Friday, May 31, 2013

Role Assessment: One Example

In my last post, I posed a number of questions that serve as assessment points for school roles today.  I believe the role of classroom teacher should be a role focused on student engagement, empowerment, and education.  As long as the supports around me are targeted and streamlined, I essentially have the tools to the job well.  I would profit from increased planning time including both independent time and collegial time as the ratio of planning time to lessons implemented for large groups of children is a ratio of about 1:6, and that's too great a ratio for effective lesson planning, assessment, revision and reflection.

In this post, I use the questions posed in the last post to assess my own practice. If you''re interested in reading the responses, you'll note that there are successes and continued room for growth.  Also, if you note an important missing question, please let me know.

  • Are children confidently and happily engaged in learning efforts each day?
In general this has been a primary classroom focus for me this year. I constantly assess student happiness, confidence, and engagement through observation and questioning.  I tweak the program daily to better create a classroom environment that develops confidence and happiness.  Some practices I use to forward these attributes include class games, picnic lunches, class meetings, individual, small group, and whole class coaching, and personalized learning endeavors that respond to students' interests, needs, and standards. Hattie's research in Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Learning affirms the educational strength of happy, confident children.

  • Do children feel empowered in the classroom?  Do they work and act as if the classroom belongs to them?
I have adopted "servant leadership" as my teaching focus.  In "servant leadership," the teacher serves the students.  Hence, I tell the students this classroom is your's and they pay me to serve you.  Then I ask what do you need, how can I help you, and what will make you a more successful learner?  The message that "This is your classroom, and you're in the driver's seat of your education" is a focal point of our classroom that serves to empower children. 

  • Have children met the standards set forth by state and system-wide frameworks?
Comprehensive scope and sequences guide the teaching in "loose-tight" ways ensuring that all standards are reviewed/introduced, modeled, and practiced.  RTI, PLC, and regular formative/summative assessments strengthen our efforts in this regard. At our grade level the standards represent essential skills, and there continues to be room for growth when it comes to meeting all standards for all students with best effect. 

  • Have children developed their attitude and skill when it comes to "learning to learn?"
Explicit teaching of "learning to learn" attitudes and skills at the start of the year served to empower this effort all year long.  Revisiting these efforts continually served to keep the momentum of "learning to learn" efforts a mainstay in the classroom.  I hope to review all my materials in this regard so that I decorate the room with "learning to learn" guiding posters, and start the year with a "learning to learn" teaching unit. Then I'll continue to implement these habitudes into lessons and teaching regularly.

  • Do children persevere and ask questions to lead their learning?
Every day I make an effort to emphasize to students the message of "Ask Questions" and "Don't Stay Stuck."  I continually say that I'm here to help you, and the only way I know that you need help is if you ask me questions.  Students' behavior demonstrates to me that they've heard this message. Similarly I coach students daily with regard to perseverance.  We talk about what perseverance looks like and the specific persevering efforts that need to happen with respect to specific tasks and efforts. 

  • Have children learned new knowledge that has served to broaden their lens, empathy, and understanding in meaningful ways with respect the world they live in?
Throughout time and with the wisdom of many dedicated educators, our school system has developed a host of programs and materials that create a rich curriculum menu that broaden students' understanding of the world around them including the following:
  • Signature projects and units such as Just Like Me (understanding differences), The Culture Museum, and Endangered Species Research
  • Cultural enrichment events.
  • School-wide service learning efforts. 
  • Rich, culturally sensitive literary collection
  • Substantial tech access serve to enrich students' world view and understanding. 

  • Are children inspired and able to follow their passions and continue learning?

Cheerleading students' individual efforts and interests, and providing students and families with resources that help students travel these paths is one way to inspire individual passion and learning.  Also making time in school for investigation and exploration serves to enhance this area of the student growth.  This year my colleagues and I have fostered open attitudes and efforts with regard to tech exploration and work.  One student, whose parents inspire with strength, daily reports his reading, research, and efforts with regard to learning to code.  Another group of students, inspired by the principal's service learning initiatives, used their passion to bring a yard sale to school to raise money for the One Fund.  In many ways students and their families have heeded the message that passion matters, and they work to meet those passions in multiple ways.  It's my job as the teacher to continue to look for ways to support this passion and life-long learning both in school and outside of school. 

  • Have I helped family members encourage and coach their children?
Regular newsletters, open email exchanges, coaching meetings, conferences, and regular assessments have served to create strong home-school bonds.  I'd like to think about ways that I grow the learning community (students, families, educators, leaders, and community members) with greater strength and focus next year.  I believe that the move-up letter and early year curriculum nights and conferences matter a lot with regard to establishing a strong, initial culture in this regard.  As the education landscape changes, I look forward to building this integral piece of the teaching/learning repertoire. 

  • Are children building positive, effective collaborative skills, and a sense of team?
Collaboration and team are a wonderful byproduct of greater student choice and voice in the classroom.  Children naturally choose to work together, and inevitably meet conflicts of all sorts while engaging in collaborative work.  The conflicts provide opportunities for me as a teacher to coach and support students' developing collaborative, team skill.  Similarly as we introduce more collaborative models for educators such as RTI and PLCs, I too am working on those skills in the professional sphere.  This dual focus leads to powerful learning.  Further, Hattie's research in Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Learning affirms that students working together is a highly effective teaching technique. 

Resulting Actions:
  • Scope and Sequence Review/Standards Review, Prep for Units and Teaching/Learning Routines
  • Learning Community Communication and Response Review and Revision
  • "Learning to Learn" unit creation, poster production, and room set-up.