SURN Observes P4C!

As SURN Director and Assistant Director, Jan Rozzelle and Jenny Hindman travel through the United Kingdom to visit schools they may visit for the 2016 Study Tour, they have been building relationships with school leaders. They are learning about how these schools are using research and practices

Jan and Jenny traveled to see two schools in Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is located on the east coast of England near the Scottish border. Both schools start at Reception (kindergarten) and continue through upper elementary. They have approximately 150 students.

At Holy Trinity Primary School, we had the honor of listening to students in Mary- Rose Blythe’s class engage in a p4c experience. P4c stands for Philosophy for Children. The students made observations about a stimulus material in this case a painting. Then they generated words and questions. The class voted on a question and engaged in rich dialogue about it. In the process they agreed, clarified, disagreed, and refined their thoughts. A fish bowl strategy was used. The students on the outside made their thinking visible using a map.

Student work from Holy Trinity Primary School

Student work from Holy Trinity Primary School

At Tweedmouth West Primary students filled every space and their teachers invited students to think through multiple ways of approaching content. For example in Anne Robertson’s classroom students were to work graphing data. Her students shared different ways to display data including Carroll charts, bar graphs, and others – we left before seeing students collect their chocolate data.

Tweedmouth West Primary Students

Tweedmouth West Primary Students

In another room we heard students practicing violin. The violin teacher works with students in both schools. The rhythm of music has impact in other subjects such as reading.

Tweedmouth West Primary Students Practicing Violin

Tweedmouth West Primary Students Practicing Violin

James Nottingham, 2014 SURN Leadership Academy speaker, recommended both of these schools to us.

SURN Around the World

Jan Rozzelle and Jenny Hindman, SURN Director and Assistant Director, have been spending this week in Edinburgh. They had an amazing conversation with The Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School  teacher and class guardian, Dr. Mark Burgess, who described the values and hallmarks of a Steiner Education. Dr. Burgess trained for two additional years to become a Steiner teacher. The focus of learning is on the student. The format for learning includes verse, song, recall of the previous day’s learning, time for the new material, a portion of the day is called the will where students continue to develop and show their learning. Jan and Jenny experienced through Dr. Burgess’ words the Steiner vision.


Jan in Edinburgh with a Scotsman playing bagpipes


Jenny petting Greyfriars Bobby, a faithful dog whose legend is a popular children’s book

It’s Time for March Reading Madness!

Welcome to SURN’s March Reading Madness

Twenty books go head-to-head in this exciting twist on March Madness.  Welcome to SURN’s first annual March Reading Madness!  Starting on February 24th and continuing throughout the month of March, you get to vote on which book you think is the best.  There are six rounds over the course of the next few weeks, and only the books with the top votes advance to the next round.  Excited about your book?  Don’t forget to vote!

March Reading Madness Schedule:
February 24– Round One
March 3– Round Two
March 10– Round Three
March 17– Quarter Finals
March 24– Semi-finals
March 31– Final Championship


Click to zoom in

The Official Bracket Based On Your Input:

How to Vote:

Please visit our Google form to vote.  It should only take about two minutes—it is super quick!

More Information on the Books:

White Dolphin

Ruth and the Green Book

Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Pete the Cat

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom


Lightning in a Jar

The Book Whisperer

Accessible Mathematics

The Energy Bus

Teach Like a Pirate


Riding Freedom


Lean In

Papa’s Mechanical Fish

When You Were Little

To Kill a Mockingbird

Mr. Peabody’s Apples

Happy New Year!

SURN is excited for 2015 and everything that this new year brings with it! One piece of exciting news is SURN’s recent creation of a Twitter account, making it easier than ever to share resources and ideas with our followers. Do you have a Twitter? Follow us! Also, if you haven’t already done so, like our Facebook page, too!

We want to share with everyone some updates and reminders for the year…

First, Kerri Mahoney, SURN College and Career Readiness Coordinator and Ph.D. Student in Curriculum and Education Technology at The College of William and Mary is facilitating an event on March 26th called “Teaching and Technology: Best Practice for Secondary ELA.” This day will focus on how technology can be used in the classroom to enhance and support learning in secondary English Language Arts. Click here for more information and the registration form for this event.

Additionally, on May 1st, SURN is hosting a workshop titled “Hire the Best: Effective Educator Interviews.” This event will be facilitated by  Jennifer Hindman, Ph.D., SURN Assistant Director and Author of Effective Educator Interviews: How do I hire good teachers? (ASCD, 2014). For more information and the registration form for the May 1st workshop, click here!

Finally, the 19th Annual SURN Leadership Academy is being held on June 22-23, 2015. Among others, Diane Sweeney, author of Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Principals and Coaches (Corwin, 2010) and Student-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Level (Corwin, 2013), and Deb Masters, Director of Visible Leading Plus will be speaking. Spots are filling up fast, so be sure to register soon! For more information and the registration form, click here!

Be sure to check out the SURN Calendar of Events so you don’t miss out on any valuable events in these busy months of 2015! Questions? Email us at

Happy New Year!!


SURN partners have been busy celebrating many accomplishments! 


At the recent School of Education Awards Ceremony, Rachel Ball received the SURN Virginia L. McLaughlin Collaborative Leadership Award. This award was established by SURN to honor Dr. Virginia L. McLaughlin for her tenure as Dean of the School of Education.

 Angie Seiders_VASCD Impact Award

Angie Seiders, SURN Principal Academy Mentor, was recently recognized as the VASCD Region 2 Impact Leader!


At the recent School of Education Awards Ceremony, Wendy Gray received the Chandler Family Scholarship. This scholarship is given in recognition of a graduate student in the Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership Program who demonstrates a commitment to serving in the field of Education.


Also at the School of Education Awards Ceremony, SURN Graduate Assistant, Jennifer Pogue, received the Frances C. Hudgins Memorial Endowment. This scholarship is awarded in support of a student preparing for teaching or studying guidance and counseling.

Join SURN in congratulating these individuals when you see them!

A review of “The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi”

tia book

Book Review by SURN Logistics Planner and Research Assistant, Tia McClenney

I have studied Nazi Germany since I was 7 years old but Neal Bascomb’s “The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi” introduced me to an aspect of the war to which I hadn’t been exposed. The novel went outside the general presumption of WWII and Nazi Germany and instead gave an astounding look at government and spy operations in capturing a well-known Nazi leader. The novel provokes questions among the reader, influencing consideration to what goes into the development of division, war, and its aftermath.

I was gripped by the logistical operations of the Holocaust, with Bascomb going outside of what was done and instead explaining how it was done, enlightening the importance of prosecuting such a high ranking Nazi leader and all involved. It gave a look into how many were surreptitiously connected in implementing Hitler’s Final Solution – an operation that ultimately resulted in 11 million deaths. Have you ever questioned how this was so tragically achieved? “The Nazi Hunters” gives a look into the answer.

I also valued how Bascomb provided a remarkable glimpse into the progression of a spy operation and likely, this is what will amaze readers the most. The detail that goes into (and even what doesn’t go into) a spy sting is fascinating – though it is difficult to use such a word surrounding the premise of this particular operation. “The Nazi Hunters” further provided an acknowledgment of how much happens in the world around us while we remain unaware. This aroused further questions in my reading such as how often is someone’s death written off as a homicide, but is actually the result of a spy operation; or how often is a person’s disappearance written off as foul play, but is actually the result of a spy operation? Having a glimpse into a spy procedure was eye-opening to say the very least.

Outside of the basic theme of the novel, it had a robust undertone of passion. It enthused me to read of humans so determined to achieve a justice that wasn’t even directly their own. – Despite the obstructions, the failures, and even the times when the men stood alone in wanting to continue their mission, the desire to bring justice to a wrong consistently dictated the operation. The book provided a story of passion for human goodness without even having to state the word.

There are many other aspects of Neal Bascomb’s ““The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi”” that will captivate the reader and ignite a realm of emotions. Though the novel is based on a time many decades ago, it begs the question of how much of the story is still prevalent in our world today. What do I mean by that? Come to your own conclusion by reading the book!

Start a Reading Revolution in Your Classroom!

How often do your students make true connections to what they are required to read in the classroom?  Do your students react with boredom or frustration when you want them to read?  If so, consider flipping your class through the power of blogging!

There is so much value in what we want our students to read, but sometimes it can be a battle to get them to engage in a successful reading process.  There are many ways to transform reading in the classroom, and one exciting way is through flipped blogging.

A flipped classroom is one where students engage in learning at home in order to have an understood foundation of a topic before returning to the classroom.  Once they return to the classroom, they participate in project-based learning that supports and extends the learning they did at home.  Flipping the classroom with reading as a focus allows students to read in the classroom while the teacher models successful reading strategies.

Overview of the process:

  • Students choose any work of fiction appropriate for their reading level
  • Students read in class 3-4 times a week for 2.5 weeks.  They must read actively, but get to choose their method: index cards, post-it flags, bullet points in their notebooks, etc.
  • At home, students write their blog using the Writing to Learn method.  They have the freedom to craft posts on topics of their own choosing.
  • Every day that they read in class, students blog about the experience at home.

 (Sztabnik, 2014)

Flipped Blogging

For more information, please visit

Start a Reading Revolution: Flip Your Class With Blogs

What Does Reading Mean To You?

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.”
–Frank Serafini

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
–Kofi Annan
“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”
–Maya Angelou

“The more that you read, the more things you know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go!”
–Dr. Seuss

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
–James Baldwin
Use these quotes as a jumping off point to discuss the importance of reading with your students and colleagues!

A Review of Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers?

Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers? (2014) answers the question with research and an interview-creation process that is user-friendly and a quick-read. This newly released ASCD Arias-formatted book equips and informs readers to construct an interview that is fair, legal, and focused on getting additional information about job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities. The process starts with aligning the interview questions to the job description, continues with writing items to solicit information about past performance (experience-based questions), and eventually concludes with a job offer.

Additionally, Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers? includes a section on performance interviewing. This is an extra step in the process that is rarely done because of the additional time involved. When a performance interview is added as part of the interview process, there is an opportunity to gain additional insight into candidate’s qualifications.  A performance interview must not be a surprise to the applicant and may be prepared in advance and delivered onsite or as a recorded submission.

For example, candidates could be asked to design and teach a lesson that engages students on the impact of major U.S. waterways on exploration, settlement, transportation, and trade. The interview team establishes the criteria in advance. Evidence of appropriate and challenging student engagement involves students setting learning goals, applying meta-cognitive strategies, using collaborative learning, generating graphic organizers and products, providing feedback and other high-yield strategies, all items found on the SURN Indicators of Student Engagement Tool that is informed by the work of Dr. John Hattie (2009). In this scenario, neither of the two finalists gave unsatisfactory performances. An unsatisfactory performance would have been well-behaved 6th graders neatly coloring and labeling a map of the U.S. waterways. So review the two bullets below and determine who did a better job given the performance task?

  • Candidate A hooked students with a 53-second video about Lewis and Clark’s dog (Seaman) on the expedition, used maps, and had well-organized note-taking sheets about the exploration of several waterways. She moved around the room spot-checking progress. Students listened and took notes.
  • Candidate B used the Jigsaw method. Each expert group gathered information about a particular waterway’s impact on exploration, settlement, transportation, and trade. In their home group they shared and organized the information to compare and contrast the different waterways.

Candidate A had outstanding teacher pedagogy; however, the lesson missed the mark of engaging students, though it did demonstrate the teacher’s expertise at designing a coherent lesson. Candidate B’s lesson design focused on the students acquiring, disseminating, and organizing key information within the context she established. Articulating the criteria by which the lesson would be measured in advance ensures fairness, reduces bias, and focuses the reviewer.

Key take-aways from the book are to plan and structure the interview with care and accountability.

  • The interview is dynamic and responsive to the interactions of the people involved.
  • The interview is a distributive leadership opportunity where you engage your interview panel in contributing to the decision-making process for a new colleague. Training the interview panel will enhance the effectiveness of the interview.
  • The research informs interview design with the inclusion of experienced-based queries, behaviorally-anchored rubrics to assess the quality of responses, note-taking space, and sample quality indicators.
  • The book’s layout with bold headings, bulleted lists, examples, and an Encore section summarizing the hiring process as a “Get Ready, Get Set, Go” contributes to its reader-friendliness.


SURN Assistant Director, Jennifer Hindman, Ph.D. wrote Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers?


SURN Literacy Study Group

The SURN Literacy Study Group is a group of literacy specialists and other educators from SURN school divisions who meet monthly to explore strategies to enhance literacy and literature teaching at all levels. Led by Dr. Denise Johnson, Assistant Professor at The School of Education, LSG participants take part in discussions surrounding the do’s and don’ts of teaching reading and writing. Highlights of the group from past years include: designing professional development for teachers, coaching, writing conferences, informal assessments, and reading and writing across content areas.

What do current SURN Literacy Study Group participants have to say about the group?

“I loved being able to connect with others around the area to discuss topics and to gain knowledge of how other divisions are addressing similar issues/structures”

“This group has helped me to grow as a literacy leader and go “beyond my comfort zone” in advocating for “best practice” and “research-supported pedagogy.” It promotes a climate of trust where district representatives are able to discuss challenges and what strategies/practices could best help meet these challenges. This group of professionals is diverse, edifying, resourceful, and supportive.”

“I also think the sharing of resources is invaluable.”

Some key topics to be addressed this year include:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 11.46.36 AM

Does your division have a representative attending the Literacy Study Group this year? If the answer is no, what are you waiting for? Email to make the most of your SURN experience!