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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Creating Tension; Solving Problems

Last year on my evaluation I was chided for creating tension. I've thought a lot about this and see both positive and not-so-positive connections to this.

First of all, I ask a lot of questions and these questions create tension. In general, many people don't like to question established programs and processes. On the other hand, as a critical thinker, I am always questioning what we do and why we do it. I am always seeking betterment in my work on my own and our collective work. This search for betterment creates tension.

Next, the tension also exists because we don't have significant process or culture for questioning. I believe our current system structure leaves little room for good questioning and process related to questioning. If there were good structures for research and development, questions would be embraced rather than seen as creating tension.

On the other hand, the way I think and respond to situations that create questioning is a tension I can learn to change. For example, I tend to ignore and bury the initial indicators of challenge or problems and when those indicators become more and more clear, I reach a moment of realization that a problem exists. When I reach that recognition, I typically respond with big emotion--this is a tension I can change. Instead, I have to react to indicators signaling problems earlier rather than later. For example, children with problems tend to reveal their problems with unexpected and worrisome behaviors. Rather than burying the observation of those behaviors when they first occur, I have to train myself to call home and reach for help earlier than later. Similarly when problems in program delivery or planning occur, I have to speak up earlier than later. You can't wish problems away, instead you are best to tackle those problems with thoughtful, systematic response.

The biggest problem I'm working on right now is how to better elevate the growth and development of our most struggling learners. What can we do to uplift their learning in positive, life enriching ways? It's a great problem to work on alone and with my colleagues. As I've noted before we are a school system with tremendous capacity for doing a great job. I believe we can tackle this problem with depth and positivity. I think that if we use a more collaborative, strategic, and researched-based model for this problem, we will earn greater results.

So I don't mind causing tension that relates to the challenge this problem presents, but I don't want to cause tension with regard to emotional expression, lack of process, or even lack of respect.

I'm going to think about this more, and in the meantime, if you and your organization have great processes in place to tackle the big problems of teaching; problems that hold promise for betterment for every child's education--let me know. This is a problem I'm very curious and interested in. I want to see the promise in problems particularly this problem that I'm passionate about rather than treat them with contempt.

Math Growth and Development 2017

The math path has started. The downside is it is too rushed in my opinion, but that's out of my control due to systemwide leadership and pacing decisions. I would slow it down for good teaching and foundation building--I know that would be better for this group. Next, while the path benefits from many dedicated educators, there isn't enough good time and good process for those educators to work together. We're going to discuss that this week and try to reach a better planning/prep process.

The good news is that, in general, we have an invested teaching/learning community. We've given a number of good assessments that have informed the teaching/learning path, and we have a number of great online and offline tools to use to teach math well.

The next steps on the math teaching year path include the following

  • meet to discuss prep/planning collaboration, goals, and responsibility
  • complete unit one and assess
  • review assessments and begin RTI
  • create booklet for the next unit
  • create online expectations for next unit
  • include more floor-to-ceiling explorations for next unit--explorations that put the "cognitive load" on students' shoulders rather than the teachers (research shows this to be more effective teaching)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Family-Student-Teacher(s) Conference: A Learning Event

As the young girl read her marvelous story today during the family-student-teacher conference, I realized that the conference is truly a learning event.

The parent and I were learning about the student, and the student was learning about herself as she read her story and made commentary along the way.

Also during this conference period students presented portrayals of themselves as readers, STEAM leaders, students of social studies, and mathematicians. As children sat at the table leading their conferences metacognition grew and so did my understanding of where a child is at this point in his/her learning career and where I'd like to coach the student forward.

If well designed the Family-Student-Teacher conference at fifth grade can be as much of a learning event as a sharing/goal setting event. I want to explore this idea more and if you have anything to offer, please do.