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Thursday, June 23, 2016

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.