February 2019
Volume XVI Issue II


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Educational Sound Bites


Bruce Oliver

Bruce Oliver, the author of Just for the ASKing!, lives in Burke, Virginia. He uses the knowledge, skills, and experience he acquired as a teacher, professional developer, mentor, and middle school principal as he works with school districts across the nation. Bruce has written more than 150 issues of Just for the ASKing!  He is the author of Points to Ponder and co-author of Creating a Culture for Learning: Your Guide to PLCs and More.

A sound bite is a catchy statement or a brief striking remark excerpted from an article that captures one’s attention, even for a brief moment. Sound bites have different effects; some may just be passing comments that may be dismissed or ignored while others may lead to inquisitiveness, discovery, validation, or further exploration.

This month’s newsletter is devoted to sound bites from the field of education. Below you will see a series of questions followed by a sound bite that appears in current literature. As you read through the questions and quotes below, you will no doubt find at least one idea that is worth checking out in more detail. If so, you can find a link to a complete article in the resources section at the end of the newsletter.

Are there any foolproof strategies or concepts that I should absolutely apply to my teaching?

“People often want to know ‘what works’ in education, but the simple truth is that everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere. That’s why research can never tell teachers what to do – classrooms are far too complex for any prescription to be possible, and variations in context make what is an effective course of action in one situation disastrous in another.”

Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at
University College London and author


Is it really possible to meet the needs of all my students?

“There are lots of schools that are serving kids well, all kids. And the existence of these schools is the proof that the problem is not the children. The problem is our inability to create the conditions that foster good teaching and learning.”

Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education, UCLA


Are there any simple but productive things I can do to support my students?

“Seven words that can change a kid’s life: ‘I love having you in my class.”

Brian Mendler, Educational Consultant, Rochester, New York

How valuable is the data I am gathering in my work?

“Whereas the world outside of schools has been transformed by information technology, the data we collect in classroom practices is somewhere between nonexistent and laughably rudimentary.”

Michael Peretti, President, Thomas B. Fordham Institiute

How important is for me to promote independence among my students?

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are working as if I didn’t exist.”  

Maria Montessori, Italian physician and creator or the Montessori method

What methodology should I use to inspire creativity in my students so that they do not become discouraged when their ideas do not lead to success?

“To prepare students for – and support them through – setbacks that come with creative expression, we need to take the beautiful risk of encouraging stories about failures along the creative path, including sharing our own flops.”

Ronald Beghetto, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Connecticut

Should I be giving my students multiple opportunities to achieve success?

“There’s nothing to lose by giving a student a second chance. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. There’s only the possibility of strengthening a relationship, demonstrating the power of empathy, and instilling a glimmer pf hopeful recovery”

Justin Tarte, Director Human Resources, Union R-X1 School District, MIssouri

What is a better response when a student misbehaves or disrupts the class?

“We’re much more likely to punish the kids with the greatest needs. And how do we punish them? Typically by denying them learning time… There must be consequences for inappropriate behavior, but the consequence need not involve learning. We have to be much more creative.”

Pedro Noguera Professor of Education, UCLA

How much emphasis should I place on test prep for my students?

“Switch from test prep to life prep. Our job is to prepare students for a future none of us can comprehend. Rather than just meeting a set of standards, they need to master the ability to learn, to be resourceful, to set their own goals, and to stay motivated enough to take the long road to success.“

Katie Novak, Author, UDL consultant, and Assistant Superintendent, Groton, Massachusetts

Is there any updated research that emphasizes the essential qualities of effective teachers that especially lead to better student achievement?

  • Establish, manage, and maintain learning-focused classroom environments
  • Organize time, communicate expectations, and plan instruction
  • Present curriculum to support active and engaged learning.
  • Monitor student progress, identify student potential, and meet the needs of special populations in the classroom.

James Stronge, Heritage Professor at William and Mary University and author

What is the best way to use formative assessment data?

“…. formative assessment is a misnomer. What makes a difference is formative use of assessment at any point in the learning process.”

Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at University College London

How can I keep hope alive for my struggling students?

“When a supportive connection can be made, it’s powerful and can be especially significant for students who otherwise experience the school environment as alienating.”

Audrey Wittrup and Daniel Willingham, Authors Keeping Them Afloat

What practices lead to successful teamwork?

“Great teams are honest with each other. Great teams encourage alternate perspectives. Great teams allow all voices to be heard. Great teams operate in an environment where each member makes other members better.”

Justin Tarte, Director of Human Resources, Union R-X1, Missouri

Are classroom situations that help to make learning more relevant for students?

“…. there is a growing argument that the most powerful relevant learning for today’s students is happening when they connect with the rapidly changing world beyond the school walls to solve problems, explore ideas, rally for a cause, or learn a new technical skill.”

Kevin Bushweller, Author of The Rising Relevance Gap

Are there actions that a teacher can take to help students learn more quickly?

“When teachers and students use assessments to make timely adjustments in teaching and learning tactics, they can effectively double the speed of learning.”

Nancy Love and Michelle Crowell in ”Strong Teams, Strong Results”

How should I react when my kids tell me they are bored?

“To be clear, the goal is not to create inherently boring classrooms with boring teachers delivering boring lectures. Permanent or extended boredom in school can lead to lower engagement and lower motivation, which can lead to lower student achievement levels and higher truancy rates. In, stead the goal is to help students use boredom strategically to increase their creative thinking. The key difference between strategic boredom and permanent boredom has to do with duration, purpose, and agency. Boredom can be a surprising component to the creative process.”

John Spencer, Author of The Gift of Boredom 

Are there any particular words of wisdom from the past that have application today?

“The teacher’s role is to keep alive the sacred spark of wonder and to can the flame that already glows…to protect the spirit of inquiry, to keep it from becoming blasé from overexcitement, wooden from routine, fossilized through dogmatic instruction, or dissipated by random exercise upon trivial things.”

John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, atheist and educational reformer, 1910

What should I do if it appears that my students are not ready for the literacy lesson I have prepared?

“Be flexible and persistent. Good literacy teachers ask students to experience new ideas, new genres, and new identities, and sometimes students aren’t ready. At those moments, the teacher needs to be ready A Student’s Perspective on Literacy Teaching and Learning: Starting a Conversation Through Six Suggestions to try something different and not give up – for example, having students abandon a book and hunt for one that will capture their interest and imagination.”

Katherine Frankel and Myiesha Robateau, professor and student

How important is laughter in the classroom?

“Life can be serious, and work can be serious. There is less room for anxiety and stress in your day when you make room for lightheartedness and laughter.”

Alexis Wiggins, Educators for Essential Learning

Is annual testing the best way to measure school success?

“There’s agreement that we have a dysfunctional standardized-testing system in the United States. States and school districts are experimenting with several ideas. What will happen next in testing? It’s largely anyone’s guess. But our current divorcing of standardized testing from the everyday aims of schooling seems untenable for the long haul. It’s time for smart policymakers, educators, and testing experts to lay out a new path.”

Stephen Sawchuk, Associate Editor, Education Week

What does updated research tell us about how people learn best?

“To be effective, teachers must understand how students’ prior knowledge, experiences, motivation, and language and cognitive skills interact with those of the teacher’s own experiences and culture and the characteristics and culture of the classroom. Students should be supported in directing their own learning, via targeted feedback, opportunities to reflect on what they’ve learned, challenges matched to their abilities, and help in developing meaningful goals.”

Sarah Sparks, Assistant Editor, Education Week

Should I be overly concerned when my students are off task?

“Brain breaks are essential to classroom culture and student learning. These seemingly off task moments are truly on task because they provide a space for students to learn better, and take into account the fact that students are growing and maturing.”

Andrew Miller, Instructional Coach at Shanghai American School and author

Since teaching is often a stressful occupation, how can I take care of myself so that I do not become burned out?

“Whether it’s a massage, facial, yoga, meditation or reading before bed, make sure you take care of yourself with some indulgent rituals as a reward for the hard work you do everyday. {Pick one thing that makes you feel indulgent, and do it, without guilt.”

“Finding ways to build happiness and positive emotions into your life – whether it is through meditation, writing, playing a pickup basketball game, or anything else – provides more than just a momentary decrease in stress in a few smiles”

Alexis Wiggins, Founder of Cohort of Educators for Essential Learning (CEEL) and author

How important is it for me to promote civility among my students?

“Democracy requires civil discourse in which individuals listen to others, even if they disagree; defend their viewpoints with evidence, reason, or personal experience; recognize valid disagreements; reconsider positions in light of new evidence; and compromise in the interest of the common good.”

Margaret Crocco, Anne-Lise Halverson, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Avner Sega,
Professors and authors at Michigan State University

Is praise for appropriate behavior the best way to maintain a strong classroom environment?

“I did not become an educator to get students to walk in straight lines. What I truly want is to create opportunities for learners to make their won choices based on the new knowledge they construct. With reflection and practice, we can shift the classroom culture from one where students depend on praise to one where they depend on themselves.”

Britt Hawthorne, Montessori teacher and consultant

Is there a particular message I can share with my students to keep them motivated?

“I’ve missed more than 900 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan, Basketball legend

How can I help my students enjoy learning and see themselves as learners?

“Over time, positive mindsets and active engagement in learning not only support deeper understanding and better active achievement, but they also tend to increase students’ enjoyment of learning and development of positive academic identities.”

UChicago Consortium on School Research

Are current grading practices fair and equitable?

“When we talk about equity, grading is rarely mentioned. By overlooking it, we unwittingly perpetuate the very disparities we dedicate ourselves as educators to correct. It is incumbent upon educators at every level – teachers, principals, district administrators, school boards, and state policymakers – to improve grading policies to ensure that they reinforce, not work against, our commitment to equity.”

Joe Feldman, Author of Grading for Equity

Can positive thinking really boost your health and improve your work?

“To put it simply, seek joy, play often, and pursue adventure. Your brain will do the rest.”

James Clear, Behavioral Psychologist


And finally, some of my own favorite words of wisdom from one of history’s greatest achievers

“I will not let anyone walk through
my mind with dirty feet.”

What are the sound bites that
you are chewing on right now?


Educational Sound Bite Sources

Beghetto, Ronald. “Taking Beautiful Risks in Education,” Educational Leadership, December 2018.

Bushweller, Kevin. “The Kids Are Right: School Is Boring.” Education Week, January 9, 2019.

Clear, James. “How Positive Thinking Builds Your Skills.“

Crocco, Margaret, et.al. “Less Arguing, More Listening: Improving Civility in Classrooms.” Phi Delta Kappan, February 2018.

Feldman, Joe. Grading for Equity.

Frankel, Katherine and Myiesha Robateau. “A Student’s-Eye View of Good Teaching.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, January 2019.

Gonzalez, Jennifer. “10 Ways Educators Can Take Action in Pursuit of Equity.” The Cult of Pedagogy, December 2, 2018.

Hawthorne, Britt. “Confessions of a Recovering Praise Manipulator.” ASCD Education Update, January 2019.

Love, Nancy and Michelle Crowell. “Strong Teams, Strong Results: Formative Assessment Helps Teacher Teams Strengthen Equity.” The Learning Professional, December 2018.

Miller, Andrew. “The Tyranny of Being On Task.” Edutopia, January 11, 2017.

Novak, Katie. “Road Tested/Learning Should Be A Conversation with Students.” Education Update, December 2018.

Petrilli, Michael. “To Improve Educational Practice, Let Researchers Peek Into the Black Box of the Classroom,” The Educational Gadfl, bl-weekly e-newsletter published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Richards, Dan. “Fostering Positive Academics in Students.” Georgetown Middle/High School Principal’s Blog, October 23, 2018.

Sawchuk, Stephen. “Is It Time to Kill Annual Testing?” Education Week, February 9, 2019.

Sparks, Sarah. “How People Learn: A Landmark Report Gets An Update.” Education Week, October 8, 2018.

Spencer, John. “The Gift of Boredom.,” Educational Leadership, December 2018.

Stronge, James H. Qualities of Effective Teachers, 3rd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2018.

Tarte, Justin. “Great teams are honest with each other.”

____________ . “There’s Nothing To Lose by Giving a Student A Second Chance.“

Wiggins, Alexis. “Leading from the Bottom. “Educational Leadership, March 2018.

Wiliam, Dylan. “Assessment: The Bridge Between Teaching and Learning,” Voices from the Middle, December 2013.
________________ . Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2011.

Wittrup, Audrey, and Daniel Willingham. “Keeping Them Afloat.” Virginia Journal of Education, December 2018.




Permission is granted for reprinting and distribution of this newsletter for non-commercial use only. Please include the following citation on all copies:
Oliver, Bruce. “Educational Sound Bites.”  Just for the ASKing! February 2019. Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development. © 2019. All rights reserved. Available at www.justaskpublications.com.