Welcome to TCC’s newsletter, where we share professional learning insight, highlight our community, and keep you in the loop about upcoming events. We’re entering “Holiday Season,” arguably the busiest and most distracting time of the year for educators.. To help you cope, your November newsletter includes:

  • Tips for using gratitude to counteract disillusionment
  • An overview of TCC’s work with Rigorous PBL, which inherently increases engagement among students and teachers alike
  • Background info about November celebrations

School Happenings

November can be a time of disillusionment for educators (Moir, 1990). One of the ways to counteract these feelings is by showing gratitude.

According to UCLA Health (2023), people who are grateful have reduced stress levels, reduced risk for substance abuse, and are more likely to have lower blood pressure, improved sleep, and an increased ability to focus (Wilson, 2016). They tend to experience deeper connections with others (Algoes and Way, 2014).

If you are feeling disillusioned in November or if you wish to cultivate the habit of gratitude in your students, try:

  • writing three things to be grateful for in a daily gratitude journal,
  • writing and sending thank you notes or having your students send thank you notes to their classmates,
  • engaging in or facilitating a gratitude walk,
  • filling a gratitude jar or asking students to fill a gratitude jar,
  • making a paper chain with gratitude statements, which could be written by your students (Breon, 2021)
  • implementing an optimistic closure in your classroom (CASEL, 2019)

For more ways to cultivate the habit of gratitude, see this resource!

Professional Learning: Rigorous PBL

With a focus on clarity, challenge, and culture, Rigorous PBL by Design takes both students and teachers deeper into learning. Based in inquiry, learners develop surface and deep concepts and skills with the purpose of solving real problems and impacting the world around them. Immersing themselves in meaningful projects provides value and context for otherwise isolated facts and skills.

To ensure all learners, adults and children, develop the skills, mindsets, and routines necessary to take their learning deeper and ensure their projects have an impact, the Rigorous PBL team focuses on the development of 15 key habits. These habits are organized three overall phases of learning: design, action, and inspection habits.

Partner with the Rigorous PBL Team for specialized professional learning and coaching to support your team, school or district in enhancing and sustaining innovative, transformative learning.

School Spotlight: PS 59: The Harbor View School

Teacher Clarity Within the PBL Model

“As a school community, we have worked to center teacher clarity within our Project Based Learning Model that integrates ELA and Social Studies. We have invested time and resources in professional development opportunities that deepen our understanding of grade level standards and increased the level of rigor in our units of study.”

Puzzle of Practice

“Our problem of practice was focused on the inconsistencies of instructional practices and beliefs across our school community.”

The Goal

The goal was to create systems and structures that provided clarity for all staff members. It was also our goal to create a shared vision of our project based beliefs grounded in rich content and rigorous standards aligned learning experiences.

Our Steps to Success

  • Schoolwide expectations were collaboratively set with support from the Instructional Leadership team.
  • As a result of visioning activities, we aligned resources to secure professional development opportunities with experts in the field.
    • We worked with Michael McDowell’s team on the writing portion of our units of study. Kelley Miller helped teacher teams align lessons and units to writing standards. She also supported teams with protocols and assessment practices.
    • We worked with Michael to enhance our unit structure in order to increase the level of clarity in Reading, Writing, and Social Studies. Units of study now highlight the importance of surface, deep, and transfer learning experiences and assessment practices. These shifts enhance the level of rigor in our classrooms.
    • Isaac Wells worked closely with our Impact Teams as they tackled student efficacy and agency. Teams engaged in purposeful protocols aligned to the shift in writing lesson expectations and formative assessments practices.
  • We worked with partner schools to engage in continuous cycles of intervisitations of PBL aligned lessons.
  • We created multiple opportunities for teacher teams to revise, enhance, and adjust units of study with the support of colleagues, administrators, and experts in the field. We are very thankful for The Core Collaborative and their partnership with Michael and his team. This work has truly been transformational.

Our Impact

Some of results are:

  • Teacher practice has been impacted positively in the areas of designing coherent instruction, engagement, questioning and discussion, and assessment in instruction as connected to the Danielson Framework.
  • We made gains on state tests in ELA (7%) and Math (10%)
  • We have seen progress in student discourse due to the integration of driving questions that impact students, the school and the larger community. Heightened student agency has enabled them to make connections to how their learning affects the world outside of our school.
  • This work has impacted the way we engage students in learning from experts in the field as they continue to grow as creative, well rounded citizens who are prepared to meet and overcome real world challenges.

Partner Consultant Spotlight: Michael McDowell, Ed.D.

Passionate, dedicated, and engaging, Michael McDowell brings all of himself to every interaction he has with educators around the world. He pulls from his experience as a teacher, coach, principal, assistant superintendent, professor, and, most recently, superintendent as he partners with schools and districts to find new ways to engage students deeply in their learning.

His energy and excitement extend from his presentations and coaching into the growing library of practical, insightful publications designed to strengthen leadership and improve learning. Whether writing about learning clarity, transfer, habits or expertise or focusing on how the adults can focus leadership and differentiate learning, readers feel he is right there with them on their journey.

Check out his amazing work with co-author Kelley Miller in “The Project Habit: Making Rigorous PBL Doable”.

You can see him in person at the Learning Forward Annual Conference in Washington DC December 3rd or invite him out to your school or district!


National Native American Heritage Month

Officially celebrated beginning in 1990 National American Indian Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and honor the culture, traditions, and continued contributions of Native Americans. Expanding from the previous “American Indian Day” and  “American Indian Week”,  the aim of this month is to create opportunities for education regarding native peoples’ history, culture, rights, issues, and concerns. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Tribal Sovereignty and Identity” and is a time to reflect on our moral and legal responsibility to American Indians and Alaska Natives while we acknowledge the many times in our history that treaties have been broken and groups have been treated as second class citizens forced to relocate from their homelands and assimilate into the dominant culture.

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month, in which the United States gives gratitude for adoptive, kinship, and foster families who provide love and support for our nation’s children. As of September 30, 2021, 391,098 children were in foster care and 113, 589 were waiting to be adopted. 54, 240 children were adopted during the 2021 fiscal year (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, AFCARS Report, 2022). At TCC we are grateful for everyone who extends compassion and care to our nation’s children.

Upcoming Events

Missouri Greater Ozarks Cooperating School District
November 15, 2023
Dr. Jeanette Westfall

Learning Forward Annual Conference
December 3-6, 2023
Micheal McDowell, Ed.D.
Dr. Jeanette Westfall
Kara Vandas

WASA Winter Conference
December 5, 2023
Connie Hamilton

2023 MEMPSA Annual Conference
December 6-8, 2023
Dr. Paul Bloomberg
Vivett Dukes

Equity is Love in Action Conference 2024
Jan 18-19, 2024
Connie Hamilton
Michael De Sousa

QAF Screening Party
February 7, 2024

CISC Leadership Symposium
February 21-23, 2024
Michael De Sousa
Marisol Quevedo Rerucha
Connie Hamilton
Omar Mercado
Dr. Paul Bloomberg