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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Do You Need to be Perfect to Have Voice?

The educators met to discuss curriculum. There were a number of similar and differing opinions. I was at a tough spot since it was a year when particular results were not as strong as years past. There were many, many reasons for this--reasons that extend far beyond me or my work. Yet, there's always more to learn, and I'm the first one to use good analyses to cull strategies to improve and move forward.

The general opinion by some was that if the results are not the best, you have little voice about your efforts, and it may be because you didn't follow the orders to perfection. Yet, my experience, reading, and research points me to a place where I have to dig deep and respect the work and research I've done despite the conjecture and finger pointing. It's rarely one or the other, and typically our best work is the work we derive from honest collaboration, transparent communication, and working as a community of teachers and learners.

When the fear factor and unyielding directives are thrown into the mix, it typically quiets the team and halts good collaboration and share. However, when the discussion turns to meaningful discourse supported by good process and honest facts and figures, the direction moves in beneficial ways.

No two teachers are the same--we all bring different talents, challenges, perspectives, and vision to the table. I believe it's our differences that make us strong and that maximizing the integration of that variety leads to a strong, dynamic team.

Team takes time, good process, collective goals, and loose-tight direction--a direction that's loose enough to respond to the large variety of students' interests, skills, and efforts, and tight enough to bring the team together and achieve good results.

It's good for process to focus on result first. What happened? What went well? Where were the challenges? Why did they occur? How can we make that better? Moving from big picture and vision backwards to the details typically results in good teamwork, direction, and result.

So I took the information we discussed. I looked at what I knew. I've made some decisions for myself and reached out with some questions to others with regard to their results. Too often we all jump to conjecture and conclusions without taking the time to use good process to unveil the truth of a matter, but when we do reach those truthful realities, we better prepare ourselves to move in fortuitous ways to betterment and strong teams. Onward.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Math Talk

The teachers met to discuss the math curriculum.

Not unlike most curriculum discussions, there was a range of viewpoints.

I'm a fan of having a loose-tight curriculum where educators agree to teach a similar program, but have the freedom to teach the students in ways that make the curriculum engaging, meaningful, and successful.

As we talked I noted that some like a very tight program, while others like me prefer a more loose-tight program.

Assessments were brought up. Many desire to use online assessment platforms most of the time. I agree that for the reason we were discussing, I'd like to use the online assessments too.

After the meeting, I was inspired to look deeply at a host of math performance data that we have. Ist a few goals for the year ahead.

You Can Learn Anything You Want to Learn!

Khan Academy is one of many tools that
students will use this year.
"Yes," I'll say to students, "You can learn anything you want to learn in this day of the Internet and information everywhere."

I'll then tell the quick story of how I was a curious child with regular school year access to a very small school library. I also visited the public library once in a while and the bookmobile came to my neighborhood during the summer. Television had about ten channels and there was radio access too. Our family had newspaper and National Geographic subscriptions and we often read the news, captions, and articles and looked at the photographs. That information access is minuscule compared to what's available with a keystroke today. Today, almost anything you want to know can be found on the Internet.

Then, I'll say that there are many ways to use that information to learn well, and today we're going to practice that using Khan Academy. After that I'll model what a student might do to learn well with Khan Academy including:
  • Finding the site
  • Choosing the topic you want to learn about
  • Having paper, pencil, and headphones ready
  • Listening, taking notes, pausing and reviewing when needed, and taking the tests
After that I'll give students some time to practice. As they practice I'll walk around and match their online names to their real names.

At the end, as their coach, I'll show them the ways that I can see what they've done online and how that is organized and reported.

Throughout the year, I'll continue to give students lots of opportunities to learn to learn using multiple online and offline tools.