Saturday, March 23, 2013

Where Are We Growing?

It is a time of change and growth in education.  Systems that embrace new tools, structures and strategies are noticing so many positive changes.  In the system where I work I believe that PLCs, RTI and tech integration has energized our efforts and effect.

In what ways can we continue to develop these practices and revise other old structures to further innovate with a focus on timely, engaging and effective education for all students.

First, I think we need to continue our efforts with RTI, but now focus more on the details.  How can we continue to develop this practice so we are serving all students in a responsive, tailored manner with regard to skill development in math and English language arts.

Next, I believe that our work with regard to literacy studio has been wonderful.  Students in our school mainly enjoy reading, sharing and discussing literature.  Again, similar to RTI, I believe that this is an area that we need to finesse with regard to the details.  We also have to acknowledge the terrific gains that have been made in this area.

Then, the one-hour math block and the integration of math tech tools and programs have served to develop our math teaching and learning well too.  I think we can further develop this aspect of learning for students by an increased focus on the blended math learning environment, a deeper look and response to our students who struggle the most with math concepts, and increased time for teacher collaboration, lesson planning and response with respect to math RTI and classroom teaching. Also a greater dedication to making the whole school environment a math-friendly, inspiring place will serve to build enthusiasm, engagement and experience with math concepts.

Also, our move from isolation to collaboration with the use of PLCs (professional learning communities) has strengthened our shared practice, discussion, learning and debate with regard to teaching students well thus creating a more vibrant teaching and learning environment. One challenge in this regard is that we never have enough time to adequately and peacefully discuss the issues and plan--this is a constant barrier to our collaborative work.  Hence, I believe we should double the time for PLCs and work to make our collaboration more effective as moving from isolation to collaboration requires new skills.

Further, the principal's focus on "kindness matters" and service learning have served to develop a compassionate, caring student body where discipline issues have almost disappeared since the children are engaged with thinking about and acting in ways to better our community and world on a regular basis.

Finally, I believe we have to re-look at our science and social studies rotations schedule and focus at our grade level, and work to include new standards and build 21st century project/problem labs for student exploration and learning. I would like to see our team use our PLCs and perhaps additional professional development time to work together to build vibrant lab models that focus on broad science, math and social studies' concepts included in our grade-level standards.  Together we would first focus the labs on student passion, engagement and 21st century skills: communication, critical thinking skills, collaboration and creativity.  Next we would create websites, program menus and supply cabinets in each classroom to support each lab.  Then we would build the labs with similar structure with regard to expectations and intent, yet leaving room for students' and teachers' artistry, passion, and style.  It is my hope that by building these project/problem base modules we'll be able to provide students with greater diversity with respect to instructors, tools, processes and content during the learning year as we foster independence and a love of interdisciplinary learning.

I am fortunate to work in a dynamic school system with tremendous promise and potential, but that doesn't mean we don't have work to do to further develop our systems and efforts.  I look forward to working with my team with regard to the next steps to meeting students' needs, interests and passions as we teach children well.

Where are you growing with respect to your role as educator and a focus on student engagement and learning?  Do you have any revisions, additions or modifications to add to my growing list?  I welcome your thoughts.