Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wayland Institutes 2016: STEAM Day 2

Looking forward to a focus on the science practicies and
crosscutting concepts with students.
Again Rob Stephenson gave us lots and lots to think about at the second day of the Wayland STEAM Institute. There are so many wonderful ideas to employ when it comes to teaching children well, and now the key is to organize those ideas, materials, and time so that I can present my students with a dynamic learning environment, experiences, and education.

I presented our team's efforts with the Global Cardboard Challenge. I was fortunate to have experienced and dedicated teachers at the presentation. Therefore the best part of the presentation was the conversation we had about the merits of the project and ways to deepen and grow the effort. I hope to use the ideas shared when my grade-level team and I get together to discuss the year's curriculum map in general and the Global Cardboard Challenge as one part of the overall teaching/learning.

I also had the chance to listen to Meghan Bowhers present a host of very clever, creative, and engaging project based learning activities. Also, Rob Stephenson presented so many great ideas, ideas I've captured in the tweets below. All in all The Wayland Institutes 2016 offered quality learning and many new ideas for the year ahead.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Study List 2016

It's only been one week of school vacation, but it feels like we've been off for a long time. I know the summer weeks will fly by, and after a week, I realize that I have to rethink the focus of the days ahead since initial plans are a bit too ambitious.

What will summer study bring?

The Wayland Institutes 2016
This was a terrific learning experience during the last week of June. 

There's lots to do to plan for this exciting October 22, 2016 event. Stay tuned.

From July 19-July 22, I'll volunteer as a scribe at the BLC in Boston. I've heard so many wonderful descriptions of this conference that I'm excited to experience first-hand.

I'll present on Professional Learning via Social Media, Reflect for Success, and Maker Math at the MTA Summer Conference. I'm looking forward to this mini-educational retreat in the beautiful town of Amherst, Massachusetts as The University of Massachusetts from July 31 to August 4. This mini mid-summer education retreat has served as a great chance to jumpstart the school year ahead as well as to connect with and learn from education colleagues from across the state. If you're looking for an inspiring start for the school year ahead, you may want to attend one or more days of this conference that's open to all MTA members.

McAuliffe Center - Integrated Science Learning, 
On August 11, I'll join other local educators for this exciting learning opportunity. Our students will visit the McAuliffe Center in the fall so this workshop will help me to prepare for their experience too.

Summer Reading
I'm not sure I'll find time for all the books on my booklist, but hopefully I'll get to some of them, especially The Joy of X and Emdin's book too.

TeamFive TEAM Meeting
Our grade level team will likely meet to plan the year ahead.

Grade Five Math Book/Blog
To guide the math teaching/learning year ahead, I'll continue to write down my lessons and learning/teaching plans on this site throughout the summer and school year ahead. 

This is a realistic list of summer study, a list of activities that I believe will inspire the school year ahead. 

Navigating Complex Systems

In many ways, schools are complex systems.

Why complex?

The people-to-people time is intense. The expectations often outweigh time. The job is continually changing, and the need to revise structure and direction is a constant area of interest and concern. Also there are many ways to teach and learn well, so there's often debate about what's good and not so good with regard to teaching and learning.

There are constants, however, such as the need to respect each other, build positive relationships, understand the content and curriculum, and continue professional learning.

As I think of the complexity of schools, I wonder about how we might make that complexity less dense and cumbersome, and instead create more fluid, open, and distributive models of teaching and learning.

I believe this can happen in the following ways:
  • Streamline paperwork by utilizing technology and good processes well.
  • Use lead time and good communication to make processes efficient and profitable.
  • Rather than hierarchical models, in most cases, use team models of co-coaching/leading where education teams lead their efforts to teach well with ample time for planning and sufficient, quality time-on-task with students.
  • Look carefully and honestly at program efforts and expenses to determine what efforts do result in valuable learning, and what efforts could be revised for better effect.
  • Audit time, schedules, and roles to determine how time can be spent well to successfully teach.
  • Understand the priorities of what makes a quality education, and work as teams toward reaching those priorities. Evaluate efforts with open, honest assessment, and then work together to make positive change when needed. 
Good structure, open honest communication, reflection, revision, and teamwork foster quality systems of effect. 

To navigate what are often complex systems of education, it's important that one understands and attends to his/her role well and has the opportunity to freely speak up when questions, good ideas, or a need for change arises. It's similarly important that educators have the chance to work on teams in transparent, open, and collaborative ways as that teamwork supports good teaching and learning. And, it's optimal to have leaders who inspire and orchestrate systems in ways that promote the best that we can do in positive, collaborative, and inclusive ways.

Education systems are complex, and by breaking those complex systems down into manageable, transparent, streamlined, and targeted intersecting parts, we have the chance to do our jobs well individually and collectively. 

Wayland Institutes 2016: STEAM Day One

The Marshmallow Challenge was great fun
and great learning too. 
At the tired end of the year, I was worried about attending The Wayland Institutes. Would I have the energy to present and partake after a very busy (and positive) end to the school year, I wondered. I'm sure I was not alone.

Yet, I did make it to the event, and I'm so glad that I did. While the Institutes come after a busy school year, I can't imagine a better time to plan the event. And the level of effort that goes into making the Institutes' successful is exemplary.

The Wayland Institutes are positive for the following reasons:
  • The event features wonderful speakers who help educators to develop and enrich their craft.
  • The event takes place in a brand new, modern high school setting that's welcoming and works very well with regard to the Institute's agenda of whole group meetings and small group workshops and conversations.
  • The event invites local educators to share their expertise with each other--we learn from our colleagues in Wayland and nearby systems.
  • The event is well organized including a tasty lunch and morning coffee and snacks.
  • The event offers interested educators salary credit and professional development points.
  • It's a good place to connect with like-minded educators.
To teach well, it's essential to make time for worthy teaching/learning events. The challenge today, in this regard, is the fact that there are limitless opportunities for professional learning online and offline. Further challenges include day care costs for many educators who balance family life with their professional work, and there is also the challenge of what's the best time to put on an event like this.

Today's presentation by #curiouscrewrob, Rob Stephenson, was terrific. Stephenson is an expert when it comes to STEAM teaching. 

He introduced and discussed many, many ideas, examples, and projects with regard to STEAM/STEM teaching and learning, ideas I've captured, in part, below with Storify.

Rob Stephenson is founder and host of  "Curious Crew."
The break-out sessions included another round of learning with Rob, a wonderful chance to try out the design process led by our Middle School Art/STEAM teacher, Peter Curran, and a chance to have a conversation with colleagues about the Team in STEAM. 

I left the day with many ideas that I want to try out.

First, for STEAM activities, I want to give students a chance to explore and gain familiarity with materials first. And, as Rob suggests, I'll mainly move the process from a chance for children to try to solve a problem on their own first to collaborative problem solving/design and then to STEAM class meetings, and after that, chances for children to re-design as well.

I also want to develop greater TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) during STEAM and math teaching times. To do this prior to the STEAM study, I'll focus on what it means to be a good team player with the attributes above. I'll also introduce the students to possible STEAM roles. Then as students study and learn with hands-on activities, they'll have a chance to try out all the STEAM roles as one way to know what it takes to be a collaborative, successful learner. This skill will translate into increased skills, the ability to get along with others, and career choice in the future too.

During our TEAM talk we discussed models in schools that support positive collegial/student teams. We looked at ways to discuss teams with regard to whole school think and practice too. It was clear that there are many ways to foster team, and that it's important to look for ways to foster a sense of team with one another throughout school.

Tomorrow we'll return for more STEAM study as well.

STEAM Focus: Wayland STEAM Institute 2016

Today I'll attend The Wayland STEAM Institute. I'm looking forward to the event.

Yesterday during a Learning Design Workshop, one educator shared her enthusiasm and her students' enthusiasm for STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art, and math) teaching and learning. It was exciting to listen to the teacher describe students' reactions and efforts related to the grade-level STEAM learning experiences. That educator wants to develop the efforts even more for her students, and that's what I want to do too.

As I listen to the presenter today, I'll be thinking of the following questions about STEAM teaching and learning.

First, I want to think about the overall curriculum map and how our grade-level teaching team will make time for this study in meaningful, relevant ways.

Next, I want to hear what the speaker and presenters have to say about classroom set-up for STEAM events. Materials organization, set-up, and use is a big factor when it comes to teaching STEAM well.

After that I'm curious about his suggestions with regard to developing skill and greater ability to teach/lead STEAM education.

Presenters from outside the school system bring a new voice and new lens to what we can do as educators. It's a valuable experience to have the opportunity to learn with colleagues from the system and nearby systems with a relaxed, summer schedule in a welcoming, learning environment.

I'll also share a couple of presentations related to STEAMwork too--presentations that reflect efforts we engage in at the fifth grade level.

I'll lead a workshop on the "TEAM in STEAM." Using Boaler's research in Mathematical Mindsets, participants will have an opportunity to study STEAM TEAM roles as they work together empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test to solve a design problem. Hopefully their creations will serve as a model as they later lead their students in a similar activity. I'm also hoping that together we'll take a detailed look at these roles and come up with greater language and breadth with regard to use and definition.

I'll also introduce educators to the wonderful Global Cardboard Project. We'll discuss ways that this can be implemented at various times during the school year and the many teaching/learning goals this project supports, projects such as service learning events, a school-wide arcade, and Rube Goldberg simple machine study.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Value of Fair, Transparent Process

I read a criticism recently about an unfair process by a state agency. The criticism noted in many words that when process is not open, transparent, and based on worthy protocols, there's the potential for injustice. Although I didn't know all the details of the issue discussed, I agree with the premise that open, transparent process is valuable for many, many reasons.

First of all, open, transparent, fair process saves time. When people feel like they are being treated unfairly, that takes time away from the good work possible, and instead people spend their time trying to figure the process out and time to advocate for fair process.

Next, open, fair, transparent process creates a positive culture--this kind of process demonstrates to all what a system values. When a process is unfair, untimely, confusing, or lacking transparency, that creates many questions about a culture and confusion about what's valued and what is not.

And, open, fair, transparent process creates a positive sense of team and collaboration in an organization. When people understand what is valued and how decisions are made, then they feel like part of the team, however, when decisions are done with secrecy and a lack of transparency, that tears at team, heightens conjecture, rewards silence, and limits the positive collaboration possible.

Further, lack of transparency, openness, and fairness, can lead to conjecture about possible prejudice and favoritism. If process is not transparent one may wonder if that occurs because the process favors one group or type of worker over another? That's a question many consider without fair, transparent, open process.

It could be that processes are often closed and lacking transparency simply because people didn't take the time to think through the process or communicate the process in a timely, thorough way from the start. It might be an oversight or it could simply not be valued.

I've noticed that many organizations today are moving towards greater transparency and openness. I'm a fan of this kind of effort because it builds greater opportunity for all and better teams too. Open, transparent, and fair process develops positive cultures, and in those positive cultures, I believe more people have a chance to contribute and develop in ways that matter. This is a benefit to all in the organization as well as the organization's goals.

What do you think?

Wayland Literacy Institute 2016: Day Two

Matt Glover inspired us to teach writing well.
If I had to sum up day two at The Wayland Institutes, I'd use the word "depth." As Matt Glover shared multiple strategies for teaching writing well, all I could think of was that it takes deep teaching to inspire, coach, and lead young writers. The more an educator understands about what it means to write and write well, the better he/she will be able to coach students in this regard. Again and again Glover discussed the integration of rich mentor resources, immersion with quality published compositions, plenty of time to write every day, genre choice, and thoughtful teaching via conferring.

Truly if you want to teach writing well, you'll put aside a minimum of 60 minutes a day that includes an introductory mini lesson, thirty minutes of sustained writing//composing for every child, teacher-student conferences, and time for a wrap-up or share at the end of the lesson. Of course there will be times throughout the year when you add time in addition to the mini lessons to read and discuss mentor compositions more in order to notice what good authors do and then try to replicate those techniques on your own. There will be time for drafting and publishing final pieces, and time for writer's notebooks. Of course, in the mix, there will also be time put aside to celebrate and share writing too. And, it's likely that some of this writing will be integrated into subject areas as well.

Good teachers of writing will regularly read, write, collect mentor compositions, and share their teaching/learning strategies, questions, and resources with the learning team including students, families, colleagues, leaders, and community members. Similarly students will read and write regularly as well as share their questions and compositions too. When it comes to developing good writers, the bottom line is that students write daily and teachers continue to hone their teaching repertoire, knowledge of writing, and mentor resource collections so that they can coach students well.

From my own perspective as mainly a teacher of math, I thought a lot about how I'll foster a greater ability to read and write about math. I want to do this as I know that writing/composing and reading about math develops understanding for the reader/writer and those he/she shares with.

At one point, the presenter, Matt Glover, prompted us to write the start of our own nonfiction literary book. As I drafted my book on a Google slide, I was well aware of what a challenging job that was. I got a good start with a nonfiction text with my short book, Zero = Nothing. I've included the draft below, a draft that includes some direct notes from online sites--notes I'll need to rewrite in my own words later. Just having the chance to draft a book after looking at multiple nonfiction literary genre conventions, content, and text features was a great exercise that built respect for the work published writers do and the task at hand we have to promote students own writing.

I also included a Storify of some tweets from today's presentation. It was a great day of learning one I'll return once I've had some summer time to relax and make sense of this busy week of learning on top of last week's end of school work and reflection. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wayland Literacy Institute 2016: Day One

Many wonderful teaching/learning ideas and perspectives were shared today at The Wayland Literacy Institute 2016. I captured many of those ideas and perspectives in the slideshow below.

I also presented information about digital story composition. I had a wonderful group of teachers at the presentation. I also listened to Sarah Sontag thoughtfully introduce Stephanie Harvey's and Anne Goudvis' Comprehension Strategy toolkit. A kit that I would like to use, in part, during ELA RTI.

My big takeaway from the day was that reading quality examples of literature and other text to students gives those students a vision for what they want to write and whom they want to be as authors and communicators. I want to think carefully about the mentor text "stack" I use to lead students' writing vision and effort. I also want to continue to look for ways to engage and motivate students with regard to writing across the curriculum. The role of audience is an important consideration in this effort.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the tweets from this terrific learning event:

It's a New Year: School Year 2016-2017

Happy children signify positive teaching/learning programs.
I'm officially declaring the start to the new school for me today.

Today starts the new school year because today, at The Wayland Institutes, I'll think about, prepare for, and collaborate around ideas for school year 2016-2017.

What does this mean for my work and effort?

It means that I'll shift my attitude and effort a bit to reflect the learning I've done in the past year. For so long I've been wanting to change some avenues of work and effort with regard to the greater organization I work for, and today rather than working to motivate change, I'll work to better collaborate and work in solidarity with invested educators who both share and push my vision. Instead of pushing the boundaries in areas that may seem unwelcoming at times, I'll seek those who also want to push boundaries and teach better--I'll work to form a positive community of change, growth, and development.

For too long, I've let the resistance get to me. In a sense, I've desired to prove that my research, reading, and study has merit to the naysayers, but now, after lots of thought and consult, I recognize that rather than prove, I have to seek out like-thinkers, creators, educators, and community members who are eager to share ideas, positively embed good research, and collaborate to teach and learn well.

There are so many positive paths to travel in this regard, and so many positive people to travel with. The opportunities to teach and learn better today are limitless and it's not worth the time to try to convince others of this. Instead it is worth the time to seek out like-minded, enthusiastic, positive, and energetic colleagues to forge the path with.

What will this new direction look like?

First, as I interact in a large number of professional learning opportunities this summer, I'll continually think about how I might embed the learning and connect with the people involved to develop the work I can do with students and via my blog to better education for all children.

Next, I'll use the information and time to update resources that matter in this regard, and then I'll find ways to positively share those resources with others. I'll also review the patterns I use to teach and support my work--patterns that I believe I can refine to maximize energy, contribution, and impact.

Finally, I'll also use this time to hone my own skills, skills related to presentation, share, camaraderie, reverence, and respect--the kinds of skills that serve to build strong teaching/learning teams in and around classroom life.

It takes confidence to forge a path like this, the kind of confidence that I've been able to develop thanks to so many good colleagues in and outside of the teaching/learning organization. At time, in some education institutions, the fact that teacher voice and choice is not regarded well is oppressive which leads to less confidence and development with regard to positively navigating one's path.

I hope that my newly revised path will enable me to enable others as well to move forward in the profession with confidence, positivity, impact, and direction as there is so much to learn and so much to teach in order to do our jobs well, and doing our jobs well matters with regard to supporting and enriching children's lives and the lives of our communities.

Summer Study

There's a temptation today to skip the summer conference I signed up for, hop in the car, and take a trip to the beach--it's a beautiful day! Yet, I know that once I attend the event, I'll be happy that I did.

My sister called me with a similar story this morning. On Saturday, another beautiful day, she attended a course, and the information and potential shared exhilarated her and prompted her to reach out to share the information with colleagues today.

While summer is a great opportunity for educators to relax and re-energize, it's also a great chance to study which in turn fuels the teaching tank for the year to come.

Plus the kind of learning I'll engage in today will be relaxing compared to the learning/teaching days of the school year as those days take full energy every moment. Today I can sit back a bit to listen, learn, create, and share.

Wayland Literacy Institute: Math Writing

Today and tomorrow I'll attend and present at The Wayland Literacy Institute. Since I mainly teach math, I'll focus my learning energy on the topic of writing in math.

As I listen, I'll wonder about the following questions:
  • How will I institute a practice of reflective math writing for math homework/classwork?
  • In what ways will I make embedding good math vocabulary part of this process?
  • How will I create multimedia creation opportunities for math writing, composing, and learning?
  • What vehicles will I use for math writing/learning? Will I mostly use Google docs, Google sites eblogger, kidblog, hard copy journal, shared threads. . . ?
  • How are other teachers inspiring habits of daily writing in math and other subjects?
Jo Boaler supports regular reflection to develop strong mathematical mindsets, so with that in mind I'll keep my focus on that work today as I present and learn. 


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Sets In: A Path Invigorated

It's been a busy four days as I work to create a summer pattern and find places for all that end-of-the-school year thinking and left over home and school work. A lot of home-work and thinking-work gets pushed aside during the busy, active final days of school.

Fortunately the weather has been outstanding--just perfect, and that has helped with regard to energy and the ability to get from one place to another without much trouble.

In many ways this summer feels like a turning point in my professional career. For a long time I've been advocating for change in schools. My advocacy has taken the path of writing emails, creating websites, interacting on social media, attending courses and conferences, getting involved with education organizations/start-ups, and reading. It's been a busy ten years (30 years?) or so of round-the-clock ed study, debate, and conversation.

At the end of this path, I can say that I've learned a lot and have become a better teacher, writer, researcher, and learner. All this practice has led to greater speed and depth with all things related to learning and teaching, and this has been terrific since I can find what I need and embed that into my practice well.

In some areas, I've had less success. I've wanted to impact systems of education share and collective effort close to my work more than I have. Due to what's deemed by some as an "overwhelming" voice, I haven't had the impact I've hoped for, and in fact, have experienced great challenges and obstruction with regard to new ideas and process. I haven't let that stop me, yet I've been thinking about the feedback and responses, both good and not so good, that I receive. And while I've been disappointed with regard to how my ideas and communication is met by some, I am grateful for the ideas and advocacy that have taken shape particularly with regard to the three classroom shared teaching model that was approved and successfully implemented last year. I recognize that there is a body of knowledge related to organizing and advocacy including related strategies, mindset, and efforts--knowledge that I have access to and will read, study, and integrate in the days ahead.

Like many who advocate for change, our voices, at the start, are often unsteady and less powerful or convincing. There is much to learn in this regard. In part, this work begins with positive professional relationships--not relationships that replicate "an old boy network," but instead relationships developed with mutual respect, a sense of mission, recognition that together we are better and no one has the monopoly on skill, will, talent, expertise, and collaboration with regard to boosting each other up and supporting one another to serve children well in ethical, inspired, and promising ways.

In general, however, as I begin the summer, I realize that it's time to develop the way I advocate for change close to home. Few to none are listening, and I am weary from the negativity, disrespect, silence, and isolation my share has earned me. Often new idea share is met with no response or great challenge. And a willingness to get involved is similarly met with untimely response and little respectful process or support making it challenging, at best, to do the good work possible in those situations. Many structures that exist are cumbersome leaving little room for teacher voice, innovation, and ingenuity at my level when it comes to working outside of the classroom/school realm.

All is not lost, however, as there are great opportunities to collaborate, make change, impact, and do good work in the classroom, at the school level, and in areas outside of the local organization. At the classroom level I plan to invest heavily into continuing to develop and create a strong classroom community, positive student-teacher, student-student, and collegial relationships, cultural proficiency, and teaching math/STEAM well. I will gain sustenance for that work via my grade-level/school team and outside organizations and affiliations such as NBCT, NCTM, DESE, MTA, NEA, ATMIM, Mass Audubon, my PLN, Framingham State University, #edchat, #satchat, Christa McAuliffee Science Center, and more.

For a long time, I've hoped for a great sense of organizational team that includes positive, regular communication, honest, transparent share, a servant-leadership/partnership mindset, distributive leadership, autonomy, mastery, purpose, and an openness to individual and collective innovation and ideas. In many ways old-time structures impede that kind of vision for many teaching/learning organizations. The role of teacher is still viewed by many as a lesser, "do as your told" and "be seen, but not heard" role. I know that these attitudes are somewhat rooted, in part, with the fact that many educators are women and historically women's voices have often not been regarded with respect. I continue to hope for continued change in this regard, and as I hope, I'll work to let my actions locally and my research, writing, and efforts globally lead toward more empowered and engaging teaching/learning organizations.

As summer sets in, it's a turning point--one in which I'll continue to better organize, streamline, and implement my efforts to teach and learn well, and one in which I shore up and continue to develop the energy, demeanor, and character I desire and deem worthy in order to reach for better schools, do good work, and partner with colleagues and students to serve children and their families well.

The path to inspiring, contributing to, and activating positive work and change is not an easy road. It's one that takes skill, grace, time, and care. What I love about this path is the potential it holds for bettering lives and the community. There is nothing more rewarding than to work with others to enrich and enliven ideas and efforts that serve people well--there is great joy, promise, and result in this work--work that so many do each day in their chosen disciplines, organizations, and lives.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Teaching: Two Many Chefs, Not Enough Cooks

There are countless ed consultants and administrators, public and private, in our midst today. I get numerous emails daily that advertise their offerings online and in real time. I am grateful for this outpouring of potential support.

I worry too, however, that we're at a time when there may be too many chefs and not enough cooks, which means we've got a lot of professionals that have left direct teaching in order to consult or lead and not enough teacher leaders who are still teaching.

How do we remedy this gap?

First, we need to move towards more distributive models of leadership so that teaching is not such a demeaning and oppressive profession. Teachers spend lots of time learning and obtaining professional credentials, and then when they begin teaching they are often in situations when they have to "do as they are told," rather than use their expertise and experience to teach well. This is one factor that leads many teachers to leave the profession--a factor that opposes Pink's research in Drive which supports autonomy, mastery, and purpose with regard to optimal leading and working.

Next, we need to build in more hybrid models of teaching and learning. These models combine direct teaching with leadership. In this way teachers are leading each other while using their expertise to teach students well. This keeps the leading and teaching real, empowered, and engaging.

Then we have to match these consultant groups with greater depth and result with teaching teams. Too often consultants come and go with little ownership of final results or impact. We need better models of collaboration so that educators and consultants are accountable for outcomes.

I'm sure there's more to say, research, and ideate with regard to this issue, but these are some beginning comments. What would you add?

Does Knowledge Matter?

Sadly an administrator remarked that it doesn't take skill or knowledge to teach elementary math. That hurt particularly since I spend hours crafting elementary school math lessons and reading related content and information. I do believe that it does take knowledge and skill to teach elementary school math well. I disagree with that administrator's point of view.

Yet, as I think about summer study with the hopes that study doesn't take over with regard to other life events or needed focus, I want to be cognizant about the purpose of study and why I believe it matters. If you have wisdom to share in this regard, please do.

Below I've analyzed the areas I intend to study with depth and the rationale for this study. Again, I welcome your thoughts.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Professionals that I highly regard have spent time studying these new laws and also support that educators everywhere should be well aware of the laws in order to maximize the potential this change from NCLB hold. As a fifth grade teacher, upcoming member of the Massachusetts' Teacher Advisory Board, local union salary and negotiations team member, and local union representative, I want to be well aware of the promise and possible challenges the new laws embody. I have heard from leaders that these new laws hold terrific promise for more teacher-powered schools and organizations. This entices me to study the laws with depth. Many school systems are approaching the new law with a holistic lens by creating ESSA implementation teams. I have not heard that the system where I work is doing this, but I know that once fall arrives I'll be busy with teaching students everyday so summer is the time to do this. This study holds promise because to understand the law well will potentially help me and others to advocate for and continue to develop top-notch schools and learning organizations for every child.

Math Coaching Website
The creation of a math coaching website aimed specifically at fifth grade will help me to teach and develop the math program with depth and collaboration. The ability to transparently and logically share the program efforts, rationale, and events with students, families, colleagues, administrators, and others will save time when it comes to relaying and employing the math teaching efforts for the year ahead. Saving time with regard to decision making, information share, and preparation will result in added time with regard to teaching the children.

Teacher Leadership Initiative
Revising and completing my capstone project will help me to focus in on the teacher leadership skills I want to utilize and develop as I move ahead in the profession. I want to take a careful look at my capstone and next steps in that regard. As I navigate these efforts as a classroom teacher there is significant challenge, and by learning more about the attributes and process of successful teacher leadership, it's likely that I'll face fewer obstacles and greater support with regard to embedding worthy new practice and ideas into the work I do with and for children.

Cognitive Science
At the root of many changes in education is the growing body of research about how the brain works and the ways we learn. This research is debunking old myths about who can learn and how we learn. The more we understand about the brain and how we learn, the better able we will be to teach, and the better we teach and the better children learn and the greater potential we have for a peaceful, harmonious culture of problem solvers and engaged, happy citizens.

While the obstacles to tech use still remain an issue in many schools, I am fortunate to have many machines and some programs available. The best among these are Google apps which are still accessible to students and useful in multiple ways when it comes to teaching and learning. There's much talk about these apps and student privacy issues, but I've learned that with a simple agreement those worries can be laid to rest. I hope what I've learned is true and utilized to both enable us to use Google's magnificent learning/teaching tools and to protect student/teacher privacy as well. I'm not an expert in this area, but from what I understand, this doesn't have to be a difficult situation.

As I write quickly, I wonder myself, why the rush? Why do I feel this zest to make change and move ahead with all things teaching and learning? I guess it's because I've had a taste of what good process, research, and learning can do with regard to student happiness and success, greater potential in life, and innovation that's life-saving and -enriching. I know that knowledge matters, and the processes we use to deepen and extend knowledge have the potential of transforming a challenging and difficult life into a happy, productive life and this matters to me.

To the administrator that feels that teaching elementary math doesn't take much skill, I challenge that. As when we teach children well, we give them wings--we help them to create brain paths, confidence, attitudes, habits, and vision that will help them to move forward in life and potentially contribute with significant substance near and far. Every year at the biography project, I am amazed at the fact that most famous people got the dream that inspired their fame and contribution as young children. Parents and teachers of young children know that their work, love, and care matters, and this takes thoughtful, strategic, and time consuming effort. It just doesn't happen.

Hence, like so many teachers this summer, I'll make time for summer study. I'll do that because I know that good knowledge makes a difference when it comes to teaching well. I'll also be mindful, however, that "all work and no play" makes a teacher dull, so I'll carve out some time for fun and personal matters too. Onward.

Professional Path and Study Considerations

Recently the intersection of the final chapter of the Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI) and the end of the school year created a situation similar to when you're standing at the ocean's edge while one wave is retreating and the other is coming in, and as you may imagine there was a professional splash!

As the wet waves of professional events rose around me, I found myself in a bit of disharmony about where to go and what to do. The exhaustion at the end of the school year can do that to an educator.

After some hours of thought and follow-up action, I recognize that we have to be very strategic about our professional paths, and part of that strategy involves knowing yourself, understanding the parameters, policies, and protocols that exist, and making sure that you cover all basis with regard to your professional plans.

When responding to the RFP for the NCTM INNOV8 conference, I just expected that if we received approval, we would be able to access funding. In the future, I'll make the time to discuss RFP proposals with administrators in advance to see if funding might be available should we receive approval.

Also as I think of the old waves and new waves splashing me at the intersection, I realize that, in many ways, my professional path is coming up against the disruption of old and new learning paths. There's much to consider as we think of our professional paths today--much to consider from the professional's point of view as well as a system's point of view. As I begin to think about this, I'm cognizant about the following changes in knowledge and practice that impact teaching and learning professional paths today:

Online Learning
Online learning is taking hold. Educators are opting more and more to learn from the comfort of their homes on their own time as they develop their professional craft and skill. This is impacting conference attendance, planning, and events.

Real-Time Collaboration
Educators will become more discerning about the real-time events they choose to attend. The event my colleagues and I wanted to attend was well chosen as the event features thought leaders in math education and targets a main issue with regard to teaching math well which is how to teach the struggling learner. While the system did not have the money to support us, I still believe it would have been worth the money to send us to this event--an event that could further our system-wide efforts in this area of need.

Lead Time
Systems can no longer operate with last-minute effort and thought as this kind of work means that the results are likely to be diluted and superficial. In today's world it is worth the efforts of all to strategize in timely ways that provide educators and systems with the needed lead time for good process and access to the best tools and needed time to learn and teach well.

Good Process
Similar to lead time, the days of sloppy process are over too. Sloppy process will result in less than desired results. The magnificent tools at our fingertips gives us the luxury to work together to utilize deep, profitable, and thoughtful process--the kind of process that truly makes a difference. We can't be satisfied with sloppy process that's late, exclusive, lacking clarity, inefficient, and without thought.

Problem Analysis and Honest Results
Too often schools don't utilize deep problem analysis that's honest and forward thinking. We are satisfied too often with superficial results. It's important that we all go deep and analyze well to make significant improvement in what we can do for students in schools and beyond.

As I think of my professional path and the elements above, I'll do the following:
  • I will seek outside-of-school supports that are cost efficient and well matched to my professional learning needs.
  • With regard to in-school supports, I'll work closely with the principal, team, and other administrators to clearly understand what's available, advantageous, and accessible with regard to dollars and time.
  • Like most educators, I'll continue to take advantage of the multiple online resources that are available to develop, organize, share, and employ professional learning in ways that matter.
  • With the knowledge that this excessive pool of available resources can be overwhelming, I'll target my professional growth to the areas of math teaching/learning, cultural proficiency, the struggling student, and leadership skills and affect.
Educational systems today have to be cognizant of the changing landscape of professional development/learning as well as application and deployment of professional skill. Old time hierarchies are no longer effective while greater use of distributive leadership models enrich what we can do with and for students. Similarly old structures of professional learning need to change too--the old time sit-and-git learning is only useful if the presenter has knowledge everyone is hungry to learn, otherwise we have to think differently about the ways we create and deploy professional learning events. We have to focus on depth, collaboration, and results in this regard. I'll think of this as I work with my team to plan the ECET2 for Massachusetts educators focused on Teaching ALL Students in the days ahead. 

Crafting one's professional path is an important task for all educators. It's a task that involves reflection, strategy, time, dollars, and focus. Where will your professional path take you in the year ahead, and how will the organizations you belong to support your journey? These are important questions to consider on your own and with colleagues in the days ahead. 

Online Math Coach: Teach Math Well

Create a website this summer to lead your math teaching/learning.
If you're interested in teaching math well in the year ahead, please take a look at my online math coaching site.

Throughout the summer, I'll write a number of posts that lead from summer study and classroom preparation to real-time teaching ideas and practice mostly associated with teaching fifth grade math.

I'm writing this blog to both coach myself forward for the year ahead and to also help any teachers out there that are looking for a teaching/learning guide with regard to math.

As one teacher I don't have all expertise in this area, and therefore, welcome your thoughts and ideas in relation to any posts I write. After teaching for thirty years, I do have some expertise with regard to math teaching and have come to adore the subject and the many wonderful ways we can engage and teach children math well.

So please join me in the days ahead. I'll likely write a post most days, and then use the posts to guide my own work during the 2016-2017 school year. In a sense, the blog models the co-coaching/hybrid model I support when it comes to teaching and leading well in schools. I believe that most educators in teaching/learning organizations should have direct responsibility for teaching children and coaching one another with a team attitude/model. I believe models like this support the best of what we can do to develop our programs and teach children well.

The Value of the Teaching/Learning Coach

Many school systems employ the role of teaching/learning coach. This role is met with varied responses. For new teachers, when the coach is well skilled, helpful, and open minded, the coach is a welcome resource. It's very difficult to teach for the first time, and to have a helpful coach at your side is awesome. For teachers with a few years of experience, I imagine that the coach is similarly helpful. For veteran teachers, the math coach can present a number of challenges since those teachers have been teaching for a long time and may have more expertise and experience than the coach who is assigned to helping them. Yet, there's always more to learn.

Rather than a coach position, I prefer the hybrid role with regard to teacher leadership. In the hybrid role, a teacher retains responsibility for student learning by teaching regularly, and also assumes responsibility for coaching or co-coaching colleagues with regard to the teaching and learning. I find that the hybrid role is a role that keeps teaching and learning real since too often coaching roles that don't include responsibility for teaching students on a regular basis become administrative roles rather than co-teaching and coaching roles. And, I'm one that believes we need fewer administrators and more teachers spending time-on-task directly with students. In today's tech-savvy world, we can have less overall leaders and more time-on-task teachers who are sharing their expertise, attention, and direction with students.

With that in mind, however, I wonder if moving to a coaching position from teaching holds good challenge for veteran teachers. After all you've been teaching students for years, and now can you respectfully use that knowledge and experience to support teachers in the classroom? How might you do that? Why would you do this?

For starters, it's important that you are invested as much or more than the teachers you coach. On a few occasions, people in coach-like positions have confided that they took the job because it is easier than the classroom teaching job. A comment like this will not endear you to the people you coach, however, what will earn you respect is if the teachers in the classroom see you taking on a similar or greater level of responsibility for student learning. What will also lead to respect is utilizing a "servant-leadership/partner" attitude that demonstrates that you're working for and in tandem with teachers to serve every child well.

What does serving every child well look like from both coaching and teaching positions?

Open, Inclusive, Transparent Communication
First, it's important that communication is regular, inclusive, and transparent. When you work with a large team, it's essential that the whole team know what's going on in transparent, accessible ways. This prevents rumors, favoritism, untruths, and misunderstanding. Regular weekly updates that describe what you've done, are doing, and plan to do as well as invitations for share help in this regard. The more the whole team is in the know, the better everyone will do to teach children well. Open, transparent share of good ideas and practice will build team capacity, and developing a sense of team and capacity matters when it comes to teaching children well.

Goal Setting
Next, goal setting is imperative. To set good goals begins with letting everyone know where the team stands now. For example, the teaching team should understand the overall team strengths and challenges. A coach might report that the entire team did a great job when it came to teaching traditional algorithms, but problem solving and vocabulary overall were weak points for the team. Then the coach might ask, What do you do to strengthen problem solving and vocabulary when you teach? There could be an opportunity for online and real-time share in this regard. Then there could be goal setting with formative, informal assessment check-in points so the team can assess how they are doing with the goal. When goals are set by the team for the team, investment grows, however, when goals are set only by coaches and other administrators, the investment is never as strong.

Share Your Work Goals and Efforts
After that, the coach should share his/her individual goals and practice with the team so that the team knows what to expect. For example, a coach may tell the team that 60% of his/her work is devoted to teachers with five or less years experience and the other 40% is devoted to students throughout the grade-levels that fall two or more years below the grade-level expectations. To know the coach's main priorities, efforts, and result helps the team to understand the coach's work and how the coach might or might not help the teacher out. This kind of communication leads to realistic expectations and evaluations of the coach's work.

As a classroom teacher, I have worked with a number of educators in coaching or coach-like roles. Those that communicate well and have a hands-on attitude toward teaching and serving children well have served to inspire and inform my work in ways that matter. Coaches who are less understandable or helpful have been a difficult add-on with respect to work expectations. In some ways, when the coach doesn't have a students-first attitude and action, the coach has become an additional responsibility for the teacher rather than a helpful support.

The coaching role reaps multiple opinions depending on whom you ask and how systems utilize this role. Some systems use the role as a way of distancing leadership more from teachers, and in a sense, the role is one of evaluation and administration. Other systems utilize the role to empower educators with a servant-leadership/partner lens and action. In these systems, the coaching role is a welcome addition. I'm not a big fan of the add-on role of coaches in schools as I believe in hybrid/co-coaching roles instead where teachers teach students and then coach each other with regard to their strengths and experience. I believe that supporting greater team and co-coaching/hybrid roles is one way to serve more students well, however, I'm only one teacher with one set of experiences so I'm open to others' opinions, thoughts, and experiences in this regard.

How does the coach position work in your school? What benefits and challenges does that role bring? How are the results of this role measured and shared? I'm open to learning more as I think ahead to working with coaches and perhaps becoming a hybrid/co-coach one day in the future.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Will ESSA Affect Contract Negotiations?

Now that ESSA is here, I'm wondering how it will affect contract negotiations. What language in ESSA will find it's way to new contracts forged by teachers and administrations/school committees? How can these teams work together to build in language that empowers what teachers can do to support student learning and experience in school? I'll be thinking about this as I read through ESSA language this summer. Please share your thoughts with me in this regard if you're interested as I know I have a lot to learn.

Lead Time and Planting Seeds

Optimal learning and teaching
profits from lead time. 
Lead time is essential to good learning, because learning, like planting seeds, takes time to germinate.

For example as I spoke to upcoming fifth graders about the year ahead, I mentioned the Global Cardboard Challenge project. I pointed to the boxes that covered the wall waiting for their creativity. I challenged them to play with boxes over the summer and to create. Essentially I planted the seed.

Further, I included the project outline on the class website in case they want to take a look at it over the summer months. I know that, to a large degree, the seeds of new ideas germinate in the mind in all kinds of ways leading up to project work. When those seeds are planted with lead time, good work becomes more possible than when the seeds are planted with little to no lead time.

It's important to recognize the important role lead time plays with regard to good learning and teaching, and it's important to not relay ideas too late or at the last minute as when that happens you lose out on the important, quiet, deep learning that takes place in anticipation of the learning event.

Who Cares?

It's discouraging to end the year on a challenging note with a valuable professional learning event only partially supported. I tried to provide a number of avenues for support beyond my building level, but no one responded.

Beyond the building level, few to none ever respond to my ideas or questions. Typically the emails lay dormant, and time and again, I am reminded explicitly and inferentially that I should not be emailing ideas or questions as often as I do or with the length that I email with.

This poses tremendous challenge for an educator like me.

I see so much promise and potential with regard to what we can do in schools. Whenever a new idea or potential strikes, I'm left with the dilemma of whether to share or not. If I don't share I stay safe, yet a good idea never comes to fruition. Yet, mostly, if I do share I face tremendous challenge and repercussions. For example, I'm never rated as highly as my peers because of my "overwhelming" share and questioning. Quiet obedience is much more respected than speaking up and sharing ideas.

Yet this level of analysis, research, and thought has translated well into what I can do with and for children, and this work is supported by almost all that I read and study. I also recognize that I need to think about good process too--what are the best ways to share and advocate for change in schools. I've studied this all year as part of the Teacher Leadership Initiative, and I plan to incorporate much of what I learned in the days to come.

In light of all this, what's a teacher to do?

I've tried a large number of avenues to solve this issue. I've reached out beyond school. I've also reached in and tried to reason with administrators. I've advocated for new practice and models some of which gained approval after painstaking efforts. I've worked around the clock to do all that I've been required to do so that I can also make time for new research and ways to teach and learn.

I've been chastised numerous times in multiple ways. My grade-level, room, and school have been changed probably more often than other educators I work with which is very time consuming and troubling at times. I've noticed that quieter teachers typically don't often have to change rooms or grades. I wonder if that's a reward for their quiet nature.

As I look ahead, I continue to see so much potential for promising change, yet I also notice that there is little support for this. People mostly want to own the ideas for change and take the credit. They don't want others telling them what to do and sharing in the credit or collaboration. Also good process takes time, and some are unwilling to give the time and thought needed to make good process a standard.

I certainly don't have all the answers. My areas of knowledge and expertise are targeted and specific with regard to teaching elementary school and particular subjects, tools, resources, and processes.

Time and again over the years I've advocated for better idea share systems and decision making processes. I've also advocated for time, role, and structure audits so that we can maximize our efforts. Further I've spoken out about the value of regular transparent communication so that people know what's happening in timely, forward moving, and inspiring ways.

For my own part, I'll try yet another path that includes the following actions:
  • Student-centered decision making. Putting students first in all efforts.
  • Focus on the learning/teaching team: students, families, colleagues, administrators, and the greater community with regard to my teaching/learning responsibility.
  • Regular research, reading, writing, and study related to the work I do.
  • Focus in on the content, concepts, and skills I'm required to teach.
  • Apt record keeping so that I can self-assess, inform/develop programs, and communicate well the work that I do.
  • Staying as much as possible in my sphere of influence which is the learning team, classroom, grade level, and school, and leaving the big ideas for my blog and outside-of-school work.
  • Communicating with regularity and honesty, and speaking up if I believe the ideas, questions, and thoughts have merit for better schools and service to students.
In all I want to do the work that serves children well. In many cases our work as educators relies on the greater systems of support and organization in order to do the work possible. This is where this challenge lies.

My recent request for support to attend a great conference led to this thinking. I was hoping there would be full support for this endeavor since I know it fits well into so many positive goals for good service to students. But, I found out that only partial support has been provided. When I made more suggestions and asked more questions about greater support, my emails went unanswered which is often the response I receive when I ask for more or question/share with greater depth or range.

I'll do my best to continue down the teaching road in ways that matter. It's challenging to use choice and voice in schools where structures are tight and hierarchy often difficult to navigate. I know I am not alone in this dilemma as I've read stories by many teachers. Many of my colleagues advise me to stay quiet and not share ideas or questions--that's what they mostly do and that earns them favorable reviews and benefits. I am thinking about their words and advice, but I am also worried about this as if teachers stay quiet, who will advocate for what we need to do our jobs well for the children we serve?

I am a fan of distributive leadership models in schools. I am also a fan of transparent, clear communication with explicit loose-tight expectations and openness to questions, new ideas, and share. I believe that when systems have this kind of dynamic environment, there is so much potential and promise with regard to what we can do.

Today I start my new approach. May it be more successful than past approaches. It's difficult to lead yourself as an educator. We profit from good coaches and wise leadership--the kind of people who are willing to sit down and talk with you about your shared journey of teaching children well. When you've taught as long as I have, those people are hard to find, but I'll keep looking. Onward. 

Transparency, Efficiency, and Clarity Lead Good Work

I long for transparent, efficient, and clear communication and systems.

I know that sharing process and updates in timely, regular, and efficient ways saves time for quality teaching and learning.

When questions are responded to with honest information and a shared focus, we all profit.

Yet, it's rare to find this with regard to all aspects of one's professional sphere. There are likely to be areas of clarity and areas that are less clear and forthcoming.

It's never perfect.

So what does one do?

First, it's important to use as much respect, openness, clarity, and care in your own share and communication. Don't replicate behavior or communication that is disrespectful and ineffective. This can be difficult to do when you feel disregarded, but nonetheless it's an essential challenge to conquer.

Next, it's also important to aline your work with those that you respect--people who are good mentors for the quality work possible with children. Who are the educators in your midst that are doing a great job--educators whose example will lift your work?

After that direct your work and professional learning in ways that matter, ways that impact children well.

Too often I've volunteered time and energy in areas that result in more frustration than good work. I need to my learn my lesson in this regard and stay as clear as possible from these areas.

There exist areas of great support and substance, and it is in that direction I need to forward my time and energy. Onward.

Thoughtful Responses

This week, two administrators in my system thoughtfully responded to questions I asked.

Rather than scold or not answer at all, they simply answered a couple of questions I asked with thoughtful, kind attention.

I was grateful for their responses.

Too often people treat questions and ideas as the enemy. Instead of kind, thoughtful, and honest responses, they decry the questioner with no response at all or a response that is brisk, unfriendly, and chastising.

What model do responses like that present? What message do they tell?

In my own communication, I want to follow the lead of the two administrators who took the time to respond with care and thought--I want to forward the positive communication possible as that's what builds strong, collaborative, and positive communities, and it's in those communities that we have the best chance to do our work well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Where and How Do You Spend Your Professional Learning Dollars?

My colleagues and I were invited to present at NCTM's INNOV8 Conference in St. Louis. Once we added up the airfare, lodging, and conference fee, the total came to about $5,000. That's a lot of professional learning dollars for three teachers over three days. Yet, there are many good reasons why this would be a worthwhile professional development event.

First, our team has been developing our shared model. As part of that we use the Response to Intervention (RTI) model as part of our math program. Overall, I believe, we use RTI well and have helped many of our struggling learners gain skill, knowledge, and concept. By presenting our work, we will solidify and develop what we do which will, in turn, help us to continue to develop our shared model.

The conference also has some great presenters and speakers so we'll learn a lot about how to teach struggling learners.

The challenge is that the system will approve attendance and the conference fees, but they may not have the money for air fare and lodging. In the past, when this has happened, I've used air miles or my own money. At this time that's not an option I want to use, and also I think that option would be very difficult for my young colleagues who are either raising young families or just getting started in life. Plus a professional learning event like this, while worthwhile, doesn't result in more credits or a greater salary, yet the vibrant learning at a national conference can impact a whole school system if the educators who attend are willing to come back and share and apply what they've learned.

This issue brings to mind an even bigger question, what kinds of funds are devoted to professional learning and how are those funds shared amongst teachers?

In our system, there are system-wide dollars, grants, and union contract dollars devoted to professional learning. In all cases, proposals or permission forms must be completed, and there are those in charge of approving or disproving funding.

As for myself, I have received funds for courses and professional learning events, and I've also earned free admission to many of those events by presenting, hosting student teachers, or volunteering. Being active in social media has provided me with many opportunities to attend a number of national and local events free-of-cost or low cost.

From leadership's point of view, I'm sure there are many decisions to make with regard to who and what gets funded and who and what does not. I'm sure there is a selection criteria that's connected to system-wide goals and priorities. I think that it's best to have those priorities laid out as explicitly as possible so people understand. For example, I may not have made the time to apply for this conference presentation if I knew we would not receive the funding. I just thought if we were accepted, we would be funded, but that may not be the case.

Summer is a good time to chart the professional learning year ahead. What can you afford? What can you receive funding for? What will translate into profitable teaching and learning, and how will you utilize that learning to support students.

I was disappointed tonight when I heard that we may not be able to go to this conference as it's a conference that demonstrates good potential for teaching and learning young children. However, I recognize that there are limitations on dollars in school, and everyone can't get or have all that they want.  Onward.

2015-2016 School Year's End

Today marks the very end of school year 2015-2016. As I mentioned before it was a terrific year, and at the end of this final day, I can tell you I've used up all my energy. Now it's time to rest up and catch up on personal items I've left behind during the busy weeks at the end of the year.

In the coming weeks, I'll share professional learning and ideas with colleagues, read, be active, and enjoy family and friends. It's a welcome reprieve at the end of a very busy and overall very good teaching/learning year. Onward.

Teach Math Well: Join my Journey

I am focusing in during school year 2016-2017. I'm putting almost all of my energy and focus into teaching math well. Fortunately our shared teaching/learning model at fifth grade allows me the luxury of doing this.

To do this, I'm going to focus my professional study, research, writing, and other learning choices on the the fifth grade math teaching year.

I'm charting these efforts by writing a blog/book about teaching fifth grade math well.  I'm organizing the book from summer study efforts and mindset to classroom set-up to lessons for each standard and unit. I'm hoping to use the blog as a guide to my math teaching next year. As I teach I'll reference the blog and update accordingly. I welcome your wisdom, questions, and ideas as I journey this course.

In a sense, I've had my feet in many pockets of teaching/learning work over the past ten years or so. At this point, I am ready to focus in on this single subject--a subject for which there is lots of discussion, new research, and efforts today.

If you'd like to follow my journey, please sign on to Teach Fifth Grade Math Well. I'm looking forward to this journey, a journey that I expect will result in better math teaching and learning for all of my fifth grade students and the students of others who join this journey with me.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Year's End

We gave our full attention to students today on this final day of school.

We had a great day at the high school and took full advantage of the beautiful tennis courts, sports fields, and field house. I spent most of the time with an artistic crowd drawing, singing, dancing, and putting on a "Happy Hollow's Got Talent" show to the delight of many.

Later we enjoyed a pizza lunch, stupendous slide show created by a parent, and finally the clap out. I continue to believe this was one of my favorite teaching years out of all 30 years mainly due to the tremendous camaraderie of the team and the three-classroom shared model of teaching--a model that allows educators to truly reach potential and teach with depth and breadth. The satisfaction of teaching well is wonderful.

Now it's time for a reprieve. I'll shore up a few files and clean up a few shelves and tabletops tomorrow, and then I'll focus a bit on a few professional learning events and even more personal items to ready myself for perhaps, an even better year next year.

It's been a wonderful teaching year. I am grateful to the wonderful team that stood by me, collaborated with me, and pushed me forward too. I'm also grateful for my extended professional learning network (PLN) that stands by my side with ready information, good challenge, and support all year long.

Onward :)

A Good Year Next Year

As the school year ends, I want to take a few minutes to think about next year. It will be another great teaching/learning year. A year that includes the following elements:

We've already provided an overview of classroom efforts to families, students, and colleagues via our TeamFive 2016-2017 website. We also posted a survey for parents so that they can provide a bit of information about their contact information and child's needs/priorities. We'll add to that preview by welcoming family members to a parent night early in the year.

Before we leave for the summer, our team will likely schedule a few summer days to prep with regard to the details for the year ahead. We'll need a day to review the curriculum map and a day to review scheduling needs and details. The more we do up front with regard to the details, the better we set the stage for a good year ahead.

Team Building
We'll begin the year by getting to know our students and building team. The Global Cardboard Challenge will be our first big team building event. We may want to focus this event on a particular service theme to mirror the school's wonderful service learning focus. We'll also include many other team building and get-to-know you activities into the first few weeks, and we'll work with students to create classroom "constitutions" that including protocols, policies, and norms for our teaching/learning efforts.

We'll also likely start the year with a number of formal and informal assessments to get a full view of every child. These assessments will help us to set good goals for every child's learning.

The Basics/Interdisciplinary Study
At the start of the year, we'll begin a good pattern of learning that helps us to meet standards and teach the basics of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies in engaging and empowering ways. When possible we'll foster an interdisciplinary mindset and learning by using themes and activities that bridge all curriculum areas.

Social Competency
We'll build in regular mini lessons, interdisciplinary teaching/learning, and open circle lessons to build students' social competency as well as growth mindset, learning-to-learn behaviors/attitudes, and service learning efforts.

We'll likely teach facilitate our STEAM events as a whole team throughout the year. We'll match the events well to other teaching/learning priorities.

Field Studies
We're planning a number of field studies which we'll likely schedule over the summer since we have the luxury of phone time then.

Standardized Tests
Massachusetts is switching to Next Generation MCAS so we'll keep our eyes on that information over the summer. We liked scheduling all the tests at once this year so we'll probably request the same kind of schedule next year.

Fifth Grade Play
I thought the timing for this event was good this year. We will work with the music teacher to prepare for this event next year.

Professional Learning
Our team has been invited to present at one and maybe two events during the school year so we'll plan to see if this works out with scheduling and budgets early in the year or over the summer. We'll also target new professional learning in ways that match curriculum/student objectives.

Professional Learning Community/RTI
These efforts were successful last year and I imagine they will continue in a similar way.

These are the main ingredients to a good year ahead. Now it's time to put the finishing touches on this year--a very good year.

Last Day with Students

Today is our last day with students. We'll have plenty of time for play and celebration. We'll remember the highlights with a slideshow and music. Finally we'll clap out our wonderful fifth graders as they begin the next step of their school years journey.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Focus In: Teaching Math

Personification is one way to help students learn math well. 
As I completed the TLI year, I realized that the next step for me is focusing in. I've been a bit everywhere which, in some ways, has diluted potential growth and good work. No one can be all things.

My next step is to focus in on math education and teaching. In a sense, I may write a math book to guide myself and perhaps others with regard to math teaching and learning.

I must say that I LOVE the subject and see so much potential to use math as a portal to all teaching and learning.

What does it mean to focus in?

First it means that I'll have the time to hone my skills in many areas including communication and collaboration skills. I will seek to find ways to build capacity for what I can do on my own and what I can do with others to teach this subject area well.

Next it means that I'll organize all my real-time and online materials to create a strong, accessible resource for math teaching and learning--a resource available to everyone in my teaching/learning circles including students, families, colleagues, administrators, leaders, and others in my Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Further, this means I'll be reading a lot about math and teaching well. I especially want to see how brain/cognitive science, cultural proficiency, and matters related to our most challenged students fits well into this initiative in order to teach all students this subject well.

As noted in a past, recent post, I'll create a few good assessment tools so that I can assess my work as I journey this path.

I have been eager to change schools and as I look at this desire broadly, I realize that schools are changing. I am also heartened to hear that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) strengthens the path for student/teacher engagement and empowerment, and that's promising with regard to good schools too. Now it's time to do my part as deeply as I can with the objective of teaching math to all fifth graders in my school well.

If you have wisdom for me, please share. I'm happy to determine and begin this exciting path.

Self Assessment: Numbers Matter

Do you teach well?

How do you determine the merit of your teaching? How do you relay this information to others?

It's difficult to be objective with regard to your own work. That's why it's important to create a self assessment process that helps to move you forward with your teaching and learning--a process that works in tandem with outside evaluations and assessments.

For example, a main objective of my work next year is to teach math well.

How will I assess that?

First, I have to define what teaching math well means. What does teaching math well look like? What are the results I seek?

This is a difficult question in these times--times when "teaching math well" has many definitions depending whom you talk to. The integration of technology and new research related to learning and the way the brain works have impacted math teaching and learning greatly. Technology integration and cognitive research are relatively new with regard to integration into classroom practice and math education. Therefore it's difficult to define what teaching math well means today, but at this point, I would define teaching math well with the following attributes:
  • Students understand and know how to use multiple paths of math learning including using online math tech teaching platforms like Khan Academy, coding to understand math, making math models, reading math books, learning math vocabulary, and developing numeracy skills, knowledge, and concepts.
  • Students understand the beauty and value of math--they know that mathematical thinking plays an important role in all aspects of life and they appreciate the value of developing a strong mathematical mindset.
  • Students enjoy learning math and realize that math can be learned in a wide variety of ways.
  • Students master age and/or grade-level math standards.
  • Students develop number facility across all operations. (I teach 5th grade)
  • Students develop a visual foundation of math concepts and knowledge.
  • Students are able to communicate mathematical ideas with clarity, ease, and accuracy.
  • Students become facile with the Standards of Mathematical Practice.
  • Students understand how to use math resources and tools with accuracy, ease, and purpose.
  • Students are able to use mathematical thinking and reasoning to solve real-world problems and complete meaningful projects. 
  • Students have growth mindsets. They understand that everyone is capable of learning math and the key is figuring out what they need and accessing those tools and processes to deeply learn the subject.
As I think of the attributes above, I next wonder about how I might assess these attributes.  

First, I'll refine the list above. Then I'll create an early year assessment(s) to assess the attributes noted. I want to have a thorough understanding of where my students are starting the year with regard to these attributes.

Then as I teach standard-by-standard with meaningful numbers, problems, and projects, I'll assess student growth with regard to these attributes. I'll keep good records related to the attributes above and work to be explicit and transparent with students, their coaches/parents, and colleagues with regard to this information. 

This logical process will help me to self-assess my work, and that honest self assessment will help me to forward my teaching in ways that matter. This assessment will also help me to identify, share, and advocate for practices that work well with students in the classroom. Too often educators are given a list of directives without consult of voice, and then it's our job to follow the directions and hopefully find ways to personalize the approaches in ways that matter. This works if you have solid evidence for what you do and why you do it. Starting the year with comprehensive assessment or set of assessments as well as follow-up formal and informal formative assessments gives you more voice, trust, and support over what you do because you have the evidence to show what's working well. 

Now, it's true that none of us can assess ourselves completely. We need to have outside evaluators and evaluations to contribute to a quality assessment. Too often outside evaluators are short on time and without the related content knowledge to assess completely too, and that's why it's important that we create meaningful self-assessments prior to the start of the year, assessments that truly lead us forward to do the work that matters when it comes to teaching every child under our leadership well.