Monday, November 30, 2015

Matching Team Goals to System-Wide Goals

Our grade-level team is embarking on a shared teaching model this year. It took some time to get administrative approval for this model, but now that we have the approval and are three months into the model, it's time to look forward to how we'll continue to develop the model's strength and impact in the days to come.

There are many ways to analyze a teaching/learning model. Early in the year we analyzed as we troubleshooted minor scheduling issues. Later we analyzed the model with regard to parent, teacher, student survey responses. Now I want to take a few minutes to analyze the model with respect to our system-wide goals. How can our model develop in line with the identified system-wide goals for 2015-2016? To complete this analysis, I'll focus on each system-wide goal with regard to our current model work as well as future development.

Our model sets aside time each week for open circle meetings focused on "stress management, self regulation, interpersonal relationships skills, and resiliency" as well as other issues. Every other week our school guidance counselor leads our open circle meetings. As I think about this effort, I realize that it's not too early to discuss interpersonal relationships since students are beginning to talk about "dating." 

To date we have not been sharing updates of our open circle meetings with parents in our weekly newsletter, but from the goals above, I can see how this is an easy-to-do and important addition to our team communication. We can decide as a team with the guidance counselor who will pen the weekly open circle update for parents. It's likely that we'll share the task. 

Our school completed the ALICE training in conjunction with the local police with great success. The principal spoke to every grade level in ways that were both comforting and informative to students. Students engaged in the training with confidence, positivity, and success. 

I'm looking forward to the system's athletic program survey results and follow-up actions. There's lots of news related to athletics and children today, and I believe that it's good to focus on this evolution with an eye on what's healthy and positive for children overall. As a young person I didn't have the opportunity to participate in athletics, so I was very interested in making sure that my own children had the chance to participate. With our model, we'll continue to foster healthy, active, positive recess and special event athletics and play. 

Although the specific goals here are not directly related to our learning/teaching model at fifth grade there is some overlap. Fifth grade students buddy with kindergarten and first graders. The buddy program supports multi-grade learning and teaching endeavor which often includes lots of play and exploration.

While we are not studying another language at fifth grade, we are working with the technology department to introduce the language of coding to students. As far as adopting a new student information system, we shared our ideas with our building representative on that committee, and we currently have information systems in place to inform our model's success and development.

This goal area is one that our model can focus on with strength. First we can look for ways to incorporate the voices of students more with regard to cultural proficiency and race. As a team we can look at how we incorporate this opportunity into the curriculum. A good first step in this regard may be to focus an upcoming PLC on this topic so that we explicitly commit time and focus to this work. We may want to invite students to a PLC to help us make good decisions in this regard. Also, our faculty is focused on this issue and we will participate in the work at staff meetings. I'd like to work with the team to think about how we can better incorporate the voices, interests, and needs of our Boston parents too. With regard to ELL, our ELL teacher has been an active participant in our RTI and PLC efforts. Her work and voice has helped us to better serve these students and incorporate their needs and interests into the overall program.

Our RTI efforts have served our new model well. We continue to meet once a week, analyze data, problem solve, and craft teaching/learning endeavor to meet students needs and interests. We can focus our efforts more specifically on study skills and learning strategies, and discuss the ways we embed that work into our daily teaching/learning efforts.

We began the year with an interdisciplinary, cross-classroom STEAM project, The Global Cardboard Challenge. Students utilized supplies from home and from our classroom STEAM Centers/Maker Stations to create a playground arcade for all students. The project also served as a service learning project. Later students visited STEAM centers again to create creatures for their ET project.

In Tech class, at school assembly, and during classroom open circles we discussed digital citizenship. Students also engaged in interactive digital citizenship study in the tech lab. Some students have started coding at home and in school, and all students will begin coding soon with the Tech Lab's "Hour of Code" effort. We hope to include coding more often in math too as one way for students to create animated math models. We need to gain greater understanding of the computer literacy curriculum map and 3-year technology plan so that we can match our shared model with that intent. We will also attend a STEAM inservice in a couple of weeks and will work to employ that information into our future STEAM interdisciplinary projects including the Rube Goldberg Marble Maze project.

An overview of the system-wide goals provides us with some new goals for our shared teaching model. Next I'll analyze our school-wide goals and match our efforts with those as well. A good way to develop our model for success is to match our model to the goals and initiatives of the leaders, organizations, and individuals that support and evaluate our work.

Note: A recent review of NEA Mission, Vision, and Values also serves as a focal point for evaluation of our shared teaching model.