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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Too Much to Teach

We have the tools.
We have many positive structures and schedules.
We have the experience.
The problem remains however that we have more standards to teach, than time to teach them well.

Some suggest a longer day or a longer year, but with current structure, schedules, roles and responsibilities I am not in favor of that because as a classroom teacher my time-on-task is currently extensive, and my time for planning and response minimal.  More of the same would lead to stress and frustration.

At fourth grade students are required to learn the following:
  • Many math skills and concepts with depth and breadth.
  • The ability to explain math thinking and solve problems with clarity and written response.
  • The ability to respond to specific reading comprehension questions with specific evidence and close reading.
  • The ability to write a lengthy story and/or essay that demonstrates organization, craft and voice. 
  • Concept, skill, knowledge and practice across disciplines for many specific subjects and content areas.
To teach the concepts, skills and knowledge above well takes time and care.  To engage students' imaginations and engagement, requires response--response to current technologies and media, response to students' passions and interests, response to students' differentiated learning profiles and response to community/world issues and needs.  Also to teach well today requires professional development, research and development--the world is changing and to learn and change with it also helps educators to stay current, responsive and engaging. 

What needs to happen?

First, we need to prioritize with the theme "less is more" in mind.  One way we can do that is to open up our project/unit topics so we are focusing on "learning to learn" skills with embedded standards and greater voice and choice related to specific topics. This practice would lead us to open-ended, differentiated project/problem labs--a time when students explore, investigate and apply the learning they've gained during discrete learning sessions. 

Then, we can teach a lot of knowledge points through small-group advisories, shared reading and discussion.  

Next, we need to continue to develop our PLCs and RTI to collaboratively respond to students' specific skill, content and knowledge needs in targeted, efficient ways making the best possible use of the people-time (teacher and student) available.

After that, we have to shortlist--I recommend choosing 10 topics you will teach with depth and care during the year, and creating order for those topics.

Finally, we need to continue to take a close look at roles, eliminate redundancies and spread the responsibility for project planning, teaching and response so that every educator has direct responsibility for all aspects of student learning from start to finish. 

Stuffing the year with too many topics and requirements will lead to frustration and stress--scheduling a reasonable set of priorities and goals accompanied by roles and responsibilities to meet those challenges is the best path to take.  I will keep this in mind as I move on with this year's program and begin to plan and organize for next year.  As always, your thoughts and ideas are welcome.