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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When you see more than you can do

A perennial challenge I face is that I can see far more than I can do. As I've written about before, there is a list of ideas and actions in my mind waiting for that just-right energy and time. As the ideas wait they shift, shape, and sort so all is not lost in the waiting line, yet there is the inevitable frustration of being able to see, but not do when time and energy stand in the way.

I'm particularly feeling this right now during these busy months of personal and professional efforts--a time when I'm very busy with the day-to-day action of running a classroom and supporting a family. The best way I can deal with this dilemma is to make a loose-tight plan to tackle the vision I have for so many areas of teaching, learning, and living.

Math
With regard to my main teaching/learning role as a math teacher, the daily lessons are planned well into the year as I introduce children to a fairly large number of skills, concepts, and knowledge points. There's lots to learn, practice, and review as children work to master fifth grade standards. The learning goes well beyond the standards themselves since students also need to develop optimal work habits, good questioning, collaboration and problem solving skill, and more. The focus is to learn math and also to learn how to learn successfully.

I can't wait to dig into the planning for a number of project/problem based learning (PBL) efforts in math. I know the students will love this, but there's lots to do to clear the path for these endeavors which take considerable time and collaboration effort and skill. We'll get there with rich standards-based PBL during the last week in December, and a couple of shorter PBL efforts before that which are focused on building strong teams for the December PBL.

Science
There's so much reading, research, and leg work to do to elevate the science teaching and learning. As I note above, I can see it, but I haven't been able to find that rich time to make it happen. Specifically there's lots of organization work to reach my vision for a student-friendly classroom lab where students are able to access materials with ease and respect.

The initial lessons I am planning are lessons that teach students how to use many of the materials we will be using in upcoming experiments. Then we'll dig into the experiments. So we'll take it step by step.

I also want to deepen my science teaching knowledge, and perhaps I'll use the voucher I'm earning for hosting a student teacher to take a good course with a quality instructor. Taking a course is a good way to make yourself attend to the topic, learn, and share multiple ideas. When the math standards were new, I took a great course about those standards, and that knowledge has served me well over time.

Deepening our Grade-Level Reading Culture
I'm really excited about our team efforts to deepen the grade-level reading culture. I'm looking forward to the pajama readathon kickoff next week, a time when we'll really get to talk to students regarding their ideas for elevating and deepening reading throughout the grade-level.

Teaching/Learning Repertoire
Timeless Learning is staring me in the face every day and I can't wait to find a good day to devote to reading that book. The authors are awesome and I know the book will move my teaching and learning ahead. I've also started a new reading list since many awesome articles and book recommendations have been coming my way and if I don't add them to the list right away, I lose sight of that valuable information and inspiration.

Healthy Balance
That healthy balance goal is always a reach as a teacher, but I know that this is essential because good energy and health is essential to teaching well.

I write about this again and again as I try to resist the many temptations to stray from most important aspects of my teaching/learning role right. Right now my goal is to dig in and do as much as I can to elevate the teaching learning program so that the program mirrors the latest research, students' interests and needs, SEL, brain-friendly programming, a dynamic student-educator-family team, and an overall robust program.

Success Criteria
The success criteria for the year includes the following:

  • Teaching all math and science standards
  • Supporting and building a robust teaching/learning program with my grade-level colleagues
  • Creating rich math and science learning experiences with and for students
  • A happy, healthy, and positive learning community. 
Time to keep on plugging. 



Professional Study: The Reading List 2018-2019

Every year I create a reading list. I generally create this list when questions arise that I don't have answers to and when the great articles and book recommendations shared begin to outweigh the time or mind I have in the day. Often I have snippets of time, but not that long stretch of energized time that it takes to deeply read an article or book and then embed what I've learned into the teaching/learning program.

Hence, the start of a 2018-2019 study list, a list I'll add to and pull from starting now and through the summer of 2019.

Science Study
How to teach science, what's important?

Analysis Matters

Met with a shortage, the manager made a quick decision. The quick decision allowed her to check the box, but the quick decision did not result in meaningful, deep, and purposeful work. Instead, one might describe the result of the quick fix as shoddy, half hearted, passionless, and potentially even negative.

We all fall into the trap of the "quick fix" as one way to respond to matters at hand, matters for which we may not have the needed time, resources, staffing, or energy to resolve the matter in a more substantial way. Sometimes the quick fix does the trick and is looked at as a short-term solution for a problem that will get more and better attention later on. Yet sometimes the quick fix becomes the final solution, and when that happens it can be harmful as the deeper, better, and more positive work is never considered and doesn't happen.

This is why it's essential to have multiple parallel efforts happening at once. In one strand, you're doing the important work you've prioritized and prepared. In another strand you're evaluating work done with your team and figuring out ways to make it better, and a third stream may be your research stream--a time when you consult the research, experts, and new information out there with regard to areas of interest or need.

Making decisions deliberately with essential lead time, research, teamwork, and investment will result in good work. As much as possible, it's best to steer clear of the quick fix. Onward.