Sunday, March 9, 2014

40 Things I Know About Education

This month I turn 40... that's right - the BIG 4-0! I am not quite sure where the last 40 years have gone (I still think I am 28 somewhere in the back of my mind) but what I do know is that I have learned a LOT in my 40 years. I have learned a lot about myself, a lot about the people around me, a lot about what matters in life and a lot about the world of education. I have been an educator for almost half my life and during that 17 year stretch, my philosophy of education, which I see as a living entity, has been shaped and refined continuously! In honor of my 40th birthday, aside from the white hairs growing abundantly on my head and the back pains that seem to increase in frequency, I would like to share 40 things I know about education...

  1. It is all about the kids... they come first, second, third and last. They are the beginning, middle and end! Every decision we make must be in the best interest of kids - even if it is a difficult decision!
  2. Educators can let the kids see them smile before December! In fact, heck, let them see you smile from day one... smiles and laughter have a positive physiological impact on people.
  3. If you are going to be successful as an educator you must lead with your heart and mind... because teaching and learning without heart is like Fountas without Pinnell!
  4. It is never about the resources/stuff/materials... it is always about the educators in the school!
  5. Differentiation of instruction needs to be at the foundation of all good instruction!
  6. Our schools/classrooms/districts need to be a safe haven for kids... and staff!
  7. We must embrace the idea that failure is a critical part of learning and growing!
  8. Homework has NO value unless it is checked and is potentially used as a type of formative assessment!
  9. Don't just do something because it is the way it has always been done!
  10. Embrace innovation and disruption... push kids (and yourself) out of your comfort zone by taking risks through disruptive innovation!
  11. Faculty Meetings should not just be a review of things that can be covered in an email!
  12. Kids need recess... don't take it away unless it is a consequence for something they did during recess!
  13. The Arts are a critical part of any educational organization... it is a way to hook many kids who aren't hooked by math, reading or writing!
  14. High stakes testing is useless because we cannot do anything with the data!
  15. Students and teachers should NOT be reduced to a number as a result of a score on a standardized assessment!
  16. NCLB, Common Core, RTTT, etc. have not addressed the systemic issues plaguing the landscape of public education in this country!
  17. One bad year in school can set a kid back for years!
  18. Kids need to read EVERY SINGLE DAY if they are to become stronger readers and THINKERS!
  19. Collaboration is critical to the success of all members of the organization!
  20. Being flexible is underrated!
  21. Don't use sarcasm with your students.
  22. Don't embarrass your students in front of each other.
  23. Spend time creating a community of learners in your classroom - it can go a long way!
  24. If kids can show their understanding in 4 or 5 math problems, don't give them a sheet with 20 or more!
  25. Kids should have a voice in their learning and assessment!
  26. Effective classroom management is rooted in trust, respect and empathy!
  27. Telling kids what they are going to learn at the start of a lesson is a great way to hook them and gives them a context for what is to come!
  28. Field trips are really important - they bring the curriculum to life.
  29. Giving kids a second chance can go a long way.
  30. We must focus on the issues... not the people... don't take things personally!
  31. Healthy and positive relationships are at the core of any successful school!
  32. Positivity goes a long way.
  33. There are many policies and mandates that we must follow but how they manifest themselves in our space is up to us!
  34. Feedback is a wonderful thing that can be transformative... don't get defensive around feedback!
  35. We must listen more than we talk.
  36. "Covering" the curriculum should not be our goal.
  37. We are all learners first!
  38. Don't ask if you taught it... figure out what was actually learned!
  39. Create an environment where taking risks (and likely failing) is the norm!
  40. Kids come FIRST!
Clearly the list could go on and on but in the end, I think these 40 points are critical to the success of any educator, student and learning organization. 

What do you think should be the next thing on this list? Please leave a comment below!


  1. #41 An Engaged Classroom is the best form of Classroom Management...Period!

    THE BIG 4-0! Yikes. Well I'm glad you are feeling young at heart. I enjoyed the list, several made me stop and think. These one's were thought provoking...12, 32, 35

    Thanks for posting Tony, I'll look forward to an updated list when you turn 50.

  2. Tony, congratulations on moving to the big 40 and being the reflective practitioner that you are.

  3. Great list, Tony! We have the same birthday month; I'll be 43 this week. So, I'll add my next three items to the list.

    41. We all need to be both leaders and supporters
    42. We should take care not to "break" kids, because it is much easier to build them now than fix them later.
    43. You never know how your words affect a child (or teacher or parent), so choose wisely.

    Thanks for creating such a great conversation piece!


  4. For a man of your age, you did a good job remembering so many things. HBD and welcome to the 40 Club.

  5. I love this. And I can say from real life experience that we see these ideas come to life every day at Cantiague! Happy Birthday to a very special principal!!

  6. What a clever way of celebrating your 40th and welcome to the club (I am a recent member, but might still be in denial). Your list is spot on, as well as the 3 additional items added by the 43yo. Thanks for sharing!

  7. That's a lot for a young guy of 40!!