assignment verifying that it was NOT copied. Have them get creative and humorous in their testimonies. Will some still cheat? Of course they will—but not as many, and not as often.

6. One person in the group doing all the work? Assign rotating roles in which the leader changes. Make every individual turn in a written copy of the assignment. Give extra credit only to the groups that have 100 percent participation.

7. Tired of side conversations and murmuring? Put your students in groups and have each group create and present a humorous skit showing some of the worst offenders in classroom disruption without naming names that they have ever seen. Really have fun and laugh with them, but do a serious debriefing session in which you have them brainstorm solutions to the problems they identified. Now they’ll own the problem, and they won’t forget the lesson. It works!

8. Procrastinators! Offer one extra credit point (or another reward that you like) for each day an assignment is turned in early. Make it a competition to avoid the deadline.

450px-Houston_TFA_students wikimedia commons team4 upload9. Harness the power of peer tutoring. Check with your principal: Some states and school districts offer community service hours to advanced kids who engage in peer tutoring. This concept can be adapted to your classroom. I have assigned some of my more advanced kids to help those who are struggling. Incredible friendships have been formed—not to mention academic progress for both parties.

10. Start your history lectures with a song. (Let students see the words as it plays.) Assign them the task of finding their favorite “history song.” In no time, you will have quite the library. Many of my students have learned to love history through this process. As a side benefit, you have some great introductions for future lessons.

TeachingSmarterPatrick Kelley, M.A., is the author of Teaching Smarter: An Unconventional Guide to Boosting Student Success. He has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from California State University San Bernardino and a bachelor’s degree in history from Castleton State College in Vermont. He has been a classroom teacher for more than twenty-five years. He has experience as a mentor teacher and an AP coordinator as well as ten years of experience with the AVID program. He is certified in Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) and currently works with the International Baccalaureate program. Patrick provides workshops and presentations to districts, schools, and teams. Visit him at www.patrickkelleybooks.com.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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