Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back to School with Four O’Clock Faculty

Guest Post by Rich Czyz, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at Stafford Township School District, NJ and Co-Founder of

This year, I had the opportunity to create the Four O’Clock Faculty blog with my good friend Trevor Bryan. While we searched for the perfect name for the website, Trevor recounted a story about his father who was also in the education field. The story became the inspiration for our website:

In 1959, Joel Barlow High School opened in Redding, Connecticut. Roy Briggs was the first Principal. Mr. Briggs recognized his situation as unique opportunity because not many Principals have the chance to hand pick each member of their faculty. Briggs’ aim was not only to hire the best teachers that he could find, but also to hire a faculty that would help establish Joel Barlow HS as the best high school in the state. Larry Bryan was hired as a teacher in 1960. During his interview, Briggs informed Larry that school ended at 2:15pm. When Larry asked, “What time can teachers leave?” Briggs simply responded, “We are a Four O’Clock Faculty.”

In this spirit, the Four O’Clock Faculty blog has been established as a site for those educators looking to improve schools and learning for themselves and their students – to make schools the best that they can be.

Recently, we embarked on our most ambitious posts to date, 7 days (with an added 8th day for good measure) dedicated to resources and features for those teachers headed Back to School. The Back to School series featured a variety of advice for teachers, practical strategies for setting up classrooms, opening day activities to use with students, and ideas to motivate teachers as they prepared to welcome students back.

Below you will find a brief description of each of the resources shared throughout the eight days. As you start (or continue) your school year, remember to bring your passion every day!

On Opening Day helps introduce the importance of the Opening Day of school. Every student and teacher deserves a new opportunity to achieve. Just like the Opening Day of baseball season, you can bring your hope and passion to students to have them excited to return to your classroom every day.

In Advice for the 1st Day of School, a variety of educators who inspire us every day share their best advice. Listen to these words of wisdom to make your first day a memorable one.


Purposeful Learning Spaces are so important to helping students and teachers meet their learning goals and objectives. Learn how purposeful design of your classroom can help you and students to accomplish more.


In Viewing Art to Start Students Reading, Trevor Bryan describes how the  viewing of photographs, illustrations, and artwork early in the year can lead to students becoming successful readers later in the year.


In Advice for New Teachers, educators provide their best tips, strategies and words of encouragement for those teachers who will be entering their own classrooms for the first time.

Activities for the 1st Day of School introduces 10 activities that you can use with students on the first day to ensure that they will want to come back every day with their passion for learning. Activities, such as Blackout Poetry, STEM Challenges and others, can help students to collaborate and think critically while also learning about their classmates.

In Become the CEO of Your Classroom V2.0, I explore the customer service principles of Disney, and how they can be applied to education to make you the Chief Education Officer of your classroom.

Finally, More Advice for New Teachers brings more motivational ideas and encouraging words to those teachers who are starting their careers and could use some help as they prepare for their first group of students.


The first days of school can be the most important time of the year in motivating your students, and establishing a connection that will have them returning to your classroom each day with a passion to learn. We hope that the Back to School series provides you with several resources to utilize as you start school. We hope that Four O’Clock Faculty helps you to improve instruction and learning for you and your students.



Rich Czyz is a Director of Curriculum & Instruction at Stafford Township School District (Pre-K through 6th Grade) in New Jersey. He is the co-founder of the Four O’Clock Faculty blog, which can be found at Rich has a passion for modeling and implementing innovative strategies to help learners and teachers improve every day. Rich is active on Twitter (@RACzyz) and can be reached via email at

Monday, August 24, 2015

Growth Mindset and Personalized Learning

Mindset, based on Carol Dweck's book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is about how we learn to fulfill our potential. Growth Mindset, according to @GrantLichtman "is about valuing questions more than answers and to demand more of your students as learners." 

The conversations were so engaging that time just flew by. Before our chat, conversations were going around the Twitter world about how the system impacts mindset. So we read and shared @AlfieKohn's article Perils of the System and Growth Mindset and other resources on the system and developing a growth or fixed mindset. 

The big question: 
What factors need to be in place to foster and nurture a growth mindset?

We used the Q1, A1 format for the questions:

We continued to follow the conversations around this for several days before #plearnchat. Then we invited educators who we believed would want to delve deeper into mindset, the system and the teacher's role in affecting how a student feels about themselves as a learner. Here's a few of the tweets that stood out:
Brian Durst @RESP3CTtheGAME
Adults should model their learning, behaviors, and risk taking, then support learners' efforts.

Danya Davis @DavisDanya
I tell my learners, "Where you are today is okay" -- What is YOUR next step? Honest self-reflection is key!

L Murray @LMurray_
Build relationships with learners. What do they want to learn and why? Set goals or targets and reflect on process to meet them.

Mr.Loadman_HHS @LaudmanHHS
Model growth mindset and consistently require learners to articulate growth oriented goals to you as they embrace process. _____________________

Here are a few resources we shared in the chat:

Congratulations to Shelly Vohra @raspberryberet3 who won our book, Make Learning Personal!

Shelly Vohra is an Instructional Coach and PhD Candidate in Educational Technology for the Peel District School Board in Ontario, Canada. She has been an AQ Instructor for the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) which includes Math, Reading, ESL, Special Education, Media and presently instructing Math Part One. Her responsibility as an instructional Coach is to work collaboratively with classroom teachers by focusing on individual and group professional development that will enhance and refine the understanding about research based practices and instruction.  Shelly's Linkedin

Shelly's Website:

"Need to teach through inquiry approach; I teach through big ideas 
and related essential questions. There is no one right answer."
Shelly Vohra


Our next #plearnchat is in 3 weeks: September 14, 2015 7pm ET on topic:  
Full STEAM Ahead

Here is the Storify with the archives of chat on Mindset:

Guest Post: 5 Shifts to Learner Roles in a Personalized Learning Environment

by Jim Rickabaugh, Ph.D. - Director, Institute for Personalized Learning

Over the next few months, we will be engaging with the Institute for Personalized Learning in a series of joint posts on Learner Agency. Learner agency often gets left out of conversations on education transformation and even conversations about personalized learning. Yet it is a critical component in any attempt to personalize the learning experience with learners.

To introduce our readers to the Institute, we would like to share a link to one of their previous posts, 5 Shifts to Learner Roles in a Personalized Learning Environment. The post examines several ways in which learners and learning play different and expanded roles in an environment where the goal is to prepare learners for a future in which continuous learning and the ability to learn independently are keys to life and career success. Cutting through the hype and noise surrounding personalized learning, learners must do much more than memorize facts and accumulate information. We risk short-changing our learners if we fail to prepare them with skills for success when we are no longer present in their lives.

Check out the post and then watch our blog and theirs as we jointly explore the concepts around learner agency.


The Institute for Personalized Learning (@Institute4PL) works with school districts through a unique action network approach to create an educational ecosystem that is student-centered and personalized for each learner. Their model is based on change in three areas: learning and teaching; relationships and roles and; and structures and policies. For more information contact, or connect with them via Facebook or Pinterest.