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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Outlining Summer Research: Teach Well

Outlining your summer study and research helps you to learn more, make the learning meaningful, and embed the learning into program change. I've outlined my study below:

Focus: Building a sensitive, relationship-strong culturally proficient teaching/learning program

For White Teachers Who Teach in the Hood. . . by Chris Emdin
I read half of this book last summer, took a lot of notes, and embedded Emdin's ideas into our shared teaching program with good result. I'll read the rest of the book and look back on last summer's notes, and think about how we might embed Emdin's research, words, and experience into our revised orientation programs, start-of-the-year selfie project, and our efforts to build strong student-teacher relationships and a culturally proficient program.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Similar to Emdin's book, I hope to use Coates book to deepen my ability to build strong relationships with students and build a culturally proficient teaching/learning program with colleagues.

In the Heights bQuiara Alegria Hudes (Author), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Author)
Students will attend this play and I'll read up on it so that I can use what I learn to prepare students to have a full experience of the musical. This is also part of our efforts to build a more culturally proficient program.

Integrating SEL and Academic Learning by Dacey, Criscitiello, Devlin
I co-authored this book with educational colleagues. We spent a lot of time looking at ways to embed SEL into academic lessons and came up with some great lesson plans which I plan to use in 2017-2018 to build a stronger learning team and program. As I read through the finished book, I'll decide where and when I'll teach each SEL skill/lesson. I'll also offer specific lessons to colleagues, lessons they may want to integrate into their teaching.

Redesigning Learning Spaces by Robert W. Dillon 
I plan to read this book and apply the learning to writing a grant to update and modernize the learning environment. I want the environment to be a more modern STEAM learning/teaching space. 

Thank you for Being Late by Thomas Friedman
I want to read this book as one way to develop my awareness for what the future holds for our students. I want our teaching/learning efforts to help students prepare for their futures, and this book will provide information to help me do that.

I have collected a number of other titles and articles to build this effort in the classroom too:

Focus: Engaging, Empowering Math Education

I look forward to reading this book and using what I learn to elevate my algebraic thinking, numerical expression, and patterns and relationships emphases with regard to teaching math.

YouCubed by Jo Boaler
I'm going to study the YouCubed site and apply specific learning exercises, research, videos, and activities in specific math teaching/learning units as one way to build greater meaning, engagement, and cultural proficiency to math teaching and learning.

Article/Course Collection
I've collected a number of articles and a course to study over the summer to empower the math program as well:

Focus: Reflect for Success
I have decided to make my professional consultation focus reflection since I value the role that reflection plays in elevating the work we do as educators. I will attend a conference this summer that focuses on reflection as part of obtaining National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification. I will likely collect titles, articles, and other information related to this topic throughout the summer as well. 









Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wonderfully Choreographed Final Day: A Team Effort 2017

The final day was wonderfully choreographed. I give my colleagues and the parents credit for this good learning/teaching design for a final day of school.

First we visit the high school where students have the chance to engage in all kinds of wonderful outdoor and indoor games. Students played soccer, tennis, basketball, drip-drip-drop, a version of capture the flag, and ran the track. They also spent some time exploring nature and playing chess. I had an awesome game of chess with one of the best opponents I've ever faced. I learned a lot and had fun even though I didn't win the game.

Later parents served delicious pizza and water. After that we hiked back to school and I handed out progress reports with a few kind words for each child. Then children shared summer plans.

At 12:30 we met with the parents in the gym for a terrific farewell slideshow produced by the parents. Students joyfully sang along to the popular songs as they watched images of themselves from their earliest days through fifth grade. Finally we gathered back in the homerooms and then students marched through the school as the whole school paid tribute to them by lining the halls and clapping them out. Parents lined up at the back of the school and continued the tradition with proud clapping and words of celebration and cheer.

It was the perfect way to end fifth grade and send our young students onto the Middle School.


Success in 2017-2018


As I think deeply about the past year and the year ahead, I am focused on attributes of success. The past year met many criteria of success and left some challenges to meet in the year ahead as well. Clearly documenting efforts and related observations, anecdotes, and data can help you to measure success as well as plan for the year ahead.

Success next year will be identified in the following way:
  • Successful, engaging mastery and/or progress towards mastery in all math standards. While students met mastery or progression towards mastery last year, I'd like to really focus in on the word "engaging" in the year ahead by deepening and enriching math units with attention to relevant, blended units of study.
  • Positive student advocacy and leadership with respect to their individual and collective learning paths. As a team we inspired this attitude and behavior throughout the year, and I'd like to continue and deepen this effort with a focus on embedding SEL, growth mindset, learning-to-learn, and mindfulness behaviors.
  • Everyone Belongs. With careful listening, questioning, and attention to cultural proficiency and individual student strengths, talents, passions, and challenges, our team will continue to build a sensitive, culturally proficient program that welcomes and encourages voice and choice from all stakeholders: students, family members, colleagues, administrators and community members. 
  • STEAM: As a team we'll look for ways to employ greater science/STEAM teaching. Time was a challenge this year, and it will take a close look at the time available in order to meet this expectation with depth and breadth.
Essentially in the year ahead, I'll plant a 

Steam: interdisciplinary study using the design process
Engaging, deep, standards-based math study
Everyone belongs, is treated with respect, and acts with respect toward one another
Develop self-advocacy, choice, questioning, and ability to create/navigate personal/collective 
     learning paths. 

A Time for Analysis, Practice, and Research

Educators know that doing the job well requires the continual intersection of analysis, practice and research. During the year, practice and analysis typically trump since we spend so much time-on-task with students. Now that summer is about to start, it's a good time to shift that equation by putting most of the energy and time into research. Good research and reflection set the stage for promising teaching in the year ahead. Hence, I'll make that shift today. Onward.

Redesigning the Math Unit

How can we redesign math units so that the learning is rich, deep, and memorable. Here's what I hope to do next year:
  • Make home study simple and interesting
  • Include one floor-to-ceiling exploration in each unit
  • Organize the learning path in each unit from standard introduction to review to grade-level standard to enrichment
  • Give students a chance to navigate the learning path on their own with check-ins, coaching, team projects and assessment along the way
  • Make the learning relevant with real-world data, scenarios, and problems
  • Build one unit on top of another so that students are able to continually apply the lessons learned
  • Add opportunity for reflection and metacognition
  • Present/Teach the learning to others
  • Discuss and debate the standards in multiple ways
I will use this template as I rework each unit. 

Deep, Satisfying Learning

Yesterday when I met my rising fifth graders, I asked each child to share one learning experience in their life that they truly enjoyed. All students shared experiences of deep, satisfying learning. The kinds of learning shared included learning to sail, reading a good book, writing stories, engaging in STEAM projects, and computer-related learning.

Similarly, the projects that students enjoyed most this year were the deep, rich projects they engaged in. No one is saying that they really enjoyed learning lots of facts or taking tests as that's not rich learning and teaching.

As I think of this, I am cognizant of the fact that I want to include these rich learning experiences in each subject area next year. These projects take time and require lots of teaching/student investment, but they are the kinds of projects that stick since these projects are rich, memorable, and real-world. Students get excited about this kind of learning. They talk about it and extend the learning well beyond the school hours. This is the kind of learning we want to reach for in schools everywhere.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Last Day

There will be unexpected twists and turns--say it 100 times as the unexpected can be expected during the last days of school. It's a guarantee, and the best teachers roll with it keeping peace and harmony as their mantra as children enjoy a final day of school.

We have a good day planned including closing remarks, time for friends and play, a class lunch, the fifth grade slideshow, and the clap-out.

And similar to the previous few days, the goal is to be positive, energized, and caring as students spend their final day of what has been a very good year overall. Onward.

Big Classes

A controversy ensued as parents recognized that some fifth grades in town will have 17 or 18 students, and others will have 25. I noticed the difference when the numbers were first published, but I wasn't inspired to speak up since I like our three-teacher shared model so much. I felt we could handle the bigger classes.

Yet when I heard parents talk about the reasons for smaller classes, I couldn't disagree. Smaller classes do mean greater attention. Yet, then when a citizen without children spoke about the research, I wondered more. Is this a time to continue to think about one-teacher-one-classroom models of service or are we better off continuing with our three-teacher model and adding more assistants to make sure that there is plenty of staffing for targeted small group and one-to-one attention.

In the end, I'm a fan of building out our model with an assistant in each classroom and time to plan well together. I think we will be able to do a really good job with all students if we have that support and utilize more creative, flexible plans for teaching and learning, plans that include tech integration, project/problem-based learning, interdisciplinary learning units, all-team days, field studies and more.

The options of keeping things as they are, I do believe would lead to greater inequity as we simply wouldn't have the hands-on-deck that other schools have. The option of keeping the model and adding an assistant for each class would be my preference, but I'd be satisfied with adding a fourth teacher too.

Whatever the case, we'll do our best to teach and serve next year's students.

Second to Last Day Musings 2017

The morning was idyllic. We had a good talk about Memory books and some tech choice. Then it was time for move-up day which included 15 minutes talking about our team approach and 15 minutes to meet the students in our homerooms. After that students signed Memory Books, and then it was the girls and boys changing bodies talk. Next, lunch. A day well planned.

The afternoon wasn't as relaxed as I handed out countless last minute notices and papers that were dropped off in my classroom and facilitated a somewhat half-hearted clean-up. Then there was time for choice again, and all was calm.

It seemed like a busier than ever end of the year this year and I think that was partly to do with the fact that weather played havoc with some of our plans causing postponements and cancellations. There were also a few last minute scheduling snafus and tremendous work to complete the fifth grade play, MCAS tests, and the biography project which all went very well.

The team will spend a few days this summer reflecting on the year's efforts and mapping out the next year. I think we may decide that "less is more" with regard to some efforts, and with others I think we'll shoot for greater depth. Further I'm sure we'll tweak the schedule a bit. We'll have 15 minutes more a day and we'll likely dedicate those minutes to a combination of SEL, read aloud, open circle and targeted student coaching and support

I must say that I learned as much as the students this year, and as I often remark that is both plus and challenge of the position.

Response to Critique

As I critical thinker, I'm quick to find fault with my own work and efforts. I can always see better and reach for that continuously.

Yet, at this second to last day of school, I want to sit back a bit and take it all in as I meet with my bright eyed, spirited fifth graders who are filled with tremendous potential for promising futures, contribution, and good living.

Today I'll focus on all the wonderful learning and experiences we've shared this year. These last days won't be days of pushing forward and reaching deep, but instead days of recognizing the greatness each of these children hold for good lives--greatness I don't want them to forget.

I'll thank them for sharing a year of their lives with me, and I'll tell them that I learned a lot from each of them and value who they are and what they bring to the world. I'll encourage them to build their great skills and personalities so that they can pay it forward by helping others to live well and contribute to our world in ways that matter.

I'll respond to critique, my own and others, later in the summer months when my tired end-of-school brain has rested and I'm ready to move into the new school year. Onward.

Teaching/Learning Goals 2017-2018

As students clean up and put away supplies today, I'm thinking about next year's teaching and learning goals.

Math Engagement and Progress
Students made good progress with math knowledge, concept, and skill, and I think we can lift engagement levels more in the year ahead. I believe that the addition of more floor-to-ceiling project/problem based explorations and activities will boost that engagement.

Reading Proficiency and Comprehension
Again students made good growth, and I think we can develop this even more by adding in specific time for read aloud across homerooms as well as adding more guidelines for independent reading in my homeroom. I want to work with our reading specialist and lead teacher in this regard.

Writing Growth and Development
I'd like to help develop this by adding greater math writing to the math program.

Student Support and Coaching
It's always challenging to give every child the time he/she deserves since needs vary and time is never enough. I want to build in more creative coaching efforts next year that make sure every child is getting a good amount of one-to-one and small group coaching from teachers and teaching assistants in the year ahead.

Expanding Students' Lifelong Learning Outlook and Global Lens
I want to work with colleagues to look at the many special events we promote at the grade-level to determine how we can develop these events as one way to develop students' learning depth and global lens. We want to develop strong, open minded global citizens.

Teamwork
I want to look for ways that we can better embed open circle and SEL into the curriculum to help develop every child's emotional intelligence and ability to work with others. We know these are essential skills when it comes to success in our world today.

Passion
I want to continue to look for ways to embed and develop students' passions as part of our overall program.

Metacognition, Personalized Learning Paths
I'd like to develop the student portfolio process as one way to help students develop metacognitive skill, analysis, reflection, and personal learning paths.


Hearsay Does Not Lead to Good Analyses

As I think of an individual's evaluation statement, I recognize that the statement is based on hearsay and the observations/emotions of one or a few rather than good metrics and holistic assessment. These leads me to desire a better system of holistic analysis with regard to school programs.

In the past simple scores and standardized test scores sufficed, but today I notice that it seems like the research is pointing to greater depth with regard to teaching/learning programs, and this greater depth requires new and better metrics.

While educators and family members still want metrics that demonstrate progress in essential skills such as reading, writing, and math, now families want to ensure that their children are gaining good social/emotional skills, teamwork, growth mindset, and the ability to learn with meaningful project/problem based learning and the design process. Family members want their children to be excited about school and able to create and follow their own learning paths to success. They recognize the research that points to success and how that success depends on traditional skills and abilities as well as the emotional intelligence, physical health/strength, creativity, communication and more.

This leads me to wonder about the metrics of successful learning and teaching--what makes a child strong.

I offer the following:

  • The child is developing essential skill and knowledge in reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
  • The child is able to create a personal learning path and seek/use support/resources to successfully navigate that learning path.
  • The child is developing emotional intelligence with regard to metacognition, self regulation and the ability to work successfully with others. 
  • The child is able to think and work intellectually and creatively as he/she completes project/problem base learning.
  • The child is a happy and successful learner.
What would you add to this?

I'll be thinking more about this in the days ahead. 

How Do You Evaluate a Program?

A parent approached a colleague. The parent compared two programs naming one as better than the other. I asked the colleague what metrics she used to compare. The colleague didn't know.

How do we compare one program over another?

I offer the following suggestion.

Begin by looking at essential goals and progress.

For example, it is our goal to help every child achieve growth in basic skill areas such as math, reading, and writing. We could look at scores to determine who grew and by how much. Then we could compare those metrics with past years.

We can also look at standardized assessments to ascertain growth. State assessments come with growth scores, and we can take a look at those scores and analyze to see a comparison over years.

We could employ assessments related to happiness, discipline issues, friendship, growth mindset, social/emotional learning, creativity, and teamwork too.

There's many ways to assess overall program results and development, and the first step is putting those metrics in place in a way that the information is easily collected and able to be analyzed and compared over years.

I do my own assessment of program goals and development to make sure that the program I deliver is continually developing. Some of the measures I use include the following:

  • I analyze standardized scores related to past years, across classrooms, and related to individual students' efforts, support, and stories. I look carefully at who made significant growth versus those who made less growth and make program changes related to that information.
  • I analyze student reactions, happiness, and progress via multiple analysis/reflection points. I work with colleagues day-to-day to discuss these analyses and make changes to better areas of need or concern.
  • I analyze the overall program each year to see where we might make changes to better the program each year.
  • I look at systemwide scores too to see where we might make good change to better the program.
  • I read and research to see what other schools and teachers are doing to improve programs.
As we tracked student progress this year, we found that students, in general, made good progress. There are a few areas that I think we can better, and I think the first step to betterment is to reach out to coaches and directors with specific questions, then tweak our schedule a bit to better the programming with regard to student progress.

On the social/emotional side of teaching and learning (SEL) I'd like to increase efforts to embed SEL into the daily schedule and lessons. I'll use the book colleagues and I just wrote to support that effort and I'll work with colleagues to make more space for read aloud and open circle in the schedule to boost these skills. 

With regard to project-based learning and STEAM, I was very happy with the big projects students engaged with including the fifth grade play and the biography project. I'm also happy with most of the field trips and daily learning efforts. I want to re-look at the schedule with regard to fitting in all the STEAMwork that's recommended for the grade-level. To follow systemwide math recommendations and teach the math well took a lot of time thus leaving little time for lots of hands-on science. I want to re-look at the schedule with colleagues to maximize our use of time. We have some ideas with regard to how we might move things around to build in more time for this. 

I want to think more about how we assess our programs in holistic, forward moving ways over the summer so that we have good metrics to analyze program growth and strength. Onward. 

Prioritize Your Areas of Most Need

We typically know what we need most, and often what we need most is not necessarily known by others. Whether your needs are visible or invisible, it's important to prioritize because when we get what we need most, we are able to serve others better.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Last Week Coaching

During the last week of school, I've got my eye set on the following:

Physical and Emotional Safety
During the last week of school students are sometimes emotional and energy-charged. It's important to remind students about using safe behavior and lots of kindness to end the year with care.

Life-Long Learning
The activities we engage in during the last week are the kinds of activities that students and their families may participate in all summer long--activities that lead to physical and mental health and growth.

Teamwork
They'll be plenty of time to work as a team to play, learn, clean-up, and celebrate.

Memories that Leads us Forward
We'll spend some time remembering the good times, and I'll remind students that they may use those good memories to repeat the good times and make good learning and living happen in the future.

Pride
Students will be clapped-out of the school as one way to say we are proud of all you've done as elementary school students and we wish you well in the future.

Attention to Individuals and the Team
I'll pay close attention to individuals and the team this week to ensure a safe and happy ending to a wonderful school year.

Rest, Relaxation, and Fun
Once the final tasks are complete, I'll set aside some days to rest, relax, reflect, and have some fun. While it has been a terrific teaching/learning year, it's been a busy and energized year too. Some time to rest and relax will be just perfect!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Push On

Godin's post this morning which compares good learning and success to a baby learning to walk reminds us that we have to persist and push on to reach our individual and collective vision. We won't always be 100% but with good thought, camaraderie and care we can be proud of our efforts and enjoy life in many ways.

Our ability to push on can be elevated in the following ways:

Vision
Keep vision in close view, be willing to revise as needed, and let that vision be your light.

Break Down the Vision
Break down the vision into goals and actions. Then move towards that vision step-by-step.

Camaraderie and Collaboration
Don't do it alone. Surround yourself with good people and work together. Always do your part or more.

Expect Some Discomfort
Sometimes you'll have to push through your discomfort to get to the place where you want to be.

Read, Research, and Reflect
Make time to think, dream, wonder, and decide. That's the energy you need to push forward.

Healthy Routines
As much as possible embrace healthy living.

Expect Failure
See failure for what it is, the hurdles on your vision path.

Stay Positive
Positivity brings your journey strength and promise.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Clear Goals and Expectations Lead to Success

Goals that have clarity and expectations that are clear set the stage for success? What are your program goals and expectations? As I begin to think about this, I identify the following from my perspective as a grade-level math/science teacher:

  • Students will learn all math standards with depth and flexibility.
  • Students will be happy, engaged, and empowered at school.
  • Students will learn to be good teammates, and experience what it's like to be an important part of a positive team.
  • Students will understand that they are in charge of their learning and that they are capable of learning anything they put their mind and time to.
  • Students will learn about themselves as learners and use that knowledge to elevate their learning.
  • Students will learn the science standards and utilize those standards with the design process in STEAM activities.
I'll likely add to this list in the days ahead. 

Program Development Requires Time, Attention, and Care

Good program development requires time, attention, and care.

As I think of the grade-level program development, I know the following elements serve us well:

  • Curriculum standards and framework: This includes solid, thoughtful goals and scheduling
  • Planning, Assessment, Analysis: We make time to plan, assess, and analyze the program with care.
  • Inclusion of Multiple Voices: The program is analyzed by many. Parents provide feedback through email and meetings. Administrators meet regularly with us to provide feedback. Students provide feedback and ideas during regular class meetings. We share our own ideas and thinking as a team regularly.
  • Reading and Research: It's essential to stay abreast of new ideas and research via reading, conferences, and coursework. It's important to reflect on, analyze, and embed new ideas and research into the curriculum regularly. 
As I think of the past year's program, I believe we hit many goals. We'll be able to better assess this in a few weeks when the year's standardized scores are in, commentary collected, and an overview of the year shared with one another. 

The one overall area I'd like to improve is giving all children equal attention with regard to teacher-time and interest. I feel that we can make this more equitable with the use of a simple check-list of time-on-task with individuals making sure that every child gets sufficient small group time and one-to-one attention. 

I'd also like to better embed our science standards and teaching throughout the year--finding the time will be challenging on top of the many other goals we have to reach, but I think we can do this if we give it good thought during the summer planning process. 

Further I'd like to look at the opportunities we provide for student support and enrichment--how can we deepen and enrich those experiences in ways that matter beginning with our efforts to employ a thoughtful multi-event orientation for students--one that builds strong relationships, a sense of belonging, and clarity about the year's expectations and opportunity. 

How Do You Rate Yourself As An Educator?

We have a rating system in our schools, but what truly matters to me is how I rate myself with regard to teaching and learning. Like all teachers, I want to do the best I can by my young students.

In this light, I can tell you that I am never completely satisfied as I always can see more and better ways to do the job. Teaching is a limitless job.

Yet, as I look over the past year, I'm proud of a number of actions the grade-level team and I led including the following:

  • Completion of signature, inclusive learning events including the fifth grade performance and biography presentation.
  • Teaching all math/ELA/science standards and the fact that all students completed the Symphony Math benchmark.
  • Good growth in math and ELA.
  • Greater attention to cultural proficiency, SEL, growth mindset, and general positivity throughout the curriculum thus creating a positive, collaborative grade-level team.
  • Terrific field trips.
  • Significant attention to specific student needs and interests.
If I had to do the year over, I'd look for ways to include greater STEAM teaching throughout the year since we simply ran out of time for the depth and reach with this that I hoped for. We'll work to plan this differently next year.

Next year I will rate myself on the following criteria:
  • Greater depth, hands-on exploration, student-ownership, and achievement in math. This year was good, and I want next year to be even better.
  • Greater depth and breadth with science and STEAM teaching--we'll schedule this differently with the goal being that we want to teach all of the new and old standards with depth.
  • Continued wonderful relationship building and learning experiences, cultural proficiency, SEL, growth mindset and general positivity with colleagues, family members, and most importantly, students.
How will I reach these goals?
  • Summer study related to math teaching and learning--lots of reading, revising unit roll-outs, revising homework assignments/expectations, re-looking at related field experiences, adding signature project/problem-based learning events. I will read The Joy of X, YouCubed website, and a number of other articles I've put aside to boost this study. 
  • Continued study and reading about cultural proficiency, SEL, growth mindset and relationship building. Working with colleagues to design and implement a student orientation as well as include SEL, cultural proficiency, and growth mindset in lessons. Using books such as Emdin's What White Teachers, Integrating SEL into the Academic Program (a book I co-authored), Mindset, and Between the World and Me will lend research and good ideas to these goals. 
  • Meet and work with colleagues over the summer to develop the teaching/learning map, agenda, and focus for the year. 
I keep writing about the goals and giving them shape. Once school ends, I'll have the time needed to reach in for the kind of study that will help me to reach the goals I've set. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Teacher Evaluation and Politics

Politics may play a bigger role in teacher evaluations than actual attributes of good teaching. Teachers who speak up, risk, and try new ideas may be seen as rabble rousers while those who dutifully do as administrators ask may receive high scores.

It could also be true that teachers who are related to friends or colleagues of administrators may receive higher marks than teachers who are not related.

Further a teacher whose research, practice, and philosophy differ from an administrator's may receive lower marks even if that teacher is up-to-date and well schooled.

I write of this as teachers are beginning to talk about evaluations--they are starting to notice potential patterns of injustice in this regard. What's the best next step?

I think, in general, educators should be rated proficient or needs improvement, and to get needs improvement would be associated with specific criteria that connects to not doing your job. I believe that the exemplary rating only invites lots of politics into a system and gets in the way of the good work possible--do you agree?

Friday Musings: Last Friday During School Year 2016-2017

We had a good day with the presentation of biography projects, final portfolio work, the completion of the inspirational film, Queen of Katwe, and a playful recess.

Next week we'll hike through historic Boston, host move-up day, have the changing bodies presentation, hand out and sign Memory Books, clean up, play at the high school, watch an end-of-the-year slideshow and clap out our fifth grade class.

Again, like last week, the key is to bring lots of positive energy to end the year with good cheer. Onward.

The Team That Rises

Today our students put on their Global Changemakers project and they certainly rose to the occasion. In costume with researched "interviews," portraits, and digital posters they acted in character for a good hour while parents, teachers, administrators and other students from the school circled around the timeline asking them questions about their significance, childhood and struggles. Just like during the fifth grade play, this class shined making themselves and everyone else proud.

Equity Algorithms

We tend to use simple algorithms for comparison. Each year schools with the highest standardized test scores are listed at the top while schools with lower standardized test scores are listed at the bottom. Yet is using scores alone to rate teachers or schools a fair analysis?

As I thought of this today, I thought about the factors that could be figured into a more equitable analysis of good work and growth with students--factors such as the following:

  • How many students arrived at school having had a good night's sleep and breakfast?
  • How many students in the class are at the poverty level?
  • How many students in the class face daily disruption due to illness, violence, and other disharmony?
  • How many students are labeled as special education students?
  • How many students face issues of chronic absenteeism?
  • How many face language barriers?
  • How many have physical, emotional, or psychological disabilities that get in the way of learning?
  • How many have access to technology at home?
  • How many face prejudice due to gender, body size, race, culture or religion?
  • How many children are in the class?
There are so many factors that affect learning and teaching, and the longer we are satisfied with simple comparisons, the less we'll be able to grow in ways that matter to all students.

Who is working on these better algorithms for good analysis when it comes to good service, teaching, and learning for all children, and how will these algorithms help us to teach and learn better. 

Non-Supporters

We all face non-supporters.

Their lack of support is characterized by the following actions:
  • Little or late response
  • Little to no positivity
  • Minimal communication at best
  • Negative statements and name calling
  • Little to no inclusion with regard to decision making, ideas and collaborative efforts
  • A "better-than" attitude and action
These non-supporters can serve to take us down if we let them, but instead we have to analyze their lack of support by asking the following questions:
  • Does research support their actions and non-support?
  • Are you contributing to their negative attitude and response?
  • Is there a systematic issue at play?
As I think of non-supporters in my close realm of teaching and learning, I can think of more inclusive actions to build greater support, actions such as good, initial meetings, mutual goal setting, and open, steady lines of communication and response.

With regard to those outside of the intimate teaching/learning circle, it's a more complex issue, one that requires steady observation, analysis, and thought as I work to get underneath the negativity, lack of support, and little to no inclusion, transparency, and collaboration. 

What's also important here is to think about when you might be a non-supporter. What efforts in your midst do you not support, and why is that true? How can you be a more supportive teacher, team member, service worker, and friend? These are important questions.

It's best to contribute to a supportive environment, one that fosters positive teamwork and collaboration. I am fortunate to work with a close group of educators who are supportive leading to very good collaboration when it comes to serving all students well and modeling the potential that collaboration holds for positive, forward-moving work and service. Onward. 

Teach Well: Become a Math Expert

As I think ahead to all the goals and efforts for 2017-2018 school year, the overarching goal is to become a math expert and teach math well.

What does this mean in terms of prep?

The following actions will lead me there:

  • Become more familiar with Jo Boaler's work via the website YouCubed and her online courses. 
  • Update the learning/teaching website links and materials for each unit. 
  • Review and analyze standardized test scores to look for areas for improvement in 2017-2018.
  • Review Khan Academy and TenMarks with greater scrutiny with an eye on how these online applications may support student learning. 
  • Think about room set-up and draft grants that can help to inspire students with great signage as well as provide good spaces and structures for optimal math learning.
  • Read math books such as The Joy of X.
This will be the mainstay of my math study. Onward. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Focus In: Final Days

There were more tears today as students navigated the end-of-school events. It's an emotional time for a large number of reasons including fatigue, changing schools, anticipation of summer and more.

Yet there were also stronger friendships forming, laughter, and joy as children engaged in end-of-year activities and choices.

As I think of the final events, I want to focus on the following:

  • Welcoming family members, students, teachers, and other visitors to the Global Changemakers Presentation. Encouraging students' best presentations.
  • Completing end-of-year letters.
  • Leading a successful field trip.
  • Collaborating on a positive move-up day.
  • Facilitating a good clean up.
  • Relaxing on the final day with students playing games, talking, helping out, and enjoying the final slideshow and clap-out.
Then there will be time for family and rest. Later I'll assess the year as I ready for the next year on my own and with colleagues. Onward. 

Lessons From a Year of School

There are always lessons from a year of school.

First and foremost, you can't be nice enough. It's always right to be kind, and when challenged with regard to kindness, that can be difficult. Teaching throws you all kinds curves, and as much as possible, catch those curve balls with kindness.

Reserve Judgement. It can be tempting to make judgements quickly when you first meet students, families, and colleagues, but you'll almost always regret making judgements hastily. Instead keep a notebook of anecdotes, notes, scores, and other factors to support the judgements you make later--judgements related to all kinds of student services and progress reports.

Collaborate. Particularly when issues are tough, you don't want to go it alone. You need to work as a team with regard to tough issues. Seek the consult of colleagues, family members, administrators and students. Take the time you need to think it out and make a good response, decision, or plan.

Take the Job Seriously. Every part of the job matters so treat it that way. Bring a professional attitude, speak, and effort to teaching and learning every day.

Have a Sense of Humor. Be prepared to laugh at yourself and enjoy a laugh with others. That's critical, yet never have a laugh at a child's expense.

When Aggravated Remove Yourself From the Situation. You'll never do wrong to take a break. It's the best thing to do when aggravation, frustration, or confusion hits. Time and space works wonders.

Keep Learning
Connect with other invested educators and continue to update and renew your knowledge and service--this will keep you fresh and develop your practice in ways that matter.

I'm sure I'll add to this list in the days to come.


Mean

Mean hurts whether you're young or old.

The only good part of mean is learning what it feels like because when you know what it feels like you'll rarely if ever be mean yourself.

Decisions Distanced from Students

How often do decisions for schools and children result in conversations that don't include families, educators, and students? Do decisions for students happen with too much distance from students? Do those who make the essential decisions spend substantial time-on-task with students? These are essential questions with regard to school structure, schedules, and process. In general, decisions directed towards students should include those who work with and live with students as well as students themselves.

Class Clean-up With an Eye on Set-Up

The class clean-up begins soon. As I prepare the clean-up, I want to think of next year's set-up. In general, the class worked well this year so next year's set-up will be similar including the following:

Professional Books
I have a large collection of professional books. I'll cull that collection, keep the best and give away others.

International Collection
I'll add the international objects to a display case; that will save space in the classroom and give the whole school a chance to look at those wonderful objects from around the world.

Math Daily Supplies
I stored the math daily supplies in bins at the front of the room. That made for ready-access. I'll do the same next year and as I clean up, I'll make sure those bins are filled with colored pencils, scissors, rulers, tape, and more.

Math "Sometime" Supplies
Those supplies are placed in drawers and containers around the room. I'll leave those there and in the fall think about a good spot for those.

Books
I'll leave the books in bins on the shelves. I reduced my collection a few years ago and now I have a good collection including a variety of genres.

Paperwork
Anything I can store online, I won't save as paper. There's little need for paper files today thanks to technology.

STEAM Supplies
My STEAM supplies are a bit of a mess right now, but I'll do that sort in the late days of August as I prepare for the start of school and our STEAM/science/maker math projects.

Math Drawers
Students will clean out their drawers and take home their baggies of personal math supplies.

Posters
Old unneeded posters will be recycled and good posters, magnets, and signage will be stored away for next year.

Comfy Chairs
The comfy chairs will be folded and placed on top of the yellow cabinet.

Fortunately since I won't be moving and my classroom will not be used over the summer, the clean-up will be less intense than in years past. Students will help me with the clean-up during our clean-up afternoon next Tuesday.



Good Scheduling Matters

As I thought of the year to come, I realized that good scheduling will be essential. First, it's integral that we have a fluid schedule framework one that allows the requirements:

  • one hour of math a day
  • 120  minutes of ELA combined with science/social studies
  • 5 45-minute specials: art, music, physical education, library, technology
  • 1 30-minute music workshop/instrumental period
  • 1 45 minute band/strings period
  • 2 45-minute reading RTI periods
  • 2 30-minute math periods
With the time left the team would like to include a number of special science days--days that we focus deeply on science study and STEAM. I'd also like to add time for read aloud and class meetings.

Other scheduling factors that are important to schedule from the start of the year include:
  • Title One Math
  • English Language Learner
  • Tier Three Reading
These services when planned before the school year starts and consistent throughout the year add great value to what we can do with and for students.

The year also includes assessment hours and mornings during the year, field studies, special events, and more.

As I think back on this year's schedule, I want to review the field studies with the team to make sure they are well planned and the kind of field studies we think make a difference. I'd also like to move some of the field studies to early spring rather than the very end of school due to the late spring threat of thunderstorms, the Global Changemakers project, and the need for greater sensitivity and flexibility at the end of the year.

Creating a solid pattern of learning and teaching ensures that you hit the goals you set and provide students with substantial care and attention. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What's Next?

Writing to inspire myself forward, I'm thinking about the final days of school. We're down to the last week now--a week that includes a visit to the Middle School, a Global Changemakers Presentation, Changing Bodies Presentation, a historic tour of Boston, clean up, and the final day celebrations. As I've written before it's all about staying energized, kind, and caring in these final days--time to support the children in as many ways as I can.

These days call for special touches including daily meetings, time to talk and play, completing final films and other activities, writing special messages in memory books and more. When a young child cried today about the end of school, a child who has enjoyed the year so much, I too was moved. It is an emotional time for all of us as we prepare to say farewell and move forward.

Revisiting Culture, Traditions, and Protocols

How do learning/teaching organizations revisit, analyze, and revise culture, traditions, and protocols to meet changing needs and interests of stakeholders.

I thought about this today as colleagues and I discussed a number of issues. What kind of inclusive, transparent process serves this work best. I'll be thinking about this.

Making Decisions During the Last Week of School

A number of issues exist at the end of school, issues that in the best of circumstances would have been analyzed, reviewed, and decided upon in March before educators and others had a host of paperwork, clean-up, and special events on their minds.

These issues require substantial thought, collaboration, and care.

I think the decisions should be put on hold as we end the year with care, and then with inclusive teacher-parent-administrator-student-community member teams, the decisions should be apart of good process--the kind of strategic process that leads to good resolve.

The AC Factor

We had a heat wave and some classrooms have air conditioning and others don't. That makes a big difference.

This year I happen to have air conditioning. The room is comfortable and children relaxed. In years past I've been in small room with large groups of students with no air conditioning, and I can tell you that makes everyone agitated, creating tough conditions for teaching and learning.

When I was a young child few had air conditioners. Even our cars did not have AC. We learned to live with it, but having air conditioning definitely is a step up. You have more energy and comfort with air conditioning.

Will global warming create conditions where schools that don't have air conditioning are now updated with air conditioning? What are other ways to mitigate the air conditioning factor? Private schools start later and end earlier--is that the kind of school year that makes air conditioning a non-issue.

I don't really know, but what I do know is that it is a sensitive issue during a heat wave in school--a sensitive issue we all have to be aware of.

Fortunately the heat wave has passed.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Promise in the Problem: Year End Review

As you look back over a school year, you'll note room for celebration and room for revision. That's typical.

It's good to refrain from analysis the final weeks of school, and then when you're rested, do a great big analysis of the year. After that you can set next year's agenda.

Look for the promise in the problems that occurred and make change in those areas. Also celebrate all the good work that happened throughout the year--well meaning educators everywhere are doing a great job by students, and it's important that they don't forget that.

Rushed Decisions are Rarely Good Decisions

Years ago we needed a new car. I quickly bought one. It was a bad decision, and the car didn't last long. We lost a good deal of money due to that rushed decision.

Rushed decisions are rarely good decisions.

It's best to operate on multiple levels, and one of those levels is the level of analysis, reflection, and review. As I've written about countless times, good decision making depends on considerable lead time. Good decision making also relies on inclusivity, protocols, and communication.

When a decision is made with too much speed not only might that decision be a poor one, but that decision may hinder or block other good decisions.

Rarely does a delay in decision making create havoc. Yet, if a situation is an emergency situation, then a decision has to be made right away. Generally, however, good decisions rely on time, inclusion, transparency, research, and good communication.

A Good Day

Today we had a good day as students complete final efforts related to portfolios, the biography project, and other matters. Students had time to make appropriate choices on the computers too. I played a great game of Chess with a student--one of the best chess partners I've ever had. I forgot how much I like that game.

I took bubble making mixture and appliances out to recess which helped us stay cool and have fun on the extremely hot playground. I also let children play with the spray bottles. They gave complimentary sprays to those that wanted them.

Tomorrow is Field Day--we're ready for a day of athletic play. The teachers vs. fifth graders is always a favorite end-of-Field-Day event.

I'm glad we've slowed things down as it gives teachers and students a chance to talk, solve problems, and end the year with peace. Onward.

Progress Reports Provide a Snapshot

As I competed progress reports this morning, I recognized that these reports provide a snapshot of a child's overall performance. Those who exceed standard expectations, generally have a very strong grasp of the grade-level standards and standards beyond the grade-level. Those who meet standards have generally mastered the grade-level expectations, and those progressing towards the standards are probably not as strong or fluent as the grade-level expectations.

In looking at the progress report, family members can discern the following:

  • Is my child meeting program work habits, behavior and attitude expectations? If not, how can we as a family work to help our child in that regard. This is a good conversation to have with a child prior to the next year of school.
  • Is my child generally meeting the grade-level standards. If he/she is meeting those standards, you may want to foster practice over the summer. If he/she is not meeting the standards you may want to use programs like Khan Academy's grade-level mission standards-based online venue to review and practice those standards prior to the next year.
  • Can my child explain his or her mathematical thinking and problem solving? If this is an issue, you may want to start a back and forth math journal with your child. In this journal, you pose a question, your child answers, and then you respond. For example you could pose some of these questions:
    • What is the difference between even and odd numbers?
    • What do you know about the number 2 (or any number 1-20 and landmark numbers after that)
    • What polygons do you notice in our house, neighborhood?
    • How many cubic inches would fit into the box in the kitchen?
It's important to gather that snapshot from your child's report card and think with your child and family about next steps with regard to academic performance. It's also important to recognize that many of life's greatest skills and attributes are not listed on a school progress report, and it's important for your child to recognize and value his/her terrific characteristics that lie outside of this report too. 

A Better Day

Yesterday was an unexpected challenging day. It was essentially the wake-up call that we're into the next layer of the end-of-the-year-schedule--children are tired, hot, and ready for a break. Their typical zest was mostly missing and the temperature outside and inside didn't help. I like the rhythm of the our unit study and project work, and now we're mostly done with all of that and there isn't time to start something new since we have so many shorter, but important, events scheduled.

Today, with all this in mind, we'll start with a good meeting. Prioritize the work that's left to do, and leave time for reading, writing, and math practice. Students will rotate from class to class too which will give me a chance to finish portfolios and do end of year clean up with each group. Onward.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Choose Your Battles!

Typically I'm ready for a good debate and invested in decisions more than not, but recently a debate occurred where I could easily see both sides. I didn't feel strongly about one decision or the other. This is a nice place to be as it requires little advocacy, thought, or extra work, and means that I can sit back and let those for whom the decision matters a lot lead us.

When in Doubt, Clean

It was one of those crazy days when the schedule changed at least three times before 9am, the temperature was hot, hot, hot, the air conditioner failed, and the sound system wouldn't work.

The schedule changes were easily accounted for. The temperature was mostly okay especially when the air conditioner was working. But when the sound system failed, it was one change too many. The students were antsy, disgruntled, and whining. The plans were undone by the sound system problem, and I must say I was a bit tired too.

In the end, we used the time at the end of the day to clean, find lost library books, stack chairs, organize and have a short meeting that ended with a few jokes.

Clearly we've hit the new point in the end-of-the-year schedule--the point where everyone is tired out or ready for a change, and there's not a lot of creative energy left for new projects or initiatives. We're all ready for the summer break. In light of that we'll move the schedule into more reading, writing, math practice, and the finishing touches for the end-of-year biography project. Onward.

Just Paths of Learning, Leading, and Service

How do we create just paths of leading, learning, and service? What do those paths look like?

Transparency
Just paths of leading, learning, and service generally are transparent paths. Information is forthcoming with lead time and inclusion--no one is left out and open debate is welcome. All embrace the belief that when all perspectives are entertained, discussed, and debated, good decisions rise to the top. Recently I worked with a team where we discussed a somewhat small issue. A decision was made, a decision that has since been questioned. We will probably have to return to the table to discuss the issue at a later date with greater depth. In the meantime, people at the table are doing their research, reading related documents, and inquiring about this situation as there is a lot to learn as the issue is further discussed and debated.

Accessibility
It's integral that paths of leading, learning, and service are accessible to all. When some are distanced from the leading, learning, and service, the paths are likely not as just as when everyone has the chance to get involved. How can we make our leading, learning, and service accessible to all?

Knowledge
To lead, learn, and serve justly, we have to well understand the laws, research, and information that relates to the work we do on our own and with others. In this information age, this is often a big task--a task that profits from collaborative strategic process where we use our time and energy well to learn as much as we can about the issues at hand.

Open Minds
We have to bring open minds to our work and service in order to promote just paths. We can't let past prejudice, experiences, and reputations hinder our good work. Instead we have to have open minds, minds open to change, new perceptions and perspectives, and opportunity. We have to look at people, places, and events with new eyes to see what might be rather than what has been.

Humility
Just paths require humility. Even with our best efforts and collaboration, we will make mistakes. Acknowledging that upfront humanizes the efforts we take part in and helps us to be more caring and respectful to one another as we forward these good paths.

Questions
We can't fear asking questions, and we have to ask those questions with respect, clarity, and care. Questioning is essential to just paths.

What else would you add to this list of elements related to just paths of learning, leading, and service. I want to know.

What Can I Do?

I spent a vigorous, fun-filled, emotional weekend at my son's graduation. We had a great time exploring the wonderful city of Schenectady, sharing meals and stories, listening to inspiring speakers, laughing, and enjoying one another's company.

I want to promote more of that good cheer and community at home and in the work I do each day. How can I do that?

Positivity
We have to find ways to be as positive as we can. When problems occur, we have to look for the promise in the problem and work together to find resolve.

Risk
We have to be willing to risk. I especially liked one of the young speaker's emphasis on embracing who we are and being the best of whom we can be with all our individual strengths, quirks and challenges.

Patience
We have to be patient with ourselves and others. While vision can lead us, we have to be patient with the fact that we really don't know how our path will evolve. There are so many possibilities when it comes to life's direction.

Goals
Like vision, goals move us ahead. For me I have some really good goals related to deepening the work I do with students. I've outlined those goals on my 2017-2018 planning post. I also have some goals related to energy, family, and education outreach that will lead the days ahead.

Every one of us has amazing gifts to give and challenges to conquer. Paying attention to that makes a positive difference in the lives we live.

Learning and Leading in Trump Times

How do we learn and lead in Trump times?

Look Deeper
Trump times has brought to light "fake news" in many, many ways. This makes people today wonder who they can trust and how? Rather than read one news report now, I typically read many. Also when I hear news from new agencies or papers, I look deeper to see who owns those papers and what that news' history is like. Learning that Russia State News infiltrated many other news sources makes me look deeper too--I wonder where is this news coming from and what is its aim. It was inevitable that "fake news" would become a big issue in this age of social media and Internet access ease. Further truth and lies are related, in part, to perspective and knowledge too. That's why, more than ever, we need well educated, honest analysts to help us navigate this complex environment of information. That's why I'm working harder to identify leaders who I trust, leaders' whose speak, actions, and connections demonstrate truth, justice, and a will to serve.

Speak Up
Many would like to quiet you in these times. Many would like to say don't speak up, you can't make a difference anyway, who are you to think you have something to say. I don't agree. I believe that we come at politics, leadership, truth in many ways, and I welcome the voices of people on all side.

Use Respect
Too many speak up without respect, and this is wrong. Name calling, exaggeration, threats, and unkind images/speak have no place in the critical debates happening as the need for greater global and national partnerships, compromise, and community arise.

Lawful Acts
There is no room for illegal acts, and there's lots of room to update the laws.

New Economic Algorithms
It seems like we're at a time when we are in desperate need for new economic algorithms--algorithms that will lead to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all people. I wonder about these algorithms and wonder if mathematicians and economists have worked with living systems to try create these algorithms to lead greater community, prosperity, and care for one another.

Invest in the Good Work We Can Do for Selves and Others
When everyone works well to uplift their lives and the lives of others, we do well as a people. It is essential, especially during these sometimes discouraging times, to reinvest in our good work to do what we can to love, learn, and lead well.

This Week's Focus: Lots and Lots of Good Energy

This is going to be a very busy student-centered week. There's not going to be a day where we can let down or relax as there are countless terrific events and activities ahead. What matters with regard to the teaching is following the schedule and completing the many plans and events we planned, and what matters professionally is completing the paperwork required including Progress Reports and other end-of-the-year requirements.

A number of administrators and others have placed questions on the table in the final days of schools, but those questions will have to mostly wait until next week when we've finished the important paper work and engaged in the many learning experiences at hand.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Russiagate: A Lesson in Doing the Right Thing

A supporter of President Trump suggested that Comey should have contacted the authorities as soon as he felt that Trump was asking him to do something illegal.

I thought that was an interesting comment because most of us by a certain age have been apart of a discussion or event where we pondered our right action and asked ourselves, Does this issue or do these words go beyond what is just, fair, and legal?

When met with issues like this, issues on a minuscule scale in comparison, I have also written down the facts, reflected on the events, sought counsel, and wondered about next steps. I generally ask the question, At the end of my life, what decision will I be satisfied with--what decision will I be glad that I made.

Of course, I have honored Comey's work since I saw him on 60 Minutes so long ago. I found his words compelling and work respectful and truthful. When he spoke out about Clinton though, I had second thoughts--why would he speak out? In the end, I felt that he wanted to make sure he was honest to his role and what he knew, and hoped there wasn't another reason for speaking out. Later when he began to speak out about #russiagate, I felt that he was, as I originally thought, an honest, good man trying to do what was right and good to the best of his ability.

Now we see him speaking under oath as a private citizen with confidence, clarity, and conviction--retelling events that occurred to him and his reflections about those events. And we hear our President tell us through his tweets that Comey is not telling the truth.

This makes me think about what is right. This makes me wonder who is doing the right thing and how can we know that?

In all of our lives, it's best to do the right thing from the start beginning with the small decisions we make everyday. Working with others to chart the path is always helpful, and consulting issues with detailed analysis as well as big picture review is critical too.

Also, as Trump supporters suggest, it's best to reach out and speak out sooner than later when issues of conflict and worry occur. Yet, as Comey did, it's also wise to take the time you need to review the whole situation, recognize its value in view of the bigger picture, keep notes, and speak out when the time is right and greater clarity occurs.

In my own life, there have been numerous issues that I've kept substantial notes on. Issues that I haven't spoken up about because the notes, like puzzle pieces, have not created a clear picture of injustice or misdirection, but instead represent a half-puzzle where it's unclear if intentions are negative or if the issues are just circumstantial and not ill intended.

What will happen with #russiagate?

What lessons will we cull from these events in history?

Who will ultimately rise to the top of this situation in terms of honor, respect, and doing the right thing, and who will fall as the one(s) who is self-serving, dishonest, unjust, and uncaring about our democracy and country? Will there be a middle ground?

Time will tell, and in the meantime, as educators, parents, and citizens, we can heed the message that it's best to stay on course with truth, justice, and doing the right thing with issues big and small as we move forward in life.

Also, I'm happy that we have many Americans well-schooled in the law, our democracy, and political discourse/events to lead the way with regard to the #russiagate investigation and efforts.

Looking Ahead: What's Important?

Those reading my blog must think that the it's the longest end-of-the-school year ever. It's true that the end chapter has lasted weeks and is filled with a very large number of culminating events, reports, assessments, and celebrations. There's many chapters within this last chapter, and in some ways, this last chapter is a new one due to subtle changes in curriculum, postponements of events due to weather, and the reality that we're not going to be able to fit in all that we planned. With that in mind, however, what does stand tall in the days ahead.

Biography Study
I edited biography reports with several students today. It was fun to discuss famous people from throughout the ages. Many important life decisions and events were included in the reports. My colleagues who led the project have done a fantastic job helping students zero in on what's important when taking a deep look at a global changemaker's life. The art teacher, tech teacher, and librarian pitched in to to help students create Google Draw mini posters (complete with project QR codes) and beautiful portraits of each famous person. Next week students will have the chance to share their research with family members as they portray the famous person they studied, engage in discussions about the changemaker's life, and share their reports, posters, and portraits.

Amazing Adventure in Nature
There will be ponding, map reading, using compasses, exploring grasslands, testing water, learning about the wetlands ecosystem, and hiking as we explore a local nature preserve.

Field Day
Students will engage in all kinds of playful, collaborative athletic events on this day that is favored by so many students.

Visiting the Middle School
We'll travel to the Middle School to take a look, meet teachers, and listen to sixth graders tell us all about what students can expect next year.

Changing Bodies Unit
Students will learn about their changing bodies using updated videos, discussion, and explanation. We teach this unit with the idea in mind that our bodies are amazing machines (or living systems), and the more we know about our bodies, the better we can take care of them.

Boston Walking Tour
We'll have the chance to explore historic sites in Boston.

Memory Book Signatures
Parents have made the students special Memory Books of their elementary school days. Each child has added a special memory to the book and there will be lots of pictures too. We'll have time to sign the books and share the stories inside.

School Assembly and Cultural Enrichment Events
Students will gather two or three times to say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the school song, watch special presentations, celebrate people who have helped us a lot, and enjoy a cultural enrichment event too.

Class Clean-Up and Portfolio Completion
Students will add final projects to their portfolios, clean out their desks and drawers, and contribute to a classroom clean-up too.

Fun Day, Slideshow, and Clap-Out
The final day will be spent having lots of fun, celebrating the elementary experience with a slideshow, and the school clap-out.

STEAM Study
We'll squeeze in a bit of STEAM study too.

Most of all, teachers need to bring their good energy during the final days of school. The plans are set, the materials ready, and now it's time end the year with peace, care, and focus. Onward.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Navigating the Tiny Troubles

It's often the tiny troubles that upset me, not the big unpredictable troubles. The big, unpredictable troubles are out of my hands--it's only up to me to react and respond when those events occur. I'm not responsible for those events. But with regard to the tiny troubles, I own those--I am apart of those decisions, efforts, and speak so when troubles occur, I am responsible in part.

Lots of tiny troubles arise at the end of the school year when many people are rushing to wrap-up plans, budgets, reports, and more. It can be a stressful time of the year, yet all of these events on the scale of life are small, tiny, and mostly insignificant.

So what's a teacher to do?

First of all see the issues for what they are--very small issues on the scale of good teaching and learning.

Next, do what you can to mitigate the problems, or if need be, ignore the issues until there is more time to give the issues the time and thought they deserve.

Mostly good lead time prevents this kind of last minute hassle, but that's not always in place--so it's a bit of staccato, like hopping on hot coals, that occurs. I can do this.