Tag Archives: EDU6139

Marzano & Marzano. (2010). The Inner Game of Teaching–Revisited.

In August of 2011, I wrote a blog post discussing this chapter in Marzano (2010).

I still stand by these words that I wrote last year:

“If you don’t–deep down–have an unshakeable belief (expectation) that your students can learn, and that you make a difference, then you will never be a successful teacher.  This is because you inner beliefs affect all of your outward actions and emotions, and without positivity in both of those, you will not positively affect student achievement.”

The refining power that my experiences the past year have had on that statement is as follows.  In your desire to persuade students that you believe they can achieve much more, it is *not* OK to raise your voice or get upset that they are not *now* acting like they want to or are able to achieve more.  In a couple of instances I have caused unnecessary friction between students and me.  I believe my passion in the conversation was coming from the right place, but the method of delivery of my message was not very helpful.  Or put another way, the love part of tough love is not communicated very effectively when you are yelling or experiencing a racing pulse.

I was especially drawn this time to the section on the long-term care and maintenance of the inner game.  In particular the section around classifying events in Marzano & Marzano (2010) mentions psychotherapy.   

When teachers or any other professionals are plagued with primary negative events that have occurred in their lives, brief periods of therapy can greatly enhance their effectiveness and their sense of self-efficacy. (360)

What I did not have a good sense at the beginning of my internship is the need for teachers to keep their inner-game healthy despite the battering it sometimes takes with challenging students.  Especially when the challenging students seem to outnumber those that are not as difficult.  All teachers deal with those students that grow like hothouse flowers and bloom incredibly with little tending, versus those students that like prickly cactus defy even efforts to tend and water them.

And finally, the discussion on examining congruence between basic operating principles and actions has almost unknowingly been my constant companion during this internship.  As a math/science teacher, do I really believe all students can learn math?  Do I believe all students should learn calculus?  Are there any students that do *not* need to know basics of decimals, fractions and percents?  Is it always possible to find an explanation or motivation of a math/science EALR or standard that will speak to the student?  Deep down, don’t all students have questions, want to know why? or how?  Are my answers to those questions (and more) adequately and accurately reflected in my everyday actions?

As I call a business person and ask for a student mentorship, or ask some overworked soul for another tour of their workplace, or ask yet another student if they have spent any time on Khan Academy, I sometimes feel a little foolish.  But then I remember that my inner game says that my students need someone to be a fool for them sometimes, to express hope in them when they don’t even have it themselves.  I like the words of Michael Card and I invite you to  “believe the unbelievable and come be a fool as well.”


Marzano, R. J. & Marzano, J. S. (2010). The Inner Game of Teaching. In R. J. Marzano (Ed.), On Excellence in Teaching. (10th ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Card, M. (2002).  God’s own fool.  On Scribbling in the Sand. [CD]  Word Entertainment.  YouTube

Wiggins, G. (2010). What’s my job?–Revisited

In a prior blog post, I commented on this essay by Wiggins (2010).  As I re-read that essay here near the close of my internship year, I have the following thoughts.

Wiggins starts the essay with a startling confession that he taught for many years without being either having to prove he could teach or being evaluated more than twice.  As I read this again, I am reading it in the context of being an employee of a school district and a member of a teacher’s union.  As I read this again, I read it having spent 8 months in the whirlwind that is public education, bathed in the sometime shrill debates on value added evaluation, and standardized testing.

I still agree with Wiggins, namely that teaching is more than just activity, it is about causation of learning, interest, and confidence in students.  However, I now have perspective that this is harder than it sounds.  Treating teaching as just activity coordination without goals is hard enough, but working toward these goals, consistently and creatively is an extreme challenge.  Thus it comes as no surprise that many teachers don’t like to keep those “results focused responsibilities” in mind, to keep them as the “bottom-line goals.”

As I look back on my internship, Wiggins would prompt me to ask 3 questions.

  1. Have my students experienced successful learning?
  2. Have my students been bored, or engaged?
  3. Have my students discovered new competencies or confidence?

More specifically let’s look at a class I have been teaching since February.  The students in the class are juniors who are looking forward to taking the SAT this June.  They have not taken a formal math class since 8th grade.  Let’s see if there is any evidence in this short time of my moving the needle on those three questions.

Have my students experiences successful learning?  For this SAT prep course all the students (approx 15) took a full SAT, diagnostic, pre-test.  At the end of March they also took a single math section of a sample SAT.  Here are the results for a nearly identical set of students on a subset of questions that deal with geometry.  (More details here.)

Geometry Improvement

I would conclude that based on the improved percent of correct responses that indeed successful learning has occurred.  Or, as always might be the case, more effective test-taking skills have been developed.  That might especially be the case in that the percent of questions left blank has dropped off, and the percent of questions being answered wrongly has skyrocketed.  However, the combined percentages of wrong and blank are still less in the Sample Test than in the Pre-Test.

You may ask given the above evidence, sure, based on a score on a standardized test, but are my students bored or are they engaged.  Here’s a moment of engagement, check for yourself.

[We are discussing the following slide, and the transcript of the video is in the comments]


And finally, have my students discovered new competency or confidence?  Well, I asked them that myself, or maybe not in so many words via a SMS/Text poll.  Here’s what some of them said in reply


Now that is not a scientific poll, and I have some ideas to do some Action Research on things I can do in this class to improve perception of self-efficacy.  However, I am hopeful that at least 2 out of 3, if not 3 of Wiggins’ criteria for what true teachers should be doing in the classroom are being addressed.  But most of all, I am grateful to be at a school which enables some of the flexibility and personalization that Wiggins thinks is essential.


Wiggins, G. (2010). What’s my job? Defining the role of the classroom teacher. In R. J. Marzano (Ed.), On Excellence in Teaching. (10th ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

The Teacher I Hope to Become: Revisited

Last fall (8/17/2012), as a part of course requirements for EDU6918 (MTMS) at SPU, I wrote a blog post entitled “The Teacher I Hope to Become”.  In this post I would like to reflect on that post, and update my goals, especially in light of my Personal Development Plan, which I have just recently drafted.

When I wrote the original blog post, I was 14 days from my last day at Microsoft.  Those were busy days:  wrapping up one job, looking forward to another, finding a new place to live, and renting out the old place, to name just a few.

However, and despite the hectic atmosphere swirling about that post, it still resonates with me.  Here are the points revisited, revised and revitalized.

“focus on the calling … in the job”

It was wryly pointed out to me at the time that although I posted on how I left Microsoft, I have never really posted on why I left Microsoft.  [There is a lot of pause between the period in the preceding sentence and the start of this one.]  Here’s the one-sentence answer to the why-question:  I wanted to have more impact.  In other words, I wanted to touch young lives, to see a fire of hope kindled, and dreams of potential take flight.  No vocation in the world does what teaching does.  Every job in the world involves teaching or training, but no job takes such amazing raw material that is youth and nurtures it and inspires it to achieve great things.

What I like about the personal development plan is that every development activity of the teacher must be measured against impact on and for students.  Am I a teacher that likes technology, that’s great, but if a student isn’t impacted in their learning or understanding through that passion of mine, then the effort is akin to a hobby in the garage on a weekend, it is not education.

“the adventure of inquiry”

In my prior post I described my teaching as a chance for me to become “reacquainted with ‘old friends’ in math, science, engineering and technology” hoping by transference to introduce my students to “old friends” in the hopes that therein they would find a new friend, or two.  This first year has definitely lived up to those expectations in the classes and electives which I have had a chance to design and teach.  There is so much that is readily accessible to students today, from the well-worn paths of knowledge to the very forefronts of our understanding.  Inquiry is about asking questions, and seeking answers.  What I love about teaching is not having the answers but asking the questions, and helping others find a voice for the questions they have.

The personal development plan has some good categories about making curriculum accessible to students of diverse needs and backgrounds.  I have a lot to learn and grow there, and the plan starts to chart a course.

“it is about relationship”

If teaching were only about a mere transaction of fact from one person who knows a fact to another person who has not yet encountered said fact, then I guess education would be completely understood, and also completely uninspired.  Other Microsoft folks that have gone into teaching say that their new job is an order of magnitude more intense than their job for the software giant.  My theory about that is explained by the emotional connection that needs to occur before any real teaching can take place.  This year I have already seen that without some passion from me, there is no chance that a passion in a student will spontaneously ignite.  Sometimes, it is purely my excitement and a student wanting that excitement and willing to invest a little, which has mean the difference between engagement and indifference.

My personal development plan recognizes that relationships not only between teacher and students plus parents, but also between teacher and colleagues plus  administrators, plus staff are essential.  To nurture those through communication, and through participation in various forums will be essential for my growth.

“forge impatience into a love of the process”

In recognition of my tendency to impatience, I wrote in the prior blog post that this attitude would need to change.  I would like to think that in the past year, I have forged my desire for immediate satisfaction to a more seasoned, long-term view.  It is certainly true that students need to see that example, and I hope to address that in a future version of my personal development plan, if it is not there explicitly this time.

“education is about process”

Following close on the prior point, but taking it one step further, I wanted to cut myself some slack in the first year, and remember that the immature person would expect to be able to switch careers immediately and be expert in the new environment without any failures, fits, starts, or signficant setbacks.  However, in order to model for students the value of resiliency, or help them see their own resiliency and how to foster and strengthen that in them, I need to share my growth more transparently, and especially where I have been disappointed with my own failures or shortcomings.  Through that honesty, and the requisite redemption, we set a path where they can also fail, be ignorant, and mess up, but grow through it all.  I guess the personal development plan embodies that whole sentiment.

Finally the real commitment in all of this is to do a blog post like this each time I revise my development plan, and share what I have seen through the reflection.

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