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Voice search is not just on the horizon. It is here now. Yet our industry is stuck in yesterday’s paradigm of mobile optimization and web pages, even as Google moves into consumer’s homes and automobiles with devices that answer spoken questions with spoken answers.

This is the direction Google and Microsoft are heading. If you examine search technology within this context, then you’ll see how it makes sense for Google to have an algorithm that can provide it’s own Spoken Answers to Spoken Questions.

It’s somewhat too late to worry about Google’s Mobile First index. What we should be doing now is understanding Voice Search and optimizing for that. The Spoken Search Paradigm is not on the horizon anymore. It’s here right now.

Recent announcements from Google about Google Assistant and Google Home indicate Google’s search experience is transitioning from a mobile search experience to a Voice First experience.

While the index remains mobile first, the experience itself, the way search is displayed and communicated, is moving toward accommodating a Google Voice/Google Home/Google Assistant first experience. Rather than thinking of search as a mobile first experience, it may be useful to think of search within the context of voice search.

SEO in Transition

I put a sofa in the image to represent the home. That’s where search is heading today. It’s no longer on the computer. Search is on the sofa and increasingly in your automobile.

I put the caveman outside of the home, because as an icon of SEO practices tied to a desktop version of search, he represents what can happen if we continue thinking about search and SEO within the old paradigm of the ten blue lines and the desktop experience.

Having one foot firmly in a mobile search paradigm and a toe in the voice search paradigm, it is currently difficult to understand how web publishers and SEO will fit within this next evolution of Internet marketing.

The first step is to be conscious that this is happening and to put research papers we read and announcements we read within the context of where not just Google is headed, but Bing, Zillow, Baidu, Facebook and a host of other technology companies. It’s a transition from thinking in terms of Search to thinking in terms of being an Assistant.

Where do we, as Internet marketers and publishers fit into that? That’s what I’m interested in exploring. I don’t think getting upset or hoping things will go back to the ten blue lines will help.

Evidence that Google is Transitioning to Voice/AI

If your SEO strategy is predicated on meeting the demands of a mobile first experience, you may want to consider the evidence that Google is moving toward a Google Voice experience then consider how that changes your strategy. What follows is evidence that Google has shifted focus toward voice search powered by AI.

Here are four signs indicating Google’s shift away from mobile and toward a voice first strategy:

Artificial Intelligence encompasses a semantic understanding of language. This is highly important for a world in which voice search is first. According to Google’s rebranded AI’s web page:

Google’s official announcement of this change was titled, “Send Your Recipes to the Google Assistant.” That is explicit acknowledgement of how a change in structured data was for accommodating voice search, not mobile.While it can be argued that voice search is on mobile, the bigger picture is that voice search is bigger than mobile.

Google released an AI Technology demonstration called Talk to Books. While currently limited in scope it aims to show how far AI is coming along. More importantly, this was introduced by legendary futurist Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering.

Google’s (Between the Lines) Announcement

Google’s recipe structured data update was explicitly for the benefit of the “voice guided search” experience. Here is what Google’s official announcement stated:

“With more people using Google Home every day, we’re publishing new guidelines so your recipes can support this voice guided experience. You may receive traffic from more sources, since users can now discover your recipes through the Google Assistant on Google Home.”

I’m not saying that Google is moving toward a voice first strategy now. There has been no announcement. However, it’s clear that Google is moving quickly to accommodate voice search.

What I, Roger Montti, am asking is:

Should publishers wait for an announcement from Google? Or should publishers understand the ground is shifting and begin thinking ahead instead of playing catch-up later?

Google Home & Google Assistant

Mobile computing has attained ubiquity in our lives. Ubiquity means that something is everywhere, like air. Google is apparently anticipating that Google Home will also attain the same level of “everywhere-ness” that mobile phones currently enjoy.

That means Google search is transitioning from something users type and read to something they speak and listen to. This has huge implications for SEO.

As evidenced by the recipe chúng tôi Structured Data update, structured data plays a role in the Google Home/Voice Assistant search experience. Keeping up with structured data may be important. Google’s John Mueller recently acknowledged that structured data plays a role in helping Google understand what a web page is about.

There are some kinds of content that is incompatible with voice search. Google’s John Mueller highlighted that information that is formatted in tables or as a list of links will not be included in voice search results.

It turned out that companies that list comparisons of their pricing plans in tables miss out having their sites rank in featured snippets when potential customers Google “Name of Company Pricing.” This points out how important it is to structure your web page so that it is voice search friendly.

AI Powered Voice Search is Web 3.0

Is Google transitioning beyond Mobile Friendly to Voice Search Friendly Search? I believe there is ample evidence to believe so. It may be time to think about thinking of search marketing and SEO in terms of voice search instead of exclusively thinking in terms of mobile/desktop search. Mobile search, in my opinion, was just a temporary stop on the way to voice search. Voice searched powered by AI is the next destination and we’re pulling into that station right now.

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

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Google Voice Search Summary Algo

Google Assistant and voice search, is increasingly gaining prominence. Voice search will be in your car, in your home and even on your Apple device. Search queries will likely shift toward voice search. Google has linked to a research document that explains how the summarizing algorithm works. Not all content works with it. Will your content be ready for the voice search environment?

In December 2023 Google announced the release of their Human raters guidelines for evaluating the algorithm that produces Google Assistant search results. When a  user searches using the Google Assistant, the voice search algorithm will sometimes summarize the result in a spoken manner.

That announcement linked to a research paper that describes the algorithm behind the voice search summaries. The paper is called, Sentence Compression by Deletion with LSTMs (PDF).

The announcement also contained information that may be useful to understanding a part of the algorithm that is used to summarize content. It’s called a “compression system” because it removes words and phrases in order to obtain a useful summary.

The research document includes information indicating what kinds of content cannot be successfully summarized. It also details exactly what kinds of words and phrases are removed. This kind of information may be useful for publishers who may wish to publish content that can be easily summarized and shown in voice search. Considering how important voice search is becoming, it may be useful to understand how this works.

Four Elements of Voice Search Summaries

Summary of content that is appropriate when spoken.

The information meets the needs of the user/

Well formed sentences that make sense when spoken.

This is a reference to good pronunciation by the Google Assistant software.

This article is concerned with how Google summarizes a paragraph of content and is able to speak it and give a display and a link to the full article.

How Voice Search Summarizes Content

According to the research paper, this algorithm doesn’t use explicit syntax features to understand what is being summarized. This is called, Part of Speech Tagging.

Instead, it “translates” the words into machine readable ones and zeros that represent what it calls “token deletion decisions.” This is pretty far out because it’s not using explicit syntactic information like parts of speech. Then the system removes certain words and phrases that it deems not neccesary in order to create a summary. This is called Compression.

Compression algorithms are very common. If you have ever received a file in a Zip format, then you have experience with a compression algorithm. In web search, search engines will remove common words like “the” in order to save space on their servers. When they save your content, the search engines are actually saving a compressed version of your content.

Google voice search summarizer works in a similar way. Only instead of removing words like “the,” Google’s summarizer is removing words and phrases to get to a summary.

“Our results clearly indicate that a compression model which is not given syntactic information explicitly in the form of features may still achieve competitive performance. The high readability and informativeness scores assigned by human raters support this claim.”

The researchers combined their method with grammatical features, identifying the parts of speech. One would think that this would improve the algorithm’s performance but it didn’t. The research paper notes this fact:

“Interestingly, there is no benefit in using the syntactic information… The simple LSTM model which only uses token embeddings to generate a sequence of deletion decisions significantly outperforms the baseline which was given not only embeddings but also syntactic and other features.”

Example of Content Summary

In order to understand how this works, the research paper shows examples of various sentences and paragraphs that were successfully summarized. This is how your own content will be summarized.

and the man tortured by the state for being gay, is to receive a pardon nearly 60 years after his death.”

What Parts of Speech are Removed?

Although the algorithm isn’t using parts of speech as an explicit feature, parts of speech are still being removed. That sounds a lot like Google is saying it’s not aliens but it’s aliens, doesn’t it? Here is what the document itself states:

How Should You Write Your Content?

You probably shouldn’t write your content especially for voice search. But understanding the kinds of content that couldn’t be summarized may help avoid not having your content summarized and ranked. Furthermore, it may be possible that the algorithms have progressed and no longer stumble as much.

Content with Quotes is Difficult to Summarize

Here is what the document identified as the kind of content it could not summarize:

“Sentences which pose difficulty to the model are the ones with quotes, intervening commas, or other uncommon punctuation patterns.”

Here is an example of content with quotes the algorithm couldn’t summarize:

The original sentence, in my opinion, could be written better. The research paper didn’t state if rewriting the sentence into two more sentences would help, so we can only guess. Although the paper identified the reason for failure as quotes, I can’t help wondering if rewriting that sentence would have been helpful.

I ran the above sentence through a grammar tool and the tool stated that the sentence was hard to read. There’s not enough data in order to give it a grade level so I simply repeated it. The tool scored it as college level, meaning that a reader needed a college level reading skills to understand it. The reason for that is because the sentence is so long. It could be divided into at least two sentences and perhaps the summarizer might be able to give it a proper summary. I don’t know for certain, but it may be helpful to create content that is easily read by the widest amount of people.

Content With Too Many Commas is Difficult to Summarize

Content with commas were identified as hard to summarize. This may mean that it’s important to write direct and easily read content. If you can read it aloud and it makes sense, you’re probably on the right track.

If you look at the example they give, it seems as if the problem isn’t the comma itself, but the amount of commas. See for yourself.

the actress announced on her website GOOP.

Gwyneth Paltrow are to separate.

What Causes Voice Search Summary to Fail?

Overall, the research indicated four kinds of features that made content not easily summarized:

Commas

Quotes

Nothing to Remove

Important Context (context of events are difficult to retain)

That last one about the context of events is a little hard to understand. Fortunately they provide an example.

trooper from the same force prevented two women commuters from ending their lives, an official said Monday.

Another woman trooper prevented two women commuters

Here is a list of the kinds of words and phrases commonly removed to achieve a voice search summary.

These are words or phrases that have a direct relationship to each other. Wikipedia gives the following example:

Dean Martin, a very popular singer, will be performing at the Sands Hotel.

In the above example, the phrase “a very popular singer” is the appositive phrase. It can be removed and the sentence will still make sense.

These are phrases related to time. These phrases communicate a point in time, a duration or how often. A point in time means anything that measures time, like dates or the hour.

These are phrases that set up a statement, almost like an introduction. Purdue University provides this example of an introductory clause: “If they want to win, athletes must exercise every day.”

How to Optimize Content for Voice Search Summaries

There is no magic method for writing content for Google Assistant. Avoiding pitfalls like sentences that are too long or difficult to read may be useful. If you are unsure about your writing, perhaps a writing and grammar tool may be useful if you don’t have a human editor to proof read your content. The Voice Assistant announcement explicitly mentions factors such grammar, so it’s probably a good idea to have that correct from the beginning. Although we don’t know for certain, it may be helpful if your content sounds natural when read aloud.

Images by Shutterstock, modified by Author

Search Optimization Guide For The New Yahoo! Search

A major player in the search industry has finally made a change worth calling revolutionary. This morning’s release of The New Yahoo! Search and Yahoo! Search Assist tools provide users with what they need most — a faster and more intuitive search experience.

With thousands of webmasters tuning in, the first question that comes to mind will inevitably be — how can I optimize for The New Yahoo! Search?

The short answer is to cover every aspect possible, including photo, video, event listings and more. The long answer is to read on through this guide on search optimization for The New Yahoo! Search.

Understanding the Changes

First up, we need to understand that successful optimization for Yahoo will involve more than simple organic success. To truly capture the searching audience, site owners will need to become more involved with both social and media hosting online.

Yahoo! Site Explorer

While Yahoo! Site Explorer is nothing new, it is an important foundation for any search engine optimization program. The Site Explorer program is an easy to use, web based interface that allows you to review how Yahoo sees your site, as well as address any technical issues that may arise in listing your site in the new Yahoo! Search results.

Participation in Site Explorer will only require an active Yahoo! User Account, which is of course free of charge, and, is necessary for additional Yahoo! services discussed in this guide.

Local Events with Upcoming

Optimization for Yahoo Events will require your participation on Upcoming. Upcoming is a Yahoo service that works as a socially driven portal where users post event listings. These listings are then associated with locations, interest groups, and circles of friends.

Now, posting an event is very easy. So easy in fact, you could overlook a great opportunity to reinforce your listings with commonly used search terms. Be sure to check out how events are listed in your area for competitors and mimic the general approach. Another solid tip here is to check in with Yahoo! Search Assist to see what keywords appear to be most relevant. Use the “more details” of the Upcoming event listings to integrate these keywords alongside critical information on your event.

Yahoo! Video and YouTube

Getting your videos uploaded for inclusion on Yahoo Videos is very simple. Again, you’ll be using your Yahoo ID, and again you will want to include important search terms in your listings. When uploading, be sure to include the relevant search terms not only in your video title and description, but your video’s tags as well. Tags will serve as an important indexing tool for The New Yahoo! Search experience.

Of course, existing videos over on YouTube can and often will appear in Yahoo search results. YouTube video optimization is exactly the same as Yahoo! Video — so be sure to use keyword rich descriptions and tags.

While it has nothing to do with video optimization on Yahoo, I think it speaks volumes in that Yahoo! is not afraid to use Google’s own material (from YouTube) to help provide users with a better search experience.

Keeping a Watchful Eye on Search Assist

As users become more acclimated to the new Search Assist feature, search patterns will become more common. Since Search Assist will constantly evolve to reflect what users are looking for — so too will the targets be for your optimization efforts.

Remember at the end of the day that Search Assist is in place to help the overall user experience. Its usage is a gateway to three and four word search phrases, and in the right markets, it can really benefit aggressive web site owners.

Other Yahoo! Services

The New Yahoo! Search integrates a number of other elements including Hotels, Local Businesses, Restaurants, Maps, Health, Music and Movies. Unfortunately for the common search marketer or web site owner, optimizing for these specific areas will be difficult at best since Yahoo! has such comprehensive offerings of their own already in place.

Still, if you can gain access to these additional services, they represent solid opportunities to further enhance your search listings.

Best Voice Recording Apps For Iphone And Ipad

Students who record lectures, business users who record meetings, or an aspiring artist who records ideas on the go. There are many different people use, or could use, a voice memo app. Apple does include a stock application, however its features are rather limited. To break through the crowded hodge podge that is the App Store, we went searching for some of the best voice recording apps for iPhone and iPad.

Audio recorders in particular are very hard to narrow down. There are just countless offerings from large companies, to one off developers. There was a number of different criteria that went into our ranking. This includes: format options, quality, cloud storage/export options, and any other unique features they may include.

Recorder Plus

Recorder Plus is my recommendation for best professional recording app. The UI is modern, if not a bit cluttered at times. The app itself is free, with a huge variety of features available as in app purchases. This can be good and bad, depending on how you look at it. On one side, it allows you to try the app, then unlock only features you would use. So you don’t have to pay for extraneous options. But on the flip side, if you purchase everything, it winds up being the most expensive option on the list.

The wealth of features here is fantastic. It offers all formats you could want. There are 8 cloud drives you can tie into to store your files as well. Inside the app it offers decent organizational options such as custom file names and folders. When you playback your recordings, you can change the speed, as well as trim them if need be.

While it does offer the ability to lock the app and protect your recording, it doesn’t support Touch ID. That is one thing I expect these days in any app that is password protected, however not many others include password protection, let alone Touch ID, so it isn’t as if this is behind the competition.

Device support: iPad, iPhone

Recording formats: MP3, MP4, CAF, WAV, M4A, AAC

Sharing: Share Sheet, email (multiple at once), Box, Dropbox, Wi-Fi, Web dev, Google Drive, FTP, Sugar Sync, and Skydive.

Notable features: Many overall features. Lots of cloud storage options. Get the app for free, and purchase only features you will use.

Cost: Free (Pro features available via in app purchase)

Just Press Record

While Recorder Plus is a fantastic app, has a wealth of professional features, it isn’t always my go-to app when I need to make a recording. That honor gets bestowed upon Just Press Record. There is something about how dead simple this app is. So simple, there isn’t even a settings menu. What do you do? You literally, just press record.

The app doesn’t mess around with different recording formats, or qualities. You just get high quality M4A (AAC) audio files. You don’t have a bunch of in-app purchases either. When you buy the app you get everything out of the box.

What is also handy, is that the iOS app includes iPad, and Apple Watch support. So you can actually create recordings from your wrist. On the Mac, they have a separate app available. So you can use that to create and view your recordings as well.

What I am really saying is, for the casual user this may be the best app. You just don’t get to have much configurability.

Device support: iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac

Recording formats: M4A (AAC)

Sharing: Share Sheet, iCloud Drive

Notable features: Most clean and modern UI. Very simple to use. Use 3D Touch to record right from the home screen. Supports 3D Peek and Pop within the app. Automatically syncs all files via iCloud Drive. Record from your Apple Watch, or while taking notes in split screen on iPad.

Cost: $2.99

Voice Recorder HD

Voice Recorder HD is a really great voice recording app. It has a wealth of features, though a UI that is a bit dark and skeuomorphic for today’s design aesthetic.

It doesn’t support iCloud Drive but you can sync all of your files to a linked Dropbox account which could even be more ubiquitous and allow more accessibility.

Another notable feature is Audio Boost. This helps reduce background noise, and amplify voices for those that talk quietly, or are far away from the mic.

Lastly, this also supports Apple Watch to record straight from your wrist.

Device support: iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch

Recording formats: WAV (M4A via in app purchase)

Sharing: Share Sheet, Dropbox

Notable features: Audio Boost to more clearly hear muted audio sources. Link Dropbox to sync your files.

Cost: $2.99 (More features via in app purchase)

Honorable Mentions

360 Writer – Audio Recorder

360 Writer – Audio Recorder is a handy tool that has some useful features not present in others. For instance, you can set up a recording reminder. So maybe you always need to record your Discreet Mathematics lecture, every day at 10am. You can set this in the app to remind you at that time, to start recording the lecture.

It has new iOS features like 3D Touch on newer Apple devices so you can record from your Home screen. Handily, one of the best features is the ability to add text, images, or markers inside the recording. So if you recorded an hour long meeting, you could take photos of the presentation, then on playback, see that image and the time stamp it is relevant.

If you’d like, you can have them transcribed, however this is a surcharge, available for $1.00 a minute.

Evernote

Evernote is commonly known as a way to take notes. Lots and lots of notes. That is still absolutely the case. However, they added not long ago the ability to tie voice recordings.

This means you can easily be recording a lecture, while taking written notes at the same time, and tie them together. Since this is Evernote, all the features come with great syncing to any device that they support.

This app looks a little clunky, but it has one killer feature that makes it worth consideration. That is the ability to convert your audio notes, to text. It supports 44 languages, and in my testing, works fairly well. Both audio, and text notes are stored inside the app.

Conclusion

While these apps did made it, this by no means is an exhaustive list. There are many more voice recording apps for iPhone and iPad that are still out there that we didn’t touch on.

Index Match Functions In Excel

In this tutorial, we’ll dive into the powerful Excel INDEX and MATCH functions, which are essential for manipulating and analyzing large sets of data.

We’ll start by exploring what these functions do and how they retrieve specific information from a table, and then we’ll write INDEX and MATCH formulas together as an alternative to the VLOOKUP formula.

We’ll also cover some practical use cases for INDEX and MATCH formulas.

Note: if you have Excel 2023 or later, or Microsoft 365 you should use the XLOOKUP function as this is easier and potentially more efficient.

Watch the INDEX and MATCH Video

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How the INDEX function works:

The INDEX function returns the value at the intersection of a column and a row.

The syntax for the INDEX function is:

=INDEX(

reference

,

row_num

,

[column_num]

, [area_num])

In English:

=INDEX( the range of your table, the row number of the table that your data is in, the column number of the table that your data is in, and if your reference specifies two or more ranges (areas) then specify which area*)

*Typically only one area is specified so the area_num argument can be omitted. The examples below don’t require area_num.

INDEX will return the value that is in the cell at the intersection of the row and column you specify.

For example, looking at the table below in the range B17:F24 we can use INDEX to return the number of program views for Bat Man in the North region with a formula as follows:

=INDEX(

B17:F24

,

2

,

3

)

The result returned is 91.

On its own the INDEX function is pretty inflexible because you have to hard key the row and column number, and that’s why it works better with the MATCH function.

Note: You may have noticed that the INDEX function works in a similar way to the OFFSET function, in fact you can often interchange them and achieve the same results.

How the MATCH function works:

The MATCH function finds the position of a value in a list.  The list can either be in a row or a column.

The syntax for the MATCH function is:

=MATCH(

lookup_value

,

lookup_array

,

[match_type]

)

Now I don’t want to go all syntaxy (real word 🙂 ) on you, but I’d like to point out some important features of the [match_type] argument:

The match_type argument specifies how Excel matches the lookup_value with values in lookup_array. You can choose from -1, 0 or 1 (1 is the default)

[match_type] is an optional argument, hence the square brackets. If you leave it out Excel will use the default of 1, which means it will find the largest value that is

0 will find the first value that is exactly equal to the lookup_value. The values in the lookup_array can be in any order.

Ok, that’s enough of the syntax.

In English and using the previous example:

=MATCH(

find what row Bat Man is on

,

in the column range B17:B24

,

match it exactly (for this we'll use 0 as our argument)

)

The result is row 2.

We can also use MATCH to find the column number like this:

=MATCH(

find what column North is in

,

in the row range B17:F17

,

match it exactly (again we'll use 0 as our argument)

)

The result is column 3.

So in summary, the INDEX function returns the value in the cell you specify, and the MATCH function tells you the column or row number for the value you are looking up.

INDEX MATCH Together:

The INDEX and MATCH functions are a popular alternative to the VLOOKUP. Even though I still prefer VLOOKUP as it’s more straight forward to use, there are certain things the INDEX + MATCH functions can do that VLOOKUP can’t.  More on that later.

Using the above example data we’ll use the INDEX and MATCH functions to find the program views for Bat Man in the East region.

=INDEX(

the range of your table

,

replace this with a MATCH function to find the row number for Bat Man

,

replace this with a MATCH function to find the column number for East

)

The formula will read like this:

=INDEX(

return the value in the table range B17:F24 in the cell that is at the intersection of

, MATCH(

the row Bat Man is on

) and, MATCH(

the column East is in

)

The formula looks like this:

=INDEX(

$B$18:$F$24

,MATCH(

"Bat Man",$B$18:$B$24,0

), MATCH(

“East”,$B$17:$F$17,0

))

So why would you put yourself through all that rigmarole when VLOOKUP can do the same job.

Reasons to use INDEX and MATCH rather than VLOOKUP

1) VLOOKUP can’t go left

Taking the table below, let’s say you wanted to find out what program was on the Krafty Kids channel.

VLOOKUP can’t do this because you’d be asking it to find Krafty Kids and then return the value in column B to the left, and VLOOKUP can only look to the right.

In comes INDEX and MATCH with a formula like this:

=INDEX($B$33:$B$40,MATCH("Krafty Kids",$C$33:$C$40,0))

And you get the answer; ‘Mr Maker’.

Notice only the Programs column (B) was referenced in INDEX’s array argument? This means we can omit INDEX’s column number argument as there’s only one column in the INDEX array.

2) Two way lookup

The table below has a drop down list in B1 that enables me to choose the Sales Person from the table, and a drop down list in A2 for the region.  In B2 I’ve got an INDEX + MATCH formula that returns the sales that match my two criteria.

=INDEX(A4:J10,MATCH(A2,A4:A10,0),MATCH(B1,A4:J4,0))

Note: An alternative is to use a VLOOKUP and replace the hard keyed column number with a MATCH formula like this:

Ways to improve these formulas:

1) Use named ranges instead of $C$33:$C$40 etc. to make formulas more intuitive and quicker to create.

2) An alternative to using a named range is to convert the data to an Excel Table whereby Excel automatically gives the table a named range.

3) If there is nothing else in the columns other than your table you could use column references like this C:C which will search the whole column.

How Does Your School Plan For The Fall?

During the last week of school, our junior high carved out time alongside field trips and awards ceremonies for teachers to meet and reflect on the routines of departments, teams, and daily routines in the school so that we can imagine how things can be better for the next school year. Ethical approaches to teaching are about the continuous questioning and study of “how” our conduct and systems can not only be more efficient (though that is part of it) but also live up to ethical standards of what is “right” and “moral” or what schools “ought” to do.

No doubt you’ve felt the stress of the year winding down and you are eager to start your summer break, but what a relief it has been for me (and I think a few other colleagues) to have some important conversations about our school and how we are relating to one another before we go our separate ways for the summer.

I attended four meetings this week (about two hours a piece), and it was clear to me that every teacher in those meetings had ideas about how schedules and systems can be improved. And it seemed clear that some desperately needed to be a part of a conversation that had some hope.

In the meetings, we talked about a variety of topics. We considered how we are using what is not quite “home room” time and suggested ways to make that more meaningful. We talked about the need and value of a master calendar for testing, field trips, and assemblies to recognize instances where instructional time is enriched or interrupted. We also had a pretty detailed conversation about how to start the next school year.

This school year, our “kickoff” assembly was at the end of the week, and we decided that next year we’d make that a “welcome” assembly within the first hour of the first day of school. Kickoff at the beginning. Seems logical, yes? Perhaps these conversations seem obvious, and yet, we have, in the past, waited until August to talk about the “hows” of our school. I see these meetings as evidence of ethics – not in the sense that having the assembly early in the week is necessarily more “right,” but in the sense that an ethical standard of being welcoming to our students informed our decision-making. It is a slight shift in thinking, but I think it is important.

Ethics refers to standards of right and wrong or what we “ought” to do in terms of virtues like obligations and human rights, but ethics also include virtues of compassion and community. In addition, ethics can refer to the development of ethical standards and the ongoing study of moral beliefs and conduct to make sure that the institutions we help shape – like our schools – are evaluating and adjusting approaches for the “right” reasons.

Of course, what is “right” can seem relative, and figuring out if there is a more just approach to a routine or system (especially among a group of teachers) is complicated; however, meetings like we had this week are an imperative as schools figure out the sort of learning environment they want to be, need to be for their students – the human beings with whom we are entrusted.

Teachers know there is no such thing as “summers off.” You are reading a blog about teaching now. It may be too late to talk about routines in home room or master calendars, but here are a few questions to consider before starting the next school year (after all, ethical ELA is more about questions than answers):

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