September 6, 2016

Education Stakeholders as Lifelong Learners

This is likely not the first blog post you've read about educators as lifelong learners. The reason: there's value in viewing learning as a journey as oppose to a means to an end.

We're conditioned in some ways to study material for tests and research topics for papers. The end-goal in both instances involves achieving a passing score. Then, many move on to the next imposed challenge. The cycle lives on in those of us who go through the motions. We follow steps and engage in processes prescribed by outside entities without reflecting on meaning and value.

Learning for Life Quote

There are moments when educators fail to question understanding, to apply knowledge and skills in novel ways. Upon reflection, it's helpful when educators adopt the model of lifelong learning. Though we don't yet have the capacity to ameliorate our younger selves, it is possible that educators, parents, and students advance as lifelong learners.

What does this mean? The traits of a lifelong learner are numerous; providing a full list of these would take up more space and time than we have. Since education stakeholders tend to focus on identification of appropriate instructional approaches and learning strategies, let's truncate the definition of "lifelong learner". Here's my version...

A lifelong learner is one who pursues problem-based research and 
performs experimentation to assess the fitness of possible solutions 
on an ongoing basis

How does it look? In short, we develop processes to learn on our own. We intrinsically seek and solve problems. Four phases are encountered during this journey. Lifelong learners (in any field) tend to...

  1. pursue problem-based research
  2. identify possible solutions
  3. examine solutions via experimentation
  4. repeat this process to address a new (or old) problem

Why is it valuable? Many education stakeholders benefit when one person adopts this model of learning. Stakeholder behaviors evince curiosity. For instance, parents model curiosity when they inquire about strategies to address academic challenges and behavior setbacks during parent-teacher conferences. Also, as educators, we manifest curiosity by offering alternatives to struggling families and peers.

Our efforts are not in vain, because lasting growth ensues. Five minutes dedicated to responding to a parent or co-worker activates dormant knowledge and skills. Weeks dedicated to researching strategies for a learning disabled student lead to permanent personal and professional growth, plus undiagnosed and borderline students benefit from the new instructional outlook.

Improving confidence, easing family tensions, facilitating learning, increasing performance, and bridging the transition to more challenging environments are borne out of the intrinsic motivation to view one problem through different lenses. 

As lifelong learners, stakeholders understand that no education is ever complete. We value professional development opportunities and look beyond these to seek solutions to immediate threats to the development of more independent learners. This is the mission of my firm, Jackson Education Support.

Custom products and personalized services offered for educators, parents, and students. Specialty subjects are literacy, math, and science. Schedule a consult to discuss challenges and goals here.

August 30, 2016

Remember to Remember: Reflecting to Change

Imagine you are preparing to teach students a new skill. You do your due diligence by researching and planning a stellar lesson. You have a clear focus and engaging activities. You rehearse the lesson format and feel confident. You begin the lesson, but as time goes on students begin to lose interest and goof off. The lesson ends and students do not grasp the concepts. You are left feeling frustrated and confused. Sound familiar? 

This scenario is common across classrooms everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you are a novice teacher or a veteran, it is  incredibly difficult when instructional plans go awry. As hard as it may feel, this is precisely the time when you have to remember to remember. Put differently, reflect on the instructional plan and delivery. Intentional reflection can be transformative if done on a regular basis. Consider the following during reflection exercises, especially when lessons are not well received.

Focus on the positive. It does not matter how much experience you have. There will be many times when things go wrong. Teaching is a courageous undertaking that requires bravery. Try not to be negative with yourself or your students. Avoid negative thoughts by embracing successful moments during a lesson. Find at least one aspect of the lesson that was successful. Did you plan a great introduction? Were students engaged during a particular part of the lesson?

Don’t take it personally. It is easy to take misbehavior personally, but this is usually a symptom of something deeper. Rather than focus on student behavior, reflect on aspects of the lesson that caused disengagement.  Also, think about ways to address similar situations in the future lessons. Was the activity explained properly? Was the amount of content too overwhelming? Really pinpoint where the breakdown happened, so that you can identify effective solutions.

Ask for help. Now that you have a positive outlook and you've pinpointed areas needing improvement, ask for help. Look for resources. Brainstorm with a colleague. Bounce ideas off of mentors. Seeking help from others yields a variety of strategies to improve engagement during lessons.

How will you practice intentional reflection?


A very special thanks goes to
guest blogger, Kandice Cole. 
Kandice is a writer, teacher, and education consultant. 
She resides in Chicago with her husband and infant daughter.

August 9, 2016

Literacy Camp Lessons

Members of the JE Community email list have received updates about the Summer Literacy Camp. Six elementary students from different local districts gathered to build literacy skill. During sessions, participants engaged in hands-on activities, discussions, and games. Topics included written self-expression, cause-and-effect relationships, and sequencing events. Everything was planned: lessons were meticulously detailed, activities were aligned with standards. Then, parents and students arrived.

As the Summer Literacy Camp unfolded, we found a groove. Students developed an understanding of behavior expectations. The volunteers and I learned to work together in a new capacity toward development of more independent learners. Everyone learned to support one another in ways that facilitated learning while promoting curiosity and creativity. Three lessons were reinforced during this experience.

Lesson 1 - Don't go it alone.
Involve parents and family members in the learning process. In addition to sharing preparatory activities via email before each camp date, a peer tutor was invited to improve student-teacher ratios. Camps are designed to be inclusive; that is, each participant is involved in each learning activity. Having support, whether in the form of peer tutors or other educators, enhances engagement and amps up motivation.

Lesson 2 - Embrace curricular adjustments.
View the lesson plan as an instructional guide, not a law. Remaining flexible is imperative to leverage spontaneous teachable moments. This is particularly challenging when time is limited, which is almost always the case. Though ideal, transitioning from one topic to the next as outlined in a day's lesson plan may not be possible. During Literacy Camp, scaffolds were provided while students completed advanced activities. The objective was to engage all students, to improve individual performance through preparation.

Lesson 3 - Take time to reflect and learn.
Educators and parents adopt varying reflection exercises. Some blog about their experiences. Others prefer to curate portfolios and visuals. Whatever your approach, moments of reflection are invaluable. These moments provide opportunity to identify areas in need of improvement as well as successes worth celebrating.

In true fashion, reflection on the Summer Literacy Camp resulted in a number of new strategies for supporting parents and students. Feedback from parents prompted development of Multiplication Circles, the first event under the Jackson Education Support Circles umbrella. Parents of students enrolled in 3rd through 5th grade are encouraged to register here.

Jackson Education Support Circles are designed to improve parents' ability to help learners complete homework and assignments. Share skills you'd like to revive via email.

July 26, 2016

Educational Support: Shaping My Future

I am young enough to recall specific pivotal moments in life that influenced personal choices along my professional path. Yet, I am old enough to reflect on how those moments served as a springboard during my journey. 

Formal education was rocky for me in the beginning. School was not easy. I, like many children who have trouble learning, deflected by misbehaving.  I remember being labeled by teachers and other adults; my self-esteem shrank.  I vividly remember the pain these labels caused.

 You're brave, strong, smart

Fortunately, a fourth grade teacher saw past the superficial and encouraged me.  At first, I applied myself simply because I wanted to please her.  Oh, how I yearned for more positive reinforcement. I became attentive in school and soon found I no longer had a desire to misbehave.   My grades improved, and I passed to the next grade instead of being held back as others had predicted. Eventually, I embraced my mother's love of reading. I viewed books as an escape from reality. I read everything - whether age-appropriate or not - to my mother's chagrin. My mother encouraged reading by purchasing books and newsletters within her limited budget. When I was of age, I registered for a library card at local library. The more I read, the more curious I became about the world and what it had to offer.  I would - and continue to - get lost in books.  

I also received encouragement from my grandmother to do well in school.  Due to her limited 2nd grade education, she could not offer assistance with homework, but she offered support. My grandmother purchased school supplies and attended every school award ceremony. This was no small feat because my grandmother had serious health issues; it took Herculean effort for her to be present.  Later in life, I understood the value of my grandmother's support and encouragement, the value of seeing her in the audience as I accepted an academic award.  Believe me when I say this: I scanned the audience until I found her beautiful face!  Even then, I knew that disappointing her was not an option. She made sure that I had an opportunity to have what she was denied. I was motivated to strive toward her expectations.

 Learning in Harvard Square

Yet another teacher took an interest in me and went beyond the call of duty by exposing me to museums, art galleries and higher education. She would often spend Saturdays with me at Cambridge Commons and Harvard Square "teaching" in a way that many classrooms preclude.  Because of her, I experienced the classroom of life outside of my neighborhood school. This stoked the flames that had arisen from reading.  

Due to the encouragement, exposure to unfamiliar experiences, and educational support received, I developed the self-confidence needed to overcome (what I believe was) an undiagnosed learning disability. Educational support was vital to propping me up so that I could achieve successes and persevere in the face of failures. We know that failures are part of life, but students have to experience success. A record of success is the foundation which fosters the wherewithal to power through obstacles, to once again relish the sweet taste of success. 

Without educational support, my life could have been very different. For these reasons, I am so thankful for a structured educational services provider like Jackson Education Support. This firm provides the  encouragement, exposure, and academic support needed to build self-esteem and promote success among students and citizens. 

Don't let your child's natural-born flame to learn be extinguished. Contact Jackson Education Support to foster your child's life-long love of learning.


A very special thanks goes to
guest blogger, Mrs. Pamala Feehan.
Pamala is a wife, mother, grandmother, and entrepreneur.
She has experiences as an instructor and director in academia.

July 5, 2016

5 Back-to-School Reminders

The Fall semester begins as early as August 8th for students in my area, so this post highlights strategies to get a jump start on the new school year.

Elementary and secondary level stakeholders, primarily educators and parents, will want to bookmark this back-to-school checklist. From school supplies and attire to reminders about back-to-school nights, this checklist promotes proper preparation to prevent poor performance in the coming school year. Some strategies on the list are reminders; others you may be reading for the first time.

School Supply Lists
As outlined by the GreatSchools Staff, there are certain staples students need across grade levels. These include notebooks, paper, pencils, and pens. I've gathered a couple of resources that offer grade-appropriate school supply lists below. We want to have these on hand for learners, so they're equipped to meet the challenges to come.
  • offers a printer-friendly list by grade level (K-12) or visitors can email the list to themselves and friends.
  • Office Depot & Office Max sell supplies online and in stores. Supplies are categorized by grade level through college; plus, there's a section for classrooms.

Budget cuts are a hot topic in education. This causes schools to shift responsibilities to families. Often, parents and teachers dole out funds for basic school supplies needed to succeed. The cost of school supplies adds up quickly for families already strapped for cash. This year, consider buying supplies for a family that's less fortunate. Implement a drive in your community. If you'd like to join the effort, Jackson Education Support is collecting school supplies to donate during Fall semester.

Uniforms & School Attire
Having access to appropriate materials and resources solves part of the problem. It's not enough for students to be equipped to play the part, they need to look the part as well. For younger students, this is less of an issue. Conversations with students about proper school attire may have lifelong effects. Discuss: What is proper school attire? How does school attire differ from street clothes or casual dress? Expose students to the notions that uniforms are intended to foster focused learning environments and that, in the absence of uniforms, wearing proper school attire has similar effect. In worst case scenarios, students learn to disagree without being disagreeable as they understand reasons behind the rules.

Back-to-School Night
When is it? Where is it? Who's my child's teacher? Who is my professor? These are a few questions to ask early on. When the big day arrives, make every effort to attend. Work schedules make this next to impossible for some. If you find yourself in this category, think outside the box. Think beyond parental engagement. Think family engagement! Often times, information shared early on is integral to student success. Share this information-gathering responsibility with family members and friends.

Prepare for student success with discussions centered on these questions...
  1. What are your goals for the course?
  2. What resources (e.g., books, websites, apps) will you use during the course?
  3. How often will you require homework?
  4. May I have a copy of the syllabus or pacing guide?

Build rapport with conversations centered on these questions...
  1. What is the best way to monitor progress toward learning goals?
  2. How can I support your classroom management system?
  3. When is the best time to contact you with questions or concerns?
  4. How can I encourage learning at home?

Academic Pacing Guides
Pacing Guides are tools used by K-12 educators to prepare students for state assessments. They're similar to syllabi handed out the first week of higher education courses. Classroom learning activities are chosen based on pacing guides. Lessons are designed based on pacing guides. Educators are also assessed based on how closely classroom instruction at any point in time aligns with grade-level pacing guides.

Mississippi pacing guides are available by an assessment company known as TE21, Inc. (Individual districts make these available as well.) TE21, Inc produces CASE Benchmark Assessments. Benchmark assessments gauge student performance during the school year; assessment results provide timely feedback to teachers and are used to inform classroom instruction. Though pacing guides may differ from district to district, consider printing the Mississippi Pacing Guides offered by TE21, Inc.

The goal of this reminder is that parents print pacing guides early on to prepare students for learning challenges. A student who struggled with fractions last year will like struggle with fractions in the Fall semester. With pacing guide in hand, we morph into a super heroes. As students transition from one language arts concept to the next, stakeholders predict the future by simply following the pacing guide.

Online Performance Records
We live in a data-rich society. Technology allows us to make data-driven decisions more quickly now than ever before, and educators are leveraging this fringe benefit of the 21st century. Districts aggregate student data in online portals. Parents access to student data in real-time by logging into these portals. Teachers share virtual (online) grade books that reveal attendance, missed or late assignments, and exam and homework grades. Applications like PowerSchool afford an opportunity to help students correct behavior and address misconceptions about content in a timely manner.

After viewing my top five back-to-school reminders, I hope you feel more prepared to help students bridge the transition from summer to school mode. Jackson Education Support offers a number of options to aid this transition that include exam proctoring, parent and student events, private tutoring, and writing assistance. Specialty subjects include literacy, math, and science. Visit to learn more.