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  • JP works with schools providing training on how to ameliorate teacher weaknesses brought to light through the process of teacher evaluation.

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  • JP brings together several critical factors in the development of an effective school.

  • Common Core State Standards, Factors Influencing Student Achievement, Responsive Coaching, Teacher Evaluation, Autism
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A Tip from the Field

We have another tip from the field! This one from P.J. Toburen who has been a JP School Improvement Specialist for over 15 years. Before that she was a successful classroom teacher.

P.J. works with schools and districts to implement a collaborative learning environment. From working with cohorts of coaches to lead teachers across multiple schools, she works with educators to build a cohesive plan of action that builds capacity and positive school culture. Most recently, she worked with ESL teachers in Buffalo, New York and with Della Lamb Charter School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Always generous with information, PJ recently shared this thought:

I have always said that privileges are only limited by a teacher's creativity. Here's a great example.

I heard this one from a Kindergarten teacher today. Apparently, last year she had a very challenging, squirrelly Math group. It was in the afternoon and often, she took off her shoes. The kids asked, "Why did you take your shoes off?"

She replied, "My feet hurt."

The kids said, "Can we take our shoes off, too?"

So from then on, she used that as a privilege. If a student was doing exactly what they were supposed to do, they got to take their shoes off!  They loved it and of course, she loved having such well-behaved students.

Isn't that a hoot! And, what a creative teacher!

Thanks, for sharing PJ and Kudos to that teacher!

Using the Research to Drive Your Professional Development

As Ron Edmonds told us many years ago, we already know more than we need to teach ALL of our children effectively! The science of teaching and learning for children is now widely accepted.  For example, when teaching a new concept to our students, explicit instructional methodology has proven to be the most effective and efficient instructional tool.  While most Professional Development providers acknowledge that explicit instruction is one of the most effective methods of instruction, few, if any, actually apply and use the tenets of explicit instruction in their design or delivery of PD.  JP does!   All of our professional development, workshops and coaching, have explicit instruction design and delivery techniques as its very foundation. This truly makes JP’s professional development unique. Why use the same research in creating our workshops and coaching model for adult learners that we use for our children? JP firmly believes that learners are learners- whether 3, 24 or 85- learning is learning and ALL learners deserve to have the best quality education they can receive. We don’t stop learning when we reach a certain age!

Again, the research is definitive – the quality of the teacher is the most significant factor in closing the achievement gap. Research has shown that students can be separated by over 50 percentile points on standardized testing based solely on the quality of the teacher. Professional Development is where our teachers learn to be effective teachers. This is their classroom. Therefore, the same careful analysis and development spent on deciding what is instructionally best for our children, must be the same careful analysis and development spent on the curriculum for our teachers. AND, because the quality of the teacher is so significant for our students, the professional development company must be held accountable for our adult students just as our teachers are held responsible for their children’s learning. JP workshops are data driven with assessments to assure mastery of the strategies and skills teachers are taught.

The standards have brought about a new expectation that ALL children must achieve the outcomes expected by the standards. Research has shown that in order to achieve such a lofty goal, differentiation must be embedded in our instructional techniques: naïve children need more time, structure and, perhaps, even an additional instructional tool in order to learn effectively. At the same time, we must develop and extend the talents of those children who have exceeded expectations. The same is true for our teachers: not one size of professional development fits all teachers. After an on- site needs assessment, JP creates 3 tiers of teachers ranging from those teachers who need the basics to those teachers who can be nurtured to be future teacher leaders.  Based on the classroom coaching visits, JP School Improvement Specialists create the necessary follow up PD that particular teachers need. Groupings for workshops are based on the actual performance of the teachers in their classrooms. We determine a pattern of need on the part of the teacher, be it questioning skills, management skills, and/or formative assessments, and provide the differentiated PD that fulfills those needs.

I have included an article about the effectiveness of establishing PD that is carefully differentiated based on teachers’ academic need. We cannot believe that teaching is an art and you are born to be a good teacher. Our own future and that of our children’s is quite dim if we take this view. Teaching is a science and great teachers can be developed and trained when the training they receive is of the highest quality and based on the evidence of effective teaching and learning.

Differentiate PD for Optimal Teacher Engagement

Tip from the Field-Math Calculation

JP School Improvement Specialists (SIS) get the opportunity to visit and work with a great variety of schools across the country.  One of the really good things about this is the chance teachers and SIS have to learn from each other.  One such exchange happened just recently for PJ Toburen, a long time JP School Improvement Specialist.

She was coaching a Math Class. The teacher had her learning target posted. The students were presented with the math problem of calculating elapsed time.   She was managing behavior in a positive way. She was doing a great job modeling how to do the problem with a think aloud.  It occurred to PJ that the next step was to have students do a problem and explain how they solved it. PJ shared the idea with the teacher and she agreed.

The first halt in the process was that the student, who could accurately find the answer, did not know where to start. At that point it occurred to PJ that we needed to teach the strategy for solving this type of problem by teaching the steps.

Step One:        Write the time shown on the two clocks. (8:30 and 3:00).

Step Two:        Ask the student had to find out how much time to the next even hour. (30 minutes.)

Step Three:      Have the student calculate from that "even hour" to the end time. It went something like this:

                             9-10=  1 hr.

                           10-11=  1 hr.

                           11-12=  1 hr.

                            12-1=   1 hr.

                              1-2 =  1 hr.

Add it up:                           6 Hours

Add the 30 minutes:           30 minutes

Answer:                             6 hours and 30 minutes

Next, the teacher and PJ decided all students would get more practice if everyone did the next problem with their partner. They did that and then one pair came up to the board and modeled and told what they had done to solve the problem.

Here is another suggestion. Create an anchor chart on how to calculate elapsed time as additional structure for your students.

Here are 2 take a ways:

  • Students needed a strategy. When they didn’t know where to start that alerted PJ and the teacher to the need for more structure. This is generalizable to other Math work. Students talking about how to do the Math will increase their ability to communicate mathematically AND it will help the teacher know where they need help. 
  • “Telling is NOT teaching”. Modeling with a skillful talk aloud is an important first step but it is only the first step!


With Great Power...

Good leaders are basically good educators.  They teach and develop the people with whom they work—they create relationships that have a lifelong effect.  People want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves, something that will make the world a better place.  They want to believe in their leaders. That means leadership needs to be sincere and benevolent.

There is a quote I read years ago that has stayed with me. It is was used speaking to teachers, but its application is so much broader than teaching.  It has a direct application to leaders, as well.

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

The quote is Haim Ginott’s.  He was a teacher, child psychologist and psychotherapist.  According to Wikipedia, “He pioneered techniques for conversing with children that are still taught today. His book,Between Parent and Child,stayed on the best seller list for over a year and is still popular today. This book sets out to give ‘specific advice derived from basic communication principles that will guide parents in living with children in mutual respect and dignity.’"  

If we re-write the quote for leaders it would like this:

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the workplace. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a leader, I possess a tremendous power to make a person’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a person humanized or dehumanized.”

Dr. Ginott also provided advice how to speak with a child. Here it is edited for leaders:

  • Never deny or ignore a person’s feelings.
  • Only behavior is treated as unacceptable, not the person.
  • Depersonalize negative interactions by mentioning only the problem. “I see there are some challenges with implementing the new curriculum.”
  • Attach rules to things, e.g., "We don’t hit other students."
  • Dependence breeds hostility. Let people do for themselves what they can.
  • People need to learn to choose—leaders need to prepare them for choosing
  • Limit criticism to a specific event—don't say "never", "always", as in: "You never listen"
  • Refrain from using words that you would not want your staff to repeat. Model the behavior and speech you want to see

Think about your day and how many times you have the opportunity to lift someone.  How many times do we reply with impatience, a bit sharper than we should or mean to?  A good practice is to spend some time at the end of each day reflecting on how you affected and treated the people with whom you came into contact. Those reflections should guide your actions moving forward.

Remember each of us has the power to make or break someone’s day.

Reading to Children

Educators and parents alike have always acknowledged how valuable reading to young children can be. It provides them with oral language, enhances vocabulary, teaches valuable schema or background knowledge for comprehension and, in addition, helps to teach children listening and focusing skills. Now, according to new research sited in the Pediatrics journal on August 3rd, there is hard evidence that shows just how important reading to children from birth is. “Brain scans reveal that preschoolers whose parents read to them regularly show more activity in key areas of their brains.”

As a grandmother of two granddaughters, I was quite obsessed about reading to them. When my daughters were pregnant I purchased a special microphone that went on my daughters’ stomachs so that they read to their children in their uterus. I am a loving grandma, but no one ever said I wasn’t a bit obsessive!

The latest article Brain Scans Show Why Reading to Children is Good for Them  shows just how important reading to children can be. The part of the brain that enables children to extract meaning from words was particularly robust during the brain scans. A strong vocabulary foundation for children is essential in all academic areas. The earlier we can begin to interest children in finding meaning to words, the more inquisitive they will be. My 6 year old granddaughter doesn’t let me ‘get away’ with any word she doesn’t know. She is always interrupting me to ask, “What does …..mean, Mema?” Since I always take the time to reinforce her when she asks me (GREAT asking me that question!), she does it even more. It is now a habitual behavior and her teacher tells us she exhibits the same behavior in school.

I was particularly struck at how reading to young children can increase vocabulary AND schema when I asked my granddaughter, Maddy, how she felt about the fact that soon she would be 5 years old. She told me she had “mixed feelings” about it because while she was excited to be getting older, she really liked being 4. Proud grandma immediately called my daughter to remark about Maddy’s ability to use that phrase correctly and Lindsay told me that she got that from a book, My Penguin, Osbert that had been read to Maddy. In this book, a boy gets a penguin, loves it, but realizes that he can’t keep the penguin. For the penguin’s health, he must give his seal to a zoo. While the boy knows this is the correct thing to do, he expresses that, of course, he has mixed feelings about this transaction.  I thought- this book made Maddy smarter!!!  I want that for ALL the children JP works with. SO, I asked Lindsay to send me a list of ALL the best books she read to Maddy from birth to 5 years of age. I gladly share this list with everyone so they, too, can make their children smarter. Remember a few hints:

  • Read with robust expression- pausing at every comma, raising your voice when a question is asked.
  • Make sure the pictures can be seen clearly by your child
  • Stop frequently to ask questions and to check for understanding
  • Reread your child’s favorite books again and again. Soon, after many repetitions, you will see your child ‘reading’ his or her favorite book to them or you.
  • Ask your child’s opinion of the book- did you like this story? What was your favorite part?

Reading to my own children and now my grandchildren is a remembrance for me that I hold dearly. We cuddle in a comfortable chair or in bed at bedtime. It becomes a time not only for reading, but a special time between my granddaughters and me.

Teachers- share the article and, especially, the book list with your children’s parents. What a wonderful addition to parent teacher conferences. Perhaps, modeling how to read effectively to your children would be a worthwhile activity for teachers to engage in. One teacher I worked with had a special event where parents shared the book their children loved the best at a special parent literacy night. Either way, enjoy reading TO your children and engaging parents in the process.


Janie Feinberg, President

JP Associates


Here is the list: 

All Dr. Seuss books

All Mo Willems books, especially the Pigeon series, the Elephant and Piggie series, and the Knuffle Bunny series

Tiki Tiki Tembo


A Pocket for Corduroy

The Story of Ping

Where the Wild Things Are

Chicken Soup With Rice


The Velveteen Rabbit

Peter's Old House


All of the Frog and Toad books

The Olivia books by Ian Falconer (NOT the ones written by other authors)


A Sick Day for Amos McGee


The If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books

The Cow Loves Cookies

Fancy Nancy

The Circus Ship

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

The Danny and the Dinosaur series

The Day the Crayons Quit

My Penguin Osbert

The Funny Little Woman

Nobody Listens to Andrew

Outside Over There

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato

The Artist Whom Painted the Blue Horse

Bear Has a Story to Tell

Duck and Goose

Duck Duck Goose

The My Name is Not Isabella series

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Harold and the Purple Crayon

The Story of Ferdinand

The Duchess Bakes a Cake

Mr. Seahorse

The Loney Firefly

Go Dog Go

Sam and the Firefly

The Little Engine That Could

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney


The Wind in the Willows

The Story of Peter Rabbit

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Ladybug Girl

Ladybug Girl and Bingo

In the Night Kitchen

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub


Silly Sally

Harry the Dirty Dog series

Lola Loves Stories

The Little Red Hen

I Love Your Stinky Face

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