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Friday, October 21, 2016

Teach Well: Stay Strong and Positive

It's been an incredibly busy week including some personal expectations, MassCUE, systemwide professional learning event, and now ECET2-MA2016. I didn't expect all of these events to come at the same time, but fortunately, by planning ahead, I've been able to keep up with only a few errors so far.

The busy week has thrust me into many spheres of education action and think--some that I agree with, some I am challenged by, and some that are new to me.

The education sea is often wavy due to constraints related to time, philosophy, role, support, focus, and vision. It's rare for large groups of educators to be in the same place as we all bring varying years of experience, perspective, backgrounds, and priorities to school with us each day.

The key is to stay strong and positive.

Twice this week I heard of efforts that occurred that impact my work in circuitous ways. When this happens, it's defeating as the new information creates all kinds of havoc, havoc that could have been prevented with greater transparency of share with regard to professional events, decisions, and information. I continue to be a fan of transparent, ready, and regular share of all information that impacts the work we do and try to represent that belief in my share with colleagues, family members, and students. This kind of share saves time, creates team, and promotes the good work possible.

How does one stay strong in light of continual surprises and circuitous information share? First, I have to change my expectations--I keep thinking that things will change, and they haven't in many spheres with regard to ready information share. I have to expect that I will not receive answers or hear about news often as that's the way it happens in some places. Yet, on the other hand, there are ready sources of good information in many groups that I belong to. For example our State shares information readily. It's easy to find scores, news of upcoming events, dates, and other information in timely ways that affects my work. The same has been true with our ECET2 work--information has been forthcoming, supportive, and encouraging--this has kept the team on track and enabled us to push the event further than we might have without that information share.

Another challenge this week is the multiple viewpoints with regard to math teaching and learning. The greater math teaching/learning world is often at odds with one another about what matters in math teaching and learning. I continue to be a fan of Saul Khan and I'm almost always in agreement with his points of view and work. Just yesterday he published a new TedTalk about the need to help students gain mastery with essential concepts (see below). I'm also a fan of Jo Boaler and Keith Devlin, math researchers and educators who have positively affected my math teaching and learning. There are many talented math educators in my school system too. Just yesterday I was able to watch three of those educators teach and talk with many more committed math educators. I think our system work would profit from greater strategy, analysis, good process, differentiation, and goal setting with regard to professional share and development. I find that I see math teaching and learning very differently from many in the math world, and I believe this is true due to my somewhat unique professional learning, perspective, and experience profile with regard to math teaching and learning. Yet many math educators may feel this way because there is little rich time for math educators to come together to discuss what they do and why they do it. Like Jo Boaler I would like to see substantial change in the way we structure and teach math programs. I think modern day tools and resources make better math teaching and learning more possible today than ever before, but to do this well requires effective, distributive teacher/student-centered goal setting, process, strategy, and collaboration--all efforts that are still mainly new to many educators and systems at this time. The "factory model" of decision making and effective teaching and learning is still pervasive in many education arenas.

The final challenge of the week is related to energy and time. Both energy and time are limited. Like all educators, I try to maximize that as much as possible, but truly the best way to maximize this effective, targeted teamwork that relies on open, collective analysis. Together we can do more and this matters in education.

In just a few hours I'll start the ECET2-MA2016 adventure. My den is covered with folders filled with a book, notebook, pens, magnets, and a magazine. There are badges and twitter buttons, colorful sharpies and #TeachALLChildren hearts,  #lightbulbmoment blurbs, and #WhyITeach announcements. The Lynch Foundation is dropping off bags and bottles at the hotel soon too.

I'll spend the morning reviewing presentations, preparing for tonight's reception, and working with my team to move lots of materials and put the finishing touches on tomorrow's big event. The focus tomorrow is to "Elevate and Celebrate Effective Teaching and Teachers" with a focus on Teach All Students. The more I work with this ECET2 focus, the more I like it. Just think if every system put "Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers" at the forefront of their work. If that were true I believe enthusiasm, risk taking, innovation, positivity, and energy would rise, and that increase would help all of us serve students and families better.

It remains challenging to navigate the wavy waters of teaching and learning, however if we focus on staying strong and positive we will do well. With my own craft and collaboration in mind, I will continue to advocate for greater teacher empowerment, transparent share, and good process as these strategies hold great promise for who we are and what we can do. I will also continue to read and research because the experts within and around teaching and learning provide good research, perspective, and insight with which to move our programs forward. No one educator will have all the answers, and it is in our positive collaboration that we'll do best. Onward.