Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Fertile Ground for Professional Growth: Let Ideas Simmer

Jimmy Casas impressed me as an educational
leader when I met him years ago. I look forward
to reading his book this summer. 
I like to let good ideas simmer, sift, and sort in my mind over time.

I also like to play with ideas well before those ideas are embedded in my work.

I find that entertaining and developing ideas in this way creates a lot of open spaces in my brain to take in, synthesize, and evaluate all the information related to those ideas over time.

This summer I'll be playing with the following ideas. I find that the better I define those ideas, the more able I am to grow those ideas in ways that matter.

Math Unit Development
I am working to develop the math unit structure, process, and execution in ways that better teach the standards and engage students positively in the study of math.

This effort will build on past successful efforts.

Introduction and Rationale
Each unit will begin with an introduction to the overarching theme of the unit and the rationale for learning that information. The rationale will be relayed through real-world stories, illustrations, and need. Essentially students will learn about the unit's main focus and why they will be stronger, better students and world citizens if they learn that information well.

I know that Jo Boaler's new book will support the
efforts I want to promote related to project/problem
based learning in math next year. 
Next students will engage in a scaffolded deep study of each standard which includes explicit teaching, exploration with hands-on, tech, and paper/pencil activities, vocabulary exercises, practice packets, tech practice, at-home and in-school reflection, assessments, more practice, and a performance task. The performance task will give students a chance to apply what they've learned with problem solving and project work. The performance task will include the following steps:

  • introduction
  • collaborative work
  • individual presentation via writing, model making, film, slideshows, and/or other venues
  • editing with a teacher
  • revision
  • presentation to classmates, family members, other students in the room, and/or online
Assessment will occur in an ongoing formal and informal way, however at the end of each unit students will take the systemwide assessment online and offline related to that unit. 

This study will require fidelity to the schedule--to meet the standards expectations requires that we use our time well to support consistent, steady study in a welcoming, thoughtful learning environment.

Science Exploration and Study
Similar to math study there are clear guidelines from the system and state that support this study. The challenge is to meet these expectations in ways that engage students and teach them well.

To do this better requires that I spend some time this summer re-reading the state standards and chosen systemwide curriculum. As I read, I'll reflect on the standards taught well and those that I can teach better next year. I'll also take a close look at the MCAS data when it is released to see what questions students did well on and where students demonstrated that they need more or better instruction. 

In general, I want to improve the instruction in the following ways:
  • Ordering materials ahead of time so that I am ready for the multiple explorations students will engage in.
  • Reviewing the websites created to support students' study.
  • Developing a better approach to the lab report to support students' systematic study, reflection, and reporting. I want to use a simple report that I can respond to at the end of a lab -- I may place these reports together in one science notebook to support students' overall study and work.
  • Working with the local nature preserve, Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, to develop the environmental science study efforts.
  • Continuing our work with the Discovery Museum and Boston Science Museum to develop students' science interest, engagement, and study.
We put a lot of time into this book, and I look
forward to reading it again so that I can embed the
ideas more successfully into the daily teaching
and learning. 
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
Successful efforts so far have included embedding SEL mini lessons into academic subjects. I want to re-read a book I co-authored with colleagues and demonstrate more fidelity to the ideas presented in the book in next year's curriculum as I know the language and exercises in the book will empower students ability to develop emotional intelligence and good collaboration skills which is most important to their overall success. 

Similarly I want to think about how we will continue to embed these ideas into the first six weeks of the school year, a time when we establish routines and build class community. I suspect that we'll continue to utilize these activities:
  • parent/student surveys
  • happiness survey
  • character building discussion and activities
  • social emotional learning assessment and goal setting
  • review of school handbook (constitution) and noting which policies and protocols each of us follows with ease and which ones require more practice and support
  • creating signage to lead class efforts in this regard
I also want to work with the class more to think about their role as the oldest students in the school and what that means for their school wide behavior. We'll look deeply at these questions:
  • What does it mean to be school leaders? How do we make that visible?
  • How can we help others in the school?
  • What kinds of words and behaviors will result in respect and good reputations in the school?
  • How can we help one another in kind and caring ways?
Embedding the New Social Studies Standards
Our team has begun to think about how we'll embed the new social studies standards. To begin this work, I'll make the time to study the new standards with depth and then work on how we'll embed the main themes of the standards and its focus on the constitution and government into our first six weeks of school as we build democratic classrooms. This will bring me back to study I did a long time ago related to similar content. I look forward to this effort as I believe that it's important for students to understand their history, rights, and government well. 

These will be the four main areas of summer study and 2018-2019 school year improvement and development. I am excited about letting these ideas simmer, sift, and sort as I play with this progression and ready for the positive changes ahead.

To make sure that I complete this work, I'll actually set aside a couple of days for each topic and dive into that work at a local library or other learning center during the summer months.