“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” By Benjamin Franklin


With summer starting for some educators and for others it is right around the corner. I wanted to take a minute and offer five ways to improve your practice over the summer.

1. Take Time for YOU: Take this time to do things you love as it will help you get refreshed and ready for the new school year. When I take time for me, I find it happens to be when my best ideas formulate without even realizing it.

2. Read: It doesn’t have to be books but it can be blogs, articles, magazines and it also doesn’t have to be an education item. When I read outside of education, I get just as many ideas of things I can try to implement. It helps me think outside the box and be creative.

3. Participate in Professional Learning/Development: Take at least one class or course this summer that can help you improve your practice. Instead of your traditional face to face class try an edcamp or a virtual course such as a MOOC or book study.

4. Build your PLN: Connect with other educators and build your PLN through Twitter, G+, Instagram and Voxer. I am not saying you have to do this every day but take a few days out of the summer and connect with others to see what they are doing in the classroom and also share out what you are doing or plan on doing.

5. Reflect: Take time to reflect on your teaching practice. Think about what worked in your classroom last year and what didn’t. Before diving into what you plan on doing the first few weeks back to school, think about the year as a whole, what do you want to accomplish? What do you want for your students? What is something new you are going to try?

I would love to hear how you plan on improving your practice over the summer, share with me in the comments.

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” By Stephen Covey

Personalized Learning (PL) looks different in every school and in every classroom but the foundation to me is that it is student-driven. Often times when working with teachers and different school districts I get asked, “What do you look for in a Personalized Learning Classroom/School?” Below are some common PL “look for’s” – these are examples and is not an all-inclusive list by any means.


  1. Coach: Teachers are adapting to the students learning according to their specific needs. (See previous blog post The Shift of the Role of the Teacher)
  2. Small Group Instruction: Teachers are not doing whole group instruction but small group direct instruction based on students needs.
  3. Creating Playlists and Pathways: Teachers are not creating lesson plans but creating playlists and pathways focusing on what the students are doing verse what they are doing.


  1. Ownership: Students are consistently self-evaluating, self-regulating and self-motivating their learning through goal setting, reflection and having voice and choice in their learning.
  2. Monitoring: Students are monitoring their data, growth and behavior through data trackers etc.
  3. Dispositions: Students are practicing soft skills/habits of mind daily such as collaboration, being flexible and adaptable.

Classroom Environment:

  1. Safe Learning Environment: The classroom needs to have clear rules and expectations. (I highly suggest making these together as a class in the beginning of the year verse dictating them)
  2. Furniture: The classroom needs to be flexible with places for students to have a quiet spot to think or a place that is conducive for collaboration etc. (Learn more from my previous blog posts: Tips and Tricks for Creating Learning Spaces and Multi-Functional Learning Spaces in Classrooms)
  3. Technology: The classroom should have technology that is seamlessly integrated as technology is only a tool to help the learning environment just like books and pencils. I am a believer that classrooms should have all different devices from iPads to Chromebooks so students can become device agnostic.

“The books that help you most are those which make you think that most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.”  by Pablo Neruda

With another school year coming to a close; I have created my book list for my summer reading.  Below are the books I will be reading this summer in no particular order:

Geared more toward administration/leadership:

1. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact by Michael Fullan

2. Coaching for Change by John L. Bennett and Mary Wayne Bush

3. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Geared more toward teachers:

1. Ditch that Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom by Matt Miller

2. Student Voice: The Instrument of Change by Russell J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso

3. Unleashing Student Superpowers: Practical Teaching Strategies for 21st Century Students by Kristen Swanson and Hadley J. Ferguson

I also recommend to educators Learn Like a Pirate and Teach Like a Pirate if you have not read these books yet. I would love to hear any other books you recommend to read this summer, please share in the comments.

“Innovation is change that unlocks new value” By Jamie Notter


The TV show ‘Shark Tank’ gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to sell a business idea to millionaire entrepreneurs in only a few minutes. One day when watching the show I thought ‘why couldn’t we take this idea and add it into the classroom?’ That is when I started brainstorming different ways to use the ‘Shark Tank’ framework to bring in more student ownership into the classroom. I soon realized I have been doing a version of ‘Shark Tank’ in my classroom before Shark Tank was invented!

Each year in my math class, students were put into groups and had to design a theme park. This project lasted all year long and for each standard/skill, they had a different piece to complete. For example, area and perimeter: The students had to mathematically figure out how to best utilize their blueprint to fit the rides and also think about the ‘flow’ of the park etc. For each standard/skill I had a guest speaker that was an expert that came to talk to the class. For example, for the theme park design, I was able to get the designer that helped build Carowinds to come and speak to the students about the flow. At the end of the year, the students had to create a presentation and ‘sell’ their theme park as the best. The judges were each of the guest speakers that came to speak to the class throughout the year. (The students didn’t know that the guest speakers were going to be the judges until the day of.)

The ‘Shark Tank’ framework marries well with Project/Problem Based Learning (PBL’s) as a way to present their findings/outcomes. It also aligns to many of the Common Core Standards for ELA from K-12 such as listening and speaking. Here are a few other ideas of how to add in the ‘Shark Tank framework into your classroom:

1. Shark Tank: Book Report: The students job is to create a “Shark Tank” sales pitch on a book to the class that they choose to ‘sell’. The idea is that you want to contain enough information about the book that will interest and excite the potential reader without giving away the entire plot – so they will ‘buy’ it (read it). Check out this Shark Tank Book Report.

2. Shark Tank: Prototypes: The students job is to create a “Shark Tank” sales pitch to ‘sell’ their prototype/invention/business.

3. Shark Tank: Periodic Table: The students job is to create a “Shark Tank” sales pitch to ‘sell’ their element as the best.

I would love to hear how you have or will use the ‘Shark Tank’ framework in your classroom to bring in more student ownership. Please share in the comment section.

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” By Daniel J Boorstin

Another school year is coming to an end and with that comes summer 2015. We as educators know how important it is for our students to continue to exercise their brain muscles. Here are my top FREE resources to send to parents this summer to help our students avoid the summer slide.

1. TenMarks – An adaptive math program that has students working on math concepts based on their needs. This program cost money for families but now it is FREE and educators get a toolkit to send home so the parents know how to use it.

2.  CK-12 Brain Flex – A self-paced online summer program that has students working on math and science. They bring the practice, students just need to bring their brain.

3. Camp GoNoodle – Go Noodle has made a virtual camp for students by offering a fun online program that has students learning through play and other various educational activities.

To learn great reading resources to avoid the summer slide, read my previous post on ‘No Summer Slide Using these Resources‘. If you are in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools two resources your students have all summer long are Dreambox and Compass Learning.

Originally posted on mccoyderek:

Edcamp LeadershipJuly 10, 2015 promises to be a historic day of learning and connecting for North Carolina educators!

Friday July 10th, we are hosting the first ever Edcamp for School Leaders! Edcamps are not new to North Carolina – for years, dedicated educators have been coordinating and hosting these ‘unconferences’ across our great state. These edcamps have brought in educators from different school districts to share, connect and ultimately help others improve the learning and teaching in all our schools. Talk to any participants in these edcamps and they will tell you that these experiences have been incredibly valuable and significant to their personal/professional development.

Edcamp Leadership NC [held Friday July 10 at the @FridayInstitue] is the first of its kind in NC and we have some great reasons to be excited:

This is a first NC unconference targeted for school leaders across the state. Make no mistake…

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“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” By Gandhi


Last week #21stedchat on Twitter was about creating Culturally Responsive Classrooms. Throughout the chat I could see many educators ‘favoriting’ a lot of the tweets/resources but were not participating with their own teacher voice. I soon realized it was because educators are still not comfortable talking about culture diversity in the classroom. In response to this I want to share all the resources from the chat to help educators start feeling more knowledgable around this topic because the more we discuss and share, the better we will get as an education system to become more culturally responsive.

What is a culturally responsive classroom? It is a classroom that purposefully acknowledges the presence of culturally diverse students and the need for relevant connections among them and the content being taught.


Five-Minute Film Festival: Culturally Responsive Teaching

Creating Culturally Responsive, Inclusive Classrooms

A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching from ASCD

Teaching Tolerance Website 

The Best Sites for Learning About the Word’s Different Cultures by Larry Ferlazzo

Relationship Building Through Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

Uncomfortable Conversations: Talking about Race in the Classroom

How Cultural Differences May Affect Student Performance

Culturally Relevant Teaching Resources

Cybrary Man’s Culture Resource Page

Culturally Responsive Lesson Plans


Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders

Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race by Tatum

Please share any resources you have in the comments to help educators have a more culturally responsive classroom.


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