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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

This Year's School Story Starts Now

When we tell our school story with transparency, we invite community, and that community empowers all that we can do when it comes to teaching children well.

I want to tell the story of the school year, and I'll begin that tale in earnest today.

Last year, our grade-level team had an amazing teaching/learning year. Of course it wasn't perfect and we were left with some challenges, but overall it was a terrific year. We employed a partner teaching model that truly supported lots of care and attention for students and wonderful collegiality when it came to crafting and promoting a student-friendly, content/standards-rich, engaging curriculum.

As we waited to hear about our positions for the year to come, we discussed the fact that we wanted to plan for and deliver a similarly strong program in the year to come. But we faced the dilemma that our team was shifting from four teachers (perfect for two partner teacher clusters) to three teachers. In  response to that challenge, we crafted a three-way shared teaching model. We created charts that presented a teaching model that included areas of discrete responsibility and areas of shared responsibility in order to establish a strong grade level team of learners, a team we named TeamFive. We sent our proposal to leadership who debated the pros and cons of the model for quite some time. At last, in the final weeks of the school year, we learned that the model was approved.

We were very excited and spent considerable time prepping the next step which was to convey the model to students, colleagues, and family members during the move-up day process in the final days of the school year. To do that we created a TeamFive website for students, families, colleagues, leaders, and community members. The website includes important information about the model and learning goals for the year. We'll continue to update the website as the year takes shape. We also created a website for the teaching team so that all of our records and teaching details would be in one place for easy share. We wrote a move-up letter, created a class list, and signed students up for some summer study options.

At the end of the school year, the teaching team decided to work on our individual areas of study during the summer months and to reconvene just prior to the school year to restart our collaborative efforts by solidifying the shared teaching schedule, routines, field studies, curriculum night, and other details. We'll also create a family survey and our first collaborative newsletter of the year.

There are many paths to travel during a school year, and our main path will be to successfully create community, employ our shared teaching model, and teach the specific teaching/learning goals embedded in that model.

Constructs that will support this work include the following:
  • Two PLCs a week that support our collaboration with the greater teaching team.
  • An early year curriculum night for family members as well as family conferences twice a year and as needed throughout the year.
  • The support of potential WPSF grants and education specialists.
  • Working as a team with students, colleagues, leaders, and community members. 
  • A joint commitment to making the model work.
  • Respect for individual's strengths, challenges, and teaching/learning styles and preferences. 
I can't imagine where the twists and turns of this path's model will meander in the year ahead, but I do know that I'm committed to doing all I can to make it a successful year of collaboratively teaching children well.

If you've employed a similar model, please share your story. If you have thoughts or advice for us, we'd love to know. Also if I've left anything out, don't hesitate to ask.