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Friday, May 15, 2015

Focus In: Building a Strong Classroom Culture

As I've noted previously, the test-on test-off staccato movement of the past three months of school has not been the best rhythm for class community or good teaching. Now that we're just about done with standardized testing (today is the last big test: 26/26) we can get back to a a good pattern of learning and team. Hopefully, with the knowledge we gained this year, we can better schedule the tests next year so that there is less disruption and greater continuity.

In the meantime, I want to continue my push to focus in on classroom culture and dynamic learning. It's easy and sometimes helpful to look out to all the structures, decisions, and individuals that impact what happens in the classroom, but it's also important to focus in to truly make significant impact.

What questions will lead this focus with depth?

Do we have a dynamic class team and how can I support that structure?
Team is essential and together students and teachers can build team with polite language, optimal protocols, helping one another, and optimal routines.

Is everyone learning in positive, engaging, and empowering ways?
That's been challenged during testing season, but now that we're leaving that schedule behind it's time to make sure that everyone is getting a daily routine that's engaging and empowering.

Is there a good balance in the day's activities?
Again, now that we're heading beyond testing, we can once again strike that balance.

Do we have the materials we need to teach and learn well.
It's time to reorganize the materials for the end-of-year learning and next year's program. It's also time to order them materials we'll need for next year.

Do all students have voice?
By fostering a good lesson/learning routine, we can make sure that we give time to student voice regularly.

I continue to be a fan of limited, streamlined standardized testing. I'm looking forward to the results and I liked the depth of the tests. I hope for tests that are more differentiated so that those that struggle do not have to endure tests that are too far from their current skill level, and I look forward to lessening the number of tests and the disruption they cause in the school with regard to specialist services and support. Hopefully one-to-one initiatives and less tests will lead us in that direction.

For now though, my priority is to focus in to provide every student with a dynamic program. Onward.