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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Learning is a Team Sport

As I review emails and prep for today's Department of Elementary and Secondary Teachers (DESE) Advisory Cabinet (TAC) meeting, I am reminded in many ways that learning is a team sport, not the individual activity many think it to be.

Student Failure
A friend told me a story this morning about a relative of her's who is failing in a few subjects. There's multiple reasons why this child is failing, and many, many ways the school and others can reach out to help this thoughtful, caring individual. Most of all this child is failing because he simply didn't have the foundation skills, concept, or knowledge that his peers at the new school have, and the school hasn't created positive paths for this child's success. There's lots of work to do in this situation, and the focus of the work has to be to maintain the child's integrity while working with him to find ways to succeed, ways that include positive social/athletic endeavor, learning-to-learn behaviors, positive tech supports, and educators/classes that meet the child's current foundation level and need. Learning should not simply fall on this individual child's shoulders, but instead be thought of as how the family, school, and student team will work together to help this child succeed.

Class Success
To lead an entire class to success takes the apt teaming of educators, specialists, administrators, assistants, students, and families--the best success depends on all involved. How do we work together to promote success for an entire team that represents tremendous diversity. That algorithm is essential, and some of its parts include optimal communication, goal setting, use of online/offline supports, frequent assessments, and more. A central question here is how can we best synthesize and map our efforts for best success for all students.

Optimal Curriculum and Practice
Today when I attend the state gathering, we'll work on a number of teaching/learning topics related to curriculum and practice success. This too takes a team, a team that represents the individual, local, state, and national level. Together we need to use good process to forward the kinds of learning environments, pedagogy, resources, and experiences that foster the best possible learning for all students. I am grateful that Massachusetts has created teacher, principal, and other administrative teams to team with state officials and educational leaders to work on paths of positive, successful curriculum and practice.

Teachers Union
The local, state, and national teachers' unions see it from the teachers' perspective--what do we need to serve children well? At this point in time, main topics such as equity, inclusion, good process, conditions for excellence, and researched-based decision making are priorities in all discussions. We know that it's imperative that all children have school experiences where the conditions for excellence exist. It's not in our country's best interests to provide some students with failing facilities, education programs, and supports, while other students, generally wealthier and more privileged, enjoy multidisciplinary educational environments that have the conditions for excellence every child deserves. All schools should be top-notch. Further, the processes for educating, assessing education, and making decisions for schools and school communities need to be uplifted. We can't stay mired in old-time processes for decision making when so many terrific tools and structures exist for more intelligent, and promising processes and decision making exist. To stay mired in the old is to limit the potential possible for children in our schools.

Learning is a team sport, one in which we have to reach out and look for modern day leaders to lead. The potential is great for what good schools with conditions for excellence can promote with regard to the well being of every child and our nation. If we look at our work as the work of education team players, then we will be able to find the places where we can share our best knowledge, research, experiences, expertise, and questions to help further the good we can do together.