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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Habits of Heart: Helping Students Reflect and Act on Gratitude

Edutopia blogger Maurice Elias offers teachers several classroom activities to help students understand gratitude and put it to practice.

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Lessia Bonn's picture
Lessia Bonn
co-founder I am Bullyproof Music
Blogger

I was just going to write "This is perfect!" And then "Thank you! I'm off to pin/share/facebook gratefully!" That would have been it.

But then I noticed your question-- so I'll answer it. How do I teach gratitude? Well, we have a song and even a lesson plan called "Gift in This Present." In a nutshell; words that rhyme whimsically, with appreciation for happy friendships thrown into the second verse. Let's stop texting and smell the roses in the key of C.

I penned our little pop song with older students in mind. What has been amazing is how many YOUNGER students go crazy over the lyrics. In this day and age of texting and so many kids ignoring all the "roses," it makes my heart happy to see students actually listen up and take heed.

Thank you again for this wonderful post! It's very special. I love the links too.

Kat's picture

What wonderful ideas. When I taught kindergarten I would love to end the day with a few minutes of apologies and appreciations. It was a way to model how to accept responsibility and how to show gratitude. I found that taking those moments to show students that their actions were noticed and appreciated helped to make them feel important and valued.

The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

FEAST OF FEELINGS

Fifty kids are sitting quietly in their chairs at the place they'll come back to after they go get their food. Standing around the great room behind them are the teachers and a few parents who came in to help get everything set up and the food served and the whole thing cleaned up later.

The principal of the middle school asked each kid to tell everyone what they were thankful for and then the next kid would do it until everyone was finished. Even the parents and the teachers would say something. Then we could eat.

Standing next to me was Soozi's dad and her mother was on my right. When the time to speak got to Soozi, she said in a loud voice that she was thankful for everything in her life.

Before Soozi, most kids said they were thankful for their video games.

Next to me, I heard Soozi's father make a soft, moaning noise in his chest. It's the sound you make to yourself that comes naturally--when you're overcome with deep sweet emotion for your child.

Bridget's picture

Thank you for posting. These are great ideas for teaching gratitude in the classroom. My school has just started celebrating different traits each month. We have already celebrated respect and creativity. This month our focus is on gratitude, which lands perfectly with Thanksgiving.
In order to teach gratitude, I take it upon myself to model it to my students. Afterwards, giving them time to reflect about something they can be gracious for.
The Gratitude Board sounds like the perfect new addition for my classroom.
Again, thank you for highlighting this important trait.

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Bridget's picture

Thank you for posting. These are great ideas for teaching gratitude in the classroom. My school has just started celebrating different traits each month. We have already celebrated respect and creativity. This month our focus is on gratitude, which lands perfectly with Thanksgiving.
In order to teach gratitude, I take it upon myself to model it to my students. Afterwards, giving them time to reflect about something they can be gracious for.
The Gratitude Board sounds like the perfect new addition for my classroom.
Again, thank you for highlighting this important trait.

(1)

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Gratitude Can Fuel School Transformation

Blogger Elena Aguilar describes how developing a practice of gratitude on our campuses can help change the culture and climate of our schools.
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The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

Found on my desk late today was a jar of jelly. Nora Mill Granary Georgia Moonshine Jelly, from Gilligan, and a yellow sticky note. His words ...

This if for you Todd. Cus your my faivorihc teacher.

Gilligan

I'll be danged. He's making a solid F in class and I ride him hard but with an understanding touch. I know that doesn't make sense, but you'd just have to be there. I give Gilligan all I've got, and he gives me back a jar of moonshine-flavored jelly.

It's a square deal. A struggling child's affection. What can compare?

Katie's picture
Katie
I am getting my Masters in Education noq

This is a great articular. No matter what your occupation is you will always work harder if you feel appreciated. Making another person feel appreciated not only brightens their day but also makes you feel good as well.

I really like the idea of taking a photo everyday for a year of something your grateful for. It would constantly put you in the set of looking for the positive things in life. Imagine if the whole staff at your school did this for one year. I think the school would see a huge impact on every bodies attitudes and out look on life! Which would in turn make for a much happy place for students and teachers.

Melanie Link Taylor's picture
Melanie Link Taylor
Educator, Blogger, Southern California

Great comparison of Teflon (positive comments) and Velcro (negative comments)--that's what behavior modification science tells us. Of ten comments, eight need to be positive, two negative because the negative is more powerful. So we continue to accentuate the positive--eliminate the negative, etc., and don't mess with Mr. In-Between.

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Maryalice Leister's picture
Maryalice Leister
Educational Consultant, Instructional Design, Administrator

This is an exciting article, so fundamental to successful teaching, leading, and solid self-esteem. We always need to lift up those around us, recognizing what gratitude really is and how it is central to who we are and how we deal with others. Thank you for writing this - the message is vital!

Debra Shulins's picture
Debra Shulins
Academic coach and former teacher

Great article. Gratitude is important to teach and practice in all areas of life. One of my favorite essay prompts for 6th graders was to write about something they were grateful for. I loved their choices - everything from their beds to candy to hair gel. Gave me a lot of insight into the minds of 12 year olds.

Owen Griffith's picture
Owen Griffith
4th Grade Teacher, Guitar Instructor and Blogger
Blogger

I like the way this article applies gratitude in a practical way. The ideas at the end of the article would help any school.

Melanie Link Taylor's picture
Melanie Link Taylor
Educator, Blogger, Southern California

Great comparison of Teflon (positive comments) and Velcro (negative comments)--that's what behavior modification science tells us. Of ten comments, eight need to be positive, two negative because the negative is more powerful. So we continue to accentuate the positive--eliminate the negative, etc., and don't mess with Mr. In-Between.

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The Art of Managing Middle School Students

Edutopia blogger Ben Johnson offers up tricks of the trade for managing middle school kids.
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Karry Santiago's picture

I have taught seventh grade for seventeen years. I have found that building a relationship with my students is very important in order for the students to want to learn. I am able to get my students to strive to do better. I can get my students to do things in my class that other teachers can not. I think this is because my students know that I truly care about them and want them to be successful. I remind my students about their behavior by saying things like thank-you to those students that are coping down the daily objective. This reminds them what they are supposed to be doing with positivity.

Melanie Stuhr's picture

I completely agree that teachers must build relationships with students in order for them to feel welcome and safe in their classroom. I am a sixth year teacher and have come a long ways since my first year. I have discovered the best ways for building these relationships and how to make students know they can trust me as a teacher. I like students to know I am going to do what is best for them to make them become successful. Students who I am able to build relationships with generally tend to do better in both behavior and academics.

I also agree and can relate that students respond well to praise and reward. We have a reward system in place at the school I teach at and it's absolutely wonderful. Students who are spotted doing the right thing earn an "Eagle Buck" that they can spend at the Soar Store every other week. Items vary from school supplies to extra time on a computer. The students love getting these fake dollar bills as an incentive for making smart, positive choices.

Ms. Breon's picture
Ms. Breon
Seventh Grade English Teacher from Yorktown, Virginia

You bring up some great points. This is my fourth year teaching middle school, and I can see the huge difference this year in the relationships I am building. Students are willing to work much harder for me because they know that I care about them as a person. I like the distraction idea, which is something I do regularly, but never thought of it as an actual distraction. I sometimes will tell my students a long and elaborate story (that perfectly exemplifies the topic of the day) and when I'm finished, they desperately want to know if it's true. I try to make the story as ridiculous but plausible as possible. Those distractions may seem silly, but students need to be refocused sometimes. Sometimes the two minutes off-task make the difference between productivity or melt down the rest of class.
Great read!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

[quote]I sometimes will tell my students a long and elaborate story (that perfectly exemplifies the topic of the day) and when I'm finished, they desperately want to know if it's true. I try to make the story as ridiculous but plausible as possible.[/quote]

Ms. Breon, I love this. I suspect my inner seventh grader would enjoy your class.

Ms. Are's picture
Ms. Are
MS ELA and journalism, CA

"They're not being engaged so they're not engaging."

A beautiful voice of reason from a student sheds heaps of light on the "lack of management." I don't manage my students ... they're 11 and they need to be engaged to be involved. Thank you for speaking up in the community!

Christina's picture

My littles love to help. I ask them to get involved in their education. I expect them to know their grades when I ask, how they are doing, and what's up in general. The relationship is there and not just because I see them for a few minutes at break or lunch. They actively help with campus events and look forward to pitching in. It's the best way to make their education theirs!!! :)

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

I love your auction, Ben! What a great way to get them excited about practicing their Spanish. After a couple decades with middle schoolers, I have learned that one great way to keep them on task is to make sure the task and its directions are clearly spelled out. If they have questions, it works well for all of us if I can say (with a smile), "Go back and read those directions." I love the bashful smile and "oops" look they give me when they realize they didn't need my help to keep going. I think they want to be independent, and if I plan my lessons well, they can be (and maybe they also learn to refer back to those directions).

William Ooms's picture

Middle school students are very aware of what is around them. They are interested in very thing that they see, hear, smell, touch, and any one they come in contact with. I have plaques around my classroom and my eighth grade students know exactly how many I have. I then use these plaques to teach them. When I move a plaque, to draw their attention to this particular plaque, we have a discussion about the importance of the people in the plaque.
Most middle school students, like all students, have a sweet tooth. I teach math. When I see there needs to be more excitement to what we are learning, I break out the candy jar. Those students who were in Never, Neverland are trying their hardest to be one of the first three with a correct answer.
I agree with the comment that as teachers we need to know our students and what will motivate them. Just using the names of students on word problems, I have found, gets them involved with the learning process. When learning is about them, they are interested in it.

LDelgado75's picture
LDelgado75
DAEP Assistant Principal, mom, reader & runner ( jk about runner part).

Great article. Thanks for sharing.

Lauren Ashley's picture

I completely agree with you! I am a student teacher and I am in an eighth grade science class. The students are such little squirrels! But it makes class so much more interesting because they do have very good questions that do take part in the discussion, most of the time. I am definitely a relationship builder with the students and I do appreciate the kind of relationships that I do create with them. I especially enjoy when they come to me with science information they found online and want to know more!

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How Are Social-Emotional Learning and the Common Core Connected?

Edutopia blogger Maurice Elias proposes that social-emotional and character development are inseparable from students becoming college, career, and civic ready, the mission of the Common Core.

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Scott Seider's picture
Scott Seider
Assistant Professor of Education from Boston University

I'll admit my first thought when I started to read this white paper and article was, "Why SHOULD the Common Core be expected to take on areas other than academics?" But then I started thinking that if the Common Core is really about college and career readiness, then we really are learning more and more about the "non-cognitive" skill-sets and mindsets that facilitate student success in both college and the workforce... Perhaps the authors of the Common Core really would do well to identify some of these skill-sets and mindsets for primary and secondary schools to focus on supporting their students in developing.

Cindy Patton's picture
Cindy Patton
Executive Director of Topeka City of Character

Check out Social Emotional Character Development Standards for the State of Kansas at the Kansas State Department of Education Website.

Kristie Fink's picture

I read through all of the Kansas Social-Emotional/Character Development Standards, and they are an exemplary, and amazing body of work! All schools could benefit from their thoughtful crafting. Imagine a school district that uses them as guide posts and integrates them into their academic and broader curriculum!

Tracy Jensen's picture
Tracy Jensen
3rd grade teacher from Salt Lake City, Utah

While academics are important and essential to be college and career ready, they will hold little value if an individual does not also display strong character traits as well in their careers. As a teacher I see integrating social-emotional skills and civic responsibility into content as a vital part to creating a learning environment where students are engaged in their learning and motivated to take on challenges. Thank you for having this conversation!

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New Tool Invites Students to Zoom into History

Edutopia blogger highlights an open source tool that turns the vast history of the universe into an interactive, visual timeline for students.

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Doug Pederson AKA SpectateSwamp's picture
Doug Pederson AKA SpectateSwamp
Supported numerous library systems over the years

The best tool of all is a personal search engine like this one.
Check "nobody shares knowledge better than this"

Cut and paste all important text for storage on your USB stick. Do screen captures for more details (saving to jpg pictures).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u-2iUmSO_k
Here is a recent demo there will be more soon

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Teachers: How Slowing Down Can Lead to Great Change

In the spirit of the slow food movement, Edutopia blogger Elena Aguilar proposes teachers lead in slowing the frenetic pace often found in schools.
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Lyn's picture
Lyn
Principal

With years of experience behind me, I approach the final chapters of my career more passionate than ever to be an agent of change on behalf of learners. This article states, in understandable language, what I have been trying to say for quite some time now. If the slow-down concept were added to the idea of managing children in a dignified manner, we could truly expect that all children would be able to learn. To me, the slow-down means collecting the best data to describe what we are truly attempting to accomplish. We collect too much data. We twist it to find meaning. Let's unpack those standards until we identify what civilization really needs to know and be able to do in order to sustain the human condition of curiosity and compassionate connection. Let's think about adding the language of dignity to slow. Educate with dignity. Develop the leaders of our future instead of trying to make every person college and career ready. The goal is not post-secondary training to make more money working. Not live to work. Work to live.

Paul Kwiecinski's picture
Paul Kwiecinski
Economics instructor

Reply to Carl Honore:

Was going to mention your book, but you are here yourself! Have you ever spoken at TED? Or, are there other video summaries of your ideas?

Dr. Allen Mendler's picture
Dr. Allen Mendler
Author, speaker, educator
Blogger

Thanks Lyn for your comment about the importance of "managing children in a dignified manner," "sustain" or hopefully enhance the "human condition of curiosity and compassion" and "educate with dignity." It has been a centerpiece of my life's work to share the importance of along with how-to strategies that led me to co-author the book, "Discipline with Dignity." Dignity in regard to self and others is at the core of deep, meaningful and lasting relationships. Just imagine if only nations, and all peoples viewed each other through that lens.

Lyn's picture
Lyn
Principal

Ah, what an honor to communicate with you! I am a student of Rick's, years ago. The work that you two have done has become a part of me. It is still the missing piece in almost every school. Recently I have worked to bring Ross Greene into our vocabulary and practices. Same thing, different suit. The pace at which we frantically scurry, in State designated Turnaround schools, is testament to the eternal "missed target" of providing a dignified education that teaches people instead of standards. Strategically, we plan and set goals and implement myriad behaviors that do not equate to human connection. We are not measuring the right things and so we do not put our energy into the right interventions. Thanks for recognizing your teachings in my words and for all that you have contributed.

Josh Chittum's picture

I'm a 3rd grade teacher that implemented some SEL pieces into my classroom this year. It takes about 2-3 minutes a day and has made a huge difference, but I feel like it's not enough. I'm ready to join this movement ASAP, but how??

john Wright's picture
john Wright
IB secondary Math and TOK teacher. Asia

I have just read another William Leslie's wonderful comment about slowing down. Just this morning, I had yet three more colleagues listen to me and then say: "sounds nice - but we must do these reports and we have to achieve so many tests within a semester and...". I wonder - where is education going? Who is dictating what we do and how we relate to young people? I am part of the International Baccalaureate problem and although it is changing slowly, I still believe it is a long way from fulfilling its stated mission. I am thankful for this global community of teachers who inspire me to place students' learning and well being at the center of education.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia
Facilitator

Hi Elena and everyone,
What a powerful idea! I really like it. I think one of the things that you highlight as being important is reflection - taking a moment to stop and consider what went well, and what did not go so well. These moments are so important for future learning.

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Google Glass: Making Learning Visible with Wearable Technology

Visual Arts teacher Stacey Goodman explores using Google Glass with his high school students.

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Dorsey Sammataro's picture
Dorsey Sammataro
Visual Art teacher from Atlanta Georgia

I think it sounds like a fantastic way to record demonstrations as well as one's own process. I am going to order one pronto. Thanks for sharing such a great teaching tool! Wait they are $2,000. How did you get one?

Stacey Goodman's picture
Stacey Goodman
Artist and educator from Oakland, California.
Blogger

If any one is interested in finding out more, please find me on Google+ where I'm posting videos and photos from students using Glass.

Stacey Goodman's picture
Stacey Goodman
Artist and educator from Oakland, California.
Blogger

Yes, they are expensive! After being selected to be part of the Explorers program, my employer offered to buy them for the school where I started a piloting program. I'm certain that Google will try to bring the price down and make the prices competitive with the more expensive smart phones.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I'm so glad to see this today. I just got an invitation to buy Google Glass and I was hedging on it, because of the price, but i think it may be worth it to both expose kids to the technology and begin to experiment with where wearables are going in this rapidly changing world. Thank you so much!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think you need an invitation ot get a pair and they are running $1500 and you can only purchase them directly from google.

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A Mid-Year Reflection for Teachers and Students

Blogger Maurice Elias offers up useful activities to help teachers and students reflect halfway through the school year.

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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

"There needs to be a safe environment in which students know their feelings and observations will be validated and treated in a caring way."

I want to highlight that this should also be true in the faculty setting too. Trust is an important component for authentic reflection, including amongst educators.

Debora Wondercheck's picture
Debora Wondercheck
Executive Director, Founder of Arts & Learning Conservatory

This is true, trust is an imperative factor for authentic reflection, including amongst educators. Great teachers help create great students.

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In India, a School that Empowers Students and Teachers

What happens when students and teachers are immersed in an environment that encourages innovation and risk taking?

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Mike Jackson's picture
Mike Jackson
5th Grade teacher in Seoul, South Korea

I appreciate Newcomb's quote about the new responsibilities of teacher as listener, network-builder, connection-maker, and passion encourager. I love to talk by nature. I love story-telling, explaining, sharing, etc. I think this new definition of "teacher" as facilitator is so crucial, it is refreshing to see that some schools are actually getting beyond talking about these dramatic changes and actually living it out in their classrooms. Well done ASB!

Sara- Kindergarten Teacher's picture

"A teacher named Rich Lehrer taught me that the connection with kids is the first and only thing that's important" (Newcomb, 2013).
This quote is completely accurate and should be posted in universities and schools across the world. Educators can not teach effectively, if they do not know the interests of their students, triggers to behavior issues, family dynamics, etc.

I enjoyed this blog because it brought to light the importance of the children in the schools. For so long, the focus has been standards and skill sets. I understand the importance of data driven instruction and partake daily in data driven instruction, but the magic of student innovation has been taken away due to the pressures of standards. This blog has refreshed my desire to return to community learning projects that are driven by student interests. I appreciate a school, such as ASB, which has taken action in forward thinking programs that are centered around the students.
Sara Hacker

sqageek's picture
sqageek
Parent of 2 middle-school students in Houston, Texas

I appreciate their work. The performance of these students really amazing at international level competitions.

GybhsEducation Jalandhar's picture
GybhsEducation Jalandhar
Premier educational solution provider

Good job by Eshaan Patheria, really innovative and creative. His personality is really encouraging for others.

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From Brooklyn to Jakarta: Teaching Teachers Well

Blogger Karali Pitzele explains how using discussion protocols and classroom strategies during professional development can help propel teacher learning.

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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

Your singing our song here! This is what we've been doing in the Critical Skills Program for almost 30 years. It's amazing what a difference it makes when PD walks its talk.

Thanks for sharing this!

kizijogo's picture

I must say that these teachers are actually teaching a very special and they know how to educational, behavioral and normative behavior. I love the way their education.

Aep Suryana's picture

PD is actualyy required regularly for indvidual teacher. I am a teacher in Sulawesi island in east part of Indonesia would be happy to have an article of teacher's PD. If you don't mind I also want to have your view on teacher performance apparaisal.

Thank you very much for invaluable article.
Aep Suryana

Pat Werner's picture

Thanks for taking the time to share all these details! As you say, showing, not telling, is the most effective way to teach something. Having the teachers "live" through the very process they can use with their students makes it so much more likely that they'll actually use that process in the classroom. It builds "muscle memory." Great article! Thank you!

Amy's picture
Amy
Kindergarten Teacher from Chicago, IL

Karali,
I love your article on professional development. You said some wonderful points that I 100% agree with. It is impossible to tell a teacher what to do. You have to show that teacher what to do, and then you can expect change. Just like teaching our students, it is so important to model what you want to see from them. It is a great opportunity to build a professional learning community. A PLC should be sustained and continuous to build great practices. Thanks for this great post!
Amy

Cheyanne's picture

Thank you for taking the time to share this great article! I agree that it is essential to model what is expected of your teachers because they are growing and learning as well. Just as the state standards change; technology changes. They implement new strategies for us to teach, but often leave it up to us to learn it for ourselves. If we taught our students how we are expected to change, we would have a huge failure rate. Professional development is vital to have, but it is only effective if it is modeled, reviewed and practiced.

Cori's picture
Cori
Kindergarten Teacher

Thank you for sharing your article. Recently our district received Adaptive Schools training. It was one of the first times at a professional development that I got up, moved around and was engaged. We practiced what was presented and implemented what we learned once we returned to our schools. I remember a lot and most of all enjoyed interacting with fellow educators instead of having a power point presentation read to me.

Karali Pitzele's picture
Karali Pitzele
Transformative Schools Educational Design
Blogger

Thank you for your comment Aep,
I think having clear criteria for evaluation can be helpful, such as the Charlotte Danielson's Framework, and exemplars (ie. videos) to illustrate for teachers what the criteria look like in action really help. However, I will also say that being evaluated was not what helped or motivated me to grow as a teacher.
What helped me to grow was working with competent colleagues in a collaborative setting, being given good resources, and individual coaching.
The other thing that I will say about teacher evaluation is that one or two classroom observations per year is not adequate for supporting teacher growth, but most administrators are genuinely too overwhelmed to do more. When I was a principal, I tried to be in and out of classrooms as often as possible, even for 3-5 minute visits, so that when I did observe teachers formally, I had context, and so that I could support them on an ongoing basis.
Principals in New York City are expected to be instructional leaders, so I had to really develop my coaching and PD skills, while also managing the school. I was lucky to have a lot of training and support along the way.
Just like teachers, without good training and coaching it is difficult for school leaders to implement best-practices in teacher observation.
I would love to hear about the school you work in Sulawesi, would you tell me about it?

[quote]PD is actualyy required regularly for indvidual teacher. I am a teacher in Sulawesi island in east part of Indonesia would be happy to have an article of teacher's PD. If you don't mind I also want to have your view on teacher performance apparaisal.

Thank you very much for invaluable article.

Aep Suryana[/quote]

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