Transforming Education- March 2013

March Madness?

Dear Friends,

It is March. Let the madness begin.Ena-Shelley12

For many of us, especially loyal Butler fans, March Madness is the term used to describe NCAA tourney time for basketball. Yet for those of us in education, it is a madness of a different sort—the culmination of the testing season (year!) as statewide tests open and close their magic windows of evaluation periods. Yet during this frantic season of measuring and comparing, there is a lot we can learn from our counterpart in the “madness”—basketball.

In an interview with Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, Coach Brad Stevens of Butler’s men’s basketball team shared this perspective on the final play of the Bulldogs’ nail-biting 64-63 win over Gonzaga in January.

“What goes through my mind is, the hay is in the barn. A guy makes a shot like that or doesn’t, it doesn’t define who we are. It doesn’t affect how I evaluate our team. It doesn’t break our season. I’m a huge person on growth over prize.”

Growth over prize. Isn’t this what we are after as educators?

You and your students shouldn’t be evaluated on the basis of one isolated moment. You seek the opportunity to show your students growth over time, as opposed to the outcome of a one shot test. The writer who interviewed Stevens could see the logic in this as well, stating this about the coach:

“He is analytical enough to know that his team’s performance cannot be accurately appraised on the basis of a single shot going in.”

Now, in the current culture of testing and the various “prizes” awarded for these single shot tests, I realize that emphasis on growth may seem as unobtainable as the half-court shot, but I encourage you to consider the following:

  1. Find ways to publically share and celebrate student growth in ways that have nothing to do with testing and “data walls.” Invite parents and community members in for an evening to see and hear from students as they share their learning from projects, original pieces of writing, conceptual displays of thinking, or student-led research.
  2. Invite experts to be members of your learning community. When we invite others to learn with us, then they begin to understand the depth of thinking, interest, and knowledge that students have about particular subjects.
  3. Be careful not to overemphasize the testing weeks with your students. We say we don’t want standardized tests to be the defining factor of our students, yet we often treat the weeks of testing like the defining moment of the school year. Great coaches work very hard to keep routines exactly the same during March Madness because they know that consistency will more likely produce the same quality of results they have achieved all year. You, as the coach of your classroom, will more accurately project to your students that you are confident of their outcomes if you don’t drastically change the routines.

Whether in basketball or the classroom, it is easy to get caught up in the madness. Just remember that one shot does not erase an entire body of work. Continue to help your students grow every day and remember that part of the success comes from loving the game.

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley


Guest Post on The Opal School Blog by Ena Shelley and Louise Cadwell

Guest Post: A Week at Opal School

This guest post is written by Louise Cadwell and Ena Shelley. It is cross-posted on the Cadwell Collaborative blog.

We, Ena Shelley and Louise Cadwell, just returned from an amazing and wonderful educational week at Opal School of the Portland Children’s Museum, a public charter school now 11 years old.  This is the second year that Butler University has offered an intensive week-long seminar entitled: Creativity, Imagination and Learning: A Field Study in Early and Elementary Education based at Opal School in Portland, OR.  Ena Shelley (Dean of the College of Education at Butler University) and Louise co-teach the course along with Susan MacKay and the staff at Opal.  Perhaps because we had laid the groundwork last year, this year, we were able to journey even deeper into the work, the philosophy and practice at Opal.  This year, we were also ready to make more and stronger connections between our experience during the week and our contexts and schools back home.

P1040252-500x375Last week, participants were struck over and over again by the language used by all the teachers at Opal that invites children’s best selves and best thinking into the classroom in every discipline and during every social occasion.  For example, “James, would you share your thinking about this idea?”  ”Could we make room for Cindy’s voice?” “Jane, who would be a good thinking partner for you?” “What does it mean to be wild?” “Who lives underground?” “What can your hands do with clay?” “Where do stories come from?”

This practice of language choice and framing open questions, has grown over the years, influenced greatly by the practice in Reggio Emilia, Italy and also many authors and educators here in the United States, among others, Ellin Keene and Karen Gallasin literacy,  Catherine Fosnot and Maarten Dolk in mathematics, and David Orr andFritjof Capra in systems thinking and sustainability.  A book that they are reading at Opal right now is Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston.  Louise read it before she arrived in Oregon and it is worth ordering right now to read right away.  So applicable immediately to your classroom and school, it is filled with examples and stories about what kind of language and stance supports a flexible learning mindset and what closes learning down to a fixed mindset.  Johnston sites Carol Dweck’s research and takes it farther.

Every time we go, we come home from Opal thinking something like this, “This is it. If you want to see complex theories in action, learning for the future taking place right now, rich, inspiring places and spaces and the real-life, hard work of collaboration that is paying off for children and their community, go to Opal.”  And, we are always re-inspired to do the work that we do with renewed insight and clarity, purpose and passion.

You can gain a peek into the life and experience of Opal by reading their blog.  Every week there are posts, stories of learning, links to books and other worthwhile events and opportunities.  Louise will write her next few posts for the Cadwell Collaborative blog on aspects of last week because there is so much more to reflect on and to share.  In the meantime, we suggest that you follow the Opal blog and take advantage of all that they have to offer in professional development even if you can not go there.  There is an on-line course that you can sign up for now that was very successful the first time it was offered.  There is also a free webinar on Sunday the 24th offered by NCTE and Susan MacKay.

In a world where we are all looking for mentors, leaders, and paradigm shifters, Opal is one place where you will find them.  Thank you, thank you, Opal School.

You can find the posting on The Opal School blog.  Please visit to learn more about The Opal School and see reader comments!

TEACH Butler is Expanding!


So many great educators have come to Butler’s campus each July for a week (and sometimes two) to gain professional development in a variety of areas, often with colleagues.  Many educators say that TEACH Butler is their time to think and get rejuvenated for the coming school year.  We are excited to expand the TEACH Butler program as we re imagine what professional development at Butler’s College of Education will look like in the future.

The College of Education has always offered workshops for graduate credit as a vehicle for professional development in addition to the TEACH Butler program.  We are expanding the idea of what workshops can look like on our campus and in our college.  Starting today, workshops are now a part of the TEACH Butler program.  We see TEACH Butler as an umbrella for all of the different ways we plan to deliver professional development to teachers, school counselors, administrators, graduate students and pre-service educators.  The TEACH Butler program will continue to grow and evolve, but we are so excited to align all of our professional development as the TEACH Butler brand!

Please visit our website to see the new list of TEACH Butler offerings and more information!.

COE Alumni & Graduating Students: Job Opportunity at Butler Lab School!

The IPS/Butler University Laboratory School is currently searching for three classroom teachers and one studio teacher to join our staff for the 2013-2014 school year.  If you are interested in applying for one of these positions, please see below for further information.  These openings will close on March 20th.


Studio Teacher Web Address:

IPS-Butler University Laboratory School – Application Packet – Studio Teacher


Classroom Teacher Web Address:

IPS-Butler University Laboratory School – Application Packet – Classroom Teacher


Applicants need to fill out the online application, upload transcripts, and send the reference request to 3 supervisors/supervising teachers/professors.  In addition to these application requirements, applicants must send a letter of interest, resume and response to a piece of text found in the attached application packet to Ron Smith at

Should you have any questions you can reach Ron Smith at 317-226-4260.