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Yeah, let's celebrate teachers by asking them to make a huge, time-consuming presentation that shows how they are complying with NCLB! Great idea!

Or, why don't we have principals, since they are so aware of what happens in every classroom (after all, they spend about 1 hour a year in our rooms "evaluating" us), create these presentations for the teachers, as, say, a celebration of, or a shout out to, or the giving of props to their greatness?

Oh, right. this is leader talk, not teacher talk.

John Evans

I guess I wasn't as clear in my post as I thought. I in no way wish a teacher to have to spend unnecessary time doing something that wastes their time. The planning, the thought processes, the materials, the creativity are all ready done to prepare and plan for their lesson, not pulled out of a hat. The purpose is to share their innovation and creativity with others. Assembling the materials could be done the same PD day that this would be presented, it doesn't have to take too long. I was a teaching principal so I know the pressures that both teachers and administrators are under. The key idea I think you missed is that we as teachers have to celebrate our innovations and successes, and by so doing learn from each other, it is not meant to demonstrate to the administrator that they are complying to required standards. It might be uncomfortable but change and improving ourselves and our craft seldom is.



I agree John. It is our stories of success and passion for what we do that keep us going and create new narratives for us to continue to work in.

Sounds like a wonderful experience!


Darren Kuropatwa

I think this is a wonderful idea.

Teachers often work in silos: rooms with closed doors where only they and their students know the innovative things happening there every day. Innovation inspires further innovation. The only way for that to happen is for teachers to share and celebrate the cool things they are doing in their classrooms.

One of the reasons blogging has lead to such an exponential growth in my professional development is because of the shared thinking inherent in the practice. I see this idea as a way to amplifying pedagogical best practices in physical space rather than online. Better yet, we can merge the two using things like Ustream.tv.

I like this idea so much I've already implemented it across the math teams from two schools. I've been leading a professional development initiative with these schools for years now. When I shared this idea with the group there seemed to be immediate buy in.

I'm thinking of inviting our school principals, district superintendent, and, if you can make it, you to attend.

I think that when the teachers get broad based recognition shared across a large community for the cool things they are doing they might be further inspired to bring that sense of accomplishment into their classes by having their students create and share artifacts that educate on demonstrate their own learning. Audience is a powerful motivator.

Thanks for the post John. I think it may be the start of something good. At least in my little corner of the world. ;-)

John Evans

Tracy and Darren,

Thanks for your comments.

Kevin W. Riley

Nice idea. As a start. But let's talk about REAL innovation. This looks like an event... instead of a system. At my school, my teachers (and I, as principal) basically do this kind of reflection, sharing and collaboration all year long. We are a charter. We ELIMINATED the entire evaluation system! I am in teacher's classrooms (listen to this one "tft") every day. But rather than "evaluating".. we engage in a year long conversation through a reflective journal. So I walk in the room, pick up the teacher's journal, read my last entry and the teacher's last entry and respond ... the conversation continues. And at the end of the year, our teachers decide whether they want to come back or not. No judgments about their future employment-- only a commitment to help each other succeed. This charter school is a tough, tough place to work. You have to commit to it every year.
Our teachers also provide the leadership in our extensive staff development process through best practices, shared reading, action research, and funding to attend whatever training they feel they need to have individually. In fact, we paid for our 4 National Board Certified Teachers to go through the process. We provide support to 6 others who are currently in doctoral programs.
So are we talking about real innovation? As in "WHO IS DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENT OUT THERE?" We are.
We not only have no evaluation system... we have no Board, no meddling external forces, no union, no constraints, no excuses for not be brilliant. And so our students have shown some of the most dramatic gains in the state.
And we have our own budget because we are fiscally independent. We are a public school in California. A charter. And I notice that when consultants, and theorists, and researchers, and journalists, and university folks, and former teachers and former administrators assemble in conferences or blogs to brainstorm innovations for schools, they ignore the ones that are actually happening.
Now why do you suppose that is?

John Evans

Kevin thank you for your input. I agree with your point that my post is just a beginning. But we have to start somewhere. Your approach is truly innovative! So how did you get started? In response to why those who gather online or at conferences to discuss innovation ignore ones that are actually happening it is likely because we aren't aware of them. I certainly wasn't from my corner of the world. Is your school's approach published anywhere? If not it should be. You need to get the word out on your innovative approach. Thanks once again for your participation.

Kevin W. Riley

Thanks John. One of the interesting dynamics about "publishing" school successes, is that it is a hard topic to break in with. I think generally the public has bought into the idea that our K-12 schools are dysfunctional, underperforming, anachronistic, dinosaurs held over from the industrial revolution. (Well...ok... a lot are...BUT...) there are also a lot of entrepreneurial leaders as well. NCLB will, by design, brand nearly every public school as a failure for not meeting the goal of getting 100% of their students to grade level. Even our presidential candidates (God bless 'em) talk about "fixing our public schools". That is a broad brush. We don't need to be fixed... but we would certainly benefit from public policy around health care, employment, housing, family services, etc that support our children!
By the way... there is a book about my school... it is called "The Lights of El Milagro: How One Charter School Could Transform Public Education." It is available on Amazon and it tells about the struggle to create institutions that transcend the status quo and the low expectations that so many communities have for their schools.

David B.

My first response to the poster idea was 'How would I get teachers or myself to do it (time, motivation, etc). Then I looked into the idea of why should this be done. It is easy to slam the door shut on an idea a lot more difficult to fling it wide open. Teachers do have great ideas and a large portion do not share the ideas. Instead of the word 'make' or 'share' I like to use 'challenge'. Sometimes you can challenge and individual but when that does not work challenge a team, a learning team. Give time during weekly staff meetings or inservice mornings to talk about successes (and failures). Give options to make a 'poster', a 'journal', or even to present. In small steps the celebrating can begin. At a DeFors seminar on interventions it was stressed that teachers need to do more PR work on what is going on in their classroom. Celebrating success in what ever way works for the staff will lead to the PR that ackowledges the great work a school is doing.

John Evans

Thanks for your contribution David. You are right on in saying this is was a beginning. It is very exciting to see how this idea has evolved. I like your concept of a learning team challenge. The central idea is the sharing that can take place. I have worked with teachers and administrators at most levels in various capacities and the sharing of ideas and practice, while time consuming, have been the most stimulating for my growth as a professional. I count these conversations as part of that.


John Evans


Found your book on Amazon.ca and will be ordering it in the next few days. I'm not certain of the steps involved but I think you need to add your voice to LeaderTalk! I'll find out the necessary steps to take if your interested.


Scott McLeod

Anyone who's interested in being an author for Leadertalk should look over the information at


and then e-mail me at


We always are interested in new contributors. Kevin, it sounds like you'd be a natural for this!

kevin W. Riley


I'd love to be a more regular voice on LeaderTalk... "commenting" on other posts seems too re-active. There are things that we are doing that I KNOW no one else is trying in public schools. We border on subversive as the state legislators in California try to reign in charters-- and as a result... our kids are soaring!!! Thanks for your interest in my book as well. I'd be interested in your feedback after you have had a chance to read it. My e-mail is listed on the last page.

John Evans


Scott has added the information you need to join the contributors to LeaderTalk above.

I'm looking forward to your contributions as I'm sure others will as well. I'll let you know when I get started on the book. ;-)


Robert Agoglia

Hey John,
Do I know you?
I'm a Borough Instructional Technology Specialist working for the Office of Instructional Technology within New Ypork City's Department of Education.
I've been invited to view and share by Will and Sheryl as part of their Pearls Ning project for school leaders.

I went to a parochial grammar school in Brooklyn with a guy named John Evans.
His mother was a school teacher in the same building.
Together we attended St. Francis Xavier High School in NYC.
I've lost touch with John over the past 35 something years.
He was a bright guy back then, sort of cutting edge in terms of thinking and technology, (I'm talking about the early seventies.)
I was thinking that you were he.
Or maybe it's just a coincidence of names.

John Evans

Hi Robert,

Sorry, but I'm not the same guy you knew. Funny coincidences though, I was the administrator at St. Francois Xavier Elementary School in MB up until this past Christmas and also have worked with Sheryl and Will most recently with their Professional Learning groups in NY.

Good luck in finding the other JE.


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