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Friday, April 17, 2015

The Strength in Knowing: Assessing the Teaching Year

Deep understanding of the children you teach, the curriculum program, and good pedagogy makes a difference with the work you do each day.

Making the time to outline the learning path and sharing that path with students and their families also makes a difference. When students and families know the expectations, routines, supports, and when and how they can communicate with school staff, the chance for student success increases.

At this time of year when students are testing, completing big projects, engaging in special events, and getting ready for a transition to a new school and program, teachers like me find themselves thinking about the year--what's been successful and where can there be greater growth and progress.

As I assess, the following points emerge:
  • Streamlined targeted systems support good work. When the time, paperwork, or thought of a system outweighs it's benefit, then its time to make change. With regard to some new initiatives on State and national levels that impact schools, I think there's room for streamlining in order to free up more time-on-task with students for all educators and leaders. Also, by creating streamlined systems for your own work and the work of your school community, you will make time for more effective work. 
  • Good curriculum process matters. It's important that we assess and refine curriculum regularly and it's also important that the curriculum process includes all who teach or benefit from the curriculum. When curriculum is rich and inclusive, students learn more.
  • Develop a dynamic teaching/learning culture in every school. Make this an explicit goal of school time and effort. Determine what matters in your school and community. Find ways to build structure, routines, environments, and roles that make your learning/teaching culture explicit, visible, proactive, and empowering to all. 
  • Organize and prioritize the learning path. Make time upfront to organize events, initiatives, and efforts so that good work is prioritized. Don't try to do it all, but instead do what's most important for the students you teach.
  • Put Students First. That should be the mantra of every school community and educator. Yes, there will be days when that's a challenging notion due to available energy, other professional tasks, or personal demands, but the first job of schools is to empower, engage, and educate children. 
  • Learn. Choose a few areas of your professional work to boost each year via courses, online share, research, collegial endeavor, or project work. 
The year's assessment is almost complete. The path for next year is outlined. Evaluation materials have been completed. Lessons are prepared. Now it's time to focus on the children as they continue to grow, develop, and enjoy learning for the last chapter of the school year.