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Sunday, August 07, 2016

Identify Weak Areas to Strengthen Teaching/Learning

As I think ahead to a new school year, I want to think about how I can strengthen the weak areas of my work as an educator. How can I improve my craft?

Student Response
We know that regular, targeted, and positive response coaches students forward. We also know that typical teacher schedules leave little to no real time to provide meaningful response so this is always an area of struggle for educators. Good response is thoughtful, based on observation, data, discussion, and review, and targeted toward what a student needs to learn well. This year, I will try again to institute a positive weekly routine that fosters optimal student response.

Data Collection and Analysis
I am a teacher that really enjoys data collection and analysis. I use the data to inform and improve practice. While I've done a good job with this, I want to do an even better job. So after I meet with my team next week, I'll create a data collection table that will support this work well. I've also created new formal and informal assessments that will help me to collect targeted data that I can share with students and family members as one way to promote positive goal settings and year-long learning efforts.

Flexibility
I enjoy planning and designing student-centered learning experiences. I put a lot of time into it and try to make the experiences responsive to current research and students' needs and interests. The challenge in this work is that sometimes the greater community is not prepared for these experiences. Due to the busy nature of schools, it's often the case that new initiatives are met with challenge as you try to incorporate the work into the day-to-day routines. For example it could be that space once available is no longer available, or rules once known have changed, or staffing anticipated has been re-designated. Whatever the issue, it's often the case that well made plans don't go as expected due to the always changing nature of schools (and other people-centered organizations). Hence educators have to be flexible and ready to make changes, adapt, and improvise on a moment's notice. This is an area I want to embrace with greater openness. I have terrific colleagues who will be good mentors in this regard.

Share
I'm very excited and enthusiastic about teaching. I truly enjoy reading about new ideas, resources, and ways to teach. I love to work with like-minded, enthusiastic educators too. Also, due to my age and position in life, I have more energy and time for this work. I remember back when I worked with teachers who were like I am now. They always wanted to meet, got to outside education meetings, and talk shop. At that time I was either young with a very busy outside-of-school life or overwhelmingly busy raising a young family. Back then I didn't have a moment to myself to do the extra work or invest in the big education questions. I did a good job with my work, but I didn't go the extra mile with regard to research, outside of school education associations, or advocacy. I want to be cognizant of the many life places that teachers are at. We're all at different places with regard to life's continuum, and I want to be respectful of that variation with regard to expectations and share.

Advocacy
I also want to think deeply about advocacy. In many circles, teacher advocacy is not welcome or supported. In fact, many will say, just do your work and don't speak up. I continue to follow the powerful words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Of course, we want our speak to be intentional, respectful, and kind. No one knows all things, and everyone has an important perspective to consider. Yet, I do want to advocate for more transparent, inclusive, and honest process with regard to idea share, debate, conversation, and information. Too often, too many with good experience, ideas, and perspectives stay silent thus limiting the good work and wise action possible.

Balance and Mentoring
As an educator I teach as much by what I do as what I say, hence it's imperative that I model good balance with professional/personal pursuits, time, and engagement. Letting students know that they can invest themselves into their passions and still be healthy, enjoy time with family and friends, and have personal hobbies and interests is very important when it comes to coaching students forward to a good life.

Observation and Navigation
There are school paths that are fluid, evolving, and positive, and then there are school paths that are full of hurdles and obstacles. I will collaboratively move down the fluid paths, and step aside to observe those paths that are narrow and obstructed. I am sad about the less fluid paths as I believe these paths are too narrow, tight, and unbending for good learning and teaching. I feel that these paths obstruct what's possible when it comes to teaching and learning well with regard to all students. As I observe these paths in the year ahead, I'll chart the following:
  • What structures maintain narrow, tight, and unbending paths?
  • What analyses and assessments are used to test these paths and determine their vigor and positive result?
  • Who leads these paths?
  • How do these paths differ from vigorous, positive paths that are fluid, flexible, and evolving continuously to better serve students?
  • How do I contribute to a paths' narrowness, and how do I contribute to paths' open possibility?
In the best of circumstances our teaching/learning paths are open, inclusive, transparent, and forward moving paths of service to students.