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Friday, January 06, 2017

Betterment

In complex systems, organizations, and groups, there's always room for betterment. In schools where we serve many, one factor that plays a big role in betterment is service delivery--how can we best deliver the multiple services students receive in timely, well coordinated ways so that every child receives the best possible education.

We spend considerable time beginning in late spring, through the summer, and early in the school year crafting weekly schedules that embed all children's services in positive ways. We have a top-notch schedule, yet as I think about our schedule and service delivery, I realize it's time to shore up some of the smaller areas of service--mostly areas where students receive services outside of the main subject/teacher blocks.

For example yesterday we met with a new "Growth Mindset Group." It's a group of students with a similar academic focus--a focus that requires good growth mindset in order to reach the goals. When we met, there was clear camaraderie and excitement about being together and discussing the academic goal. The guidance counselor agreed to lead the group, and her skill and knowledge brought great structure and skill to the group. The idea for this group grew out of an late December PLC, and now the challenge will be finding time in the schedule to grow the group to serve its initial intent.

Also with the potential advent of new supports thanks to the upcoming use of Title One funds, there will be decisions to be made about who receives that support and what that support looks like. Of course that will depend on who is hired and what his/her skills are.

In our system, we are fortunate to have a fair number of professionals available to support student learning. The key is to use those services in the ways that engage, empower, and educate students best. As I look around, I always see new ideas for ways that service delivery can be provided to uplift student learning and experience of school. If the ideas are outside of my area, I'll express the idea to those who lead or serve in that area, and as for my area, I like to look for ways to better what I do too.

Math Instruction
Currently we're focused on model making, problem solving, decimals, and fractions. Students are learning to use Google Table and Google Draw to make math models. They'll also practice using good strategy to solve math problems. We're working individually, in small groups, and as a whole class online and offline with multiple activities to learn. For the moment, I believe the core program is directed well and we'll continue the course set.

Math RTI
We just started our new groups. I began with a math game which was lots of fun and leant me all kinds of good information about my math learners. We'll continue with the game approach as students gain a solid foundation of number sense and fluency.

Reading RTI
Students have been using the wonderful IPad App, "One Minute Reader." It's a well crafted app that has very interesting passages that help students to build fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary across genre. Students also wanted to start a new book so we went to the school book room together and we chose a mystery which they are beginning to read this week. Next week we'll discuss the story, continue reading and use the app again. This too is off to a good start. My only wonder here is would we be better off with a 30-minute daily Reading RTI time to provide greater consistency of support in this area. I am thinking about this and what it might look like in the schedule.

Social Competency/Class Meetings
We have about one-hour a week devoted to this in 4 small chunks. Currently we're going to use this time to focus on conflicts/needs as they arise, character education w/regard to the study of Frederick Douglass (our historical mentor/topic for the biography project exemplar), and the growth mindset group. That's a lot of focus poured into an hour a week, so I'll continue to find ways to weave the principles and information related to this topic into math introductions, problem solving, field studies, special events, and more.

Fortunately I don't teach all the subjects anymore which allows me to go deeper with research and instruction in the areas I'm responsible for. There's lots of room for growth in those areas so there's no fear of lost time or boredom.

We're on that cusp of the year where it's time to stay the course set for this year and teach well and also begin to think about next year and the good schedule, routine, supports, and focus that will lead our teaching and learning individually and collectively well.