Saturday, February 22, 2014

Vacation's End: Rallying for the New Term

Vacation is quickly coming to a close. Like most, vacation is never long enough--I could happily have another two weeks, and then I'd probably be ready to go back.  Nevertheless the end is near, and now it's time to rally for the new term.

There's a lot going on, and a lot that I'm wondering about both with respect to the broad education agenda, and the more specific classroom work.  On a broad scale, I'm wondering about the following topics:
  • I'm curious why more teachers did not fill out the Mass TELL survey.  I'm so curious about how others feel about the landscape of education today. By completing this survey educators will have the chance to compare their thoughts and efforts to those across the state--I think that analysis will help to move our collective teaching/learning work forward in good ways.  Perhaps, everyone will complete the survey closer to the deadline. Why do you think educators are resistant when it comes to completing this survey? I'm especially confused about this since so many educators argue that they want greater voice. 
  • I'm also wondering what we'll choose for DDM's. I noticed that some roles have been renamed with the word "accountability," and I think that word, in part goes with the greater emphasis across the State on evaluations, testing, and DDM's. I want to understand that connection more, and the specific actions that we're accountable for with regard to the DDM's and other new initiatives.
  • I will start RETELL which will be an added multi-hour endeavor for the next six weeks or so. I will embed that work into my current school work. I do think it's surprising that the State was able to add this activity to teacher's schedule without any extra compensation or time--how did that happen?
  • We also have a reconfiguration of schools underway in our system. The process that led to this event was thoughtful and inclusive, and I expect that the process with regard to teacher assignment changes and team building will be equally thoughtful, hence I'm headed forward with a positive attitude. I do think the extra space this reconfiguration will bring will positively impact student learning.
  • Further there's still work to do for the Deeper Learning MOOC, Evaluation System Requirements, NBPTS renewal, and my lesson design work for UClass--work that will positively affect my craft, but work I need to find time for outside of my typical classroom activities and responsibilities.
The broad lens of education takes a back seat to the classroom work, yet we all know what happens at the macro level affects the micro level of student teaching/learning every day.  As I think of my 23 energetic fourth graders, what priorities stand tall?
  • First, we have multiple standardized tests ahead--a full day of composition writing, two days of reading/writing tests, and two days of math testing.  My colleagues have an additional 4 days of PARCC trial testing--they won the coin toss for that additional testing. Hence, my efforts for the next eight weeks will be primarily focused on embedding the standards included on those tests into meaningful, child-friendly learning endeavor including lots of story writing, reading and response, and math projects, practice, and problem solving.  With the carrot of the end-of-the-year PBL, we'll move through these standards with as much depth and breadth as we can--it's an amazing list of learning objectives, take a look if you're interested.
  • Next, I'll continue my emphasis on deepening and strengthening my learning design by embedding current research, the common core standards/philosophy, and students' interests and passions.  I have really enjoyed the result with regard to student investment and learning this emphasis has brought to date, and expect to continue down this path with enthusiasm and greater growth.  RETELL will inform this journey as well.
  • I'll continue to learn with my colleagues online and off as I grow the Common Core curriculum for my class--online collaboration through chats, blogs, webinars, MOOCs and panel discussions as well as in-house collaborative efforts will inform this work.
  • Parent conferences are right around the corner, and in preparation for these conferences I'll review students' signature work, needs, and goals, and be ready to listen to parents' questions and thoughts related to their child's academic areas of emphasis, need, and interest. Similar to the last set of conferences, I'll create new goals, schedules, and learning events in response to parent-teacher conversations. 
Lots to do. The agenda is set. The focus is clear. Onward.