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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Professional Areas of Focus: Mid February 2017

The last few days found me thinking about a large number of teaching/learning issues. Comfortable in my home that is situated in the middle of lots of snow, I read, wrote, conversed, and created as I thought about these ideas. I am a big fan of the ways that good ideas bring us together and move us forward. So now as I get ready to get back to the real world of active teaching and learning, what new learning will I bring with me.

Tech Process and Forms
The weekend began with an exchange of emails related to tech approval processes. In the end, I realized that I need more information to follow through with new directives. Before I can move forward, I need to know the names of programs that are currently approved and I need a form that has answers that match my intent/effort so that I can complete the form. As I wait for that, I'll use programs and software that I believe are approved at this time.

I was really happy to read the good language that the state is using as they begin to embed the new ESSA legislation in our state's educational efforts. I analyzed the information from my perspective as a classroom teacher and filled out the state's response form. I was happy to see that the state's direction with regard to education matches well with my own vision of what's right and good for teaching and learning.

Equity and Bridging the Opportunity Gap
Massachusetts' ESSA document led me to think deeper about how I can work more to bridge the opportunity gap and work towards more equitable practice. I created a document of ideas and shared that with colleagues at my school. One colleague, in particular, added multiple awesome ideas and questions to the document. I will revisit the document in the days, weeks, and months ahead to see how I might build on those ideas and use the ideas to better my practice in this regard.

Developing the Math Program
I was struck by the information in the Massachusetts' ESSA report that pointed to the stagnation of middle grades math performance. We have been discussing issues related to this as a team. I want to think more deeply about this and reached out to our system math leadership with this information and the fact that the information related to conversations we've had this year about math learning and teaching. I want to think carefully with colleagues about this, and work towards continuing to better the math program I deliver to all students. I also ordered a book about students' financial literacy since the standards at our grade level match well to this study, and I'll read the book looking for ways that I can heighten students' financial literacy while learning the standards too.

Tech Integration
I'll continue to look for ways to deepen the way I utilize technology at school to foster student learning and engagement. In response to recent reports and reading, I designed a new math project that students will work on at home and in school after the February school vacation. I believe that this project, in some ways, mirrors Boaler's "floor to ceiling" explorations--the one difference is that students are creating more than problem solving, but I think the project's focus on making meaning utilizing pictures, numbers, and words with a narrative focus will help them to make the learning engaging and memorable.

Professional Study
During the February vacation I'll devote a number of days to my SEL study group reading and writing. This effort takes deep thought that I can better attend to when I'm not teaching so the vacation will provide good time for this. I was struck by a talk I attended on Saturday night that championed Thomas L. Friedman's book, Thank You for Being Late. I ordered the book as it will provide me with a good lens with which to think about the future of teaching and learning. With regard to my professional study, I was struck by Friedman's use of the word "stempathy" and the quote (included above) that stated people in the stempathy fields will make the most money in the future. This prediction ties tightly with our current school focus.

There's a number of phone calls I need to make, and it may be that I make those during vacation because they are all calls that require substantial wait time, the kind of wait time we don't have when teaching. There's also a fair amount of paperwork and preparation related to my work with DESE's Teacher Advisory Cabinet, upcoming school projects, and MTA's Teaching and Professional Learning Committee.

Family, Friends, and Health
The vacation is around the corner and there are a few family events planned that will be lots of fun including my father's 87th birthday party.

Now it's time to get back involved in the day to day, student to student activity of a typical school day (well, perhaps not typical since it's Valentine's Day which always comes with a lot of excitement). Onward.