Saturday, June 09, 2018

Building Up: Improving Practice

I've found that when it comes to improving practice, I like to build from the ground up. I like to think deeply about those we serve and how to serve them better. Then I like the hands-on approach to integrating those efforts to improve what I can do on my own and with others.

There's never a shortage of growth opportunities, and there's always much to analyze, assess, create, and implement in the process. It's exciting work when done with the right amount of thought, research, collaboration, and good process.

As I think ahead, I continue to think about the areas that I'll focus on in the year ahead, areas I continually write about as I don't want to lose focus. All learners who make positive change know that repetition is an essential part of this process--good change is not a one-time event, but instead an evolutionary effort that requires constantly revisiting the goals, deep analysis, and incremental change.

So as I right my ship this morning, I want to be fully aware of the short list that I'm focused on in the days ahead, a short list that includes these efforts:
  • Development of Math Teaching to best teach each and every child in ways that include all grade-level standards and math practices with hands-on, engaging, scaffolded, student-centered, rigorous, culturally proficient, quality instruction.
  • Development of Science and STEAM teaching that has the same qualities as the math program.
  • Development of a dynamic team approach with all educators, therapists, guidance counselors, administrators, students, and family members involved in the fifth grade program.
  • Inclusion of SEL into the academic program. 
  • Continued reading and research to improve practice. 
When goals are like this, it's helpful to have an acronym, phrase, and/or image to center yourself on the goals. I will be thinking of what that will be.

Last year, I focused on Plant a SEED:

As I assess last year's efforts, I am pleased for the following reasons:
  • Our team taught all expected STEAM activities using the design process and we added additional activities including The Global Cardboard Challenge and STEAM activities with our kindergarten buddies. 
  • We included all of the math standards in teaching year, however, I think I can work for greater engagement next year which I think will be a by-product of the next year's focus on more scaffolded, collaborative, mini-projects where students have to prove their math thinking with models, numbers, and words. Also the inclusion of a reflection journal will serve to deepen the teaching and learning.
  • We really emphasized the fact that everyone belongs and focused on this via our website signage and information as well as multiple lessons embedded in the curriculum throughout the year beginning with our history of people talk, early year team building activities, and the history of skin shade discussions.
  • All of our teaching language, student reflections, problem solving focused on self-advocacy, choice, questioning, and personal/collective learning paths. Students used this language too as they spoke of the year and their individual learning. 
Next year's focus will be characterized in this way:
  • Learn, Explore, and Prove math knowledge with greater project base learning and the writing process including pictures, numbers, and words.
  • Increase  rigor of scientific inquiry and experimentation related to science standards, environmental science, and STEAM study with greater student collaboration, use of lab sheets, and scientific, engineering, and design processes. 
  • Scaffold curriculum to give every child a just right entry point. 
  • Tie SEL into the curriculum regularly including student's active discussion, reflection, and experiences  related to CASEL's SEL Competencies and as characterized in the book I wrote with colleagues: Integrating SEL into your Curriculum.
  • Engage more effectively with the broader Education Team with specific strategies to teach all students well.
  • Nurture each and every student.
My overarching theme will be the word Listen: