Sunday, April 24, 2016

Thinking of Next Year: Building a Strong Teaching/Learning Community

The discussion yesterday at edcampworcester about cultural competency and community continues to play in my mind. This year I made some new decisions about this. Some worked and some did not. That's why I want to think about this now. New ideas take time.

Last year I hoped to have lunch with every child during the start of the year. Time did not permit this. I also hoped to make a special effort to spend time with families and students that I might not get to see as often, and that idea didn't work either. Both of these ideas didn't work because I didn't have the time or plan with enough lead time. Once the school year gets rolling it's difficult to implement new ideas that fall outside the typical schedule and expectations.

How can I do this better next year?

Knowing Students and Their Families
I'd like to find a way to work with colleagues to meet and greet families and students in ways that set the stage for a successful year. We already do this, but I think we can deepen what we do. I listed a number of ideas on a Google doc and shared the ideas with teammates. I wonder which ideas might turn into a reality. This is work I can't do on my own, but work that requires collective effort and energy.

Student-to-Student Relationships
Kickball is proving to be a great way to build class community. I want to think of other ways that we can build strong student-to-student relationships. In fact, I wrote an NEA grant today to support a program that will help with this goal.

Updating Math Units with Greater Cultural Proficiency
I want to add more relevant, inclusive facts, topics, and projects to the math curriculum. We can easily direct the concept learning towards content that creates community in meaningful ways. I will begin the year with a survey/infographic project that supports this effort.

Evaluate Structure, Role, and Routines
I want to give the schedule careful consideration. I want to eliminate efforts that don't result in deep, meaningful learning and community, and enrich the areas that do build a strong learning team and community. I want to advocate for early, proactive, and inclusive scheduling. Often the schedule is the root of promise as well as obstacles. The schedule is very important in school life.

Open Circle
Finding a good place for Open Circle has helped. Next year I want to sign out that space for regular open circle meetings and projects throughout the year.