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Friday, July 14, 2017

Incorporating NBPTS Core Propositions into the Teaching/Learning Program

Too often, too many, try to recreate good plans for teaching and learning when optimal plans already exist. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has been working for many years to outline what it means to be a good teacher. Their five core propositions lay a valuable foundation for teachers and schools everywhere. That's why I recommend that educators and school administrators read about NBPTS focus and promote national certification for all educators in their schools.

Today as I begin a renewed focus to support NBPTS values and objectives in my practice, I am focused on the NBPTS five core propositions and how my team and I make those propositions visible in our TeamFive learning/teaching program. As I reviewed the propositions with a team lens, I recognized that it would be advantageous for every teaching/learning team to use the propositions as a way to evaluate and forward their team efforts to teach all children well.

I invite you to take a look at my analysis below and I welcome your commentary. I can imagine teacher teams using the NBPTS process to uplift their teaching/learning efforts as they lead each other forward to NBPTS certification and membership as one important way to forward the teaching profession to provide every child and family with the learning environments/supports they deserve.

Proposition One: Teachers are Committed to Students and Their Learning
Proposition Two: Teachers Know the Subjects They Teach and How to Teach Those Subjects to Students
Our team has done significant individual and collective work in this area. Each classroom teacher team member takes the lead in specific subject areas and we all support each other in teaching those subjects. I take the lead in STEAM and math teaching/learning. In that respect, I have specific reading and research that I'll do to continue to develop my expertise and practice in these areas. That work is outlined in these research and practice posts.

Proposition Three: Teachers are Responsible for Managing and Monitoring Student Learning
Again, similar to Proposition Two, our team consistently engages in managing and monitoring student learning. And also like Proposition Two, there continues to be room for development and growth in this regard in the following ways:
  • Employ consistent, holistic assessments at the start of the year to get a broad, personal perspective and base-line for every student, and use that base-line as a resource when making school year goals with students, family members and colleagues. I want to take a more targeted, explicit approach to this effort. 
  • Utilize multiple methods to reach instructional goals: Already we employ multiple methods, however, in our planning meeting this summer, we will take a close look at the methods currently in use in order to prioritize and streamline so that we are reaching for deep quality over surface efforts. Our reach for greater depth and quality is the next step with regard to these efforts. Also, individually and collectively, we'll continue to learn from each other and others to broaden our repertoire in this regard. 
  • Support Learning in Varied Settings and Groups: Our shared teaching model provides us with a good ability to vary settings and groups. Each classroom has a different environmental focus/set-up to encourage specific learning in that classroom. Students learn in all classrooms throughout the week. We also employ Response-to-Intervention techniques to create varied flexible grouping throughout the year to respond to specific student learning needs and interests. We have homeroom teams and as a whole grade-level employ inclusive team learning days and events. Our team approach allows us to use time, space, and grouping creatively and responsively to meet all students' needs and interests. 
  • Student-centered, norm-focused, positive collaboration and teamwork is manner in which we will run our varied groups beginning in the first weeks of the school year. Students and educators will co-create classroom routines, protocols, norms, environment, and efforts to foster optimal learning/teaching for all. Together we do better. (Note: I'll incorporate the use of a student/teacher-created norms trifold at start of the year for this effort).
  • More of them, less of us - we foster engaging, student-centered learning environments where students actively learn on their own and with others. Student interest and engagement are at the center of what we do as a teaching/learning team. We foster and support student passion and interest. In this effort, educators coach, guide and mentor student learning efforts with varied strategies and support related to growth mindset, effective effort, questioning, self-advocacy, good use of resources and more. 
  • Regular observation, reflection, and assessment informs practice and is a regular part of all teaching/learning endeavor by students and educators. 
  • Teachers and students will co-create learning paths beginning with success criteria (vision/goals) and how they will measure success. Then together they will outline the learning path including significant opportunity for reflection, assessment and revision along the way.
Proposition Four: Teachers think systematically about their practices and learn from experience.
Our team takes a systematic approach to teaching and learning with the following efforts:
  • We meet during the summer to discuss/analyze last year's efforts, revise and update the curriculum map and discuss professional learning needs and efforts to come. 
  • We meet several times a week to discuss our team efforts to teach all students and use a working document to list needs, questions, and resources throughout the week as one way to inform and organize our collaboration.
  • We use Professional Learning Community (PLC) and Student-Meeting time to coordinate our efforts with special educators, coaches, directors, the principal and other colleagues, students and family members to set goals, plan curriculum units, obtain supports, write grants, and identify professional learning events/supports weekly.
  • We typically employ learning paths related to specific units of study and communicate those paths ahead of the teaching/learning as one way involve all stakeholders' questions, ideas, and involvement in these efforts.
  • We use regular assessments and reflect upon those assessments as we continue to respond to and teach our students both expected grade-level curriculum standards and teaching/learning that responds to student needs and interests.
  • We continuously learn from multiple learning endeavors, and regularly share the outcome of our learning via writing, meetings and presentations. We embed that new learning into our teaching practice regularly and engage in difficult discussions about priorities and teaching/learning effort. 
The one area in this proposition that I believe we can work on is our collaborative work to update and restructure systems of support. Currently some systems that we're connected to are unaware of the well-researched propositions outlined in NBPTS, and as a team we need to advocate for more modern ways of sharing, elevating, and embedding optimal learning endeavor into the work we do. 

Proposition Five: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities
Our team belongs to multiple learning communities. We belong to content-specific learning communities related to reading, writing, math, social studies, STEAM and science. We also belong to an SEL learning community including Open Circle, Responsive Classroom and integrating social-emotional learning into our daily lessons and unit study. Further we belong to the systemwide and school learning communities. We are engaged with learning communities outside of school as well including the Massachusetts Teaching Association (MTA), National Education Association (NEA), National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), Massachusetts DESE Teachers Advisory Council (TAC) and some online/offline content/practice-specific groups.

To improve school effectiveness, our team together or on our own have collaborated with other educators through summer work, grants, and professional efforts to do this work. 

As a team, we are growing our efforts to work collaboratively with families by improving our orientation process by way of a systemwide grant and perhaps with the help of Teach-to-Lead in the future. We are also hoping to work more closely with our school PTO to coordinate special events throughout the year with the teaching/learning program. 

We have reached out to the greater school community by coordinating our teaching/learning efforts with local organizations such as Audubon, The Christa McAuliffe Challenger Center, Wheelock Theater, Boston Museum of Science, The Harvard Peabody Museum and the Wayland Public Schools Foundation (WPSF). We can look for ways to deepen and extend our community outreach through service learning, invitation to community members to student events, requests for expert visitors and more. This is a good focus for our team's future work and endeavor.