Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Taking Care of Children and Families: We All Play a Role

As a teacher I've been keenly aware of the Massachusetts' news related to the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  As populations increase, and our day-to-day lives become more complex, taking good care of children and families becomes more challenging.

I have never worked for DCF, and have had little contact with the organization over the years as an educator.  I can't even begin to point my finger at the agency with regard to current and needed systems, but I do know that many children and families are at risk today.  All I have to do is ride down streets in certain areas to notice the challenges families face.  Therefore, while it's probably true that DCF needs to grow and change to better their impact, I also know that we all can play a role in advancing the quality of life for families and children.

First, as a society, we have to look more carefully at alcohol and drug abuse. We know that's at the root of many family issues.  Increased funding for medical studies, treatment centers, and education may help.  I'm not an expert in this area, but I do know it's an area of need.

Next, we have to reckon with child care costs. As a young mother with young children about ten years ago, my husband and I paid about $10,000 a year per child for child care costs.  That was really difficult, but because we had two jobs and wanted good care, we were able to do that, and wanted to do that.  All families should have access to affordable, high quality child care, and it's time to seriously consider public day care and preschool.  It's my guess that the benefits would outweigh the costs.

Also, we may need to strengthen parent education and support services.  Perhaps when a parent has their first child, they are entered into a multi-step program of learning that gives them access to the services that will make a difference, services such as a caring health care center, parent center, needed social services, and more.

Another need is jobs that pay well and offer day care.  Corporate America has to play a role when it comes to hiring, training, paying, and providing good services so that young families can support their families with time, money, and care.

Also, perhaps we start parent education when children are in middle school and high school with a focus on the privilege and responsibility having children brings. I wrote an post about that a few years ago. Beginning these programs with a focus on what students have that made a difference, and what students need for a good life could enlist their interest and connection to these programs.

Massachusetts' schools explicitly outline our roles when it comes to serving families and students well in the new evaluation language. We need to welcome all families, and meet their needs in our school programs.

I believe that our culture is moving towards a greater good, and as we do that there will be room for positive revision and growth.  I am heartbroken about the sad stories and loss portrayed in the news.  I know how complex and challenging the situations are that DCF deals with.  I also know, though, that we have to move forward as educators, social workers, employers, government officials, neighbors, and community members to do what we can to serve families and children well. That is an essential element when it comes to building dynamic, people-centered, positive communities--the kinds of communities everyone wants to be a part of.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Standards of Mathematical Practice Rubric

How will I assess my students' growth with regard to their ability to embed the Standards of Mathematical Practice (SMPs) into their math learning and problem solving.  The Standards definitely provide students with a lens for critical thinking and detailed, deep problem solving.

As with most teaching practices, the key is to embed the learning objectives into the fabric of the classroom days, weeks, months, and year. Make the practices a natural activity, a regular practice, a common way of looking at learning in math and across disciplines.

I made an initial rubric to guide students' learning and provide criteria for collective problem solving and investigation in math.  I'll start the process by conducting a three to four day lesson sequence that relates to the math problem below.  The problem is open ended and will result in multiple responses from students.  I want to start with this broad problem as it will give us the chance, as a class, to thoughtfully consider each action in the SMP progression rubric below.

How are you teaching and assessing the SMPs in your classroom?  Have you tried a progression of skill approach?  I look forward to sharing this investigation with my students.  Let me know if you try this out, or if you've facilitated a similar learning experiences.

The Problem

The Rubric
Enlarge to view with greater clarity.

End the Year the Way You Want to Start the Next

It's good to end the year the way you want to start the next.  You've learned a lot as you taught your students this year--you've learned about strategies that worked, and strategies you want to change for the better.

The end of the year is a good time to turn the page, and start fresh--a time to practice what you hope to do next year.

With that in mind, answer these questions as you make the shift?

1. What was your overall school demeanor like?  Are you satisfied or would you like to make a few changes?

2. How about the weekly and daily classroom routines?  Is there room to tighten up the routines, and make the transitions more fluid?

3. What about your lessons?  Are the lessons too short or too long?  Are you talking too much?  Are students getting the quiet, concentration time they need to learn as they work alone or with partners and small groups?

4. Engagement?  Are all students engaged?  Is there someone you've really wanted to inspire more?  What can you do differently at the end of the year so that all the students leave feeling like they had their best school year yet?

5. Balance?  Have you worked too hard this year, or have you been a bit short when it comes to the time you've devoted to your work?  Try out some new routines to aim for a healthy home-school balance?

6. Is the environment clean and inviting?  Before it gets too hot, it's a good time to assess the learning environment.  Throw out ripped, torn, and outdated items.  Get rid of items you haven't used in years.  Work to reorganize the books, play materials, art supplies, and learning materials.  Organize the items in the ways you would like to use them next year.

Now that the break is over, it's a good time to start the end with your eyes focused a bit on the new routines, efforts, and organization you'll bring to your class next year.  This will invigorate a positive ending for you and your students.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Are You Doing Your Part?

It is easy to criticize teams, organizations, and government, but in this regard, it's essential that you do your part. No one likes a critic who lets down when it comes to doing his/her job well.

What does it mean to do your part?  What does it mean to fulfill the expectations of your role?

As a classroom teacher, I'll return to school after this spring vacation with that in mind.

To do my part essentially means the following:
  • A happy, healthy, safe, and productive learning routine.
  • Regular response in-person, online, and via written comments to students.
  • Apt learning design with and for students.
  • Meeting the standards set forth by the school system, state, and country.
  • Collaboration and care with regard to the learning community.
On Monday, students and I will make the time to talk about our classroom community.  I'll begin with a line or two that states my commitment to them as learners and people. I'll tell them that I'll do everything I can to make our team a happy, healthy, learning team.  Then I'll ask them what we need to do to make our learning team as good as it can be.  I'll list their ideas, and then we'll add the necessary actions.

Upon return, I'll also review the curriculum ahead, and the needs of individual students.  I've reached out to leadership for some thoughts and words about the initiatives at hand and in the future to inform my research and work.

Further, I'll continue to work to shore up some of the weak spots, areas I have a plan for since we all know that teaching and learning well calls forth the best of us, and sometimes all of us. Therefore, there will always be areas to strengthen and areas of strength to share.

What will the last leg of the school year bring to you and your students?  What does it mean to do your part at his point in the school year?  Success takes team, and team depends on everyone doing their part. 

Summer 2014 Reading List

I want to know what there is to know about teaching and learning well. Then I want to use that information to direct my work with students, families, the community, and colleagues.

Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions

The Servant

This is Not a Test by Jose Vilson

Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger

Role Reversal by Mark Barnes

Thrive by Meenoo Rami

The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller

Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stagar

Homa Sabat Tavangar, author of the Global Toolkit for Elementary Learners and Growing Up Global: Raising Children to be at Home in the World 

Teach Like a Pirate   by Dave Burgess

Teaching Mythology Exposed by Starr Sackstein

DOE Vision Report

Michael Fullen Books

Great ideas on this edcampbos site for math and more:

Learning in Burlington: Patrick Larkin's posts are always filled with the latest, cutting edge article about learning.  I want to catch up with his posts over the summer months. This post, in particular, has many links to information I'm interested in.

Review Deeper Learning MOOC information

Beyond Zero Tolerance

Friday, April 25, 2014

MBAE Study: "Unleash Greatness"

I am an educator that likes to stay abreast of current research as I study and plan for my students' program. That's why I took a look at the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) study, The New Opportunity to Lead, A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the next 20 years. I did a first read to look for information that might impact my teaching and learning now, and I'll do a second read soon with my eyes targeted on future growth and development.

The MBAE commissioned Sir Michael Barber and his colleagues at Brightlines to prepare a report that addressed two questions:  where does Massachusetts stand against the best educational systems in the world, and what would it take for Massachusetts to become the best in the world at educating students for informed citizenship and 21st Century productive employment. The study calls on policymakers to “unleash greatness.” 

This project was made possible with grants from the Barr Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

The study supports the development of students who can:
  • solve problems
  • employ critical thinking and judgement skills
  • collaborate
  • think academically and deliberate
  • create and think creatively
  • employ optimistic, can-do attitudes
  • demonstrate mastery

The study also points to Michael Fullen’s 6 C’s:
  1. character, 
  2. citizenship, 
  3. communication, 
  4. critical thinking and problem solving, 
  5. collaboration and teamwork, and 
  6. creativity and imagination

The report also notes the following shifts:
  • "For both teachers and students, the experience of the school day was no longer a treadmill."
  • ". . .students worked collaboratively on challenging problems that they had played a part in selecting. 
  • ". . .globally benchmarked standards in math and ELA were built into the students’ learning experience. ."
  • "Once home, students were able to keep learning, perhaps collaborating online on this week’s problem-solving exercise; and always be in touch with their virtual global network, which ensured each student had a friendship group that included at least three other students on two other continents."

In one section, survey results were shared that summarized the Employer's view:
  • “Standards based accountability has worked over the last 20 years. Now we need to focus on building student-centered education, with more technology to enable personalization and more experiences to consolidate learning and ‘make it relevant’ to kids.”
  • “We must figure out how to address the achievement gap for our urban students who are being failed by the public education system in large numbers.”
  • “The focus on testing this past decade has threatened the focus on creating lifelong learners and in some instances has dumbed down the curriculum. Differentiated instruction that challenges all students to stretch themselves academically is needed to compete with the rest of the world.”
  • “Public schools aren’t spending enough time teaching kids to problem-solve, think, and work with others collaboratively. They spend too much time having kids memorize facts and figures – and they are too focused on checking off the boxes they have delivered to the curriculum.”

I noted the report's emphasis on a systematic approach, and the acknowledgement that these shifts will require "major cultural change throughout the education system" as well as commitment to the task.

Further emphasis on ". . .capturing and sharing the most promising new practices, especially in relation to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps," and the promotion of new models of student-centered education with "demonstration models" at school and district levels provided information we can act on readily as we move forward in the days ahead.

Attention was given to the needs of gifted and talented students. It would be interesting to create a committee of students, parents, teachers, leaders, and community members to study this area of school life as it is an area of school that can profit from the view points and experiences of many with regard to program change and innovation, and in keeping with the report's support for a range of learning pathways, and a variety of assessments.

At first glance the report was encouraging as it supported many teaching and learning approaches and innovations that clearly engage, empower, and educate children well. There were other areas of the report that I want to consider with greater depth such as the ideas for teacher development (some which I agreed with and others that I thought were less developed with regard to true gains), unions (I want to see how the MTA responds to this report), and school structure.

What did you think of the report? What follow-up analyses did you find helpful as you read and reflected on the recommendations and vision? How will your school system respond to this report with respect to vision and goal setting? I look forward to the continued analysis, discussion, and debate.

The study's 2030 snapshot for elementary education. 
A chart from the study that I want to use as a guiding resource.

A Letter to Parents and Teachers: How Does Your Child Grow?

Dear Parents and Teachers,

Teaching and parenting are humbling jobs--positions of limitless potential that require a solid routine, and steady research, reflection, and hands-on work to do the best we can do.

Today, the choices for parenting and teaching well are great. There are many paths one can follow when it comes to nurturing your children and students. What paths are essential, and what paths are left up to choice and interest?

As a parent for twenty-three years, and a teacher for twenty-eight years, I am taking a few moments today to consider what is most important when it comes to parenting and teaching well.  Do I do the job well?  Let's say I make every effort to do my best, but like most teachers and parents, I'm on that steady incline of working towards doing a better job each day.  Perfection will elude us, but good work is within our grasp.

At this juncture in the school year and my parenting life, it's time to step back and consider the important elements.  I'll return to school on Monday and review these elements with my students. I'll also make time to think about these elements with regard to my own children and home this week as well.

I offer this guideline for your review and consideration. Thoughtful parenting and teaching are essential to our own children's success, and the success and happiness of our communities too.

Safety First
First, as a parent and teacher, safety and health come first.  Is your home and/or learning environment a physically and emotionally safe place to be? If not, before all else, you need to remedy the situation.

A physically and emotionally safe classroom has positive routines and protocols. A classroom like this also has built in response and action when those protocols are broken.  For example if a child is being teased, a teacher will stop the class right away and sensitively deal with the situation.  Similarly, if an unsafe behavior occurs, it is dealt with readily.

At home, children go through many stages, and at every stage, it's important to stop to discuss good behavior, expectations, and care for one another.  Sometimes safety requires significant sacrifice and change.  For example, a parent may need to change his/her work routines, hire help, or sign children up for after school activities if a child needs greater care after school each day.

When we return for the last leg of the school year, I'll make some time for a school meeting that focuses on safe behavior and care for one another.  We'll review and revise protocols so that our learning community has a safe end to the year.  I'll do the same with my children at home.

Health and Nutrition
Next comes health and nutrition. Today, we know better than ever that the habits children gain in the early years are the habits they bring to adulthood.  It's much easier for a child to eat healthy and engage in regular physical fitness if that has been part of their childhood routines.  Hence every home needs to fill the cupboards with healthy choices, and schedule the day with healthy activities.  The same is true for school.

School should be a place for healthy food and activity too.  I've noticed a big decrease in tummy aches, sluggishness, and illness since our school moved to a healthy food policy.  I want to add more movement breaks in addition to our recesses too as we know that physical activity correlates well with successful learning.

Like safety, this is an area that you have to stop and reconsider as your children move from one stage to the next since their appetites and needs will change. It is also a challenging area for those of us who did not grow up with the physical fitness opportunities and healthy food choices available today.

After that, in my opinion, comes happiness.  Are your children and students happy?  Unhappy children and students will look for activities and objects to make them happy if they are unhappy, and often that search leads to less than desirable behaviors.  This is why it is essential that we know our own children and our students well.  What makes them happy?  Why are they unhappy?

Often, just discussing the realities of life can strike the difference between unhappiness and happiness.  For example, our culture calls young girls to be "perfect" in so many ways, ways that are out of reach, and not necessarily healthy for most girls.  This leaves girls unhappy as they feel inadequate. It's important to point out what is real, and what is manufactured by advertising and other industries.  It is also important to make sure your child's innermost desires, questions, and needs are responded to and/or fulfilled.  As a teacher and parent for many years, I know children come to us with strong dreams, desires, and impulses, and it's our job to nurture the best of what they can be.

Happy, healthy, and safe children are children who are ready to learn, and so the next item is education.  For the eager student who has no learning challenges, this is not a difficult goal.  Those children are excited by school, easy to teach, and succeed without too much extra effort.

When your child is challenging to teach and mostly uninterested in school, this becomes a big problem.  For those able to afford private schools with small classes, that's often a good choice.  But, most of us can't afford that.  Hence, it's integral to work with educators and others to help your child have the best possible program.  It's also helpful to support your child at home in the ways that you can. A good computer is essential for most learners today, and a good academic at-home routine helps too.

There is such a myriad of profiles when it comes to students and schools that it's important for both educators and parents to coach each child toward success in every way possible when it comes to academic growth--the tools, processes, and strategies available today are outstanding, and the challenge is to find and manage the right elements for your child's success.

Next, passion. Feed your child's passion with extracurricular activities and family choices.  Make the time to sign your child up for outside of school activities and events that spark their interest.  If your child doesn't show any one area of interest, try out many activities until you find the one your child gravitates towards.

Try to make sure that the activities you foster include physical fitness as well as more cerebral, artistic endeavors.  Watch your child closely, listen to his/her teachers and coaches, and continue to nurture your child's path towards his/her interests with summer camps, family vacations, family movie choices, and more. Often communities offer many free activities that your child can participate in too.

Contribution is important too.  Find time to belong to and contribute to something bigger than yourselves. Beginning when your child is young include service and contribution into your family and teaching equation.  Make time to think about the gifts you've been given, and what you can give back.  This will build empathy, community, and care.

Time to be together is critical. The family meeting is an important part of togetherness as that's a time a family can figure out how to best spend their time and money, a time when you all discuss who needs what, and how you can help one another?  The family meeting or class meeting helps children to understand the idea of limitations and shared resources--they begin to see themselves as part of a whole group, a team.

Also, the warmth and safety of a home and time together gives children the space to be who they are in a relaxed, easy going way.  Home is the place where you are loved and accepted for who you are, and regular time for togetherness helps children understand and experience that.

In our fast moving culture, what's most important about school life and family life often takes second place to the more colorful, commercial aspects of life; yet true happiness and fulfillment come from the elements above, elements that create safe, healthy, happy communities.

What elements would you add to this list?  How will you personalize this list for your own family or classroom?  Teaching and parenting are essential jobs in our culture and communities, jobs that we can do well if we take the time to consider the essential elements of a job well done.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reviewing Scores

How do you assess scores?

What do you look for when it comes to scores to lead your work forward?

Throughout the year, I receive numerous scores related to students' efforts. There are also a number of score reports that I don't see, reports that are only reported to administration via State systems. I must say I'm curious about those reports too yet I understand the sensitivity of some reports.

So with regard to the score reports I collect and see, this is my current process.
  1. I review students' end-of-year scores and compare those scores with expectations.
  2. I re-look at the curriculum programs, and make changes in order to gain better growth. For example we made some program and procedural changes this year to beef up areas that we felt were underserved last year, and we kept programs that resulted in strong effect.
  3. I review all scope and sequences and standards.
  4. I take a close look at students' initial year assessments.
  5. With collaborating teachers, we develop plans to move students' learning forward. We assess in multiple ways to note growth and need.
  6. We develop plans accordingly, and assess regularly.
In the future, I want to develop this approach with even greater scrutiny in the following ways.
  1. For students who don't make adequate progress, I want to dig deeper and seek out more answers? I want to discuss these students with collaborating educators, and think about ways that these students may be better served.  For example, we may decide to lessen and strengthen targets in this regard--a "less is more" approach for greater success. Often students who struggle in one area, struggle in many areas, hence a targeted approach is very important. 
  2. For areas of the curriculum where growth is less, I want to analyze the test results with greater depth. I'd like to participate in honest, open discussion with colleagues about these areas of the curriculum, but this is tender territory and requires a thoughtful, level discussion field where all involved understand the scores with depth related to the many factors that impact scores including student service, initial year scores, absenteeism, language barriers, economic obstacles, extracurricular advantages, class size, and more. 
  3. I would like to ask for score reports early, and hear explicit analysis at the start of the year so that I understand the expectations and window for which these scores are being used and referred to.  This will help to create a collective set of worthy goals for moving students ahead. The more that goal results and goals are holistically analyzed and clearly relayed, the better chance we will have to make gains with regard to student achievement. 
  4. I would like to survey students and families about their progress, strengths, and needs. Often a child's and family's assessment of the learning situation is the most accurate illustration of needs met and needs that remain.
Going forward, the completion of the following survey will serve my work well.  I will complete the data and teacher assessments over the summer, and ask family members and students to complete their section at the end of the year.  Then I will present this form to next year's teacher during our student share day in the fall.  

Student Name:

Student Objective Data

Reading Fluency Scores:

Reading Comprehension Scores:

Math Scores:
Symphony End Year Benchmark:

State Standardized Test Scores:
MCAS Writing:
MCAS Math:

Ratio Days Present/180:
Days Tardy:

Student to Class Ratio:

Teacher Assessments and Observations

General Attitude:
Mostly Ready to Learn             Sometimes Ready to Learn                Often Not Ready to Learn

General Performance Related to Grade Level Expectations:

Reading:   Exceeds         Meets                       Progressing                    Below Grade Level

Writing:    Exceeds         Meets                       Progressing                    Below Grade Level

Math:        Exceeds         Meets                       Progressing                    Below Grade Level

Home Study Completion:

Most Assignments            Some Assignments       Few to No Assignments

Extracurricular Activities: List Study that Affect School Performance:
(List name of program, hours, frequency)
Math Program:
Reading Program:

Family Involvement

Supportive                      Inactive                          Challenging

School Program Support: RTI, Special Education, ELL, Other:
(List support, time,  and frequency)
Special Education Teacher Support
Occupational Therapy
Physical Therapy
English Language Learner Classes
Math After School Support
RTI Math
Affinity Group

Notes related to significant positive or challenging events that could have impacted a child's overall performance:
Family Event


Family/Student Assessment and Observations

(My child/I) was a successful student in (all, some, few, no) subjects during the year. 

(My child/I) made academic gains in the following areas:
  • reading fluency:                                                           Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know
  • reading comprehension:                                             Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know
  • writing essays and narratives:                                   Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know  
  • writing reading responses:                                         Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know 
  • math facts:                                                                   Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know
  • math problem solving:                                                Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know 
  • project base learning in social studies and science:  Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know
  • work habits and study skills                                       Progress    No Progress   I Don't Know                                       
Extracurricular Activities: List Study that Affect School Performance:
(List name of program, hours, frequency)
Math Program:
Reading Program:

(My child/I) experienced the following learning highlight(s) this year:

(My child/I) could have made more gains with the following supports/actions:


Student Analysis: (Completed by teaching team in the fall of the new teaching/learning year, and shared with family members during the first conference. )

The notes above show that _________________________ made (exemplary, adequate, inadequate)

progress during his/her __________________ year.  Scores demonstrate (advanced, proficient, needs

improvement).  A close look at parent, student, and teacher surveys demonstrate that the student's

academic program in the past year included the following strengths and challenges:



With the student's future progress in mind, the following actions are recommended by the teaching team:

Program as Planned:

Program with the Following Special Supports (Modifications, Changes, and/or Enrichment):

A Modified Program:

An Enriched Program:

Planning Your Professional Path: The 2014-2015 School Year

My professional path has benefitted from the consult of many.

Early in my professional career, mentor educators offered the following advice:
  • Advance to the top of the pay scale as quickly as possible.
  • Stow away considerable dollars each pay check in a 403B account--you'll never miss it, and it will benefit you later on.
  • Take the time to chart your professional path.
I followed that advice, and the one addition I would add is to earn credits and professional points through professional development that leads you forward with new certifications, degrees, and/or professional skill rather than taking a loose assortment of various courses.  Since I started my career, I've gained more than 75 graduate credits through a wide assortment of professional courses. I wish, however, that I had earned those credits through a specific doctoral or professional degree program in hindsight as that would have given me greater professional choice.

Massachusetts' educators, in particular, have had a mighty professional path to navigate this year as outlined in this post I wrote last summer. Many Massachusetts educators are probably tying up the loose ends of this path during their vacation week as they complete professional binders, goals, and assessments.

The key to all of this work is to plan ahead and be prepared for the requirements and professional standards. The more that educators are in the know related to this work, the better they'll be able to navigate the work and teach children well.

With that in mind, I offer a new chart for the year ahead.  You may use the chart below to navigate the months to come. Also this chart demonstrates that summer has become a time of reflection and study for many educators--to teach well means that our school days are mostly spent on activity related to students' needs, and the summer is the time when we study and prepare for the year ahead.  There's no way educators could do all this work without time set aside for the preparation, research, and study required. In a sense, the summer offers a sabbatical--a time of thought that positively benefits the work we do. 

I will return to this post in the months to come as I learn of new initiatives.  In the meantime, you can best navigate your path by understanding the elements listed below and following a thoughtful plan as noted in the chart. 

Elements for Success
Chart Your Professional Path: 2014-2015
Professional Efforts, Learning,
and Advancement
Summer 2014
1. If you took RETELL, make sure you’ve received SEI endorsement.

2. If you did not take RETELL, find out if you have to take it in the upcoming year.

3. If you have to take RETELL, sign up for a course that fits your needs, location, and schedule well.

4. Ask your system about the requirements for you in this regard.
1. Prepare for the next cycle. Draft goals and initiatives.

2. Ask your system to share preliminary MCAS scores which come out in June and August as those scores will affect your goals for the upcoming year.

3. Prep and update your professional online or offline portfolio.
1. Find out if your system plans to take the PARCC tests next year.

2. Assess standards’ implementation and any new requirements such as PARCC (if officially adopted).

3.If you have time take a look at PARCC information and read through. Add PARCC-like questions, work to your year’s agenda.

4. Review efforts related to DDM measures. Determine assessments, efforts, and timeline.
1. Make sure you’ve received a system reimbursement for license fee if that’s part of your contract. Check to make sure the process went as planned.

2. Create your new recertification file. Prepare your new professional development plan: http://www.doe.mass.edu/pd/educators.html

1. Assess and revise professional plan as needed.

2. Research upcoming conferences, and target conferences for the year ahead. Fill out related forms.

3. Read professional books related to your professional goals if desired.

4. Set up learning environment.. Organize communication systems, and teaching/learning routines.

5. Make time to be a learner yourself, explore, engage, enjoy!
Fall 2014
1. Potentially take RETELL course.
1. Meet with administrators, and put finishing touches on goals, professional portfolio, and teaching efforts.
1. Prioritize efforts related to DDMs first, and get a good start on those efforts as your professional evaluation will eventually connect to these.
1. Regularly add your efforts to your recertification plans.

2. Read DESE updates weekly to stay on top of efforts.
1. Establish and nurture your PLN.

2. Make time for regular research, reading, and reflection.

3. Update efforts as needed.
Winter 2014--2015
1. RETELL course?

2. SEI requirements for certification?
1. Prep mid-eval materials for admin. meeting.
1. Review efforts to date, make updates if necessary.

2. Document efforts.
Same as above
Same as above.
Spring 2015
Same as above
1. Prep for end-of-year meetings. Follow system-wide requirements.
Same as above.

Reflect, and note positive changes for year ahead.
Recertify if this is your year, otherwise update charts, lists.
Same as above.
Summer 2015
Similar to summer 2014
(updates will be added)

*Starting July 1, 2016, in order to renew a professional license, all educators will need to accrue 15 PDPs in Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) and 15 PDPs in Special Education during each 5-year recertification cycle. The total number of PDPs required for recertification remains the same (150); however, 30 of those PDPs need to be in these specific areas.

**In 2013-2014, districts are required to research and pilot DDMs for some grades and subjects. In 2013-2014, at a minimum, districts must pilot at least one DDM that is aligned to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in each of the following areas:
    1. Early grade (K-3) literacy
    2. Early (K-3) grade math
    3. Middle grade (5-8) math
    4. High school writing to text
    5. Traditionally non-tested grades and subjects (e.g., fine arts, music, p.e.)

Teach Well: A Steady Routine of Essential Elements

What does it mean to teach well today?  What patterns of thought, action, and speak lead to optimal practice and service to children?  What are we removing from our agendas of old, and what are we adding to our new routines for best effect?

Caught in a web of old and new, I find myself trying to free myself by creating new paths of best practice, paths different from old time teaching and learning routines. 

Daily Research, Reflection, and Writing
The first addition is the daily time for research, writing, and reflection. In days of old, information was not as readily available, thus research meant a trip to the library, a course, or conference.  Today, information is a keystroke away which leaves us with the task of keeping up with current thought and theory--staying abreast of the latest research and information. 

This task is made easier when colleagues work together to research and share with fluid, efficient systems of communication. Today's vast resources demand effective communication, research, and share systems in order to promote best effort and effect.  Yet this change is new to many systems and some are reluctant to see this as a necessary step in moving their schools and systems forward.  When this is the case, it's advantageous for a teacher to start this process on his/her own, and then to extend the work to like-minded peers. 

Establishing a Professional Learning Network (PLN)
Establishing, nurturing, and contributing to a PLN is essential in today's world of teaching and learning. Your PLN, near and far, is the glue that connects you to current thought and opportunity.  The quickest way to establish your PLN is to join online groups such as Twitter and offline groups such as local associations.  Attendance at conferences, edcamps, and learning events also serves to grow your PLN.  Nurturing and contributing to your PLN also matters.  You can do this by taking on a role in an association, joining a school team, participating in #edchats, blogging, writing, presenting at conferences, mentoring, and more. Your PLN has the potential to be a dynamic, varied professional association that will encourage, challenge, and nurture your work in ways that help you move forward with best practice. 

Saying No
In many cases, you'll continue to be asked to participate in old actions, thought, and speak--ways that no longer serve children well.  Use this question as your guide, "Will this work serve my students well?," and if the answer is "no," or "a little," then it's best to say no, and use your time and effort for work that significantly impacts students.  For example, old-time committee work is often ineffective these days as the work moves much slower than the streams of thought and practice possible so that kind of committee work might not hold potential for serving children well.  Yet, a more modern approach to change such as a short-term, online/offline study group with a clear, well organized beginning-to-end mission, might be a perfect way to affect positive change.  

Similarly, sometimes it's best to save your energy for the good work possible even when it comes to debate that doesn't matter, or debate that clearly is misguided.  Save your time and energy for what matters which is teaching children well.

Target Conferences and Learning Endeavor
There's an amazing number of conferences and learning events you can partake in online and off today.  Again, it's advantageous if colleagues work together to divide and conquer when it comes to the best learning available today, but if that's not possible, then educators have to manage and target that learning on their own.  To do this, start by identifying your needs.  What do you need to teach well?  Then consult your PLN for advice asking about the conferences that make the biggest difference.  If money is an issue consider presenting in exchange for free admittance, or take advantage of the free online conferences available.  It's imperative to think ahead in this regard because many of the best learning opportunities fill up fast.

Daily and weekly patterns ensure that you make the time for what's important when it comes to teaching and learning.  For example, find time daily to read, research, and reflect.  Even if it's only reading one blog post or Twitter # a day, that's a start.  Also create a dynamic weekly learning routine for your students, one that ensures that your time is spent doing the best of what you can do to positively affect their learning.  Try to attend an event outside of your comfort zone or in your area of need once every couple of months--meeting with, and learning from, educators outside of your school system will serve to push your thinking and the work you can do.  Make time in the summer to think about the patterns of education you'll employ in the year ahead.  

Think about the ways that you'll provide feedback to your learning community.  Today's tech platforms offer many new and more targeted and efficient feedback vehicles.  

Goals, Vision, and Mission
You can't do it all.  Again, ideally, it would be great if learning communities really worked together when it came to vision and mission identifying the primary goals and then working together to figure out who will do what so all goals are met with action and share.  Though in some learning communities, that kind of effort is not happening yet. In this regard, it's essential that educators work to identify their vision and mission as an educator and then set specific goals. The tighter your goals, the better able you will be to meet those goals.  In Massachusetts, there is a clear system for goal setting as part of our evaluation process. Though a bit too cumbersome, with lead time, educators can manage this system for their own growth and good work. Summer is a good time to reflect on this area and set the course for the year ahead 

Every professional area has requirements to meet if you want to keep your job.  It's an educator's job to understand these requirements well, and manage that work.  For example, in Massachusetts, we have a five-year period to complete the work necessary for recertification.  That work requires that every educator manage his/her portfolio of actions including the required coursework, signatures, and record keeping. In addition, Massachusetts' teachers have to complete a yearly or bi-yearly evaluation cycle of actions. Further, it is essential that you understand the requirements that have been established for your position. Simply asking the question, "What are your expectations for me?," at the start of the year will help you to understand the expectations your leadership holds for your work. 

Health and Happiness
Like many positions in today's culture, an educator's job is more of a lifestyle than a 9-5 job. Dedicated educators everywhere are always balancing their personal time and efforts with their professional demands--the professional/personal lines are very blurry.  Yet, the best teachers are happy, healthy people, and the only way to achieve that is to have a manageable, effective work-life balance--a balance that will differ in real time from one professional to another based on a large array of factors.  In the best schools, this balance is recognized and supported.  In-school day care, fair salaries, personal time for family needs, and flexible scheduling are ways that school communities can meet this need for all educators. 

To teach well today requires a steady routine of essential elements.  Have I missed any?  If so, let me know.