Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Teaching Well: Meeting Challenge

I am surrounded by dynamic educators. End-of-year presentations, reflections, and comments demonstrate that truth. The educators I work with are committed to student happiness, success, and strength.

The path to teaching well is a path of many choices, strategies, tools, and opportunities. There are many ways to travel the path with students' best interests in mind.

This year has been a year of change in Massachusetts' schools. We have navigated so many new initiatives including RETELL, the Common Core Standards, the new Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation System, PARCC trial tests, DDM choices, and more. These changes have affected roles, time, and focus.

Next year changes will continue as more teachers take RETELL, start the new evaluation system, possibly test with PARCC, employ DDMs, and continue to tailor curriculum to match CCSS. What are the best ways to meet these new initiatives and keep students' best interests, growth, and success center stage?

I don't have the answer for all educators, but in reflecting about this year's strong steps forward as well as the missteps, I have the following thoughts.

Professional Attitude and Actions
Schools of old had a much more relaxed attitude, and schools today, in many cases, are more business like. Hence, it's critical to understand the professional expectations in your organization and match your goals to those expectations.

Take some time this summer to outline the expectations and work to come. Do you have to take RETELL? If so, when and where do you sign up? Do you have to be fingerprinted? If so, where and when can that happen? Is this your certification year? If so, do you have the credits and signatures you need? What efforts will you need to organize for the evaluation system? Are there new curriculum expectations? How will you meet those expectations in timely, comprehensive ways? Taking a day or two to organize the expectations, questions, and efforts will serve you well once the busy school year starts.

Role and Expectations
It's important to understand your role well.  What are the primary expectations of your role? How and when are those expectations assessed?  Then as you prepare for the school year ahead this summer, plan your program and efforts so that you meet those expectations with strength and care.

Understand your team both specific and broad. Who is on your team, and what is your role on that team?  How can you contribute to the team in positive, effective ways?

Voice and Questions
Where are your voice and questions welcome? Who represents a source of support and coaching for you as an educator?  What allies support you in your work?

Professional Learning
What areas of your professional work will profit from greater study, experience, and effort? What professional learning events will help you to develop as a professional?  Is there a source of support with regard to the cost and admission to those professional learning events, and if there is, how can you access that support?  What kind of lead time events are involved?

With regard to the new evaluation system, what work can you do and goals will you set to meet professional expectations and develop your professional repertoire? Can you get a head start on this in the summer months, months without evening lesson planning and student response?

Make the time to have a personal life and use that time to develop interests, relationships, and a healthy lifestyle. Have some fun--happy teachers lead to happy, successful students and positive student-teacher relationships.

Massachusetts' new initiatives are researched based initiatives with students' best interests and success in mind. The challenge is meeting these new initiatives with organization, focus, support, and time in ways that support educators' best attitude, effort, and work so that we have what we need to teach every child well.