Transgender Teacher? That’s Me

the-highest-result-of-education-is-toleranceTransgender Teacher? That’s Me

by Sophie E. Gilbert

I heard about One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium through a Facebook group for transgender professionals.

It was the summer of 2014 and I was fully transitioned in my personal life, with my workplace transition still to come. I wrote my essay “There is Uncertainty, but There is Also Hope” about the concern I had that the rural high school where I worked might reject me for being transgender.

A couple of months later, I revealed my plan to transition to my principal. He seemed somewhat amused at first, but he quickly assured me of his support. Within a few days, the superintendent informed the school board of my plan in closed session, and then he held meetings to create a plan of action. During the week before Thanksgiving. I was to tell teachers and staff in a meeting after school that Monday, with a letter informing parents mailed out the following day. On Friday I was to say a few words to my students in my classes. After Thanksgiving, I would show up to school as my true self.  

I began the week of the big revelation by speaking of the urgency I felt in making this transition as I watched my colleagues’ solemn faces. After the meeting, many came over to offer their support.

By Wednesday, the entire school knew. As the mail came to the homes of my students, parents began texting their kids. My principal said he could see the message spread across the school commons during lunch, one kid getting a text and then telling others, who then told even more. He peeked into my afternoon classes to make sure I was okay. If my students knew, they showed no sign of it.

Since we assumed the students already knew, I felt it was best to have my talk with them on Thursday. The superintendent wanted to wait until every single parent had the letter, but he reluctantly allowed me to move forward. I was to wait until near the end of each class period. The principal would enter and make opening remarks on the subject. Then, I was to tell a greatly abbreviated version of the speech I gave the faculty. Afterwards, the biggest concern that students expressed to me was that I might not be their teacher anymore. I assured them that I would be their teacher at least for the rest of the school year. I kept that promise.

That evening, the principal informed me that a parent had sent the letter to a local news station, which was sending a crew out the next day. Initially I refused to be interviewed or filmed, but I relented when I realized that they were going to out me on television with or without me. I told my story to the entire county on my last day as the gender I was assigned at birth.

When I saw the news story later that evening, I wondered if it had been the district that alerted the media. It was too neat. The piece cast the best possible light on the district’s handling of my transition.

In my first week as a female teacher, parents expressed concerns that I was going to use the girl’s restroom, that the students would be too distracted by my appearance, that I was doing this to indoctrinate my students with liberal views. Two families pulled their children from my class. Both students sat in the office to complete assignments that I sent for them.

Since I was to have no direct contact with either student, I was unable to monitor them and check for understanding. Both students had not turned in work I sent for them. When I submitted final grades for the first semester, the principal pulled me into his office to question me on why the grades of both students dropped after they left my class.

After winter break, the superintendent insisted that he examine all of my students’ papers to satisfy the families of the two students. They were claiming that I was biased against them for taking the students from my class. Of course, they had no problem showing bias against me by pulling those students in the first place. I was pressured about every instructional choice I made after that, until they informed me that they intended to non re-elect me. After it was official that I was not coming back, the administration ignored me for the remainder of the school year.

In the previous year, the same principal expressed how pleased he was with my teaching, and how thankful he was that I signed my letter of intent to return. In my fifteen prior years as a teacher, I never had a bad evaluation. Ever.

After numerous interviews this past summer, I accepted an offer to teach at a continuation school in San Jose. My new students are good kids who have been through many trials in their young lives, and my recent struggle only makes me better able to relate to them. I feel completely accepted on campus. If I had somehow survived at my previous school, I doubt I would have ever felt the acceptance I now feel.

I am a teacher who happens to be transgender, and I will continue to teach for as long as I choose. There will always be uncertainty in life, but now I know that hope can lead me through darkness and help me find the light.

Transgender Teacher? That’s Me

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60 Things Students Can Create To Demonstrate What They Know

60-things-students-can-create-to-demonstrate-what-they-know-fi (1)
60 Things Students Can Create To Demonstrate What They Know
by Ryan Schaaf, Assistant Professor of Technology, Notre Dame of Maryland University

When I was a high school student, I had the privilege of having a wonderful English teacher. She was kind, often helped her students, and created a wonderful classroom environment that was rare in my high school experience. To this day, I regard her as a great educator; one of the very best. Due to her help, I improved my writing abilities to the point I moved ahead to an Honors course the very next year.

As I now reflect upon her and my learning experiences fondly, I had only one criticism – I did the same type of work day in and day out. Although repetition is a tried and true method for learning, performing the same academic exercises over and over again really left a great deal to be desired. I wanted to express myself in new and different ways. After all, variety is the spice of life.

Nowadays, many educators use the same methods over and over again in their lessons for students to express themselves and demonstrate their new knowledge. Today’s students want to express themselves in a variety of different ways. They want their academic work to be relevant, engaging and fun.

Below is a diverse list adapted from resources found at of potential student products or activities learners can use to demonstrate their mastery of lesson content. The list also offers several digital tools for students to consider using in a technology-enriched learning environment.

60 Things Students Can Create To Demonstrate What They Know

  1. Audio Recording (try Vocaroo)
  2. Acceptance Speech
  3. Advertisement
  4. Avatar (try Voki)
  5. Blog (try Edublogs)
  6. Book Jacket
  7. Brochure
  8. Bulletin Board
  9. Cartoon
  10. Class Book
  11. Collage (digital and non-digital)
  12. Comedy
  13. Comic Strip (try BitStrip)
  14. Commercial
  15. Dance
  16. Debate
  17. Demonstration
  18. Discussion (try Voicethread)
  19. Diorama
  20. Drawing
  21. Experiment
  22. Flow Chart
  23. Games (digital and non-digital)
  24. Google Earth Tour
  25. Graph
  26. Graphic Organizer
  27. Infomerical
  28. Interview
  29. Photo
  30. Portfolio (try Evernote)
  31. Puppet Show
  32. Learning Log
  33. Literature Circle
  34. Magazine
  35. Maps
  36. Mind Map (try
  37. Mural
  38. Music
  39. News Report (try Fodey)
  40. Poetry
  41. Reenactment
  42. Role Play
  43. Scavenger Hunt (try QR codes)
  44. Scrapbook
  45. Sculpture
  46. Show & Tell
  47. Simulation (digital and non-digital)
  48. Slideshow
  49. Socratic Discussion
  50. Song
  51. Story Map
  52. Speech
  53. Tag Cloud (try Wordle)
  54. Theatrical Play
  55. Timeline (try Timegrinder)
  56. Video
  57. Webpage (try Weebly)
  58. Word Splash
  59. Word Wall
  60. Wiki (try Wikispaces)

60 Things Students Can Create To Demonstrate Understanding

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Connect with Students: Getting and Staying In Touch with Every Student

An Every Classroom Matters Episode

How can we connect with our students every single day? Teacher Jennie Magiera reflects honestly about how she killed creativity but brought it back from the dead. She shares how a simple Google form changed everything about the relationship with her students. Her insights about kids working below grade level are helpful to every teacher who struggles to reach them. A White House Champion for Change, you’ll be inspired to connect with your students in new ways after listening to this episode.

Important Takeaways

  • How a mood check-in gave Jennie a “qualitative shift” in her relationship with her students. (BYOD schools take note)
  • 5 Ideas for how to do mood check-ins (even without technology)
  • How Jennie pursued Ken Robinson’s dream to move towards creativity only to realize she had “broken” her students
  • How to empower and engage kids who are far below grade level.
  • How to help kids want to learn.

Educator Resources


"I realized I had essentially broken my students. They were looking for rubrics and checklists. I had robbed them of their ability to make choices. They didn't feel comfortable anymore, they were so reliant on me. I had to undo that overscaffolding and show them how to be their own educational agents of change on their own educational journey."

“I realized I had essentially broken my students. They were looking for rubrics and checklists. I had robbed them of their ability to make choices. They didn’t feel comfortable anymore, they were so reliant on me. I had to undo that overscaffolding and show them how to be their own educational agents of change on their own educational journey.” Jennie Magiera

I encourage teachers to move beyond their school walls and work with a school in a setting unlike theirs so we can share the learning across school types. Jennie Magiera

Connect with Students: Getting and Staying in Touch with Every Student is Episode 175 on Every Classroom Matters

Connect with Students: Getting and Staying in Touch with Every Student is Episode 175 on Every Classroom Matters with guest Jennie Magiera.


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You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.

The post Connect with Students: Getting and Staying In Touch with Every Student appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Preparing Students For A Modern Economy

preparing-students-for-modern-economyPreparing Students For A Modern Economy 

by Terry Heick

Doing some reading (and listening) on competency-based education recently, I was both intrigued and concerned. The concern came recently after listening to a higher ed chancellor celebrate the source of his university’s curriculum. It was during a panel discussion on Competency Based Learning, where he explained the research for the prioritized competencies began with “federal skills databases.”

This sounds innocent enough. Even efficient. Among the benefits of this approach? Less “educational waste.” Learn the skills that companies want you to have. Produce more “hire-able” graduates. Slow the production of “employees” with $60,000 in debt while working retail and fast food and drowning in debt.

It’s difficult to argue against precise curriculum that produces graduates that can better support themselves in a modern economy. The difficulty lies in the terms–who creates them, and the language used as their description.

The Characteristics Of Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education is individualized–or should be. The focus is on students mastering given competencies. It’s clear, adjustable for unique student needs, and efficient. Characteristics of competency-based education include:

  • Competency-based education is no longer time-bound: Focus on mastery rather than time; asynchronous
  • Competency-based education makes it simpler to prioritize specific content.
  • Competency-based education reduces “curriculum clutter.”
  • Competency-based education values performance-based assessments over more academic forms (e.g., multiple choice exams).
  • Mastery is valued over grades (which is hard to argue against)

Deb Everhart at Blackboard explains.

“The pressure to make higher education more accessible and affordable also comes at a time when there is a huge mismatch between what employers need and what traditional education is providing. A recent Lumina Foundation/Gallup study yielded this startling finding: 96% of chief academic officers rate their institutions as effective in preparing students for the world of work, while only 14% of Americans agree, and only 11% of business leaders agree that graduates have the skills and competencies their businesses need.

And it’s not just a difference of opinion. Even in this time of stubborn unemployment, 40% of U.S. employers report difficulty in filling jobs due to a lack of applicants with appropriate skills, with the talent shortage most acute in skilled trades. More than half of employers state that this gap has a significant impact on their businesses.”

The American Enterprise Institute is even more direct, advising that “Institutions offering CBE programs should partner closely with employers to help students attain the general and specific skills they need to succeed in the labor market.”

And I get it. When universities graduate students with “non-marketable skills,” that’s a problem. The caricature here is the Humanities graduate working retail or fast food (maybe both), while the MBAs run the world. The goal of K-12 can’t be “career prep.” But what about college? Isn’t that the point of college–to hone generalized knowledge into something “useful”?

Errr, kind of.


There is some frustration, and even loss, in gathering seemingly loosely connected skills and understandings (from the various classes in a traditional undergraduate program) into a credible, hire-able aesthetic employers will respond to when the students become employees. Yes, you could have Apple, Uber, Amazon, and Ford “collaborate” on a “curriculum” that would produce–like a widget-filled conveyor belt–employees ready to make those companies some dough.

But schools don’t graduate employees, they graduate human beings. And just as universities haven’t been “job training facilities,” more immediately, neither has K-12. The rub comes when universities seek to revise themselves. The more connected K-12 is to university goals and aspirations, the more K-12 is on the hook here as well to “tighten the curriculum” to make it “more efficient.”

To straighten and shorten the path from student to “job.”

Jobs Are Gross; Work Is Love

A job is to work as a single instrument is to a symphony.

A job is a single episode of Seinfeld in a 9 year run.

A job is a mold that a person either fits or does not.

A job is granular; one’s life’s work is whole.

The “loss” embedded within a Humanities or Engineering degree is only a loss judged by the mold itself. The person entering the mold will likely leave it again, and that previous loss can be re-evaluated.

Jobs are gross–at times necessary, but mostly molds created by industry that dehumanize people while doing untold damage to communities, ecologies, and fundamental human aspiration. They stunt the vision a person might have to create a life, and make their work a part of it. Their episodic nature stifles intellectual momentum, and a sense of self.

Work is different. Work is what a person bears upon the world with their own hands, with creativity, vision, and affection. Work is love–natural extensions of the person in their native place. Education should, at least in part, prepare students for that. But in thinking like this, we’re lowering our sights from person and place to job and market. When we seek to train students, we have to ask ourselves what we’re training them for, and make sure we can live with the consequences.

Competency-based education doesn’t demand narrow job training, but it is absolutely a shift from people to companies. So where’s the light here? Consider a different scale; the best education will transcend notions of job and career and profession and work; it will prepare students for any of these scenarios and more, while requiring none to inform their design.

Preparing students for the modern economy isn’t about streamlining job-training, especially for jobs that will not only change often, but disappear more quickly than any generation in history. Skills matter, but preparing students for the modern economy is more about a state of mind–one that can, among other tendencies, think critically, understand scale, meaningfully respond to change, prioritize ideas, manage digital identity, and work with reverence in a local place while being keenly aware of one’s own participation in a newfound global society.

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Connecting Your Students with the World: Book Review [Book]

Connecting Your Students with the World Book Review Connecting Your Students with the World: Book Review by Billy Krakower, Paula Naugle, Jerry Blumengarten (Eye on Education, 2015)
Overwhelmed teachers who want to collaborate globally are going to love Connecting Your Students with the World. This book designed especially for grades K-8 classrooms. I’m excited to review this book.

My favorite thing: The book organizes by month! You’ll see all the opportunities by month with links and information about the project. You’ll learn how to take part. There are tons of links and resources to get you started.

I knew when I saw this book several months ago that it was going to help lots of teachers and their students connect. Connecting isn’t always easy. Teachers are busy and don’t have time to ferret out what they need to do. This book makes it easier.

Connecting Your Students with the World

The authors of this book are often seen at conferences. (Sometimes one of them even wears a cape. 😉 Here we have (L-R) Billy Krakower, Jerry Blumengarten (the two pics in the middle) and Paula Naugle (right.) They are quite a team and have written a great book for teachers, Connecting Your Students to the World.

Mystery Location Calling How -To Guide

Some people call it Mystery Skype. Others call it Mystery FaceTime. They’re right, we should take the tool out of the name of the practice. We can connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Mystery Location Calling is the best way to get started. They’ve broken it down by how you get prepared. What you’ll do to connect. And the roles for all  the students (including many I’d never thought of but make such sense.)

It is worth the book just to have this handy guide.

Connecting Your Students to the World on Amazon

Monthly Projects and Activities

Connect your classroom! A child’s worldview will change. Everything changes. You can connect with the world much easier than you think possible.

With this book, you can plan your whole year. Although I teach high school, I’m going to use this book just to keep up with what is when.


And yes, the standards correlations for Common Core and ISTE are in there. So, if you need to meet a standard and want to do it with global collaboration (why not?), you can do it too.

My Book Review

Connecting Your Students with the World (K-8) is a must-purchase for all teachers in grades K-8 who want to collaborate globally. (Add it to your shelf along with Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds. Flattening Classrooms teaches you how to plan and construct your projects!)

This book has:

  • The practicality of Paula Naugle,
  • The zest and energy of Billy Krakower and the
  • Incredible curation superpower of everyone’s favorite cybrary man, Jerry Blumengarten.

I hope this fantastic team cranks out some more books as helpful as this one.

I recommend this book for:

  • Elementary and middle school teachers (K-8)
  • Anyone who wants to do Mystery Location Calls
  • Curriculum directors
  • Anyone responsible for planning school-wide events and calendars. (Many principals do this job!)

Connecting Your Students with the World is a practical, useful book for teachers. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post Connecting Your Students with the World: Book Review [Book] appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

What To Do When Students Turn In Incomplete Work

phil roederBy Heather M. Stocker

It’s like looking at a photograph where only a small bit of the picture is discernible, but you can’t tell that what you’re actually looking at.

This is what happens when students turn in incomplete assignments. Incomplete assignments only give a partial snapshot of student ability. We might only see their ability to answer surface questions and not see that they are capable of probing the deeper nuances of a given content area–literature, world civilizations, or the scientific process. The biggest need for any teacher is having a clear view of what students can and cannot accomplish. This knowledge is our guide and signpost for helping our students.

So, how can we get that data accurately when students aren’t completing the work? When students come to you with incomplete work there are a couple of options you have:

  1. You can simply take the work. (I did this for years and found myself getting frustrated with students’ lack of care. Yes, I took it personally sometimes).

  2. You can reiterate why you need the work completed and leave it up to the student whether to do it or not. (I also tried this. Most of the time, kids chose not to do the work and then I would feel the same feelings I experienced in number 1).

  3. You can hand it back for completion.

I’ve found the most effective of these three techniques is the third strategy. Of course, I reiterate why I need the assignment, but handing the assignment back for completion with the express understanding that the grade remains a zero until I receive a completed assignment motivates kids to complete the work.

It’s one of those holy grails in education that had me wondering why I’d never done it before—what took me so long? Once students hand you half completed work and you hand it back immediately for completion, and this happens a couple of times, an amazing thing happens: students learn not to hand in incomplete work. I say, “I can’t accept incomplete work.”

The key here is to hand the assignment back immediately. I quickly scan what kids turn in to me as they turn it in and can catch the assignments that need more work. It’s not a perfect system and kids do periodically fudge their answers just to get the work in, but I’ve still gotten more out of them than they were initially willing to give.

Ultimately, incomplete work doesn’t really give us anything. It’s important to keep the dialogue open with students about why you’re doing what you’re doing and to have a clear understanding of expectations. I tell my kids all the time that I want a complete picture of their abilities and most of the time they’re willing to give it.

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Story of a Young Life Turned Around by Great Teachers

An Every Classroom Matters Episode

Raised by an “alcoholic and an outlaw” father, Kevin Honeycutt grew up in poverty. He says childhood had many “midnight runs.” His Dad would let the kids pack their belongings in one trash bag each. Kevin was always the new kid. Foster homes. Extreme poverty. But someone saved him. It was his teachers. This episode is his story.

Important Takeaways

  • How you can “flip a kid” and change a life
  • You have lots of kids who transfer in and out, do you still make a difference?
  • “Rebelieving” in someone
  • How band and art classes changed his life
  • How to help kids with no hope succeed
  • Finding success secrets

I asked him,

“If you were your own teacher. If “little Kevin” were in your class for 15 days, what would you tell him?”

I replayed Kevin’s response to that question over and over. His answer haunts me. We should all be saying this.

Do you feel this way? When I’ve poured my heart and soul into a child and they transfer, I cry. I mourn. I wonder if I made a difference. Kevin fills me with hope.

The show is full of great quotes. (below)

Educator Resources

Interview Links

I believe you can flip a kid on any one day in one hour. Kevin Honeycutt

other people's believe in yourself becomes your surrogate belief until you get your own. Kevin Honeycutt

Teachers should be a resource not the source.


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The post Story of a Young Life Turned Around by Great Teachers appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!