Monday, August 30, 2021

Mind Your Ps and Qs, a Norm Setting Protocol

The beginning of a school year is an exciting time for educators and learners. For many of us, it's an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again with new groups of students and perhaps new colleagues. And if you taught remotely for all or part of the last school year, you may still be getting acquainted with some of your colleagues - or perhaps all of them if you are new to the school.

Today I'd like to share a PLC protocol that I have found to be helpful in developing team norms. While I've used it with teacher teams, I think it can work really well in setting up class norms in a student-centered environment. It's actually an adaptation of "Irks and Quirks" published in the book Facilitating Teacher Teams and Authentic PLCs: The Human Side of Learning People, Protocols, and Practices by Daniel R. Venables. I call it "Mind Your Ps and Qs" and it gets participants reflecting on their own pet peeves and quirks as they develop team norms. Ideally, you want to create the norms immediately after completing this activity, but if the group is too large you may need to tweak it so it doesn't take up the entire designated time period.

Here's how it goes.

Time: 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the group. And I suggest stating this at the start so it doesn't take any longer.

  1. Give each participant an index card. 
    • On one side, they write one pet peeve regarding PLCs or meetings. Some common examples include, one person monopolizing the conversation or not starting meetings on time.
    • On the other side, they write one quirk that colleagues (or classmates) should know in order to make their work most productive. Some examples include sharing preferences or learning styles.
  2. Participants share both sides of the cards with no comment or discussion from colleagues. 
    • Ideally sharing is voluntary, but I found most people are open to sharing.
    • This should take 5-7 minutes.
  3. Debrief for about 3-5 minutes before moving on to setting team norms.
If you have a PLC protocol that has worked well for you and helped you build relationships, I'd love to hear about it. Please share it in the comment below, drop me an email or reach out to me on Twitter (@amgonza).

I wish everyone a happy and healthy school year. And remember it's the tidbits that make it all grand. Take care!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Help With Getting Our Students' Names Right

Created using Quozio

Do you struggle remembering names? I certainly do. While I'm pretty shameless about admitting it and asking over and over again, it's pretty embarrassing and I don't like it. Through the years I've gotten better by coming up with strategies to memorize names or to get folks to tell me their name again without having to ask, but I'm still working on it.

It's back-to-school season and one of the challenges educators face every year is learning students' names and especially the correct pronunciation. There's nothing more welcoming to a student than to be called by their properly pronounced name starting on the first day of school. I recently came across a cool website that will help teachers be able to do just that. has recordings of proper pronunciations for more than 100,000 names. So if there are names on your rosters that you're not familiar with, you can learn to pronounce them before you meet the students. And if a name isn't included, or if a student pronounces his/her name differently than on the site, you can add it to the database. This can also be helpful in learning to pronounce parents' names properly before you meet or call them.
Proper name pronunciation speaks volumes to an individual. It demonstrates to them that we value and respect them as an individual. Most teachers will tell students to correct them as they call the roll on the first day of class, but many kids don't speak up so it's up to us to take the lead on this. I also encourage you to read (or listen to) Cult of Pedagogy's post, "How We Pronounce Student Names and Why It Matters."

I've also found it helpful to have students submit a video introduction via a learning management system (like Canvas or Google Classroom) at the beginning of the year - ideally before the first day. That way you can learn their name and pronunciation while connecting a face to the name. This was super helpful to one of my teachers who came to our school mid-year. The week before he joined us, students introduced themselves and welcomed him using Flipgrid, and it helped him build relationships with his learners from day one. For more tips to help with remembering student names, check out Edutopia's list on "How to Remember Names.

If you have a tip or strategy that has helped you learn names quickly, please comment below, email me, or reach out to me on Twitter.

Have a great year! And remember, it's the tidbits that make it all grand. Take care!