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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Since You Can't Fight All Battles, What Will You Choose?

There are so many possible ways to develop teaching and learning to help all students learn. As I think of this, the following improvement paths come to mind:
  • Greater cultural proficiency
  • Improved schedules (we have made good headway with this)
  • Strategic use of all resources including teaching assistants, technology, educators, guidance, programming, enrichment, extracurricular supports (There is room for growth here)
  • Greater problem/project based learning
  • Rich, interdisciplinary tech integration
  • Better, deeper community building
  • Increased environmental education and interaction
  • More connections and integration with museums, nature preserves, local businesses, government officials/departments, and other organizations
  • Greater transparency and inclusion of all stakeholders (there has been positive development here)
  • More student voice and choice
  • Greater distributive leadership
  • Rich teaching, learning, and use of social media
  • Greater emphasis on teamwork and collaboration
  • More hands-on learning
  • Integration of the arts regularly for all
  • Integration of physical fitness for all regularly
  • More comfortable, inviting, and modern learning environments
  • Use of good process like "Hosting Conversations" to involve all stakeholders in rich and meaningful ways to develop schools in ways that matter
I believe in all of those emphases above. I know that we can work together to continually develop good schools, and I know our work should begin with our greatest challenges.

As I write, this post helps me to right my road beginning with those greatest challenges.

The greatest challenge I face this year with regard to teaching is the dearth of support for such a large number of students with complex needs and tremendous potential. How do I serve all those students well? 

As a team we work weekly to maximize our efforts to best serve as many students as we can. We have also advocated for different and better supports via coaches' time, Title One educators, teaching assistants, space, technology, scheduling, special events, and more. The first focus, therefore, is serving each and every one of those students as well as we can.

Another focus thrust upon us is getting good scores. Through lots of subtle messaging within and outside of the system, the message is clear, "Get good scores." Of course, some of the supports we need to get those scores such as optimal class sizes, adequate supports, and good resources are not always available, thus the advocacy, yet many of the supports are there so as a team we do what we can to help students meet the standards and get good scores. And, we don't want to get good scores at the cost of students' well being and rich, holistic learning so we strive to meet an even more important expectation which is that students will be happy and successful at school each and every day. This is a main priority that we reach for as a teaching team and do all we can to meet that goal by teaching in multiple ways to inspire and meet the varied needs, interests, passions, and potentials our students present. 

The areas highlighted in yellow in the list above are areas I want to focus on with my practice. Areas highlighted in pink are areas our system demonstrates great strength with, and areas highlighted in green are areas I will continue to research and advocate for via writing, discussion, and debate. 

I wonder what other areas my colleagues and other stakeholders would add to this list. I would be interested in this conversation with the greater school community, and in that regard, our new superintendent has already made a good start with this by surveying the community, communicating the results, and working to determine a number of high priority areas for the teaching/learning community to focus on in the days ahead.