Google+ Badge

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Choreograph Your Efforts for Teaching Success

This powerful quote was shared by Robert Goodman yesterday as he told us about his amazing, logical, dedicated, and well-researched efforts to improve education opportunities and success for students. 
As we teach, we notice how our colleagues tackle the job.

The reality is that we all face these elements:
  • Noted expectations
  • Limitations of time, resources, and support
  • The challenge of balancing personal and professional life
  • The need for professional learning, planning, and student response
  • A varying number of students, time-on-task-with-students, and planning/prep time
The goal is to teach every child well.

If you're like me, you're a teacher who sees limitless potential when it comes to teaching well. I see so many ways that we can move and improve schools to serve every child with strength and care. Yet meeting that vision takes skill, coordination, collaboration, lead time, and support.

When I go to great conferences and notice what's happening in schools all over the world, I get excited. I want to quickly implement ideas of merit, but in many ways my hands are tied when it comes to new ideas because there is a deep layer of protocol, policy, and permission that I have to navigate to access tools, implement new programming, and make these changes. 

In the past, I've jumped ahead of the support to try to make change on my own. In some cases, that's been successful and in other situations, that's been challenging and frustrating. In the best of circumstances, there's an open, eager attitude for teacher/student-centered growth and development in schools, but that doesn't always exist. So what's a teacher to do?

As summer takes hold, I realize that to push too much ahead of the supports puts me in a challenging position. I did that last year, and on a number of occasions I became upset because it was so difficult to see the new idea or practice through due to a lack of support. For example, I became very upset a couple of times because the new presenters were not allowed beyond the office due to changing visitor regulations. Since I'm alone in the classroom with the students, I couldn't go down to the office to let them in and accompany them. Sounds crazy, but that confusion upset the plans with regard to time, place, and student support, and lessened the impact and ease of the new programming. If I had greater support for the new ideas, for example, there might have been someone else helping out with the logistics so that the new programming would have occurred with greater support, ease, and success. There will always be unexpected events with new ideas and programming, and with greater support, those issues will not be as troubling.

So as I think ahead with so many ideas about how to deepen and better the learning/teaching program, I have to realize that one teacher cannot make lots of change on her own mostly because teachers have about 25 or more students with them most of the time all day and significant responsibility for each of those students during the day with little time to manage good change. 

In light of this, what will I do in the year ahead?

First, I manage the math program at my grade level for about 75 students. I will spend lots of time building and improving that program to teach every child well. To do this, I'll utilize the following processes:
  • Well designed and implemented learning experiences
  • Significant student response
  • Focus on cultural proficiency
  • Embed new research especially Jo Boaler's research from YouCubed
  • Teach in blended, multi-sensory ways with a focus on visual model making, student discussion/debate, and collaboration.
Next, I am responsible for team building amongst all my students and my homeroom students in particular. Hence, I'll spend significant time working with students and the guidance counselor to build a dynamic sense of team and community.

Further, I work with my colleagues to teach science and STEAM and together we'll work out a good schedule for those efforts. I'll also shore up the grade-level Maker Space during summer days before school starts.

And, I work with my grade-level colleagues to create a strong, collaborative grade-level program and team including students, families, educators, administrators, and community members. Our program efforts include school assembly leadership, the school play, field studies, STEAM TEAM Days, expert visitors, grade-level protocols and expectations, and celebration.

With regard to moving bigger and better ideas into our school and school system, I will continue to advocate for the following protocols, programs, and policies that I believe will better what we can do:
  • More open, fluid, and modern use of technology
  • A one-to-one open, fluid, modern tech program at the elementary level
  • A more targeted approach to bridging the opportunity gap for all students with actions such as new ways to work with families, greater opportunity for at-home tech use, new classroom/school policies that provide needed opportunities for academic achievement for students who lag behind due to less opportunity. 
  • Greater lead time and communication with regard to system-wide initiatives, supports, and opportunities.
  • Deeper, more inclusive, and research-based program development so that are students are learning in ways that engage, empower, and well educate them for the world today and tomorrow. 
Some ways that I can advocate and work toward the issues noted above include these efforts:
  • Listening to and reporting out about the school committee meetings as part of my role as a local union board member. The report could be a simple list of bullets that highlights the meetings which are available to all online.
  • Contributing new ideas with regard to upcoming contract negotiations, ideas that lead system-wide communication, lead time, decision making, and information share in optimal ways, ways that maximize the opportunity the new ESSA law brings to educators, schools, and systems.
  • Working with committees at the grade, school, system, and state-level to look for ways to bridge the opportunity gap in order to elevate and celebrate all of our students in ways that matter with regard to their current and future sense of self, confidence, academic achievement, and overall success.
  • Continued research, reading, writing, discussion, debate, and application related to program ideas and efforts that modernize the way we teach for the benefit of every child and family.
No one teacher can be or do all things, but we must find ways to regularly work and learn to improve our own craft as well as collaborate to improve our systems and collective efforts too. There is much we can do, and to choreograph our individual and collective efforts in respectful, targeted, and meaningful ways means that we will move in a direction that matters.