Teach Wonder

If We Think of Students in the Same Way

November 21, 2021 Season 1 Episode 12
Teach Wonder
If We Think of Students in the Same Way
Show Notes Transcript

As a Michigan Teacher of the Year, a life-long educator, and executive coach to individuals of all ages, Gary Abud Jr. is uniquely positioned to see how some of the challenges occurring in K - 12 translate beyond the classroom. Join us for a talk that may challenge your assumptions about teaching and invigorate you to question some of your practices. This conversation is a great one to share with individuals who can make changes within the classroom and with the larger system.

Links: 

Music by: David Biedenbender 


Ashley O'Neil:

If you've been listening to our podcast, it's likely that you're hearing some themes pop up again and again. We value teachers tremendously the work they do their dedication and their passion. The unique mix of content knowledge, humor, care, drive, patience, and innovation that makes up teachers is something to be admired and respected. As we appreciate the work that our teachers are doing, we also have an eye in the future. It's not a secret that everyone within education is looking to consider what's working and what's not. To improve, shift and move toward a framework that meets students where they are, and respects teachers for the professionals that we know them to be. Today on our podcast, we're interviewing Gary Abud Jr. He's a Michigan Teacher of the Year, he runs his own coaching business with his wife, and he's author to the children's book Science with Scarlett. He's a parent and active community member and a fierce advocate for students and the profession. Our interview today touches on some tough topics. We talk about what's not working for students, and some ways that the system could better serve our students and our teachers. Change for the better can happen in a single classroom with a single teacher. But it also should be happening on a larger scale. As we talk about these topics, we challenge you to think about how disrupting the status quo could improve the lives of students and teachers, because both groups deserve it. Julia and I interviewed Gary, and we really enjoyed our conversation together. I'll be jumping back in with you to provide a little context and thread some of this conversation together. Here we go.

Gary Abud Jr.:

Yeah, absolutely appreciate the opportunity and glad to be with you both today. So my name is Gary Abud, and I'm an educator from the Detroit area. And I am a career science educator who went into private practice consulting a few years ago. And so now my role looks a little bit different working outside of schools than it did work in schools. And what I get to do now is work with organizations on education related projects, to build science resources to train science teachers, and also consult on other projects related to science education. So that's a big part of the work that I get to do now. And that all stems out of my love of education and my love of teaching science. So as a career science educator, in 2013, I was selected a Teacher of the Year for the state of Michigan. And that launched me into a really unique and exclusive leadership development pathway that took me into school administration for a few years. And then after that, it kind of got the itch to go off on my own. And my wife and I started our consulting firm almost five years ago now. So we've been able to work with educators all around the world, and teaching them new practices and new pedagogies new curriculum, as well as developing resources for organizations and programs around the country.

Ashley O'Neil:

So as you can hear from Gary's resume, I wasn't kidding when I said he's done a lot of different things. It was difficult for me to pin down exactly what we should start talking about with Gary. But we decided to talk a little bit more about what his consulting looks like.

Gary Abud Jr.:

So our firm includes a few different services. So our main areas are- we work with organizations on science education,

Ashley O'Neil:

So Gary's team runs trainings, they may work and develop curriculum, some for programs you may have heard of before,

Gary Abud Jr.:

.... curriculum resources, such as the work we do for Detroit Public television, and PBS,

Ashley O'Neil:

we could probably have a second episode that just goes deeper into the projects that Gary's team has done around this. But I'll summarize and say that Gary's team created resources, lessons and trainings for shows such as Great Lakes Now, and the documentary Inventing Tomorrow, I highly recommend checking them out.

Gary Abud Jr.:

So those are, I'd say, a big part of our work. And then when we aren't working on science education related projects, we're doing executive coaching. So we work with individuals, both those in school, whether it be K 12, or college age students. And then we work with adults to help them develop the skills that they need, and to solve the problems that face them in their career for personal or academic life. So it might be a high school student who has ADHD, who wants to prepare for the ACT or the LSAT, it could be a college student who's finishing up their capstone class and needs help organizing and planning for doing their project or their research. Or it might be somebody in their career years, who was looking to make a transition from working with one company to finding a new job or even starting their own adventure. So all of those, it turns out require the same set of executive function skills to help you organize, plan and execute the things that you need to do. And whether it be an academic, professional or personal life. All people can benefit from coaching and support, whether it be on a personal level or in some other fashion to be able to help you to reach your goals and overcome the obstacles that are in your way.

Julie Cunningham:

Gary, it sounds to me like no two days are the same, which is one of the things I always love about education in general but I mean- Your wide range of even just participants or clients that you work with is just really amazing. And addition did like, no two days being the same ever. That wide range of clients must be kind of exciting.

Gary Abud Jr.:

It is, I think you're right, there are no two days, they're the same. And so sometimes, you know, we're working individually, we've got a team of consultants who are around the country and work for us in on our team, we've got people that specialize in different areas of education. But one of the things that we find is so exciting about the work that we're doing now is that we're able to be even more helpful to individuals working outside of the school setting than we ever felt that we could be inside of the school setting. And I don't know about any of the people who are listening today. But there were many moments when I was teaching high school chemistry and physics that I loved focusing on the content of chemistry and physics. But students tended to struggle with things that weren't always related to that content, they might struggle with managing their time and all their responsibilities to get their studies done, they might have other issues that were related to what we would call executive function skills. And so there was no time within the curriculum and the demands of a school day, to be able to really support students with developing those skills. And so what I found that really drove us into this private practice work is that many students if they didn't have the support that was needed to develop those skills, they just didn't. And so the students who ended up doing well, it really didn't have as much to do with smarts per se, as much as the advantages and opportunities of developing skills like that. And so what we would probably see often in many schools, is those kids who figure it out, they figure it out. And those who don't, they don't, we just haven't built our system of education to support students beyond the content areas in many cases. And that's kind of a need that we saw that sort of started us down this road.

Julie Cunningham:

So I actually at the risk of asking too many questions in a row, I have to say, I have to follow up questions, but I can divide them up if need be. But my first question, Gary, is, did that did COVID exasperate those needs? Or or does it not affect needs of teachers and students or executives or whomever you want to talk about in terms of your client?

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

We'll get back to Julie's second question, I promise. It's about resources, and you won't want to miss it. But let's listen to Gary's conversation about how COVID affected his students and his clients first.

Gary Abud Jr.:

Probably as many of your listeners are going to have a kind of relation, to the need is much higher in education than perhaps it was before. And that is in large part due to the effects of the pandemic had to disrupt education, but also the the shift that it made to blended learning. So you know, prior to the pandemic, there was a lot more chewiness about who was engaging with education online, or using digital tools are using video conferencing. And now it's much more run of the mill that that's been happening. So I would say that one of the things that COVID had a big impact on is that students who had to be in a situation where they were learning online, or learning more independently than ever before, many of them the difficulties that they would have with executive function skills were truly revealed at that time. So students who had a lot of support in the face to face learning environment, then they're at home now by themselves largely being autonomous on their learning, if they have difficulties with planning, organization, time management, any of those sorts of things that came out loud and clear, and they struggled mightily with online learning.

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

Timeout for a second. So if you remember, Gary mentioned that his coaching relates to executive functioning. Now, what exactly do we mean by executive functioning? Well, well, definitions vary- and you can go online and see lists that vary from three to 12, different skills- they all tend to fall into these three broad categories, cognitive flexibility, which would include decomposing a task or changing with new information, working memory, so adding to that or maintaining inhibition. So ignoring irrelevant or distracting things, which is also a really important part of prioritizing. As we think about the work we asked students to do write an essay, complete a lab, play and addition game, those executive functioning skills are what helps students decide what to do first, when to start a task, what materials they need, how to organize their work, just to name a few. Keep those skills in mind as I asked Gary, this next question. (within inverview)... get my question in that so I can get back on the train. And we were talking you were talking a little bit about that push and pull when you were a classroom teacher have you had a lot of content to dive into and your students were needing that content, and they were needing these skills in order to be able to do the things you needed them to do, right. So there's the content there, but then there was also these executive functioning skills And I'm

sure...Narration:

I go on to talk to Gary a little bit about the struggles that I had. And I know others have to balance this need of teaching soft skills and feeling like my students have the tools that they need to be successful in any content area, and also meeting the content area demands. (Within intervew).... I know that there is no perfect solution here. But as you're thinking about what an ideal model might look like, and you have had a lot of opportunities to speak with students and adults, so we know that these executive functioning skills matter into adulthood and affect your ability to be successful in adulthood, what might an ideal model look like that strikes or works to strike a better balance between that content driven need that I think all teachers feel? And then also that time and space to work on those executive functioning skills?

Gary Abud Jr.:

Yeah, so this is probably the most important question right now, from my standpoint, with the work that I do is how do we help teachers to help students to do this better. And probably the number one thing that I would want anyone to be able to take away from this is that we have to make all these things explicit for students. So as a simple example, we assign, we give lectures in class, we might do lab activities, whatever it might be, we have different situations where students need to take notes. Now, largely, as a high school teacher, I didn't spend any time teaching my students how to take notes. If I wanted to make note taking more efficient, I gave them fill in the blank notes. And many teachers did that. It's a great accommodation. However, it doesn't teach them how to take notes, so that when they need to take their own notes, then they're able to do so. And what we tend to do is we say, Oh, well, the middle school teacher should have taught them how to take notes. And then they say, well, the upper elementary school students teacher should have taught them how to take notes. And we kind of pass the buck along. At any point, if students need to be able to do something or do something better, we need to make that explicit and show them how to do it. That's the first thing. And that extends to things more than just taking notes. It extends to things like managing one's time, we give students homework very traditionally, and very typically on a regular basis, and we expect them to just figure out how to manage their time to do it. We don't take into account whatsoever that they've been at school for eight hours in a row, and that they are developing adolescent and teenage brains who need more sleep than the average person does. And their sleep cycles are very different than the average adult. So we don't take into account that they've been at school all day. And if they have six or seven classes, who each assign, let's say, 30 minutes of homework a night, well, now we're talking an extra two or three hours a night of homework, and what does that actually going to accomplish? And I'm not trying to make excuses for teenagers here. I've certainly not. But what I would say is that we don't think about or talk with each other as colleagues in schools to see how do we balance the responsibilities we're putting on students once they leave school, with the time that they've spent thinking in school, the things that they have going on in their families, or in their personal responsibilities outside of the school day.

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

Okay, so this is a good time to bring up the conversation about individual teachers and the broad concept of education. There are many teachers who have changed homework policies to reflect this issue. And most teachers have a complicated relationship with grading and homework and are always looking to find a better balance. But this is an issue that goes beyond a single classroom in a single school. Requiring spelling tests. And reading logs is a common practice in many districts. So teachers can decide what a specific rule is for those logs and lists. But sending them home isn't optional. There's also a belief that rigor relates to quantity. So we as parents can sometimes wear this badge for our kids that says, they must be working really hard and learning so much, because of all the homework they get. There's an expectation that tough classes have lots of homework. This idea is pervasive in our culture, and extends beyond the teachers themselves and into our community. So as we talk about homework and students time, let's remember that we're talking both about what an individual teacher can do, and also what the school the system can do, because it takes both.

Gary Abud Jr.:

And I would just appeal to the teachers listening today, who have ever been in a position where they took home a mountain of grading to do over a space of time at home, and felt so overwhelmed and burned out by that and thought, well, I've already taught for 40 hours this week, I've already done XY and Z extra duties. Now I've got to do all of this. And I still need to go grocery shopping, take care of my own family and somehow find time to exercise, eat right and care for myself. If you've ever felt that way, as a teacher, I want you to know that teenagers feel the exact same way. And so I think a really easy fix is to reevaluate how much are you putting on students to do on their own time? And is there a way that you could adjust what you do in class to be able to do more of that together in sound less of at home in general? I think that the stuff we do in school matters so much So much more than if we could just focus on that, and stop trying to offload and farm out our teaching responsibilities to students to do on their own at home. Because we're pressed for time, I think we would see students both be less stressed and more engaged in our classes. And then they would be happier people who are less on the brink of burnout, just like us as educators, and we might have a better experience overall. So of course, there are no simple fixes here, and anybody listening is going to go, Well, that's easy for you to say, because you're not in the classroom right now, I would just appeal you to consider that for the 10 years that I spent teaching high school science, this was something that I did in my classroom, I stopped assigning homework, because I learned that it didn't make a remarkable difference in learning. And so we restructured the class so that any practice we were doing, we were doing together, because honestly, to do an extra 10 physics calculations at home six hours later, after football practice, never amounted to anybody coming in the next day with high degrees of Oh, I understand it so much better. Now. It just never happened. And if somebody else knows how to do that, please email me find me on Twitter, I'd love to hear about it. But I think that's a really easy thing that we could do is reevaluate our homework practices. And then to try to make it more explicit how we teach students about the explicit skills that they need to develop, rather, assuming they'll just figure it out,

Ashley O'Neil:

(withing interview) Yeah, that's a really, a really great point. And I think about from the parent side of things you are as the teacher, then you're kind of sharing this load with a parent and putting the parent in position. And if I take that down to even Elementary School, much of that homework isn't truly independent. And it needs to be done with a grown-up or a little bit of adult supervision. And so then you're putting a parent in a position to teach number line work or phonics in a way that they-they missed the lesson in class. And so they're missing that context. And so they have to share that teacher hat, which doesn't always result in a healthy relationship with the parent child in that moment, or with the child and that content in that moment, because the drill of the spelling words may have eroded their positive feelings about the spelling activity in class, because the drilling at home wasn't wasn't a positive experience. So I even think about what that looks like, as a family dynamic, and how that can affect everybody else.

Gary Abud Jr.:

Yeah, that's a really, really great point, as well as that, you know, we don't think about the impact this has on family dynamics. I mean, in a lot of ways, what we are doing here is we are somehow thinking that as educators, we control student's personal time when they're not in our classrooms, I've actually had a really difficult time over the years of understanding how policies have ever supported that. Because we then hold students accountable by their grades by saying, Oh, you didn't do it? Well, you get a zero. And now your grade, because our grades are traditional and fixed, that zero affects your grade forever. So even if you understand it next Tuesday, but you didn't do it today. Well, now your grade forever shows that.

Ashley O'Neil: Narrartion:

If you're interested in understanding more about grading practices, and how they can have some unintended consequences, especially when it comes to zeros and homework policy, I'm going to recommend that you check out the link in the show notes to an article that Gary has shared with us, that does a nice job of summarizing some of the points that he made. Now back to Gary.

Gary Abud Jr.:

We don'tcontrol student's personal time, we get to control in loco parentis between eight and three, or whenever that is, we don't really have domain beyond that. And I think that we're kidding ourselves to expect that we do. And I would love to see policymakers in the education sphere, take this a little more seriously, and consider what it means to really be trying to control our students. And as you put it, our family's times outside of the school day as well.

Ashley O'Neil:

It's hard to be that teacher within a system who maybe has different feelings when the grading policy is fixed within the grade level or within the school, right? And all kindergarteners get homework or all fifth graders get homework or, you know this school, we expect that kids will have this much homework and evening. And it's hard to be that system disrupter inside the system, if that's kind of the the norm that we've expected. And parents will say, Well, I had homework as a kid, so why doesn't make it of homework. So it can, it can be it can be a tricky, sticky situation all around. Sometimes we stay in, in traditions, because that's what we've always done without really questioning. Why have we always done it? And should we continue to do it that way?

Gary Abud Jr.:

Yeah, it's a super important point, too. So there you go. Think about why do we stick with these traditions?

Ashley O'Neil:

Yes. So I think we could talk about this for a really long time. Um, but my next question on the list is what are some of the greatest challenges that you see in education right now? And how can we address them? Now, I don't expect I'm not ,I'm not. I'm not suggesting that you have some sort of crystal ball that you're hiding and holding out on everybody else to say well, I have the answers. But as you see them because you do talk with individuals and students, and you see this kind of beautiful pipeline of humans through their progression, right, even adults in the workplace, you see how some of their education has played out for them? What do you see are being being the greatest challenges right now?

Gary Abud Jr.:

Yeah, so this is going to perhaps come as a surprise to a lot of your listeners. But I'm going to say that the biggest challenge facing education right now is the pressure that we inadvertently put on students to succeed, to achieve to perform, and to perform not just at a regular, everyday level, but at a high high, like competitive better than everybody else level. From a very young age, we acculturate students into this mindset, that it's not just you should go to college one day, but it's you should go to a great college. And at best, you should go to the best college possible that you can find anywhere. And so therefore, you should be taking the best and hardest classes and getting the best grades. And you should be playing three sports, and you should be hearing cancer and doing to clubs, and doing all this stuff. And before you even get to high school to do all of that you should be in the Honors track in middle school. In a way, in order to do that, you have to test higher at first grade when you're math. And so now we need you to be in a high increase school so that you can be competitive for college 12 to 15 years later, that pressure is something that's very subtle, but we communicate that to students and it's uniform all over, I've worked with teachers in pretty much every area of the country. And in other parts of the world. I've worked with students of all ages and all stages, it's the same thing. And I don't want to use this too, too cliche, but I'm gonna say anyway, kids these days, feel an immense amount of pressure to achieve and to do great things. Because we've powered them with the leadership mindset, you can be a leader, you can be a leader. But with that comes the responsibility to do things at the leading edge of everything. And so you can't just be a good student, you have to be the best student, you can't just get a good LSAT score, you have to get the most competitive LSAT score.

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

So I mentioned this a few minutes ago, this idea of ranking everything and striving for the best. It comes from a good place a place of wanting our kids to have a good life and to do well and to feel successful. And there were metrics that were put in place for us as kids and even as adults that have guided us to this place of always striving for more and defining what makes success.

Gary Abud Jr.:

Because we've taught students that your identity is wrapped up in who you are as an achiever academically. And so if you can't achieve getting into an Ivy League school, or big 10 school or whatever it might be in your area. That means that your identity as an achiever is decreased in your value and worth as a human being is now in question.

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

And like I said, this is coming from a place of desiring good things for kids,

Unknown:

Because we want to tell you, you've got so much potential.

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

And Garymentions that we are often really encouraging-

Gary Abud Jr.:

You could do this, we believe in you!

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

But that encouragement, which in our head builds kids up and makes them feel capable, can actually do something different.

Gary Abud Jr.:

But we put so much pressure on students by trying to be positive, affirming, and encouraging, that actually has turned on its head and has the reverse effect. And we see in teenagers and adolescents, that mental health issues and suicide are on the rise. The issues with things like anxiety and depression, all this, they're higher than ever.

Ashley O'Neil:

It's important to note that many factors contribute to mental well being in all populations. And this is not a comprehensive conversation of those things. But there are studies that back the idea that the pressure of success, the pressure of the positive narrative "work hard and you can do it" can be unbalanced. Kids may miss the message that it's normal to struggle, that success doesn't have a singular definition, that your worth is more than your grades, athleticism, or your skill at a task.

Gary Abud Jr.:

They're competitive from a young age, parents are trying to support and fuel this by getting their kids resources outside of school, of which we are one of those our company serves that need for some people. And we really try to do a lot in our parent advising to help them have realistic expectations. And realize that the research shows where you go to college does not define who you will be, nor does it define how successful you'll be later in life. And for many, many people that is a paradigm shift that is hard to overcome. Traditionally, as you mentioned traditions earlier, I think if we could get over that it would go a long, long way. We need to stop hanging the penance of where we went to college, everywhere in the lunch room. You know, all these types of things that we do to encourage students like you can achieve this and you can achieve this. It's great, let's encourage them. But when we make that the ultimate thing and students wrap their identity around it, then As soon as they don't achieve that they now just haven't failed at something, they go into an identity crisis.

Ashley O'Neil:

Yeah, and I think, I think there's a compression problem there, right? Like, I remember when my child was young, I was introduced to the bell curve at their first well visit, right? And the bell curve is problematic in and of itself. But your relationship with that idea is that there's this 50% marker. And if your kid is nudged on the higher side, higher is better at that bigger numbers better, without recognizing the fact that the bell curve is literally saying that people are designed to be across this diverse stratosphere of heights and links and weights and ability levels and skill sets and strengths and development. And, and we do that to parents. And we do that to those kids. And we say, right, like we love our kids, we want to give them the best opportunity available, that switch can be difficult. And that compression happens when teachers are also raised to feel like their value is tied up in students scores and student abilities. And we are given mandates that say that a certain number of students have to be achieving Well. My school can't be the failing one, there has to be a certain number of failing ones that my school can't be that failing one. So we better, we better bump them over to that 50th above that 50th percentile. And I think that we, you're right, as a culture, it's pervasive in school, out of school, with adults, and with parents and teachers. And we often talk about how we have to be our best selves in order to be the best selves for our students. But that's really true. So we need to address where does that competitive or that performative spirit lie within us so that we can recognize and separate it and say, I need we need to stop that cycle by recognizing that it's not healthy in our own professional space, or personal space or family space so that we can do better for our students. Yeah, that's,

Gary Abud Jr.:

That's such an important point to that I want to just kind of echo there is that, from the policy standpoint, we do it to our educators just as much and then that trickle down effect is amplified. Again, I think all of this comes from a very good place a very well meaning place of let's encourage people to do their best work. However, it has this downside, it has this dark side that we just didn't recognize coming onto it.

Julie Cunningham:

So I have two follow up questions to that. And sometimes I'm I'm not as on topic, as I think Ashley would like me to be. So one of mine is kind of going in reverse. I feel like when we talk about teachers, and I don't disagree with anything that you said about homework or prioritizing students time and how they spend their time, I feel like the teachers would have to maybe prioritize what's important to them in their classroom, and what's important to them and their content. And, again, might not always be easy, because someone else has expectations of those teachers as well. But if I'm if I'm an instructor, if I'm a teacher listening, and I'm thinking, Well, yeah, I really I really kind of like what Gary had to say about, you know, fear worksheets, less time outside of class, how do I start to think about prioritizing what I do in class?

Gary Abud Jr.:

Yea so this is, this is awesome. I love this part of the conversation, because it's where do we get practical, where we take all these high level ideas and put them into practice. So a couple simple examples to kind of make this actionable. So let's say that pick on high school physics or chemistry, that's what I taught, but it could apply to anything. So we would oftentimes we'd learn a topic, we do an experiment, and then we would see how the results of that experiment applied to new situations through practice problems. Often those were story problems. Instead of doing a few story problem examples in class, and then sending students home with 10, or 20 of them to do on their own, we would, I would pick 10 really good examples that we're covering all of the little details of the situations, I would assign groups to do one or two of them each in class, then we would put the solutions in detail on a giant whiteboard, probably like a two foot by three foot dry erase board. And then we would get into a circle or look in groups. And we would hold the boards up and the students would do like a little poster presentation to share. Here's how we solve this problem. Other students and I would get to kind of interact and talk about and discuss the ways that they solved it, we would do a lot to make thinking visible, students would be taking notes on how to look out for certain details of the problems from one another. And that would actually accomplish for me, what I would say is the following principle here, which is instead of knowing how to do 100 problems, okay, let's know how to do 10 of them really, really well. And let's make sure that those 10 are selected intentionally by the teacher to cover all the details that could be coming up in a situation. So that would be one example is let's be more selective about the practice. Instead of making it a solo sport. Let's make it a team sport where students can make their thinking visible, learn from one another, and we can engage in more discourse and In student dialogue in the classroom, to be able to support learning, that would be one. And that really gives a great opportunity for students to refine their thinking after they've articulated it, and it gives them a chance to reflect. So you can do this where everybody does problem number one, but only two groups, whiteboard number one, everybody knows there's does number two, but two different groups, whiteboard number two. So now everybody's done all 10 questions, either individually or with their partners. But we're going to go in depth to talk about them from the perspectives of a couple of groups. And there's a really terrific resource, especially in science, education, and math education, called the five practices for orchestrating productive discussions. And this framework is a really great one for doing exactly what I'm talking about, where teachers get to anticipate the firefighters are in anticipate what students are going to need to learn how they're going to approach it, where there might be pitfalls, then you're going to assign some sort of a task, you monitor the students while they're doing it. So now teachers go around to the small groups, and they see, are they getting it, talking with them, they try to correct misconceptions and mistakes before it gets to the presentation. That way everyone's thinking is built up. That's the monitoring, then we're going to select certain things from certain boards, to be able to bring out in the open to everybody, that's the third practice, then we're going to the fourth practice is sequence. And then when you sequence things, that means as a teacher, you're trying to help make sure that we talked about this piece before we talk about this piece. So we don't you know, talk about what the graph looks like before we talk about the equation, for example, or vice versa. That's the sequencing of ideas in the discussion. And then number five is connecting, that the teacher's job is to help students make connections between ideas in the discussion, so that they come to the ultimate learning goal that the teacher had for the lesson. So that five practices, anticipating monitoring, selecting sequencing and connecting is outlined in two different books, one for the science context, one for the math context, great, great tool for doing exactly what I'm talking about. And then I don't need to send them home with 10 more questions, because they've already done them. A second way to make this really actionable for you is to think about your assessments differently. So if we think about doing something very simple, we caught reassessment. So students take a quiz on Tuesday, on whatever chapter one will just say simple example. And they give us the student gets a CI. Now for the rest of the quarter, or the card marking, that looks like that student only knows that content at a C level, even if they've improved over the next week with further practice further lessons further exposure, instead of that see being permanent. What if we let it improve with their improved learning, we offer an opportunity for students to come in and reassess on that same topic. Don't go to the same question, do a different version, ABC, super easy to do. We have different versions already to keep cheating down. So use multiple versions. They come in and they reassess. And you give them the opportunity that that new score replaces the old score.

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

Gary is familiar with some criticism of this idea.

Unknown:

But what if they, you know, what if they don't actually put their effort in the first time, and then they just do better the second time?

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

And he brings it back to the ultimate goal.

Gary Abud Jr.:

Well, you know, what isn't the goal that they learn it anyway?

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

Now for teachers who are really concerned about this retesting strategy, Gary recommends some safeguards that you could put in place that would give students some accountability and might help mitigate some of those concerns.

Gary Abud Jr.:

And some teachers like to safeguard this by requiring students do something in between, but reassessment is another simple example of where this can be done. And it can allow students to show that they've learned it later. Now, I don't say like don't do this thing where you go, you can only get an 80%. On the second one, don't do that. That's not what I'm saying here. If they can get 100%, the second time around their grade should show what they know. It's actually better for teachers to because then students who didn't get it the first time and needed a little more time, their grade goes up, and you look like you've done a great job teaching, which you have, because you've taught them more, and they've learned it better. So those are a couple I think, that are super, super simple to put into practice. I mean, I guess I think they're super simple, because I've done them, but they're doable. I should say that they're they're doable and workable. To get started with. What do you think about that, Julie?

Julie Cunningham:

I think those are two great examples. Gary, thank you. Thank you for sharing them. Your second example always strikes me as the the question comes up for me, right? What is this grade really indicating? Like what is the I think about that when we put attendance and things like that in a grade two, right? If I'm providing a high school grade in chemistry, does that really mean you attended class or what does that grade telling the parent or telling someone else who reads the grades. So-

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

I want to come back to those soft skills, the executive functioning skills, Gary admitted in his own teaching that he struggled to find time to teach those things. I think that many teachers are in the same boat. I know I was. We have to get through a unit and teaching study skills and habits aren't on the standards list. And yet, how often do we put those skills back into our grading system, give points for showing up on time for turning in a permission slip for doing homework, which is often showing where students are partway through their learning. So when the report card comes home, and it has a B, or a three or an 87%? What's it really telling us? How well they know physics concepts are how well they performed the mix of those executive functioning skills and the labs and the content related material in class.

Julie Cunningham:

If you can only ever sit with a C, that grade is telling somebody that you've only ever learned that material at a C level. Regardless of whether that changed.

Gary Abud Jr.:

Think of it from the teacher perspective, think of how we do as educators, when we have teaching evaluations coming down our way, we have the same stuff happened to us. We have you know, an event an observation that didn't go well, we might request can I do another observation next week? Oftentimes, administrators will oblige that and they'll come and see you at checkout. You can tell them I had a bad day. What do they do? Do they average the two observations? No. Do they keep the one before it and drag your your evaluation down? No, they replace it, you get another shot you get to do over? If you're late getting your documentation for your test scores to your principal for your evaluation? Do they say I don't need it anymore? You get a zero on that part of your valuation? No, they say, Listen, get it to me today, because I still need it, then you turn it in, you don't get 80% of your points for it. Nobody deducts for it being late, they still turn it in. If we think of students in the same ways that we think of educators on some of this stuff. I think it just makes sense to be applying the same kind of practices,

Ashley O'Neil: Narration:

Thinking of students as the complete and complicated individuals that we know ourselves to be. Considering how the community we're building in school reflects the challenges and real expectations that are outside the K 12 system, and what just doesn't, these are big ideas to be discussed as we consider our relationship with the education system. This conversation isn't finished. But we are taking a turn. So Gary has done a lot of work creating resources for teachers, partly through his role as the Michigan Teacher of the Year, and partly through his work with his firm. And the remaining minutes of this episode, Gary shares some of the details about these projects, and how to find them. He also brings up some interesting thoughts on what we consider to be quality resources, and how that might need to change. First, he shares what it means to be a Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Gary Abud Jr.:

Yeah, so the Michigan Teacher of the Year network is a professional organization comprised of the Michigan Teachers of the Year, I by the name that makes probably the most sense to the listeners. So anyone who's received the Michigan Teacher of the Year Award over the course of the the time that that's been going on, is a member of this organization, as well as what are called the state finalists are also known as the regional finalists. So Michigan's divided into 10 kind of civic regions, so to speak, in those 10 regions each, they're not counties, per se, there's usually clusters of counties based on geography. And those 10 regions each select a Teacher of the Year for their entire region out of all the teachers there. And then those 10 finalists are reviewed by the Department of Ed for selection for the Michigan Teacher of the Year. And what we do as a professional organization is we provide support, advocacy, work policy work to teachers and teaching around the state of Michigan. So you'll see us writing op eds in the local publications of our communities around an upcoming policy decision that's being made at the State Board of Ed level, you'll see us advocating in the legislature, either by working with the House Education Committee, for example, different bills that are being proposed, or giving testimony on certain legislation that's being reviewed, you'll also see us giving professional development opportunities and presentations, either at you know, a university college experience for pre service teachers, or you'll see us working at the district level or school level, to support teachers and educators. And then we also put together resources like the the project that we did with your STEM center, to be able to provide support for teachers. And then beyond that, you'll see a lot of us doing independent projects in our local communities that support education at the local level. So our network by being comprised of the individuals that are in it, we serve at the local, state and national level, to support teachers and teaching in a variety of different ways. And so that's kind of a little bit about us, but really, truly we support the next generation of teachers. We support the current generation of teachers, and we advocate for policies that support teachers and teaching and all walks through education in Michigan.

Ashley O'Neil:

Now earlier in the episode, Julie was about to ask Gary about resources that he's made and resources that he finds. I pause before she could ask the question and Gary could answer, but I'm sharing his response now.

Unknown:

I would say one of the best ways that I have ever found to learn about what others are doing is through social media. So I've been able to connect with educators all over the world for years, using platforms such as Twitter, and I know that there are other channels out there that people use that are really great as well. But for me, my favorite is still Twitter. And that's where I learned a lot about what other people are doing and where people can see what I'm up to as well, because I tend to share pretty widely all the things that I'm a part of. Now, if you wanted some direct connections to any of these specific projects that I've talked about today, obviously, the seven resources that the employee network put together for CMU STEM center, that would be I think, a really number one that I would send people to, and I know that you've got that link on your website, and we'll probably have that in the show notes. But those resources are essentially for K. K students. And what we see there is that we've put together free and open source resources that allow students and teachers to engage in meaningful lessons, projects and activities around a variety of STEM topics. They include some of the best research and the most current evidence based practices and articles that you can find about the topics at your grade level. And so if you're looking for lesson ideas, if you're looking for resources to support why you might do these things in your classroom or with your colleagues, there's some great resources there. And they're all made freely available by CMU, I would say that I've been able to be part of projects that make resources freely available to teachers for the most part. And that I really appreciate because there's two things that are really important, accessibility to resources, and whether or not they've been vetted. It's so common these days. And I don't know that everybody will agree with me on this. But it's so common for educators to jump on Teachers Pay Teachers, and grab the first thing that looks attractive to them, and pay somebody for it. Now, I don't think that there's anything wrong with paying an educator for something that they've created. But there is just no vetting process to whether or not those resources are having quality. And oftentimes, the number one indicator for whether or not they get selected is how they look. It's not necessarily the content, or whether or not they're going to have best practices in there. Another one that I talked about earlier, Great Lakes. Now, they have done an excellent job through Detroit, public television, and PBS to make great lakes related content available for the middle grades classrooms. And so if you go to Great Lakes now.org/education, you'll see tons and tons of free lesson plans there as well as ideas for adapting those lessons for the blended learning setting. Then the third one that we talked about earlier, inventing tomorrow, that documentary has another set of great learning resources. Again, all this is freely available, you can go to inventing TomorrowMovie.com. A d you can find out where to be a le to see the film, you can a so be able to access some i portant film clips there that g along with some of the l ssons and modules. And those f cus a lot more on e vironmental science and p oblem solving. And so if y u're interested in things like a r pollution, or water p llution, that film follows s udents in their projects from a ound the world. And that s rves as a jumping off point f r your students to investigate s milar topics and issues in y ur own local community. And t en one more that I would just w nt to mention is if you're p rt of early childhood e ucation, early, early e ementary or preschool e ucation, oftentimes, that age g oup gets a little bit o erlooked for Science E ucation, because we're so f cused on early literacy and e rly numeracy, which is i portant as well. So one other p oject that I would just share i is that I've had the o portunity to publish my first b ok, and it's a children's book a l about science education. I 's called Science with S arlet, and it follows a young g rl scientist and her teddy b ar assistant who do e periments with the reader. So i uses literature and rhyming v rse to be able to teach real s ience concepts using a model b sed teaching approach where t e students or the readers r ther, aren't going to make, t st and refine predictions t roughout the course of the b ok, to build a model in this f rst book, to be able to learn a out light and how the eye sees c lor. So you can go to science w th scarlet.com. To be able to r view some of the resources t ere find out about the book. W 've got a lot of great a tivities for the K two and p eschool level students there a well for free and if you're l oking to connect with Gary, I a @Mr_Abood, A-B-U-D. Twitter tha 's probably the easiest way to connect with me for people. Yo can visit my website SagaEd cators.org to connect with me there or science with scarlett.c m to connect with me there a d then we'll put all the other p ojects that we We talked about earlier in the show notes as w ll. But no, it's just been an ho or to be able to be here and tal with all of you and love the wo k that you're doing love the ollaboration we had the opportu ity to do and look forward to support future educators and c rrent educators as well.

Ashley O'Neil:

We learned so much from our conversation with Gary, and between the resources, ideas and challenges he posed. I'm hoping something within this episode resonated with you. If you did enjoy listening and you think that a friend or colleague may as well, feel free to share this episode with them. This podcast is brought to you by the Center for Excellence in STEM education. And you can find us by searching cmich c-m-i-c-h and stem ed to learn more about what we do