Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dream School: What I'm Wishing For

While I've typically advocated for better in school, this year I'm focused more on the classroom details and efforts to support each child's successful learning and experiences of school. Yet, my advocacy spirit has not dimmed, and I dream of so many positive changes for schools--changes that will make schools more inviting, successful, and future ready for all students. What do I wish for?

Deep, Meaningful, Engaging, and Creative Tech
Rather than workbook-on-a-page technology, I want to integrate more deep, rich, constructive technology like 3-dimensional printer software and machines, coding such as SCRATCH, learn at your own pace, well-designed intelligent assistants like Khan Academy, multi-player games, and three-dimensional modeling programs like Minecraft. My hands are tied in this area and my options are limited with regard to what technology I can use with students. I've spoken up, and now it's up to others to try to deepen the tech we use. I know that this is a right direction for education.

Better Purchasing Systems and Protocols
I am spending more money than ever for my classroom. Fortunately the PTO will reimburse me for some of those purchases. But the way our purchasing system works is that you have to order most of what you need during the very tired last weeks of school--weeks where you have little to no time or energy to give ordering your best thinking. Now that I'm fresh, new curricula is introduced, and I know my students, I find that I need many more materials to make the class a successful, happy place. Sometimes our behavioral problems occur because we don't have the kinds of supplies that welcome students' comfort and good learning. Sounds silly, but in a small classroom with 24 students, traditional dice are loud and don't land well on the surfaces available. Yesterday I was introduced to foam dice which were so much better. I wish I could order those right away to make learning better, but the process is lengthy and detailed so if I want them, I have to order them myself. I also know that comfy chairs relax this class so I'll order a few more, and while I can support the STEAM lab with lots of recycled goods, I don't have the storage space or time to drum up all those supplies. Instead, I can order well-made supplies to support the projects which I have done. The list goes on and on with regard to supplies I could use to make the learning better, but given our current purchasing system and the time I have available for paperwork/advocacy, if I want those supplies, I mostly have to buy and pay for them by myself if I want them in a timely manner.

More Playground Equipment
I've noticed how well received our latest playground equipment is. Children LOVE it! We could use more climbing, stretching, and swinging equipment. I'd also like a gazebo space with picnic tables and some open space for too-sunny and drizzly days so students can still be out in the fresh air. Big swings for student/teacher swing and talks would be nice as well, and newly painted sports fields lines will support more peaceful and organized play for those who enjoy sports games at recess.

Strategic Teaching and Learning Roles and Staffing
I think we can go deeper when it comes to strategizing the way we use our time to help every child learn. This will take a whole-school approach, commitment, and creativity. I think there is some lost time and staffing in this regard, and I can think of ways to improve this.

I still long for that kind of deep, reflective, transparent, and inspiring regular communication. I don't know why this does not occur often, and perhaps I am alone in desiring this. I find that teaching well takes lots of inspiration and encouragement, and the kind of newsletter or communication my husband used to receive weekly from his boss who is now the governor of Massachusetts is something I long for with regard to our shared efforts to teach and learn well. I looked forward to Mitchell Chester's weekly note at the state level, and now that he is gone, his voice and leadership is missing.

Less Leaders, More Time-On-Task Support
I continue to be a fan of distributive leadership where almost everyone has responsibility for, and time-on-task, with children. I find that too many leaders leads to confusion and less support for children, whereas models of shared teaching and co-coaching lead to more dedicated and collective work with and for children.

While I desire a lot, I am thankful that I have a cozy corner in the classroom for professional work, substantial paper, one-to-one chromebooks for every child, a great grade-level team and systemwide colleagues, a terrific teaching/learning schedule, invested students/parents, dedicated colleagues, a large grassy playground, lots of natural spaces, specialist subjects, community support, and more. There's a lot in place, and I think there can even be more with little additional cost, and potentially promising results.