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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Work Towards Positive Change

As I watched the school committee meeting last night on my computer, I was cognizant of change. As the members grappled with the problem of finding a place to park the school busses, I became aware of how much building has happened in the town where I teach. There's not much left over land after you consider the many houses, condos, apartments, shops, businesses, conservation land, parks, churches, synagogues, mosque, sports fields, and wetlands.

Further change was noted as the members and citizens spoke of new programming decisions and the budget. Worries about adding full-time employees could be heard as the committee discussed the need for health care packages with regard to hiring full time workers for the schools. When I looked at the numbers charts, I noticed an uptick in student numbers as well.

It's important to understand the changes that are happening as you think about your career--how will those changes affect your professional goals and efforts?

With regard to the busses, I wish I could think of a better, greener solution. More students could walk which would be healthy, but that would require change with regard to parents' schedules. Many parents in the community where I teach have very busy professional schedules and may not have the time to accompany small children as they walk to and from school over town and country lanes and roads. High school students could be asked not to take cars to school which could possibly free up high school parking spaces for busses yet many high school students need to drive in order to go to after school jobs and activities. One more solution is to hire bus drivers who drive small busses--those bus drivers could keep the small busses at their homes and would have a shorter run with less students. This could be a greener solution.

As I think of my own career path in light of the many changes expressed, I see the following direction.

Rich Interdisciplinary Math Teaching and Learning
One citizen expressed a need for the school committee to think about the way the world is changing and what students will need in the future. This was a good comment, and one that made me think. Boaler's research, in part, points us in the right the direction for math teaching and learning. I will continue to advocate for more meaningful, student-centered, modern math programming, the kind of programming that includes rich interdisciplinary math education that fosters mathematical thinking, skill, knowledge, and concept that transcends all subjects, uses modern tools such as Minecraft, and gives students strong problem solving skill and ability. To do this I will reach out to administrators once again to approve the use of Minecraft to heighten our ability to foster students' modern-day, three-dimensional modeling and problem solving. I will also work with colleagues to advocate for a more logical order of mathematical units and the ability to embed greater collaborative, interdisciplinary investigations into our units. I will also work this summer to organize all of my math teaching resources both online and offline.

Multidisciplinary Units
Clearly the world continues to change and that means our students have to be flexible, well-educated, and thoughtful learners who have a global outlook and strong knowledge, concept, and skill foundation. Education is more important than ever, and that education needs to be broad and deep. That points me to the direction of life long learning routines and habits--it's essential that educators continue to learn in ways that matter with regard to their daily teaching. It also points me in the direction of fostering and supporting rich learning endeavor such as the multidisciplinary units like the Global Changemakers Project we lead each year. Currently our local funding source, WPSF, funds creative teaching/learning endeavor. We are making good use of those funds this year to develop a Frederick Douglass historic mentor unit for the Global Changemakers project. We are also using those funds in another way too to develop greater cultural proficiency in our overall teaching/learning program. Next summer we'll think together about more ways that we can access this funding to develop rich multidiciplinary units that elevate and empower student learning and perspective.

Social Emotional Learning
Our increasingly interdependent world demands that students develop strong social emotional skills and ability. Explicit teaching related to emotional intelligence will help our students to successfully navigate their communities and world. Fortunately our school system is embracing efforts in this regard. I will listen carefully to the leaders in this endeavor, continue to work with the SEL study group that I am apart of, and read more about emotional intelligence in order to help students develop these essential skills.

Conservation and Ecology
Efforts to develop a strong environmental education program were somewhat thwarted this year, but as I listened to school committee members discuss the environment, I realized that I can't give up on this. This spring as our team engages in a number of STEAM and naturalist activities, I'll rethink the ways that we might continue to foster this important learning and teaching.

Advocacy for Quality Education
Educators and citizens have to speak up and advocate for quality education. It's not society's first choice to look out for children or think about the future. Society, like people, are often more reactionary than invested in planning well for the future. That's why advocacy is integral. We have to work thoughtfully together to plan for and envision a good future and quality service and education for children. I will continue to work with the union, state committees, systemwide colleagues, and others to learn about and advocate for high quality education for all students no matter what their class, culture, race, or gender. This matters to our world.