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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Teaching ALL Students Well

How can we truly teach all children well?

Which students can we serve better? How do we determine who those students are?

It's a fact that we don't all learn in the same ways, yet it's also a fact that everyone is capable of learning. So how do we move towards teaching all children well?

As I work with a group of dedicated Massachusetts' educators to plan an event to teach all children well, I am cognizant of the fact that I don't want to just "talk the talk," but instead "walk the walk." so I offer the following ideas. I'm sure my list is not complete, so I welcome you to add your ideas and thoughts. I think we're finally at a time where we can make teaching all children well a reality.

Time
The way we use time in schools is critical in this regard. We all need to assess our use of time to make sure our use of time is effectively targeted at helping every child continue to learn and progress in ways that are engaging, positive, and success driven. It's important to think about our contextual definitions of success.

Structure
The old time one teacher-one classroom structure does serve all children well as there are too many gaps in this structure with regard to good learning and teaching. One step in the right direction here is to begin by creating grade-level teams of teachers who work together to prioritize, use time and talent effectively, and design the learning day to reach all students.

Belonging and Relationships
After teaching for thirty years, I am finally learning that you can't be kind enough. I have to thank my principal, Mr. James Lee, for this inspiration and his motto, "Kindness Matters." There's no more room for tough love, instead what's important is as much love and care and positive relationships as you can foster. Good relationships lead to rich, deep, and successful learning.

Realistic, Right Expectations
We have to level the hierarchical structure in teaching/learning organizations in order to allow everyone to participate in teaching all children well with time-on-task with students. This job cannot be left to only a few in the field--this challenge belongs to everyone.

Mentors
All students need mentors and all educators need mentors too. Who are the inspiring mentors who are leading educators in the right direction in this regard. Who is keeping the need to teach all children well with conversation, good news, and new ideas alive in an organization? This matters as what is discussed and prioritized, generally happens, and what is hidden and quiet generally doesn't. The effort to teach all is a sensitive issue and there needs to be good process for keeping this conversation and work alive.

Cultural Considerations
Whose culture dominates your teaching/learning organization and how can you better represent the cultures of those included in the achievement gap. I suggest surveying parents of all students to identify the cultural values that they feel support their child and family's strength and progress, then especially make sure that the cultural values of your most underserved students are readily visible in your teaching/learning organization.

Diversify Staff
Find ways to diversity staff even if it means partnering with a school from a local city or town, a school that represents greater diversity. Reach out to local businesses, colleges, community organizations, and other institutions to make sure that the students who are not achieving with engagement, empowerment, and successful learning are represented in real time in your teaching/learning organization.

Orientations and Preschool Camps
Make time to orient your students and families that are most distant from success in your schools. Create special programs and efforts to level the playing field of academic interest and success.

Research Based Efforts
Assign and invite educational professionals to research the issue and share current research in this regard. Just recently Boaler's research about the positive affects of deliberately and effectively employing and teaching collaboration with regard to equity has really opened the door for me with regard to working towards success for all students. Also telling all students everyday that "Everyone is capable of learning and don't let anyone tell you otherwise," has inspired my students to do more and better. Also sharing the facts of the transference from short term memory to long term memory with regard to the role of practice has helped students. Further making all learning more multi-modal, hands-on and less language based only has also helped. I'm sure there's a lot more research that will help me, and how do we make that research readily available to educators in the field.

Analyze and Track Progress with an Eyes on the Achievement Gap
Collect data that matters. Analyze the data with teams in meaningful ways. Try new ideas. Talk to students--they usually are the best experts when it comes to what they need.

Mentoring Programs
Create advisories that meet daily and are organized strategically so that every child has a champion at school. Don't just make this an add-on, but make it an integral part of the school day.

Learning over Discipline
Yes, discipline with regard to behavior is important, but empowering, engaging learning comes first. Figure out how to make that happen.

Tracking
Re-look at all tracking efforts and be more creative in this regard.

Language
Help each other to uplift the language you use. Have posters all over the school with new and better language to use. It takes time to update and improve our language with regard to teaching all children.

Basic Needs
Let's let children use their health cards at school to access state-of-the-art medical care where they learn and play. This will beef up school counseling and medical efforts with financial support. This will help with regard to preventative care too.

Let's partner with local health organizations to continue to better school lunches, lunch rooms, and healthy activity. In this regard, let's teach every child to swim--early swimming will foster a positive physical fitness outlook as well as water safety.

Let's employ the parents of our students at risk in our schools, and then let's help them, if needed, access further educational and employment opportunities. This will enrich school communities.

Let's make sure that our students have ready access to healthy food.


Update:
Melinda Anderson kindly shared this article with me, an article that prompted me to change the title and a lot of the language in this piece. I'll likely update more soon when I give the article a closer read with a "morning mind."

I will further consider these points: