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Thursday, June 09, 2016

How Can We Continue to Improve Academic Success for All Students?

From my vantage point, there's been some good movement with regard to academic success as we think about and observe teaching and learning with a broad lens. Yet, there's so much more that we can do to ensure that every child has what they need to succeed with regard to learning well.

To improve one's work in this area demands that you take a close look at the context in which you teach. What's available to help you do a better job? Where do you need to advocate for greater support? And who teams with you to teach the children well?

Within my own context, there's more I can do to forward the learning of each and every child. For starters, here are some of my ideas.

  • Boost collaboration amongst students with regard to learning. Last year I hoped to meet with every child at lunch. It sounded simple, but when I tried to do that, it was nearly impossible given the fact that I have a number of lunch duties and a very full morning. Once lunch rolled around, I needed that time most days just to get ready for the afternoon of teaching. Hence this year I'm not making that promise. Instead I'm going to work to boost those relationships during class time with good norms, class meetings, teamwork, and a greater focus on collaboration in general. Research supports this, and I've seen how important this work is with regard to student engagement, effort, and success. That doesn't mean I won't have "working lunches" with students at times, but it means, that I'll have a break when needed and still make time for meaningful relationship building within and amongst our teaching/learning team.
  • Early and regular assessments. Assessments, when done well, do provide information with regard to teaching well. It's essential that we use a number of formal and informal assessments to make sure that every child is developing in ways that matter. It's also just as important to take those assessments seriously and use them to alter programs when a need for change arises.
  • Collaborate with colleagues to develop programs for our most challenged students, programs that truly continue to strengthen our ability to teach these students. I know there's more we can do in this area, but we really need time and good process to do this work. Too often we don't have enough time to analyze these situations well and to utilize the best possible processes to make a difference. This is one area where I'll continue to advocate for greater support by way of time for strategic process, reflection, analysis, and revision as we help these children--children who face academic challenge for lots of different and some same reasons.
  • Thoughtful lesson/unit planning and delivery will continue to develop what we can do to teach all children well. Utilizing elements of quality learning design will help in this endeavor.
  • Time on task with teaching that matters is critical.  To gain academic success, every minute matters. That doesn't mean that every minute is tied to intense instruction, but it means that the days, weeks, and months are well choreographed with good quality instruction, practice, learning, and study--the kind that students want to continue on their own time with enthusiasm, creativity, and investment. 
  • Deleting efforts and mandates that result in less or little teaching and learning. There are efforts that we all get involved in that turn out to be inefficient and ineffective. It's good to weed the teaching/learning garden of those efforts often.
  • Strengthening our collaborative work and re-looking at long-held practices that could be better will strengthen an entire school or learning community. 
  • Giving every child access to good tech and learning opportunities and teaching them how to maximize the use of those resources. Learning is only a finger tip away in most cases today, and it's our job as educators to teach students how to access the many resources available, and then how to use those resources to answer their questions, inspire creativity, and solve problems. 
I'm looking forward to building on what I've learned this year to teach next year. In the meantime, our program is set for the days ahead, and it's time to focus on the students in my midst now as they actively learn via so many special events and end-of-year efforts.