Expect the best, but plan for the worse. I recall hearing this advice a lot when I was growing up and passed it on to my own children as they navigated their way through many challenging situations. On a recent assignment with an outplacement firm, I met one-on-one with individuals who had just learned their position with the company was being eliminated and they were joining the ranks of the unemployed. As I spoke with these “shell shocked” individuals and thought about the thousands of professionals around the country who have already been laid-off, or would be soon, the above advice came back to me with new meaning. Although the media has kept us all painfully aware of the dire straights of our economy and the current and expected layoffs, most professionals believe it can never happen to them. And why believe other wise? As one of the gentlemen I met with recently told me, while choking back his tears, “My customers love me, I have a stellar performance record, and I was just promised a raise last week.” He was trying to find meaning in something that made no sense at all – and yet, there was no reason I or anyone else could give him that would explain away the hurt and disbelief he was feeling. My role was to acknowledge his pain and then turn his attention toward an action plan that would lead him through this unexpected career transition. As I spoke to him about next steps, I was instantly aware that he – like thousands of other talented, hard working, and dedicated professionals - had not planned for the worse. Everyday, he did his job and trusted that his career would be taken care of. The fairy tale he had come to believe had been exposed as a sham - and he literally cried. So, what are some of the things you can do while expecting the best yet planning for the worse? Keep your resume up to date. This goes beyond adding each job title and employer as you move forward; a practically worthless activity if you are using the same format and style you began with early in your career. Current resumes bear little resemblance to those used just a decade ago and the resume template that comes packaged with your word processing program is of little value. Find a professional – with credentials – and craft a branded, achievement-focused marketing document that truly sells you. Keep your resume on a CD or portable flash drive and/or save it on your home computer. The gentleman I spoke to on Monday was panic-stricken when he realized that the only copy he had of his resume was saved to his work PC – and he was escorted off the campus before having a chance to download and save his personal documents. Same goes for copies of your performance reviews, awards, kudo letters and e-mails from colleagues and customers. They are nice to display in the office – but keep copies at home. Establish a support team – an “emergency contact list” of who you will call first if your job suddenly ends. When I meet with professionals immediately following their dismissal, I always ask “Who can you call; who will be at home when you get there?” How tragic the one gentleman I spoke to that day would be driving home alone and the only one there to greet him were his two cats. His closest “friends” were his co-workers, and they were dealing with their own personal issues over what just happened. Build and nurture a strong professional network. I can’t tell you how many times I hear recently laid-off professionals tell me “ I just realized that the only people I know are the people I work with everyday – and now many of them are also unemployed.” Join professional associations, and get involved. Volunteer in your community. Connect through online networking services such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Make yourself visible and develop a reputation as someone in the know, with unique qualities and value. Keep learning. It’s not enough to have the skills and knowledge to perform your current job – you need to develop the skills and knowledge to perform the jobs of the future. I met a woman recently who worked as an accountant with the same company for 18 years; they were not using any computer technology to maintain their general ledger books and financial records! Don’t expect your employer to provide you with the training and education you need to remain competitive; take control! Enroll in classes, participate in teleseminars and conferences, read professional journals, get certified. I hope your current employer will weather the storm and your job will remain intact as the New Year shuffles in and for many years to come. But, if the time comes you are facing a career transition – by choice or circumstances – take definitive steps NOW to be ready. There are no more gold watches and lifelong pension plans. You control your career - not your employer, your boss or the HR Department. You can let a job layoff be the end – or you can embrace it, with the proper tools and resources already in place – as a new beginning! Norine Dagliano, of ekm Inspirations, is an independent and nationally certified professional resume writer (NCRW) and job search coach specializing in working with successful professionals who have limited job search experience. For more than two decades, Norine has crafted powerful, achievement-focused resumes and provided logical and straight-forward job seeking tips and advice that has helped literally thousands of professionals in overcoming the anxiety of looking for working… and finding their ideal job. Learn more at www.ekminspirations.com. Career change image from Shutterstock
As an education consultant observing instruction across content areas, grade bands, and schools, I have seen A LOT of instruction, both good and bad. While most teachers teach from a place of caring and compassion, the simple mistakes that I see teachers repeatedly making are undermining the overall impact that they could be having on learning especially when one considers the cumulative effect of poor teaching practices, across multiple teachers, on any one student.
Don’t get tangled up in this trap. Start upping your teaching game by canceling the following five teaching practices:
Using The Standard As The Lesson Objective
I sometimes see teachers using specific Common Core State Standards as the learning objective for an entire unit of study. For example, I once saw a fourth-grade teacher use “Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meaning (CCSS ELA-LITERACY L.4.5)" as the learning objective across many days of learning. This is an academically rigorous standard to be sure. However, as there are many types of figurative language, how does the teacher know they are meeting the precise intent of this standard unless they break down this standard into its component parts? Could each part then be a lesson/daily objective?
To answer, I suggest teachers draw upon the work of Larry Ainsworth in unwrapping standards. In a nutshell, Ainsworth’s model for deconstructing standards has educators identifying each concept (nouns) and skill (verbs) embedded within each standard to ensure that the complete intent of the standard is understood. More about the model can be found here.
Dumbing Down Objectives
My blood boiled over one day when a teacher told me that his students could not possibly meet learning objectives and/or success criteria that asked students to synthesize, evaluate, and/or create since his students were lower functioning. I have no doubt that this teacher was correct in saying that some of his students would, indeed, struggle in meeting higher-level success criteria. However, what then was this teacher doing to scaffold the learning so his lower-functioning students could succeed in meeting such objectives? First, develop lesson objectives with high achievement in mind so that high-performing students are not held back by low-performing students. Then, consider the scaffolds—such as one-on-one and small group direct instruction—that will be provided to lower-achieving students so they, too, can achieve rigorous objectives.
In developing rigorous learning objectives, those that place the cognitive lift on students, I recommend teachers use two tools—a Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Wheel and Hess’ Cognitive Rigor Matrix. The DOK Wheel will help educators to craft learning objectives inclusive of increasing levels of student challenge from a DOK Level One (Student Recall) through to a DOK Level Four (Extended Student Thinking). The Matrix will help teachers to compare their learning objectives, as currently written, to examples of those at varying levels of cognitive complexity so that these objectives may be rewritten to reflect higher levels of cognitive complexity. The Matrix is available for both humanities and math/science content areas.
Bonus Hack for Writing Objectives: When teachers write the learning objective into their guided practice slide decks, it is often only on the front slide. How can students refer to it/follow along if they can’t see it? Instead, include the objective on all slides or, better yet, write it on the class board.
Less is more. If a teacher’s guided practice drones on and on, as their coach, I sometimes ask if the teacher can call on a student to repeat and/or summarize what was said. Sometimes the student can but, other times, as the student begins to explain, they become confused. This is precisely why I ask this of teachers. If students are to retain information, research shows that there need to be breaks in long lectures. Chunk the learning. Allow a quick turn and talk so students can process learning before proceeding to ask students to repeat and/or summarize information.
On a related note, teachers should stop asking “Any questions?” as a matter of pro forma politeness before speeding along on the bullet train that is their lecture. Most students will not admit that they do not understand something unless it is teased from them. Instead, cold call and use other strategies such as polling, individual whiteboards, and signaling cards. And, when teachers do stop talking to ask questions of students, they can ensure that those questions are cognitively rigorous using this question stem tool.
Telling Students To Take Notes Instead Of Showing Them How
If I had a quarter for each time I heard “take notes.” What does this mean? One of the practices in which I engage when observing classes is to look over at what students are doing and the notes they are taking; the level of detail and amount of relevant information can vary widely. Instead, a good practice is to adopt a standard note-taking format like Cornell Notes. In adopting a standard format, teachers can scaffold notes, build in essential questions, and have students summarize their learning—all best practices discussed in this article. Further, students can assess the quality of not only their notes but that of peers and use these notes in the development of student-generated study guides.
One scaffolding technique that I suggest teachers use with Cornell Notes is to include unit-related vocabulary with which students may be struggling and/or may not yet have been exposed. Often, when students leave questions blank on assessments, it can be because students do not understand what is being asked of them because of the vocabulary being used. In addition to highlighting key vocabulary on Cornell Notes, consider expanding a student’s knowledge of related vocabulary through the use of varied Vocabulary CODE activities as well as tiered vocabulary in each content area.
Taking Class Time To Have Students Complete Worksheets
A standard practice that I have seen, when teachers are afraid to release control, is for students to complete worksheets independently and silently in class. First, teachers should consider if work needs to be done in class or, after modeling one or two examples of what students are to do, the rest of the worksheet can be done at home so that class time can be used for discussion of the work. Learning together builds creativity, blends individual strengths, and enhances the sense of collective ownership.
However, teachers are wise in anticipating where learning can go wrong, and there can be many reasons why students may not be focused during student-to-student-based activities. Still, the solution for most attention problems resides with the teacher. If students are unfocused and discussing unrelated matters during group work, give them the questions to discuss up front. If students can’t engage in discussions with one another appropriately, give them discussion/accountable talking stems. If some students are doing all the work while their teammates stand about idly, assign individual roles within each group as well as have students self-assess their level of contribution as well as peer assess that of their teammates. Also, provide exemplars of quality work and allow students some choice in how they demonstrate proficiency (the product) beyond that of a worksheet. There are also varied discussion protocols that can be used to differentiate the process through which students talk collaboratively about the content.
Word To The Wise
These are, without a doubt, some of the most common mistakes that I have seen educators make regardless of the amount of time that they have been in the profession. I, myself, was not immune from making these same missteps in the classroom. Still, being forewarned is forearmed and hopefully an awareness of these common pratfalls, along with a knowledge of the tools that can be used to navigate around them, will help ensure that not a moment of class time is wasted to inefficiency.
Please feel free to reach out to the author at John Schembari, Ed.D. | LinkedIn.
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