The commissioner of education emphasized the goal of quality instruction. Similarly the superintendent of schools also emphasized instructional quality. The superintendent mentioned it is both the what and how that matter--the content and the process.
In Massachusetts our teaching is led by thoughtful standards documents. The documents help to give students a good foundation of knowledge, skill, and concept. We know this is important because as Willingham has stated, "knowledge begets knowledge."
As I think about the work I'll do ahead, I'll be thinking of what quality instruction looks like and the processes connected to that instruction. As I think about and employ quality instruction, I'll emphasize the following:
- Allegiance to the intent, meaning, and words of the standards documents
- Using a variety of ways to teach the standards--pedagogy that is engaging, relevant, and memorable
- Giving the students the tools to be lifelong learners, and as lifelong learners helping them access the opportunities to be creative, to enrich, and to access further learning experiences and opportunities.
How will I do this?
We'll begin the year with a heavy emphasis on creating a dynamic learning community with shared policies and protocols--policies and protocols that support a safe, supportive learning community. During this time students will engage in activities that build teamwork and good relationships. Students will also learn about their brains and behaviors, and the many ways they can support their own learning. We'll dispel myths too at the start of the year so that everyone recognizes that they are capable of learning and deserve acceptance, high expectations, and sensitive coaching and support.
As I dive into the curriculum areas I will focus in on the specific standards' content and process. Via multiple methods including hands-on experiences, reading and writing, vocabulary focus, tech practice, problem solving and project work, assessments, the writing process, and reflection students will develop, apply, and present their learning in meaningful and relevant ways.
Together we'll help student to synthesize their learning via a number of field experiences and special events including the following:
- Christa McAuliffe Challenger Center Mars Expedition
- Sturbridge Village introduction to colonial America
- Boston Museum of Science trip
- Historic Boston Walking Tour
- Great Meadows Rivers/Wetlands Living Science Exploration
- Wheelock Family Theater Play related to building cultural proficiency and arts appreciation
- Sudbury River Living Science and Stewardship Walk
- Global Cardboard Challenge
- Living History Presentations
- The Fifth Grade Play
- Global Changemakers Project
- STEAM Days and Projects
The learning environments we create as a grade level will be welcoming and student-run--we will make materials and spaces accessible to all students to assist with their learning choices and efforts.
I believe overall that this program offers students quality instruction. Yet, how will we measure student success.
We have many ways to assess student success including the following:
- Happiness--we talk a lot about this. Are children happy, and if they are not happy what can we do to increase their happiness via home-school connections, meeting basic needs, providing social/emotional supports, greater attention, and academic support.
- Assessments--we assess specific skills and learning in multiple ways.
- Project Work-- I want to be more explicit about the ways I respond to this next year
- Reflection and Writing--I want to support more regular "low stakes" writing and reflection in all content areas next year, and I want to regularly respond to that reflection and writing. I will do this via science lab reports and response and a math reflection journal completion and response.
Last night I listened to two high school seniors describe their experiences in our K-12 system. Their words, questions, and ideas were music to my ears--the students were happy because they felt the learning was just right. They were also discerning as they had good ideas about continued development with regard to providing a positive education. They highlighted the fact that overall our teaching/learning community is a respectful community that acknowledges the gifts and interests of all students.
Our grade-level website title is "Everyone is Welcome Here." This is a good mantra and one that I want to continually work towards. There's still definitely room for growth and I look forward to this climb. Onward.