Posts by Jadi Miller


A Tone of Influence and Possibility

Let me start by saying the most obvious statement. The past year and a half has been incredibly hard. For everyone. The summer for me is usually a time for reflection, for finishing incomplete to-do lists, and for getting excited about the next year. I do not mind admitting that the last one was pretty hard for me this year. Watching (and re-watching) some episodes of Ted Lasso has helped a little. Reading some of my favorite authors has helped a lot. I found myself revisiting Essential Assessment: Six Tenets for Bringing Hope, Efficacy, and Achievement to the Classroom this summer and revelling again in the authors’ brilliant and elegant ways of describing assessment (and not just because they’re three of my favorite people!)

So I found myself reading the Accurate Interpretation chapter of Essential Assessment, partially to look for some nuggets to share with the educators in my own district. I came across a sentence that is rather perfect for now, “Educators who believe all students can learn deliberately adopt a tone of influence and possibility as a means to promote learning, especially in the toughest situations.” (p. 67) This sentence seems perfectly suited for the 2021-2022 school year and beyond.

Keeping the focus
As educators, we are always working to keep the focus on the things that we can control. There are so many things that can impact a student’s success and many of them do not have anything to do with us. But the educators that truly believe in their hearts that all students can learn are deeply focused on the many, many things that we can control.

One incredibly powerful category of the things we can control is how we use the information that we gain from our assessments. Are we using the data that we have to help us change our actions which we can control, or to blame our students or situations that we cannot control? Do we talk about that data in ways that validate our own influence as educators and reveal the possibilities in how we can respond? Do we see data as a way to build our self-efficacy and our collective efficacy or just another challenge that cannot be met?

In data lies opportunity
In this school year, we should all be looking for ways to talk about our data that communicates how we can leverage that data to influence our actions in creating opportunities for our students. Our language should reflect both our belief that all students can learn and that we are committed to do the things to make that happen.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned through the years is that there is nothing wrong with starting small. Find an area in the data and work together to address it. We often beat ourselves up for not doing everything all at once and perfectly. Give yourself and your teams permission to take one thing at a time to build knowledge and confidence.

This same perfect and elegant phrase, a tone of influence and possibility, should be applied to how we talk about learning with our students. We have all been inundated with deficit messages about how students and their learning has been impacted by the pandemic. I am encouraged that many of those messages are now focusing on acceleration and not just remediation. We need to continue to make sure that our language emphasizes the strengths in our students as well as the opportunities we are planning to address any concerns. Our assessment data should help students see where they are in relation to that learning goal and our actions should help students see that there is a way for them to reach that goal.

Far-reaching impact
There is much that we can control and one of the most significant things we can control is our language and our reactions. If we move forward with a belief that we can use the information we gain about our students to create better possibilities for our students, the impacts will go far beyond our own psyche. We can also use a quote from another of my idols, Ted Lasso, “Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing,” which feels like it was custom-made for educators today as well.

Erkens, C., Schimmer, T., Dimich Vagle, N. 2017. Essential assessment: Six tenets for bringing hope, efficacy, and achievement to the classroom. Solution Tree Press.


Connect the Dots

I apologize for using a rather trite metaphor for the title of this blog, particularly since I never really cared for the dot-to-dot pages that would occasionally appear in my coloring books as a child.  I never saw the purpose. I could tell what the picture was going to be and I didn’t need to scour the page to find the next number to make it appear.

As an educator the idea of connecting things has become much more profound to me. Watching the students in my English classes make connections between what we were reading and what was happening in the world were some of my favorite teacher moments. The flip side of that was also enlightening to me. As a principal of a school with many different academic support programs for students I remember a conversation with a student who told me that she didn’t “do reading” when she went to a classroom to work with a teacher who was supporting English Learners, even though I had just been in that room and seen a lesson that was explicitly planned to connect to the general education classroom. The student didn’t see the connection and that was the problem. Read more


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Finding Security in an Uncertain Time

Much has already been written, and even more is certain to come, about the times we are living in right now. It feels like a perfect storm of upheaval and uncertainty, about even the things we usually take most for granted—like the long-standing institutions of schools, sports, socializing, commerce, and moving around in the world. Read more


Student Self-Assessment: Now More Than Ever

When I wrote my last blog post in January, and made self-assessment my personal learning resolution, I did not know that in a few months my brain would be incredibly tired from learning way too many things in a short amount of time.

I do not need to add any words to the uncertainty that we are all feeling. You know it, and you are all feeling it too. Read more


Know Better and Do Better

I plan to explore self-assessment with my blogs this year. One of my favorite things about writing for this blog is that it causes me to reflect and formalize my own thinking about assessment topics. Maybe it is all of the talk about resolutions, or the fact that my own resolutions have not quite taken hold (Sorry elliptical machine! I promise to visit you soon!), or this looming birthday of mine, but the pulls of both reflection and action are pretty strong right now. Read more


Teacher Efficacy: Who Needs It?

As schools struggle to identify what to do to improve student learning, many of us look to researchers for answers—or at least guidance—about which path to take. The work of John Hattie has transformed educational conversations around the globe and caused us to think about not just what works but what truly makes a significant difference. When you look at Hattie’s publications, it is hard to ignore the power of collective teacher efficacy and Hattie’s charge to teachers to “know thy impact.” Read more


Is Assessment Having a Moment?

A recent job change has extended my daily commute and as a result I have been listening to audiobooks to pass the time and minimize the frustration with road construction.  I know that I am late to this party, but audiobooks are a pretty great way to both decompress after a challenging day and get excited about a new one.  I recently listened to The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath and it has been rolling around in my head for a while since I finished it.  (This poses a new challenge with audiobooks.  With a traditional book, I would flip through the pages and reread different sections.  I haven’t quite figured out how to do that with the audio version.)  I have been a big fan of the Heath brothers since reading their book Switch, which contained one of my favorite metaphors about the change process and proved incredibly helpful in a variety of settings.

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Never Mistake Unmotivated for Unsure

As I write this, I’m looking out my window to see green grass and flowers everywhere. It’s the time of year when we are enjoying final concerts, awards ceremonies, and the other typical end-of-year events. If you ask teachers about this time of year, they talk about trying to keep students engaged when the warmer weather and other distractions are competing for students’ attention. Thinking about my own efforts as both a teacher and a principal to keep the focus on learning until the very last minute made me think about student investment. Read more