Saturday, April 30, 2016

Traveling the Teaching/Learning Road: Next Steps

Every day the teaching/learning road presents new challenges and opportunities. The key is to keep your vision up front, and to check and revise that vision often with the consult and collaboration of others.

An in-house challenge, a wonderful parent meeting, students' responses to test taking, a leadership weekend, collegial support, an approved proposal, and a letter from DESE have all impacted this week's path and made me think about next steps.

It's more of the same, yet with greater depth and awareness I'd say at this juncture. Here's the latest map.

I've reached out to the Union Board and system leadership for greater understanding. The Union Board plans to talk about it at this week's meeting. There's more to learn in this regard. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reached back about this issue and offered to meet with me to discuss it. I plan to take them up on their offer as I'll have an opportunity to learn more about this. I appreciate this outreach. I'll also learn more at this weekend's MTA meeting that I'm attending and the MTA Annual Meeting too.

Math Education
Students took a systemwide assessment. Now it's time to review that assessment and make recommendations for Middle School math groups. I've been reading a lot about equity in education and the impact of tracking, so I will tread gently as I make groups and enlist the support of parents when I'm not exactly sure what the best fit is for every child. I've reached out to leadership with some new ideas that put choice ahead of tracking. I think this might be one way to get rid of tracking while also offering students a learning/teaching environment that fits their needs well. In the meantime, I'll keep the message alive to students that learning is a progression and it doesn't matter where you sit at the moment; instead what matters is that you make steady progress with perseverance and the proper supports, resources, and opportunities. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't learn well or that you don't deserve that opportunity.

This week's math will focus on computation review matched with science facts and figures to prepare for upcoming math PARCC tests.

This week students will take three PARCC tests with an ELA focus. The key is to give each child the space they need and to follow the test directions well. I'll need to review those Monday and arrive early at school Tuesday to make sure that the computers are ready, related signage taken down, and room set up well for comfortable test taking.

Gates Grant Supports an ECET2 Equity Event in Massachusetts
I've been working with a team of Massachusetts teachers with regard to a proposal to the Bill and Melinda Gates Education Foundation. Last night we heard that we were awarded a grant to run an ECET2 equity event in Massachusetts. We are delighted by this opportunity. Highly regarded mentors, educators, activists, and writers, Jose Vilson and Meenoo Rami, have agreed to speak as well as a number of talented Massachusetts educators. Soon our team will send out an RFP for presenters for this event. Sally Sampson from Chop Chop Magazine has agreed to manage the healthy food breakfast/lunch and some healthy eating/learning education at the event too.

STEAM/Nature Studies
I continue to have a lot of organization and sorting to do to prep the STEAM Center for upcoming projects. I reached out to leadership to learn about potential funding to update the center and was told that I may have some answers about that at the end of the school year. In the meantime, the PTO has generously given me some dollars to spend to work on this and our local foundation supported the purchase of many related nature study materials. I'm really excited about all of this upcoming, hands-on science study. I know that the students will LOVE it!

Play, Field Studies, and Special Events
The calendar is full of all kinds of wonderful learning events. The key is staying on track, making sure the planning details are in place, and leading and learning with the students.

Presentations and Professional Learning
I plan to make quite a few presentations this summer, all presentations related to my daily work. In that regard, prepping for these presentations will also help me to prepare for next year's teaching. I'm looking forward to this work as part of the MTA Summer Conference and Wayland Institutes.

Union Building Representative
As the Union Representative, I'm working on analyzing all the current Union documents and working with colleagues to update where needed. As I listen and learn during the leadership weekend, I'm hearing all kinds of great ideas about the potential our Union holds for building a great teaching/learning community that serves students well. I really loved the stories people told about looking through their Union archives and finding language that gave teachers better working conditions. For example one story relayed the fact that in days of old some woman teachers who were pregnant had to circle in front of their administrators who checked them out to see if their pregnancy was showing--unbelievable, but true!  There were other stories too about how contract language has enabled educators to have a reasonable lunch period and planning time.

I also listened with interest as educators shared stories of respectful leadership and collaborative work. I found the work of Education Support Personnel (ESP's) to be very interesting and thought provoking. I was excited to learn about the ways that the MTA is supporting this dedicated group of education professionals since their work is so integral to teaching every child well.  Further I really liked the discussion about the union contract and what it means to create and use a document like this, and its relationship to democratic principles, efforts, and organization.

In summary all of these efforts are about charting a path of positive effort and collaboration to teach children well. Our paths will not look the same as we all have different gifts and interests to bring to the table, but the goal of doing the job well will be the same. Onward.