Thursday, September 22, 2016

Knowing Students Well Leads the Path Now

It's been about 15 days of school and I'm starting to know the students well. I'm beginning to see their needs and interests, needs and interests which impact teaching and learning well.

I'm noticing when children are smiling, when they are unhappy, and why that happens.

Our team has transitioned from lots of talk about starting days to talk about students needs and how we might meet those needs.

The early start with the cardboard challenge is messy, but mostly inviting as it gives students a chance to create, work together, and do something big and exciting. There's still a few that are less interested in this activity. I have thoughts about how to change this, but at this point, I don't have the supports to make it happen. I'll think more about this before we promote the project again next year.

Going forward we have many field experiences in the first weeks of school. These experiences will provide learning that is inspiring as well as a chance to build team and get to know students more. I'll take lots of pictures which helps me to focus in on students, I'll observe, and I'll have many conversations.

As far as the learning goes it's the time to introduce units with intriguing facts and figures. For example the school playground and a field study site will be the subject of the coordinate grid introduction and our virtual trip to Mars will be the subject of the place value introduction. I find that when you pair concept and skill with  fascinating content and knowledge more students are invested in the learning and there are more ways to draw the study out in meaningful and challenging ways for students.

Then when the practice starts, I'll use Boaler's floor-to-ceiling project approach and learning menus to differentiate and make space for the many educators who visit the room to coach small groups and individuals with these projects and practice.

As far as the professional pursuits go. I am really leaning in the directions where there is substantial support, and moving away from areas filled with obstacles. For example next week I'll attend the State's Teacher Advisory Cabinet meeting. The state has been supportive of my efforts to develop teaching and learning. I'll also partake in a state-sponsored course on special education. The ECET2 efforts continue as we get closer to the October 22nd event. Invitations go out on Friday so there's still two days to sign up if you're interested. The grade-level team has planned a good number of learning experiences I'll focus on, and we're presenting how technology supports our team approach at the MassCUE conference in October. While not fully supported by school funds, I'm paying my way to attend Educon 2.9 in Philadelphia as that's always been a great source of support and new ideas. Further, I am active with a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) effort and I still want to complete the TeachPlus policy course when there's time and read and complete many books including Emdin's great book about culturally proficient teaching.

The learning/teaching path is set but will likely continue to change somewhat as I move forward with  my pursuit to teach and learn well. Onward.