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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Keeping the Teaching Ship Afloat

There have been a large number of challenges to the teaching ship in the past few weeks--challenges brought on by new rules, cumbersome tests, illness, lack of needed time, extra jobs, and a dearth of communication. The teaching ship has been challenged as multiple initiatives that started with enthusiasm suffer a bit from the residual affects of what may be described as too much work, too fast change, and too little time.

Finally, back to a more reasonable schedule after parent conferences and a number of extra initiatives, I have a chance to think about the rough seas of the past week and to right the ship again. As is often the case, I didn't expect the storm, but now that it is clearing, I can see it for what it was.

As I think ahead to the end-of-the-year and next year, I realize that we have to think deeply about the year's schedule and recognize that worthy initiatives take time. For example, parent conferences are a worthy endeavor. The chance to sit down and meet with families and students to talk about goals, strengths, and challenges helps everyone help a child succeed better. Yet these conferences take substantial time and effort. Hence, during the conference time of the year, it needs to be acknowledged that it's not a good time for other deep and time intense initiatives.

Also to prepare well for conferences also takes time. It takes time to organize the data, prepare showcase portfolios, create schedules, and meet. In fact, though 20-minutes a conference is set aside, it truly takes a good hour per conference once you consider all the factors that contribute to positive meetings.

Similarly for students to do well on tests, takes time too. It takes time to teach students how to take a test since every test is different. It takes time to learn about the tools and structure of the test. It takes time to review the test material and it takes time to take the tests too. Like parent conferences, there is lots of time attached to these tests particularly if you take the tests seriously and want to help students do their best.

New rules and processes also take time. When new constructs are imposed, change occurs. No matter how small the new rule or construct is, there is a domino affect that requires time and attention if the change is to be embedded into our practice with strength and care.

In the past few weeks, I don't think I set aside enough time for the many changes, tests, meetings, and initiatives that took place. Looking back, I recognize that with next year's map, we have to make sure we give all important structure, the time it deserves.

Also with regard to changes, I realize that I have to read those about those changes carefully, and sooner than later, request the support and clarification needed to embed those changes. As much as possible, I want to advocate for thoughtful change that is well communicated and supported so plans are not set awry by sudden change.

Further, I want to think deeply about the focus of the work we do. To try to do "it all" only means we dilute what's possible. Instead as a teaching team it's important that we think carefully about what it is that we do and then work to do it well. No one teacher, teaching team, grade-level, or school can do or be all things. We do best if we think deeply about who we are and what it is we hope to do with regard to serving our students well.

It's been a terrific year of teaching and learning. Students have made great gains and have been positive and happy throughout the year. This bit of a twist in the teaching road has led us to think and choose carefully with regard to the work ahead so that we meet our primary obligations with respect to the the needs and interests of the children we teach and the curriculum and school goals.