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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What is Happiness and Why Does this Matter?

I don't like the name calling that's happening in American politics. Name calling is like slamming the door in the face of others--it stops conversations and minimizes important issues. Instead, I believe in civil discourse and debate. I also acknowledge our primitive instincts to quickly demean and disrespect those that disagree with us or do us wrong, but caution myself and others to move above and beyond our primitive selves towards civility, respect, collaboration, development, and betterment.

This led me to think of commonality of purpose and action, and brought me back to the great words that lay the foundation for our United States democracy, words that formulate our vision to provide all with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The focus on happiness caught my attention and prompted me to imagine a world based on an economy of happiness. I tweeted out a number of questions related to the attributes of happiness, happiness metrics, and happy communities. People retweeted and then tweeted related links. I decided to collect the links here as I continue to focus on this vital element of living--an element that leads to peaceful communities, quality living, and care for one another.

I'm sure I'll add more in the days to come, and I invite you to share related links, tweets, and research with me.


Walk the Walk: No Name Calling

One who I often disagree with shared demeaning words. I was tempted to name call due to my frustration and disappointment with the situation. Yet, as I watch political leaders use name calling, disrespectful soundbites, and disparaging remarks to quickly knock those that disagree with them down, I recognized the harm in that. When we name call, we avoid the needed analyses, civil discourse and debate o find the promise in the problem. As Getting to Yes reminds us "Go hard on the problem, not the people."

Instead I wrote a note to the person who made the remark. I noted how the remark made me feel and suggested a possible alternative. I looked closely at the individual recognizing so many strengths that I value and some traits that challenge me. I noted my own part in the episode--the energy I brought to the meaning, recent events, and vision.

Essentially we share so many goals, and we both regard well attributes of each others' work, yet there are areas of disconnect, areas that I can work to change in positive and proactive ways.

So, it's best to move away from name calling, disrespectful soundbites, and quick judgement, and instead seek common ground and ways to work together. That results in development rather than disparagement. So as I write, I'll commit to walk the walk with regard to no name calling, and instead seek to work with those that challenge me. Great leaders of the past have demonstrated that this is the way to move forward, a way that I respect and will strive for.

Summer Coaching and Care

Ready for preorder
Summer is a great time for educators to shore up areas of challenge and care for ourselves and loved ones in ways that matter.

I'm thinking deeply about this as I embark on the summer vacation today.

What will I do?

Many family members gathered for a Mt. Washington
hike and family get-together in Jackson, NH.
  • Focus on health and energy
  • Family reunions and celebrations
  • Supporting family members' pursuits and activities
  • House upkeep and improvement

Why Speak Up? You Have No Power

A friend said that he will not speak up because he has no power? Yet, what if a person with power embraced his idea? What if someone got courage from his words and spoke up too? What if his one voice became many voices and resulted in positive change?

I hold King's words dear,

Every day I consider the ideas and words of many.

I respond with my thoughts born from the best of my experience, research, and thought.

I often change, revise, and develop my ideas as I read the responses from others.

I know that this is the path of development, positive change, and inclusion.

I will not stay silent, and to the best of my ability I will speak with respect and the knowledge that I am one of many.

In the end, I encourage all to speak up with respect, care, and the desire to do what is right and good for all people.

The Value of Transparency

As I prepare for a meeting with our new superintendent, I reached out to colleagues for ideas. I know that I don't have all the answers, but I believe the more that information, advocacy, and ideas are transparent, the better they will grow and develop in ways that matter to the children we teach.

When secrecy dominates, capacity wanes.

Transparency with regard to almost all information is advantageous to the people and organizations we commit our time and energy to.

In some cases, transparency will mean change, and that change will demand that educators re-look at process and structure related to transparency, structures such as idea-share systems, response to questions, inclusive teams for decision making, democratic processes for decision making/committee creation, and more.

How do systems become more inclusive and transparent, and why does that matter? is a question I'll be thinking about in the days ahead.

Educator Advocacy Matters

For many years I've been advocating for better in schools.

Many years ago after reading and researching about STEAM and witnessing some amazing STEAM efforts by colleagues in my school system and beyond,  I advocated for greater STEAM teaching efforts. I spoke to an administrator who told me that STEAM was nothing new. I countered with the question, "Then why aren't we doing it?" The same administrator responded to my advocacy with the comment that I couldn't be the "tail that wags the dog." As you can imagine it was a disconcerting discussion. Since that time, however, the same administrator has embraced STEAM efforts and teaching by working with his chosen colleagues to forward the effort. I was not directly included in the efforts, but the efforts have taken off and are mostly positive.

Now I am advocating for greater choice, voice, leadership, and respect for educators. In too many situations, I notice that educators have little voice and choice with regard to professional decisions, efforts, and direction. This results in an oppressive atmosphere where many educators experience lack of voice, choice, and respect--essentially an environment that demeans rather than empowers.

Rather than point fingers or insinuate that some are not doing their jobs or consulting the research, I want to advocate in ways that are positive, respectful, and transformative.

How can I encourage systems to change in ways that empower educators who in turn then empower students--what kind of advocacy is needed here?

First, I will speak to leadership about the potential that teacher voice, choice, and respect hold for better systems of teaching and learning. I'll note where such respect, voice and choice occur, and where it does not occur. I'll suggest possible changes such as more timely and inclusive communication patterns, teacher-driven modern professional development, better curriculum development patterns, and system structural changes that empower all stakeholders and create more time-on-task with students from all educators.

Next, I'll work with the local, state, and national unions to elevate teacher voice, choice and respect. Locally, I'll work with the union board and members to make sure that our contract is followed with respect and attention to detail. Just last year, there were areas of contractual agreements that were challenged and on the verge of breaking. This kind of union busting is not legal or respectful. We have a good contract, and I'll work to make sure it is followed, and I'll also work with the board and members to begin improving that contract too to give educators the voice, choice, environments, schedule, and supports they need to teach children well.

Further, I'll focus in on my own work in the classroom to make sure that I'm "walking the walk" as well as "talking the talk" that leads to good teaching and learning for every child. I know that good teaching takes dedicated energy, time, research, and effort--it's positive, challenging, and sometimes tiring work that demands the best of us in order to teach well. Fortunately I really enjoy the work I do and want to continually improve what I'm able to do for students.

Similar to my STEAM advocacy, I expect that greater teacher voice, choice, and respect will occur. Dissimilar to my early advocacy, I want to remain a part of this change--I don't want to be left out of this exciting revolution.

As an educator, what are you advocating for right now? How are you advocating, and why does this matter? Are you connecting to your local, state, and national union with regard to your advocacy? I will be thinking more about this during the research and reading days of summer.

Are Educators Led with Respect?

As I listened to stories of school in multiple places at multiple levels, I noted differences in respect.

In some schools and at some levels, educators have significant choice and voice, and at other schools and other levels, educators have much less voice and choice. I wondered why this is true and looked a little deeper.

At some schools and some levels, educators choose and lead their own professional development. Treated well as professionals, those teachers have the time and authority to identify their needs and interests, and then to utilize professional dollars and time to meet those needs and interests. At other schools and levels, educators' professional development is chosen for them and done to them. There is little voice and choice, thus leading to mostly disrespectful professional development that includes little to no teacher voice and choice.

At some schools and some levels, educators choose the supplies they will use to teach well including classroom furniture, teaching resources, and storage facilities. At other schools and levels, materials, furniture, and storage facilities are chosen for educators. Again, when educators have little to no say over the environment they teach in and the materials they use, there is less respect and capacity too.

At some schools and some levels, educators are treated with respect. Administration considers themselves servants to the educators who in turn consider themselves servants to the students--this kind of servant leadership attitude results in a students-first teaching/learning environment. In other schools and levels, administrators use a hierarchical model where mostly or only administrators make decisions, know what's going on, and set vision--this top-down, sometimes cliquish, model can be oppressive and disrespectful leaving educators without any or little choice, voice, or respect. One time I heard of an administrator who essentially said that anyone can teach and it didn't matter who was hired--this is the kind of hierarchical, disrespectful attitude that oppresses educators leading to less potential capacity and investment.

At some schools and some levels, communication is inclusive, transparent and timely. Educators are on the frontline of knowing what's going on, and in other schools and levels communication is unshared, exclusive, and irregular thus keeping educators out of the loop of knowing about new ideas, what's going on across the system, and what is planned for the future. This kind of information is shared without clarity and timeliness thus leading to less potential investment, collaboration, and good work. Conjecture and hearsay unfortunately gain traction in systems like this.

In the best of schools and circumstances, educators are full members of the teaching/learning community--they make informed, collective professional choices that matter with other stakeholders including students, family members, administrators and community members. These educators choose quality professional development experiences, the furniture and materials that they utilize to teach well, and goals and vision of their collective work and endeavor. In situations like this educators are empowered, inspired, and invested because they are able to do the good work possible to serve students well. Unfortunately there are other schools and levels where teachers are continually demeaned, disrespected, and disregarded with little choice, voice, or respect--in these schools teachers suffer and so do their students because educators' professional investment, experience, and capacity is greatly challenged by suffocating, oppressive hierarchical systems.

I imagine that most school systems fall somewhere on the oppressed--empowered scale. As a believer in the servant leadership model of management, and one who regards educators' professional study, experience, and dedication with reverence, I believe that systems need to embrace more holistic, distributive, collaborative models of leadership, decision making, and effort--the kinds of leadership models that allow all stakeholders to have voice and choice in ways that empower our schools and students in ways that matter. Similarly, I also believe that most educators in school systems should have direct time-on-task with students, when too many educators are distanced from working directly with students, there is greater potential for less teacher voice and choice as there becomes a thick layer of decision makers who are distanced from the good work students' need and desire, the kind of work that leads to good decisions, discussion, and debate.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Intersection of Priorities, Good Work, and Marketing

It's important to do good work.

It's similarly important to spread the good news about good work.

Prioritizing time, attention, and effort leads to good wok.

Sometimes marketing takes the place of good work.

Marketing can look good, but might not represent good work.

People everywhere have to beware of marketing. When marketing, they have to be careful that their words, images, and presentation reflects authentic, good work, and when lured by marketing they have to look beyond the glitz to notice what's real, and then assess if the reality is rightly portrayed by the marketing.

Questions like this can help one navigate this intersection.

What is good work?
What good work matters most?
How can we tell the story of good work in ways that reflect the reality and potential of that work?
How can we use marketing to attract others to invest in, contribute to, and take part in this good work?

As teachers and learners, it's essential to prioritize good work and tell that story with honesty and care. It's similarly important that our work is deep, rich, and meaningful and not just for the purpose of marketing and looking good.

What Elevates and Celebrates Teacher Voice in Schools?

Good systems for decision making with considerable teacher voice and choice currently don't exist in many schools. Most schools today still follow a factory-model structure of thinkers and doers--this is not a good structure for modern teaching and learning, and it's not a model that puts modern age mentors and leaders in front of students everyday.

When teachers are mostly passive doers rather than thinkers and doers, there is lost potential in schools. On the other hand when educators are full members of the learning team, there is greater potential for schools to meet the promise they hold for teaching children well.

To change schools from old-time factory models to new-age learning communities, takes considerable thought and planning. First it requires that all stakeholders believe in the potential that inclusive, transparent learning communities hold for teaching children well. Next it maintains that systems look at where this transparent, inclusive share exists fully or in part. For example, our PLCs are an opportunity to build in the use of greater strategic, inclusive efforts. Many good ideas are exchanged and worked on during PLC though sometimes PLCs are less inclusive and open. Our grade-level meeting time results in good collaboration and positive efforts.

To date our professional learning events have not kept paced, mostly, with modern learning approaches, and our communication is inadequate since it is generally not timely or inclusive--teachers often aren't part of the discussion during the innovation, research, or planning stages of projects and efforts. Our new teacher contract, however, states that new initiatives will include initial teacher-leadership meetings, and that's a positive step.

I have a lot to say. I read a lot and I see promise and potential everywhere. I understand I don't know it all, and I crave the good learning that comes from collaboration that uses good strategic process, respect for all stakeholders, and efficient share. I want to hear what my dedicated and talented colleagues are doing particularly when their efforts can impact the work I do to teach well.

I believe that our system currently has too many decision makers that are distanced from working with children. I believe our Middle School and High School have better models of teacher leadership and teacher voice and choice than the elementary schools. Often elementary school teachers are spoken to and treated like the young children they teach rather than the dedicated, well-schooled professionals that they are. This is problematic. I've written about how we can change leadership models to enlist greater teacher voice, choice, and leadership at the elementary level.

As I think of teachers like me, teachers filled with ideas and a desire for greater share, leadership, and innovation, I recognize that systems that include the following will support us and boost what we can do.
  • Timely, regular communication that describes plans/ideas in the works, what's happening now, and what has happened.
  • Opportunity for regular share, problem solving, and creativity with efficient, modern day, strategic process
  • Good, holistic, transparent analyses of programs, and the opportunity to reflect upon the analysis and make related changes for betterment
  • Inclusive goal/vision setting and authentic, holistic measurement of goals
  • Effective evaluation systems that lead to betterment
  • Share of exemplary efforts that are evidenced by data, both formal and informal
The good news is that I have the essentials with regard to materials, time, scheduling, and resources to teach well. Now what I'd like is more effective systems that elevate teacher voice, choice, and leadership so we can maximize our energy and collaboration to continually better our service to families and students. 

Working Through Discouragement

I left school so discouraged yesterday. It felt like so many important decisions were being made for us and not with us, and further, there were words that implied we did something wrong, yet I couldn't understand what the references referred to. It was a meeting with lots of listening, directives, and some confusion after a year of collective, dedicated positive teaching and learning with overall very good results.

What might have happened is that problematic issues could have been relayed, discussed, and resolved as they occurred with explicit effort. Also decisions could have been made with greater teamwork. In general, I'd like to see our system restructured in ways that support distributive leadership, elevated teacher voice and choice, and greater use of timely, transparent, strategic process to solve problems, share research and ideas, and evaluate/develop programs.

Some of the structures that are in place in the system are the same structures that were there when I started teaching in the system 31 years ago. In some cases, that works just fine, but in other cases, it's definitely time for change.

When you read about modern organizations, you recognize that autonomy, mastery, purpose, and teamwork are essential criteria for success. Good organizations today strive to elevate "collected genius" with effective/transparent communication, inclusive/collaborative teamwork/decision making, and strategic process that's employed with substantial lead time and the voices/choices of all stakeholders.

I recently heard our outgoing superintendent laud the use of strategic process, and I agree with that, but I'd restate it as inclusive, transparent, strategic process. That kind of effort will elevate what we can do by lifting up all stakeholders rather than leaving them out.

As I thought of this today, I figure out how I'll work within the parameters set and also advocate for promising change with respect.

I looked for the promise in the problem, wrote to administrators and colleagues with a potential win-win idea, and made a plan for next year's work and effort. Now I'm finally ready to start the summer break. Onward.

Working With Tight Protocols and Mandates

I work with increasingly tight protocols and mandates.

This, as you can imagine, challenges the creative, child-centered teaching approach I value and believe in.

Yet, I want to keep my job to support my family so I will follow the mandates set.

How can I be child-centered, creative, and teach with meaning in the face of these very tight rules and protocols?

Math Scope and Sequence
I have a tight math scope and sequence to follow. The order is not one I would choose, but I have been told that doesn't matter and I must follow the order as set by some. I will find a meaningful way to do this that includes the following elements:
  • Early year introduction to math tools, resources, Google classroom, games, routines, and protocols
  • Early year assessments including tests, math autobiography, portfolio/reflection work
  • Math units that include big picture, paradoxical, brain-friendly introductions, meaningful real-world problems, projects, and data, online and offline practice, teamwork, explicit teaching, vocabulary, exploration, and assessment. 
I'll follow the order prescribed using creativity and sensitivity to bring the prescription to life in ways that are meaningful and engaging for children.

STEAM Projects
I'll work with grade-level colleagues to make time for the STEAM projects. I will bring creativity to the projects as we tie them together with meaningful focus and themes.

As I think about yesterday's STEAM explanation, I realize that it would have been great if the staff had met to discuss this as a teaching team earlier in the year. That would have brought the best ideas forward and helped us to help one another choose materials and think about our process and focus on this important part of the curriculum. 

I'll learn about the many science kits ordered for us and work with colleagues to personalize the kits in ways that make the teaching and learning meaningful to students. 

Professional Learning 
I'll learn with supportive committees such as DESE's Teacher Advisory Cabinet (TAC), MTAs Teaching and Professional Learning Committee (TPL), NEA/MTA's National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Initiative, local union efforts, my dynamic grade-level team and online groups I associate with. These are groups that are filled with enthusiastic, dedicated educators who are forwarding modern processes, think, and effort to transform schools and teach every child well. 

Field Studies
I'll continue to plan and support a worthy array of field studies for students. I hope to connect those field studies deeply with the work we do each day to teach children well.

Open Circle/Social Competency
I'll look for ways to institute a daily class meeting, share, and leadership meeting where students have a chance to express their ideas and questions as they lead and manage their own learning community.

Learning Community Efforts
I'll do what I can to establish and develop a strong learning community of family members, educators and students so that we can support one another with efforts to teach every child well.

Warm, Welcoming Learning Environment
I will forward a grant to support a more modern learning environment, one that replaces the old fashion desks, chairs, and shelving we have. I will write a grant to support this. As a team, we may forward the grant to support classrooms as reading/research nook, writing studio, and STEAM lab--that would give students a variety of supportive learning environments to work in during the year. 

I will avoid outdated learning venues and committees--ones that are essentially ineffective with regard to process and result. 

Future Plans: Advocacy and Good Teaching

I'm still smarting from the troubling end to the school year. Why did administration choose a sore subject to end the school year with--a subject that has plagued teachers like me for weeks, a subject that reminds teachers that we are simply peons in the eyes of some--do-its with no choice or voice over so much of what we do, professionals whose years of experience, study, and commitment are too often overlooked, undervalued and not supported?

Why couldn't the focus have been on all the good work that happened all year long--the extra effort, meaningful child-centered work, creativity and care. Why didn't we talk about the promise and potential we hold as a committed team for transformative work and care towards children.

Yet, I guess the meeting put me in my place, and helped me to tone down any grandiose ideas I had about teacher voice, creativity, responsive teaching, distributive leadership, and inclusive, transparent communication. That's right, I'm a teacher who is given a strict guideline about what to do and then asked to do it to the best of my ability. No need for thinking, creating, analyzing, or working as a professional since for the most part there's a prescription created, in part, by some who rarely to never work with children or engage in discussion about what really works in classrooms.

This is not what I believe creates good teaching and learning. I believe that good teaching and learning is much more passion driven, research directed, and child-centered. I believe that teachers should teach children first and content second. The excitement and meaning of the job comes with matching curriculum goals with children's needs and interests in sensitive, creative, meaningful ways--that's where the daily magic of teaching and learning comes from. Simply following one-size-fits-all directives is not what creates deep, rich, and engaging teaching and learning programs.

But, that's what many who direct my work believe--they spend hours crafting lists of lessons, materials, and time for me to follow, and then with little to no voice or choice, I'm told to follow those directives with the threat of "insubordination" at my back--they have power over me and they know it.

This experience supports my belief that much of the problem schools face lies in the structures used to lead and manage schools--a structure that mirrors old time factory hierarchies with leaders and doers--administrators and teachers. As if children are manufactured items, some see teachers as the assembly line workers who do as they are told to each child as he/she is moved along the assembly line of day-to-day teaching and year-to-year grade levels. My reading and research tells me that this is not how children learn, instead each child is unique bringing to us his/her own set of needs, interests, strengths, and challenges, and when we personalize the learning in ways that matter, each child moves forward with strength. That is the teaching and learning venue I believe in and have seen work again and again in my many years of experience as a grade school teacher.

To do the job well in a meaningful way, many teachers simply stay silent. They nod and smile then do what they believe is right and good. Yet that silence does not contribute to dynamic teaching/learning communities, but instead supports the misuse of money, time, staffing, and materials--when people don't speak up, unjust and ineffective teaching/learning efforts are allowed to continue, and this continuation creates situations that don't support the potential that schools hold for helping every child do well. Our meaningful, open, and honest share, research, and collaboration is what builds wonderful, dynamic learning communities.

So what's a teacher to do in the face of all this?

As noted before, I will continue to advocate for what is right and good for schools with respect and care. In the meantime, I will do as I am told in order to keep my job and support my family. I will also work with my union team to see what we can do to help elevate teacher voice and choice in order to build the schools that children deserve. Onward.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Teaching Next Year: Stay Strong and Focused

My voice, research, creativity, and effort are not regarded well by the leadership in the system where I teach. They essentially degrade my ideas, ignore my achievements, and disrespect my efforts. This has been a long standing experience, and anyone who reads my blog knows that I've been working with administrators who do not value me for a long time.

Fortunately parents, students, and community members value me. They see my work upfront and know that I am invested in teaching students well. My family members similarly value the work I do, and support me. This is all good.

I can't continually get down by the way I'm disrespected on a daily basis, and while some advise me to leave my position, that is not a good choice at this time in my career for a number of personal and financial reasons.

So what's a teacher to do?

First, I have to distance myself from the disrespect. I have to follow the dictates of a large number of administrators, and as much as possible, going forward, I'll do what they tell me to do as long as it does not include anything that will harm a child. If their requests cross the bar of safety to children or contractual agreements, I'll seek union support.

Second, I'll work to contract. Thank goodness we have a contract that outlines our professional responsibility--I'll follow that.

Third, I'll dedicate myself to what I can do in my classroom with and for students, and I'll gain my learning and growth from my many education-related activities outside of the school as I'm a member of many teaching/learning groups.

Fortunately I work with a dynamic team and I'll continue to work with and learn from these dynamic educators. I also work with wonderful families and terrific children who are ready and willing to collaborate with regard to serving children well.

While I note injustice around me, I will not speak up about it unless it is illegal, affects human dignity or challenges safety for children or colleagues. As for all the ridiculous things that happen, I'll turn my cheek in another direction. Earlier this year, I had to speak up when our contract was illegally broken by administrators. Fortunately our union was able to confront those that broke the contract and remedy the situation.

Teaching well is challenging and rewarding work. At its best it's a team effort that's well supported by many. Unfortunately in many school systems, there is undue pressure, oppression, and quieting that occurs which keeps teachers down, limiting what we can do. I hope that families, citizens, educators, and others will advocate for more modern systems of leadership and effort--flattening the hierarchies that exist and replacing them with learning communities that value the voice and choice of all stakeholders.

In the meantime, and over the summer, I'll find some reprieve and a chance to research and study to continue honing my practice and serving students and families well on my own and with my colleagues. Onward.

Moving Beyond a Discouraging Last Day

I teach in a wonderful school. The educators give 200% in time, effort, creativity, research, and care. Our students are happy and typically skip down the halls. The parents are supportive. There's lots of smiles and cheer, deep learning, and success. It's generally a good place to teach and learn.

Yet today, on the last teacher day of school, it was very discouraging. We spent a long time talking about cabinet orders--there's been numerous emails exchanged about the cabinets. Cabinets have been proposed and denied. In the end, there is one cabinet choice that appears acceptable, and that cabinet will be filled with supplies mostly chosen by administrators. The cabinets seemingly paid for by extra dollars from the after school program will house materials for school, after school, and summer school. I estimate that there's been about 100 hours or more collectively spent on the cabinet discussion/research when in fact there's been little to no teacher voice and choice in the matter. In hindsight, it seems like the administrators should have just told teachers that they are ordering cabinets and the cabinets will be placed in our classrooms. That would have saved a lot of time and frustration.

Also, there was a discussion about the order in which to teach standards. Administration essentially told me that it's my job to follow the order directed by them. I believe in responsive teaching which means teaching the standards in ways that match the children that come to your class. I like to order the standards in meaningful, engaging, intersecting ways that build excitement and capacity for learning. But to keep my job, I have to follow the rules with no real professional voice or choice.

Further, at the end of the meeting, teachers were essentially chided. I'm not really sure what we were criticized about as I didn't understand the references made, but it wasn't a positive ending message.

This is all very disconcerting as I am a big fan of distributive leadership, flattened hierarchy, teacher leadership, learning communities, responsive teaching, and researched-based development and growth, but today it seemed so old fashion as about 50 women sat in a circle and listened to ridicule and choices made for them with little to no chance for discussion, exchange, or debate.

What's a teacher to do?

To keep my job, I'll follow the many rules and dictates set for teaching and learning, and find ways to serve and support students with as much care, creativity, and kindness as I can within the tight boundaries set. I'll continue to advocate for change in respectful ways that I can find as I continue to think that some of our mandates mirror old fashion ideas about what works in classrooms and schools rather than new research and methods for powerful, passionate teaching and learning.

I will also continue my research, create a warm and inviting classroom environment, and support my talented and dedicated colleagues who give so much of themselves each and every day to teach children well.

It's My Idea

For some, only their ideas matter.

In fact, for people like that, there's almost no use in trying to share ideas or have voice, because no matter what you say, their idea will trump.

This is problematic when people like this are leaders because that means few to no are represented in decisions, and when there is little representation, there is often little buy in or valuable success.

It is troubling to face situations like this in both small arenas and large arenas as large as a state or country.

When What You See is Not Supported?

I see so much potential and promise in education, and it's very difficult to get support for that vision. It's a vision well supported in research and in many places, but in my close community, support is sometimes lacking.

Parents and close colleagues generally see things the way I do. They read the newspaper, live and work with children daily, and continually develop their ability to serve children well whether it be at home or in school. But some, distanced from children, but with power, simply don't see what I see when it comes to empowering and developing schools.

What I see is the following:
  • Inspiring and developing teacher leaders make schools strong and provides wonderful mentors for students
  • Creating and developing collective goals in transparent, strategic, and holistic ways with all stakeholders build strong schools
  • Decisions related to how to spend dollars at school should be a collective decision by all stakeholders including those who work closely with children day in and day out
  • Problems should be regularly addressed in strategic ways that look carefully at the data, observations, and anecdotal information w/teamwork and collaboration
  • There should be a strategic plan related to budgets and activities that is informed by good research and created by all stakeholders
  • Communication should be timely, inclusive, transparent, and accurate
  • Research and development belongs to all, and new ideas should be readily explored and tried out
Vital, vibrant communities depend on empowering the people who make up those communities. There is so much lost potential when the voices of stakeholders remain silent and unused for important decisions that affect students and their families with regard to school. 

There is so much good possible, but this good depends on strategic process that enlists that voice and choice of all stakeholders and does not rely on the opinion and decisions of a few distanced from those we serve. 

Do You Destroy, Maintain or Build?

It seems that most people maintain. They neither destroy nor build. Some destroy and destruct, continually tearing apart what's possible, and of course, others are builders--they like to create and make.

In each of our lives we probably mainly balance maintenance and building. We maintain what serves us well, and perhaps, build where we see room for better. At times we may destroy too in areas where we see no promise or possibility.

In general, I think we do best with a builder's mindset as that mindset fits a changing world. Our world one minute to the next is never the same--it is always changing and the builder knows that he/she needs to continually redesign and re-think his/her life to flexibly move with changes in his/her world.

The maintainer often loses sight of the changing world. He/she sometimes maintains for good reason, but at other times, may maintain long after a tradition, process, or routine is valuable--he/she may not recognize the impact change has on our days and our need to build and develop in response to those changes.

The destroyer may be one without hope, one who cannot see possibility and promise and therefore only pays attention to what's not working and looks for ways to take down or deconstruct his/her world.

The builder's mindset creates team, forwards possibility, and leads positive change. In general, this is where I'd like to put most of my time and energy.

Closing Remarks: So Much Good and Room for Development Too

There was so much good in school this year.

The teaching assistants were extraordinary--always teaching, helping, counseling and caring. If I were in charge of the world I'd elevate their salaries and shorten their work year a bit. They are true gifts to the school community.

The office staff, custodians, lunch room staff cared and supported educators and students daily. They put into place new protocols and served us so well.

The specialists led the students in engaging projects and activities while the recess monitor ensured recess safety.

Countless parents contributed to the school program by chaperoning field studies, offering expertise and new ideas, and volunteering their time to make the school year very successful.

High school and middle school students joined us to help the young children learn.

Colleagues worked together and supported each other day in and day out as we created and carried out numerous programs, interventions and special events.

It was overall a super year.

As I look ahead though I see lots of room for development, areas that I would like to forward change include the following:
  • more efficient, streamlined, targeted, timely, regular, and transparent communication about initiatives, ideas, and research
  • more teacher voice and choice when it comes to decisions, supplies, curriculum, and all efforts that impact the professional work we do--authentic choice and voice
  • a better collection of holistic formal and informal metrics to assess and evaluate the work we do individually and collectively
  • more accurate, transparent, and honest share related to individual and collective efforts
  • better, collective and holistic goal setting and action plans that mirror current research as well as study and learning community requirements, needs, and interests
I think that developing our processes of communication and strategic action will develop what we can do with and for each other and most importantly the students and families we serve. Onward. 

Lost Opportunity

When I listened to the keynote speaker at my son's graduation, he essentially said that the worst sins are sins of omission--not doing what's possible, leaving good left undone.

We never knowingly want to not do the good possible. If we err, we want to make sure we apologize. If we leave someone out, we want to make sure we include them later. If we notice good work and effort, we want to acknowledge that. We want to spread the good that we can.

A long time ago a friend and I parted ways. I treasured that friend so much that I didn't want our relationship to end without a meaningful note. I wrote a long letter telling the friend all that I valued. I have always been happy that I took the time to write that note.

Significant moments of time are extraordinary opportunities to seize the potential and promise possible. We want to inspire and elevate those around us whenever possible with truthful, kind, and inspiring words and acts. Onward.

Listen to Children

It's so easy to prescribe what students need, want, and desire, but it's much more difficult to make time to listen to children and let them lead.

Children generally know what they need, and if we give them time to speak and make choices, they typically speak and choose well.

Too often we speak for children. Too often we think for children. Too often we plan and prescribe for what we think they need.

The real strength in teaching, learning, and parenting is to give children the voice, choice, and leadership they deserve with regard to the environment, experiences, and events that impact them.

One of the best ways to do that is to have a daily meeting. Other ways are to invite students to write emails, lead meetings, make changes and engage in meaningful discussion and debate.

Good teachers everywhere know that listening to children is essential when it comes to teaching and learning well. I want to lead 2017-2018 with this point.

Putting Out Your Fire

There will always be those who work to distinguish your fire.

They've got the hose ready to spray whenever you have a new idea, pose a question, or create. They truly dampen your spirit as they dictate formations to follow with rigidity and little room for voice and choice.

All through our lives we meet people like that, and it's likely that we've been that kind of person from time to time too.

As I think back, the first person in my life that was like that was my high school French teacher. She perseverated about the little things, the tiny details related to speaking and writing French. I could never succeed in her class and dropped French after a couple of years.

Later in life their was boss at my first job after college. He was a stickler for details. Similar to the French class, that job was short lived, but dissimilar to the French class, I did learn a lot during that rigid work experience--in fact, I use many of those skills that I learned during that one-year period in my professional and personal life today.

There was also the most difficult education course that I ever took. The teacher was very detail oriented and seldom pleased with my work. I worked diligently to pass the course, and remember almost nothing. I liken the lack of retention to the rigidity of the course.

As I look over my life, those three experiences and one or two close to home now are the only rigid experiences I've had in my life. In most experiences, both professional and personal, there's been more flexibility and elasticity--they've been loose-tight learning experiences, and mostly learning experiences that I've enjoyed and retained.

As I think of rigidity and learning, I don't think it's the best way to teach or learn. I am much more a fan of experienced-base, responsive teaching and learning that avails itself to voice and choice. I think this kind of fluid platform for learning connects better to the latest cognitive research. While parameters are important, relationships, sensitivity, connectivity, and responsiveness are more important. When you're learning with passion including both heart and mind, retention, engagement, empowerment, and inspiration occur, and when those critical attributes occur, the learning sticks and develops.

I noticed this in college, and that's why I always chose courses based on the quality and dedication of the professors rather than topic, class size, or course rigor. I found that when I had a passionate professor, I learned more no matter how the course was taught--the professor's passion was contagious, impactful, and inspiring.

So as I think of the topic, "Putting Out Your Fire," I first want to caution myself about putting out others' fires, and instead inspire myself to embrace the passion, ideas, interests, and drive my colleagues and loved ones exhibit. If it's good for others, I want to cheer them on. I also want to make sure I'm always cognizant of the fact that I don't know it all, and many around me have answers and ideas that I've never even thought about. I want to be open to their dedicated voices and choices as they live and love.

Next as I think of those that "put out fires," I will heed their words and think carefully about their halting remarks and dictates. I will listen for the truth in what they say and regard their experience and outlook with respect. I will also, however, respect my own experience, research, passion, and drive since we know ourselves well, and we all have a good idea about the gifts that are ours to give. While I won't disrespect those who extinguish my flame, I'll also not disrespect my own experience, professional training, and direction. Onward.

The Value of Tight Protocols and Dictates

Typically I run a loose-tight classroom, a classroom that leaves room for modern-day research, inspiration, student voice and choice, parent input, and collegial efforts. I don't usually have a lot of tight dictates or rigid rules. I believe in loose-tight as I think it opens the door for greater creativity, personalization, development, and inspiration. It would be interesting to measure the results of what I do in a holistic way with a classroom teacher that is more rigid and less bending with regard to procedure and protocol. Perhaps a more rigid style leads to greater learning and progress. I'll be thinking about that.

In general I like to think of education as a conversation--an ongoing, developing effort to nurture children forward in their current studies and future pursuits. When I look around me and research, I notice that it is the personal, thoughtful approach of building relationships, knowing students well, and utilizing research in an ongoing and developmental way that leads to student success, happiness and contribution. I utilize a similar approach to parenting.

Yet, I don't know all, and there may be advantages to tight protocols and dictates that I am unaware of. If you know of those, please educate me as I want to understand.

Social Media Builds a Positive Community

While many chide social media as they share stories of its ill effects, I'm noticing how our PTO president has used social media to build positive culture, voice and choice in the school community. Similarly the principal, administrative assistant and educators at our school uses Twitter, blogs and websites to spread the good news. At its best social media becomes the transparent conversation, debate, discussion, idea share, and day-to-day communication vehicle for organizations and communities big and small. This leaves our face-to-face time for more meaningful, rich, and deep share--the kind that moves organizations forward in ways that matter.

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.

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.

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.