Author: Zach

Suicide – what a terrible waste

What a tragic and sad article.

I imagine I will keep the information in mind and watch for what might be early warning signs amongst my students and or colleges.   I have always viewed suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.   I feel empathy for those who chose to take the path of suicide, and I wish they could discover another way to cope or deal.   Several of the men I served with in Iraq have chosen to take their lives since returning home.   In 2013, the VA did a study on the number of veterans committing suicide, and discovered that 22 veterans a day, or one every 65 minutes was committing suicide.   I don’t point this out to in any way marginalize the suicide rate amongst college students, but rather as more information to be aware of.

Having seen and done terrible things in a foreign country, I often reflect that nothing I’m dealing with these days holds a candle to the past, and therefore – I can handle anything.

I thought it was enlightening to hear the article point out the over-parenting and how that is actually not preparing children for becoming adults.   This is something I have thought in the past, but it was nice to see someone else pointing it out, with evidence, rather than just a feeling or perception.   Personally, I felt pressures from parents, while growing up, to be successful, but I left home three days after graduating high school, and haven’t lived there since.   Something I try and do in my classroom with my students is find that point in the procurement of the material where the student struggles to get the answer, but are capable of finding it on their own.   It is within this struggle, that I think the most learning occurs, and the confidence that they are capable of finding solutions, it being created.   It seems there are a lot of parents out there of the millennial and generation X kidos that probably needed to let the kids struggle a little more, and thus mature more.

Wheeewwww – time to find a comic or funny movie.     🙂

What I’m seeing/observing/learning

The teacher I observe for at least an hour four days a week has fairly good control of her classroom.   One of the techniques she uses for opening a lesson is to simply reflect on the previous lesson.   She will give the class prompts about what we did the day before and ask them what they remembered.   This seems to get their minds slightly more focused on science rather than attacking a new lesson or introducing a new concept right after lunch.   During a lesson, she is insistent on a raised hand in order to be recognized, even if the student is the only one answering, and they are correct.   It appears as though this consistency has taken hold, and it is rare for a student to blurt out an answer.   With almost every closing she will try and recap what happened that day.   She will ask questions of the students, and the answers are usually easy, but I think it gets the students to revisit the material once more before turing their focus to something else for the next 23 hours.

The most note worthy transition this teacher is famous for, is the after breakfast (and lunch) bell.   When it is time to come to class she has a small bell she rings.   The sound is extremely annoying to all except her.   Her policy is that she keeps ringing the bell until all students are headed her way.   She has met some resistance to this in the past, but at the moment she has them all trained.   Another transition she uses often is to require students to return their science folder directly to her with all work inside before leaving the classroom.   She calls this their ticket to leave, and strangely enough they all rush to get the folder to her and get out…   The up-side for her is, she doesn’t have to wait long to collect the folders, and the class clears out quickly giving her more time to prepare for the next lesson.   At the end of the day some students are picked up by a bus ten minutes early because of where they live, while the rest must remain at school until the bus arrives at 3:00.   On occasion the bus driver will be early for the students dismissed at 2:50.   This does not affect her decision to let the students go.   She is very adamant that they are not to leave the classroom even a minute early regardless of what else is going on, and as a result no one asks to leave early, they know the question would be futile.

My biggest positive take away from my many observations has been the value of consistency in the classroom, not just for my sake, but for the students as well.   It removes a lot of the potential doubt or anxiety that comes with the uncertainty associated with loose or unclear policies.


Visible Learning – John Hattie

This isn’t a part of any assignment, just something I thought some might be interested in.

At our inservice last week the superintendent introduced some fairly new research being done by an Australian about the different influences on learning and their effect size.   I found it interesting.   Although I haven’t yet, I plan to read his most recent book, “Visibile Learning for Teachers”.

Hattie suggests some unanticipated factors as having rather large positive influences on learning, that we may not have given so much credit to in the past.   An example is ‘self reported grades’, Hattie claims he would rather have called this ‘Student Expectations’, but in his model this ranks right up at the top as being one of the most important factors – out of 195 tested.   It is essentially stating that students are most accurate when they are predicting how they will perform, and as educators we can have a larger impact by developing a confidence in the student to predict accurately.

There is much more to it than what I have scratched at here, if it appeals.

I tried to attach the link, but instead may have attached the whole article.   Either way, if you are interested you will probably find him.


Great Advice from the “What I Wish…” Article

“You are what the kids need you to be at the moment” (Collins, 2016)   This quote really struck a nerve for me in a good way.   Admittedly, I am extremely new to this teaching thing, but without knowing or putting it into a phrase, this has become on of my biggest realizations.   Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that long ago that I thought that just being the teacher (or aide at the time) meant that I was in charge, and learning was what was about to happen.   More and more I realize; first you have to gain the respect by building relationships, and then you have to be ready to be so much more than the instrument that imparts information to them.   As a teacher I have had to be psychologist, therapist, dad, mom, friend, protector, elder, and role model before ever getting the opportunity to share curriculum with students.   It seems to me that this flexibility and resilience are essential attributes of teaching, and help to foster a safe and welcoming environment for students.

Like Amber mentioned in her blog, I also like the part about throwing out the notion of perfect lesson plans.   I hadn’t quite given up on that idea already, but it was close to dismissed.   Some of my best lessons have been some that didn’t go anything like they were planned, but this isn’t always the case.   Sometimes a lesson will just seem to tank from out of nowhere, and although I think it is good to try and learn something from it, I can’t stay hung up on it any longer than it takes to try and figure out what to do different next time.

To be honest, I didn’t really like the “Let Care Shine Through” article.   I thought there were a few good points like how to boost a student’s self esteem, that is content with average, and “don’t let deficit-based thinking infect…” (Bondy, 2016)   I got hung up on the part about a social injustice and repaying an education debt owed to historically underserved people.   These sorts of statements make me defensive, because I don’t feel as though I owe anyone anything, and I don’t think anyone owes me anything regardless of where I come from or where they come from.   I would like to think that we will all earn what we get.   I have absolutely nothing to due with past injustices.   That is exactly what they are – in the past – perpetrated by someone other than myself.

At this website there is a suggestion about a conflict corner as a way for students to resolve their own problems without coming to the teacher to tattle.   Basically, in order to tattle, they need to have first tried to resolve the issue on their own through a pre determined set of steps.   I like it in theory.   I have a third grade boy and fifth grade girl who demand a significant portion of my time going back and forth.

Why not Personalize it?


Some of the benefits of personalized learning appear to be:

If successful, it offers the potential to allow those rising above the bar the opportunity to learn at a faster pace, and avoid being held back to the average comprehension ability.

Conversely, it could allow those struggling to get more time to increase their understanding of what they have difficulty with.

Difficulties, even if implemented correctly include:

Possibly more time consuming for the educators

Possibly requiring more staff

A large learning curve – for the educators

Even more parental buy-in required

My thoughts:

Even though I am teaching in a small school and that is in itself a version of personalized learning, I have very little personal  experience with personalized learning, with that said, I thought the article made some fantastic points about using caution when making the decision to implement a version of personalized learning.

The article really read like a short “how to” manual for those contemplating adopting one of the many approaches to personalizing learning.

With so many things to consider prior to tackling an animal like personalize learning, it appears as though most would probably benefit from a significant amount of education in the subject itself.

Anything that requires more parental buy-in throws red flags everywhere for me.   I am still looking for the perfect parent teacher relationship, with few prospects in sight…

In general the article leads me to think there are probably some benefits to personalized learning, but rather than jump on board with the program, there are many questions that should be answered first.   The most important and first being, “why”?   Then, if it is deemed appropriate, continue through the list, and make sure the other questions in the article have been addressed.

I feel like in small doses, when appropriate, I would like to explore implementing aspects of personalized learning such as student designed learning.

In the article at that above address, a glowing review is given to a school in Pennsylvania, that has completely adopted personalized learning.   They do note smaller class size, which I can only assume requires more educators, and ultimately more money.   They also mention that children can no longer hide within the classroom, because they are involved in every lesson.   This didn’t do much for convincing me of anything, mainly because I am already involving all the students in each lesson.   My largest class is 11 and there are two teachers.


DACA, is it as bad as they say it is?

In general I tend to agree with most everything dedwar15 posted in their response to the DACA current event.  I think we have immigration laws for good reasons, and as long as we have laws they should be upheld evenly and without prejudice.  If we knowingly allow some laws to be broken, but selectively enforce others, we are in fact being prejudicial.  There are many immigrants in this country who entered the country legally, and that is fantastic.  It seems to me that it sends a fairly poor message to the legal immigrants that we are going to allow others to circumvent the process.

I will forever remain skeptical of the content portrayed by the media, and primarily the mainstream media.  Everyone has an agenda, but they seem to have the largest.  Some of the media sources I have read make the situation sound as though repealing DACA is going to tear apart families, but the reality is that someone in the family is/was here illegally to begin with, and by deporting the illegal individual we aren’t forcing anyone else to stay.  The whole family can go back where they came from if they really want to keep their family together.  This seems to me like something they probably should have considered before immigrating into a foreign country illegally.

This site helped break down some of the specifics of DACA for me.

Late, but Hello

My name is Zach Sanders.  I was born and raised in North Texas, bout an hour north of Dallas.  I made my way to Eagle in 2012, and built a log cabin here in 2014 just a few miles outside of town.  The road is closed between Eagle and the rest of the world from mid October until mid April each year.  This challenge deters many from staying year-round, but it is exactly the type of environment I was looking for.


I have a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State, and am hoping this will give me a great foundation for the math and science skills I will need in teaching.  I am presently discovering how much I have forgotten from high school and college both, as I was recently hired as a temporary teacher.  I teach Reading, Math, Social Studies, and Language to 3rd-5th grade, I teach 6th-8th grade American History, and I co-teach Science to 5th-8th grade.


I anticipate this program will help me to smooth some of the rough edges in my overall approach and teaching delivery.  I look forward to hearing new ideas, and learning more about the tried and true methods that great teachers have been utilizing forever.  I envision this program helping me to become more efficient in some areas where I know I am creating more work for myself than necessary.  With that said, I am glad I did not try to complete this program in one year.  The workload associated with teaching alone has been sizable.  Oh, and I’m the bus driver…


Please feel free to contact me with any questions (not that my late posting is any evidence that I would be much help technologically…).  I may not be immediately available, but I am pretty good at responding eventually.

[caption id="attachment_2627" align="alignnone" width="300"] My log cabin, with sweetheart and her son[/caption]