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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Signs of Success: Evaluating Teaching/Learning 2019

What will be the signs of success in your teaching/learning program for 2019? How will you evaluate the quality of the work you do with and for students? I am thinking about this as I gain steam for the months ahead, months filled with goals that mostly will come from my own ability to inspire and push myself ahead.

Student Smiles
I want students to mostly smile in my midst which means that I will evaluate the teaching/learning program, in part, by students' happiness. If students are happy, I know, in part, that the program is successful.

Student Engagement
When students are fully engaged in the learning, that means I have time to roam around the room answering questions and helping out rather than redirecting behavior and trying to get students engaged. Good engagement requires lots of kidwatching as suggested in Timeless Learning, and responding well to what you see/know that students want/need. Good engagement also requires just-right levels of reach for learning experiences, relevant/meaningful inquiry/exploration/projects, and lots of student voice, choice, and leadership. If students are fully engaged during the learning experiences and continuing those experiences on their own time, I know that they are engaged. This is a sign of success I will work towards.

Knowledge, Skill, and Concept Mastery
I want students to master identified knowledge, skills, and concepts. I will evaluate this in a number of ways including the ways that students write about, demonstrate, and discuss the identified standards. I'll also notice how they do on expected assessments and project work. I'll evaluate students' work closely to notice what they are mastering as individual students and as a group, and what continues to need more or different attention in order to lead to mastery. As part of that focus, I will work to make sure that students get enough just-right, engaging, and profitable practice with the expected standards.

Progress
I will evaluate my work, in part, by the progress I am making too. This progress will be evaluated with regard to the success of learning experiences with particular attention to the following areas:
  • students' independence
  • students' engagement
  • students' mastery
  • my ability to motivate students and explain
  • my ability to choose engaging activities with and for students
  • my ability to use time, space, and collaborative teams effectively 
  • my ability to translate professional learning into the classroom program 
Right now I know that I can improve with regard to engaging students in more hands-on floor-to-ceiling, standards-based math projects and I know that I can improve with richer, more engaging, and organized science learning experiences. I can further greater interdisciplinary study as well by integrating reading, writing, science, math, and social studies into worthy, engaging project/problem based learning. There are countless ways that I can improve the current curriculum program utilizing the standards, resources, technology, and spaces available. This work requires steady investment, professional learning, reflection, revision, and refinement--it's meaningful and arduous work that, if done well, will result in an improved teaching/learning program.

As you can see there's much to do in the new school year to spell betterment for me as an educator and for my students, colleagues and other learning community members to enrich and improve the teaching/learning program, a program I'll evaluate with the signs of success noted above. 



Teaching Well: The Focus of the New Year

My blog is a bit of a broken record as I continue to focus on same goals in the teaching/learning sphere, yet these goals are important and not easy to reach hence they remain the mainstay of my work.

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
As my teaching morphs, so does the learning environment. As much as possible I want the learning environment to be a student-friendly environment where students can easily access all the wonderful teaching/learning materials available to strengthen learning on their own and with others. This is a goal that continually evolves as I refine the materials available and teach students how to access, use, and care for those materials. As much as possible, I want my learning environment to be a studio/lab environment that promotes optimal creativity, making, collaboration, inquiry, exploration, and meaningful learning.

Deep, Meaningful, Engaging Math Study
The goal is to teach the standards and more via multiple deep, meaningful, and engaging activities. I know that learning like this is memorable and successful. The challenge here is to design the best possible learning events, events that scale from floor to ceiling with respect to reach and events that children want to study in school and beyond school hours. The greatest challenge in this work is to be able to design these learning activities so that students master, extend, and enrich the content in ways that nurture a love of learning as well as learning success.

Engaging, Collaborative, Successful Science Teaching
As my classroom morphs into an engaging laboratory of inquiry, exploration, and learning, I want the science teaching to also move in that direction. Science teaching requires a lot of thought, study, and set up--it's not a simple proposition in the elementary school day or environment. I hope to use last year's work and website as a starting point and then dig into the many materials and resources available to make this study more engaging and successful for all students. Students LOVE learning science and the challenge is to facilitate this in ways that result in mastering multiple standards, whetting students' appetite for more science study, and increasingly inspiring students' independent ability to manage and extend their own science learning.

Classroom Community
As the book Timeless Learning promotes, I want to become even better at kidwatching and responding. I want to know my students well, listen to their interests and needs, and respond in ways that empower their ability and interest in learning well. I also want to help students gain the social emotional skills, attitudes, and attributes that leads to optimal teamwork and collaboration. I want children to enjoy coming to school and I want the to see the classroom and school as their home away from home, a place where they are invited to learn in ways that are meaningful and engaging as they study content and complete projects in multiple disciplines.

Teamwork and Collaboration
In addition to kidwatching, I want to carefully observe and respond to colleagues, families, and other members of the learning community. I want to think carefully about what I can do to develop my ability to team with others to help make our teaching/learning community a successful, positive, and happy community.

To do this work well requires that I'm happy, energized, and healthy--this requires a positive at-home as well as in-school routines. Nutritious food, time for healthy activity, rest, and enjoyment all prepare me well to teach in meaningful, positive ways. A good personal routine is essential to teaching well.

The focus is not new, but remains an essential menu of what I hope to do in the year ahead to reach the goals set, goals that help me to teach math and science well in addition to contributing to and forwarding a positive, proactive learning community, family, and home.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Choice and Center

Like many, I'd like to do it all, but I can't so I take time to determine what the priorities are and where I'll invest my limited time, energy, and dollars.

The same priorities land on top including family, home, teaching well, and positive pursuits related to nature, art, writing, research, and politics.

The center comes from choosing a good routine to nurture those priorities in ways that matter while also recognizing that some valued places and people will stand at a distance due to those limitations. We can't do it all.


Blind Spots

Coming to terms with your blind spots is a great source of renewal and betterment. Where is it in your life that you've been blind to potential, positivity, and good living?

As I think of this today, I am thinking mainly of people I've turned a blind eye to--people who were, perhaps, crying out for acknowledgement, listening, help, or understanding, that I didn't listen to, respond to, or take the time to understand. My blind spots have been more about people than events.

As I think deeply of two people that I was somewhat blind too, I realize that their needs were overwhelming to me, and the ways I was called to help seemed unreachable. Hence, I turned a blind eye on these people. I didn't know what to do. In hindsight, I wish I had been upfront about that feeling. I wish I had simply said to the people, I feel your anguish, your need, your desires, and I simply don't know what do do. How can I help you? Had I said that, I know that in both cases, the persons in need would have responded with kind direction. They probably would have said, I appreciate that you care, and what you can do for me is . . . . . The specifics, I believe, would have been doable.

Thinking about this reminds me that we are remiss if we don't simply express our unknowing in situations like this. To own our unknowing is to create a path to knowing, and in both of these cases, I would have been much more helpful to simply ask, How can I help you? What can I do?

When we are overwhelmed by need, it's best to look deeply at that need and to recognize what it is about that need that creates our own angst, inability to act, and blind spots. To turn a blink eye is to deny the potential for betterment that exists, but to instead take the time to be curious about a problem, think about it, and then to inquire and act is far better. Onward.

What brings you joy?

As the new year approaches, the question, What brings you joy? is on my mind. All of us have limitations that may relate to time, energy, geography, dollars, connections, and more, and those limitations force us to think carefully about how we will maximize what we have to help us lead joyful lives. To take time to think about what truly brings you joy means that you'll likely spend the time, energy, and dollars on what enriches life rather than wasting it on events and efforts less valuable or joyful.

What brings you joy?

For each of us that answer will vary greatly. For some the answer may include a mix of one or more of these activities: wonderful outdoor adventures, relaxing vacations, music, shared meals, lovely homes, solitude, togetherness, and creative endeavor.

How do you determine what brings you joy, and then how do you plan for that joy?

There's many ways to play with the question, What brings you joy? One way is to journal about one or more of the following questions:
  • If you were left with only $100. what would you do with it?
  • If you could do anything you wanted with one whole day, what would you do?
  • If you had endless resources, what would your life look like?
  • What is an ideal week? What is an ideal vacation? What is an ideal job?
  • Who do you most like to be with and why?
Identifying what means the most to you is an essential ingredient of finding your joy. It's also important to identify what your dream-life looks like. Exercises such as writing about the dream you, your ideal life, or even your obituary can help you to notice what matters most to you.

Once you understand what you love and what you desire, you can start to plan for a joyful life. A good way to achieve that joyful life is to create a weekly pattern that helps you to get there--a pattern that includes contribution, sacrifice, and good times for self and others.

Contribution
Rarely do you hear of an individual whose joy comes only from and for self. Though that may occur with those that cloister themselves and devote themselves to a life of prayer or solitary creativity, most people find joy in working and living with others. And to successfully and joyfully live and work for and with others requires contribution to those we love and live for. There is great joy in contributing to others' positive living and our collective efforts to live good lives.

Sacrifice
There are few to none amongst us that can reap joy without sacrifice. Sacrifice means that we put some of our own needs and wants aside in order to save up or make way for greater joy for ourselves and others down the road. Just yesterday in the news was the story of a good man who devoted his life to his work and a needy family member--that man saved lots of money and at his death left that money to many organizations that serve others. He could have spent the money and time on himself, but he sacrificed to give to others and create greater joy. There are all kinds of ways that people sacrifice time, energy, and money to create joy, and this is part of the joyful equation of living. 

Good Times
Good times will be defined by all of us differently and it's essential that we map out our lives somewhat to make space, time, energy, and dollars for those good times. Traditional good times like holidays, personal/family celebrations, and accomplishments provide a natural path to good times and joy. If we take time to think about what brings us great joy, we will also find ourselves creating new traditions and events that bring us good times and joy. These personally created events might be as simple as a healthy lunch once a month with a good friend or as complex as a yearly reunion of loved ones in the mountains or by the ocean. Whatever your good times are, it's important to forge a path in that direction--these good times and traditions pave the way for joy, and joy is essential to good living.

As I think of the words in this post, I look forward to creating a a year's joy map--a map that will include the kinds of events that bring me joy as well as the sacrifice and contribution that will make that joy possible. As I say often, there are limitless ways to create a positive, joyful life, and the first step is taking the time to think about what that means to you, then creating a loose-tight map towards that end. I use the words, loose-tight, as part of a joyful life is also to leave room for the serendipitous events that come our way, events we don't plan or, but events that make us have to rethink what joy means to us and how we will reap that joy in our everyday lives.

What brings you joy?

How will you map out a joyful year?

What contributions and sacrifices will enable you to live joyfully?

Who will be your most cherished companions on this journey?


Friday, December 28, 2018

Timeless Learning: Curate and Improve Your Education Vision/Work By Reading This Book


"Timeless Learning is a book that directs our attention to children. The authors implore us -- everyone involved in education -- to see children. They share their lessons about learning to "be much much better at seeing children." - Yong Zhao


As I read Timeless Learning; How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools today, I found myself curating my own vision and work as an educator. I recommend that all educators read this book and reflect as I did because this book will help you to create a classroom, school, system, and/or district that is engaging, positive, future-ready, and as the title suggests, timeless.

As I read through the book, I thought about the many decisions made each and every day in schools, decisions that often occur as responses to whims, complaints, or ideas that emanate from a few. Too often these decisions are made without a real sense of vision, mission, or philosophy, and when this happens, schools of old become increasingly mired in outdated practice, beliefs, and investment. This is probably why schools have not changed much in 100 years.

Timeless Learning provides educators at all levels information, inspiration, questions, and ideas for developing a deep set of priorities focused on what's best for the children we teach and the schools we support today and into the future. Rather than supporting superficial change and outdated schools, this books calls educators at all levels to think deeply about how we create spaces, use time, and promote programming that truly puts children at the center of their education in empowering ways.

Personally, the book has inspired me to develop my ability to observe and respond more to children in deep, meaningful ways. "Kidwatching" as this practice is referred to in the book helps educators to teach content within a child's context, and this results in engaging learning that often leads to flow. The book has also deepened my conviction that developing trusting relationships with the children you teach is a top priority when it comes to teaching well. Further, I'll also use the many ideas for deepening teaching/learning projects and problems to inspire students' creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

The ideas to promote more micro-immersion experiences as part of professional learning were wonderful too. I hope to attend New York's Maker Faire to reap the same inspiration that educators from Albemarle Schools gained, and I hope to write grants and look for more micro-immersion experiences for colleagues and students to develop our ability to learn together in deep and satisfying ways.

Timeless Learning affirmed my desire to deepen my ability to teach math and science in meaningful ways. I suspect that I'll return to chapters in the book as colleagues and I work to remake our schedule, look for ways to engage every child in meaningful learning experiences, provide opportunity to all, and forward greater project based learning--the kind of learning students want to continue well after or before the official school day/year.

I believe that this book would serve as a positive book for administrative and/or school teams to read together and discuss chapter by chapter as they create vision and mission as well as discuss the philosophies that lie at the foundation of their individual and collective education practices. It's a good book for affirmation too because we can use the stories and research included in the book as rationale for our own transformative decisions and practice. We can share this rationale with families and others who may question changes we employ.

There were countless quotes in the book that spoke to me including those listed below:

“What isn’t absurd is that we have an opportunity to connect our profession to the journey of educators across time who understood that when young people and their teachers engage together in pursuit of learning for life, they create an edu-ecological system that thrives even as it evolves.”

“Go back to your schools or districts and tomorrow, change something."

‘What we can control is what we choose to do more of, or less, in our learning spaces to give us the chance to notice children, to see their faces, hear their voices, find their strengths, and help them know their own value.”

“Equity provides resources so that educators can see all our children’s strengths.”

". . .learning must be flexible, open, and choice based in as many ways as possible."

". . .authentic, meaningful learning is less controlled by by adults and more reflective of learners who develop agency."

"When learning becomes timeless, it becomes authentically human, owned by learners."

"Learning is all about trust."

"As teachers become kidwatchers, they begin to break fears of what kids might do."

"When our educators come to embrace and own their own learning in a context of seeing themselves as designers, creators, and makers, it changes the game in how they approach working with learners."

". . only when the education sector embraces the discomfort of Bell Labs-like learning laboratories . . no tradition, structure, or procedure is held sacred and radical invention is valued. ."

"It's then our job to put the content into their (children/student) context."

"School" must become a space--both physical and virtual--where learning is a constant cocreation of teachers and students."

"Providing opportunities for genius to emerge is critical. . . ."

"What if, instead of trying to replicate procedures and structures that have lacked effectiveness, we were to explore how to identify multiple pathways to enrich learning through interesting user experiences that attract children rather than push them away. . ."

"We also must educate our young people to not take our democratic way of life for granted."

". . .learn to plan, test, research, and search for what they need as learners, building a sense of agency through their work."

"Kids today need the chance to design, create, and communicate, all highly desirable competencies in this century."

"The evolution of learning culture is the most critical work educators need to do inside schools today."

"Inclusivity creates a welcoming culture of care so that no one feels outside the community."

I have followed the authors of this book for years via conferences and social media. This book is a wonderful summary of all the great work they've done--it's an inspiring read that will definitely lead you to teach and serve children better.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Solving the Immigration Crisis--What should we do?

The immigration crisis seems to be that many poor refugees want to live in the United States because they feel they and their family members will have greater opportunity here.

It seems that many Americans are opposed to this because they fear that these immigrants will cost them their jobs and added taxes.

How can we work with this crisis in positive ways? What can we do?

To me, it seems that we need a multi-prong approach to the problem including the following steps:

Give all current illegal aliens in United States the opportunity to be tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. To begin with, allow all those who are illegal and currently living in the United States a year's time to become legal citizens. Create accessible paths to citizenship for all illegal aliens except those who have committed grave and dangerous crimes.

Find out where the jobs are and allow entry of new refugees and immigrants to fill those jobs. Find out who needs workers and allow immigrants and refugees to come into the country and move to those places to fill the jobs. Make sure that those jobs are also open to local people, and ensure an equitable, fair wage for all workers so anyone who is working a 40-hour week can make enough to survive.

Create a humane immigration center at the border. Rather than a useless wall that people can easily fly over, create a humane refugee/immigration center at the border that ensures the safe processing of those refugees and immigrants who desire to live in the United States. Do this in a way that is legal, respectful, and positive for all involved.

Work with countries that people are leaving. Refugees and immigrants are likely leaving their homelands for greater opportunity and safety. Work with those countries to maximize their resources and standard of living so the people who don't want to leave don't have to. It's likely that we can create exchange programs that provide win-win solutions for our country and these countries--countries likely rich in natural resources, good land, and healthy people.

Create a long range plan. I've read that in the future so-called developed countries will be fighting over refugees and immigrants to do the work needed in their countries. Whatever the case may be, it's integral that our country create a long range plan for refugees and immigrants--a plan that's humane and positive for our nation.

Dispel the myths. Many current leaders and slick marketeers want you to think that poor refugees are the nemesis of society. Statistics don't support that myth. It's vital that our politicians speak the truth when it comes to immigration and refugees--it's necessary that the people of the United States understand the truth of the immigration/refugee situation without exaggeration so we can all work together for what is right and good.

Prioritize humanity and respect. We as a country have stooped too low with regard to this situation. We have the capacity to deal with this situation with humanity and respect and that must be a priority. There's no way that our wealthy and free country has to face this crisis as we have with ignorance, lies, and inhumanity--we can do much better.

Timeless Learning: Setting the Stage for Reading

Like preparing my home for a party, I prepare my mind for deep reading. I find that when I bring the main questions and pursuit of my reading to mind, I read better and gain more.

Today I'll read Timeless Learning, a book that I have been looking forward to reading for some time now. I have been harvesting inspiration and great ideas from the authors of this book for years via conferences and social media hence, one reason why I'm so excited to read this book is that I'll be able to listen to their philosophy and ideas in via one thoughtful book rather than lots of sound bites and stories over time. Also, I know that the authors ideas are valid and valuable since I've used many of those ideas over time to the benefit of my students and teaching practice. Therefore I'm excited to learn about more of their positive, beneficial ideas as I read.

Overall, as I read, I'm looking forward to using the book's wisdom to refine my big picture vision of where I want to take my teaching practice in the next few years. Specifically I am looking for answers to these questions:

  • How can I improve the teaching/learning environment?
  • How can I improve my attitude and mindset with regard to teaching all children well?
  • What does my classroom, school, and system need in order to improve teaching and learning for all children?
  • What research do I need to attend to as I refine and deepen my practice?
  • What efforts and attitudes do I need to avoid and stay clear of as I grow my practice?
Overall I believe this book will help me to reboot my vision and practice in ways that will benefit my students for the modern world and good living. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Are Your Goals Worthwhile?

As I think of my goals in the year ahead, I wonder if my goals are worth the effort and attention I plan to give.

My first goal for 2019 is to continue my quest to create a warm, welcoming home. I know this is worth it because if my home is warm and welcoming, my family and friends will enjoy coming here and spending time, and to be with my friends and family brings me great joy.

My next goal is to teach math and science well. I know this is valuable because if my students leave me with math and science interest and confidence, they will be better prepared for the study and work ahead. They will also be better prepared to critically learn, think about, and make good decisions for their lives and our world, and that matters.

I also have the goal of building a strong learning community with the learning team of family members, students, colleagues, and administrators. I know this is a valuable goals because when we foster the skills and attitudes that lead to strong teams, we elevate what we can do with and for each other as well as the greater community. Together we generally do better.

Personal health is a goal as well. If I'm strong and healthy, I can do more and enjoy what life has to offer more too. Family attention and care is on the list as well since I want to support family members in ways that I can this year.

Those are the main goals this year. Each one is valuable. I'd like to do a bit more for the greater community and world, but I see this period in life as one of strengthening myself, my family, and my teaching practice and community. In the years ahead, I suspect I will use the strength and skill I'm building now to do a bit more on a larger scale. Onward. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Humility and Betterment

Yesterday was a humbling day. As colleagues and children exchanged warm greetings, trinkets of appreciation, and care, I thought about the enthusiastic, hard working, and earnest life I am surrounded by every day.

As one writer noted on an NPR piece last year, schools are like little cities--there is always lots of activity, interaction, challenge, and potential. At times that busyness can be overwhelming, but yesterday I was watching with care and realizing that while overwhelming at times, there is so much goodness occurring at every moment--goodness apparent as children skip down the halls, play on the playground, chat cheerfully to one another, and learn with enthusiasm.

With the new year around the corner, I'm thinking about what we'll do and what's important when I return from the holiday vacation.

We'll spend some time re-organizing the room, supplies, and other materials to ready the environment for lots of science, math, and reading study--the mainstay subjects of my classroom.

I'll begin with a number of new unit introductory lessons that review the vocabulary as well as the processes and attitudes that will be promoted and coached as we embark on the study.

We've accomplished a lot in the fall months. Students learned important routines, studied multiple standards, and embarked on a large number of community-building, academic field studies and other special events. I believe we've created a strong learning community. The next step will continue to build students' ability to learn well on their own and with classmates and teachers in ways that matter. Onward.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Thoughtful Efforts

When meaningful endeavor is met with quick-fix, just do-it attitudes, we often miss the opportunity to do the kind of deep, meaningful work possible.

I've seen this happen too often in organizations that don't take the time to truly think carefully about how initiatives are designed, carried out, analyzed, and shared.

How can we do better in this regard?

We need to think about the initiatives we sign on to, work for, and promote. We can't take on too many, and we need to make the time to contribute well to those initiatives, projects, and actions we decide to do.


Communities of Care: Whose on your team?

Recently I've received a lot of care for a multitude of reasons. The care has been in the areas of medicine, education, family, personal care, and more. In general I prefer to give than to take. I like the energy that goes into choosing the just-right present, putting on a special dinner, spending quality time with someone who desires that, and more. Yet as I age, I find that I am the recipient of all kinds of care almost equal to what I give. Perhaps that's the way life moves? Perhaps we move from lots of care when we're born to lots of giving and then eventually to lots of care again if we live very long lives.

As I think about the care I've received, I have been thinking about my team--the group of people near and far that support me, my healthy and positive living, and good times. Who are these people? What do they do?

Well, of course, these people include my loved ones--the people who gather together regularly to support one another with meals, jobs done, good times, and more. Then there are the countless caretakers I rely on including people who help me to have a good working body, car, house, yard, classroom, family, career, and community. These are people I rely on in times of need both expected and unexpected. In American society, these people surround all of us at fix-it shops, community service agencies, hospitals/health care centers, beauty salons, shopping plazas, grocery stores, schools, and transportation centers.

Yesterday as I interfaced with a large number of these organizations and the good people who work there, I watched how patrons showed their gratitude with kind words, tips, gifts, and more. I was humbled by this evident show of gratitude at the holidays as well as the dedicated, talented, and persevering work of so many people who dedicate themselves to their profession and clients each day.

All of us require a community of care to live good lives. Even though in early adulthood, we may think that we can do this on our own, the truth remains that we need each other to live well, we can't have all expertise and we can't serve ourselves in all ways. The key to this well known revelation is that all of us care for ourselves and hone our service so we can be active members of our community of care--members who well care for others. It's equally important to recognize the many who care for you day in and day out--to recognize their time, talent, energy, and ability to reach beyond themselves to care for others in so many ways.

As we look forward to the ways to live in this seemingly complex world, we may begin to think more of ourselves are members of life teams--teams of intersecting people who care for one another in ways that lead to good living for all. This service team perspective helps us to see the world and its policies differently and brings us from a mostly individual perspective to a team perspective. This team perspective is essential to the good living of each of us and the best direction for our world community. Together we do better, and we can't lose sight of that light.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Busy Days: Don't Lose Focus

The days ahead are busy days.

The children in school are excited with vacation on the horizon. My own children are headed home for the holidays. Other family members will join us too and we'll join others as well at their homes for holiday festivities. There's much to be grateful for and much to do which begs the question: What's most important?

In school we've planned a special, engaging science event that we know students will enjoy. Students will also spend time writing goodbye-thank you letters to our wonderful student teacher. We'll complete a class film, read a lot, attend specials, finish science crossword puzzles, and possibly read to the kindergarten buddies. Most of all I want to take a step back in the two school days ahead to pay closer attention to each child's needs, stories, and interests--it's a good two days to build relationships and care for those I teach with extra attention prior to the break.

There's a bit of preparation to do for the return to school too so that I can mostly put school aside during the holiday break to focus on family and some bigger education interests such as reading Timeless Learning.

At home, there are still some gifts to wrap, cookies to make, cleaning to do , and meals to prepare for the celebrations ahead. Onward.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Volume: 5th Grade Project Based Learning


Yesterday I led new learning, new learning for students and for me too.

I was adding on to a volume project I've done in the past by making the project more open ended.

My first reaction to the exploration was that as with much of what I do, it was a bit rushed creating some angst.

Why the rush?


As always I'm trying to teach a large number of straight forward concepts in ways that are deeper, more engaging, and more memorable. While paper/pencil or online practice helps us to meet all the standards, that method does not add meaning, depth, relevance, and a love of the study of math.

So with regard to the exploration, a lot went wrong on the initial day including the following events:
  • I didn't review scissor safety--critical.
  • I didn't review material care and use - important.
  • I tried to add too many facts up front which lessened the time for exploration and made some students confused. 
  • I didn't have enough models to show in order to give students a view of what the project entailed.
So as I taught, I added the missing pieces. 

I updated the study guide.

I updated the learning menu - see image at the top of the page.

I also showed a couple of related videos:





I'm hoping today's work and exploration will go a lot better. Let's see.

And if you have suggestions, I'm open to that too.

Afterword: As the pictures I added above show, today's exploration was much better. 


Monday, December 17, 2018

Making a Commitment to Deepening and Bettering Teaching

Some might say if I spent less time blogging, I'd have more time for deepening the teaching and learning, but others know that the reflective practice of blogging is a stepladder to the well of better teaching and learning. To blog is to think deeply about what we do and to reach out to others to share that thinking, questioning, and will to be better.
  • As I think about my commitment to deepening and bettering teaching and learning in my midst, I am defining that pursuit with greater detail. To deepen and better the learning and teaching in my arena will require the following actions:
  • Greater learning, thinking, study, and implementation of new ideas in the area of math, science, and SEL in the classroom. 
  • Advocating for a revised and better schedule in 2019-2020. We have a good schedule, but I think it can be even better.
  • Reviewing the supports available and thinking about how those supports could better support the teaching/learning program, students, and me.
  • Continued efforts to better organize and make accessible all the teaching/learning tools that exist for this work.
Deepening and bettering your craft is a day-by-day affair, one in which you attend to the efforts above daily to make the time to better the work you do for the students you serve.

Specifically my efforts will include the following:

  • Reading Timeless Learning, Fish, and Routines for Reasoning
  • Attending to the details of daily lessons and embedding quality activities, materials, and content that matches my research, the standards, and knowledge of good teaching and learning. 
  • Making this quest the mainstay of my time at work and hours after work dedicated to my craft.
  • Attending ATMIM spring conference and potentially presenting at that conference.
  • Possibly taking a related summer course that specifically helps me to deepen and better my work in these areas.
  • Working with colleagues on a weekly basis in this regard. 

Onward. 

Telling Teachers What To Do

Sometimes teachers are told what to do?

In some cases, this is necessary, and in other cases, it's childish and unprofessional.

Once when I experienced a criticism at school, the administrator turned to me and basically said, it's time to change. I heard her words and readily made some changes. I knew that what she was telling me to do was imperative, and with few words, a serious attitude, and no contempt, she made that crystal clear.

On other occasions over time, I've been told what to do in irrational, childish, and punitive ways. These events have always belittled and oppressed me since there was little room to hear my side, understand what I was doing or needed, or help. In cases like these, the commands were unprofessional and demeaning.

In the best of circumstances, decisions made in schools should be the result of good, respectful, and positive process, a process that respect professional educators' education, research, collaboration, decision making, and experience.

Recently an issue like this occurred. The issue is complex for many reasons and I am only aware of a fraction of the information related to the issue, but at first sight, it appears that a good process was not determined before decisions were made leaving me with these questions:
  • Was the issue fully investigated before making decisions?
  • Were the laws, policies, and protocols fully explored before making a decision?
  • Was there a conversation amongst all stakeholders related to the issue?
  • Was the issue unduly affected by the voices of only a few rather than the voices, experiences, and researched choices of many?
  • Could this have been done better?
Good process is at the heart of every good decision. As I write this, I am thinking about the many decisions I make each day. I am wondering where I can improve process in this decision making process and where the process works well now. With any problem, our first consideration should be the process we'll use to solve the problem, and as we consider this process we should consider these questions:
  • What is the urgency related to this issue--how soon does a decision have to be made? (Time is often our best friend when it comes to making good decisions.)
  • What research is required to determine a good process for decision making?
  • Who is affected by this decision and how can they be apart of the process involved?
  • What is a reasonable timeline for this decision?
  • What is the success criteria for this decision?
As I think of decisions my colleagues and I face in the coming weeks, most are not too complex, but all demand good process:
  • How will we navigate the final months of our naturalist coach's work for our grade level? What will we do following this year of study to continue students' experiences of environmental education, activism, and stewardship?
  • How will I continue to deepen and better the math program?
  • How will we revise our teaching/learning schedule to create an even better routine?
  • How will we continue to develop student-led conferences and portfolio efforts as one way to empower students' social-emotional learning and academic ownership and success?
  • What grants proposals will we write to improve next year's programming?
  • In what ways can we continue to support one another in our collective and individual efforts to develop our practice in ways that matter?
  • How will we continue to advocate for supports that truly help us to teach all children well--supports like good materials, apt professional learning, quality staffing, adequate planning time, and more?
Teaching is a team sport, and the more we build teaching/learning environments that honor the collaboration needed with regard to decision making, process, and good work, the better we will do. 

Why Educators May Anger at Professional Learning Events

I remember way back when I got angry at a professional learning event. It felt like administration had layered professional learning and a consultant on top of our already-full schedules without talking to us, asking us what we needed, and working with us. So when the consultant came and provided the professional learning, she also didn't know us, understand what we needed, or was able to work with us in the sensitive, responsive way I desired. I was angry as I felt voice-less, choice-less, and disrespected. It felt like the administrator chose this professional learning venue because it was much easier to make a phone call and hire the professional development provider than to make the time to talk with the many educators at school about what they needed to strengthen their practice.

I've seen situations like the one above play out many times in my tenure, and generally hiring outside consultants without any real time to connect with the staff about what they need and why they need it results in less long term gains than possible. This kind of professional learning seems disrespectful to educators who work with students everyday, and can anger teachers who continually work hard to hone their craft and do better. Instead, I believe, that administrators should work with educators to look deeply at what is going well and what is needed more.

The experience at top came full circle today, however, when I ordered a book written by the consultant who came to our school so many years ago. When she came, the professional learning seemed layered on by administrators without our voice or choice, yet when I ordered the book today, I knew the book would have answers to a question I am now asking to improve my practice, a question I am deeply interested in when it comes to empowering and engaging my young mathematicians in meaningful dialogue and learning. I also know that this consultant has had a wealth of experience and engaged in significant research on the topic so she is writing from a place of expertise. One could argue that the administrators who hired this consultant many years ago, opened the door for me to her practice, knowledge, and skill, but I hold that the experience would have been much more meaningful and beneficial if it started with the educators' questions, needs, and desires, not just with an administrator's ideas of what educators need.

I continue to be a fan of professional learning that is born out of the learning team's questions, observations, research, needs, and interests. Questions such as what are we doing well and what do we want to do better should lead us through analysis with a broad set of informal and formal data points and research too. Our analysis should result in team recommendations for what we need by way of professional learning, materials, and support to do better for all students. Rather than layering professional learning on top of what educators already do or need, this professional learning should be a result of educator-administrator-student-family-community discussions and decision making.

While there was some learning when the consultant first worked with us and that event did open my eyes to who this consultant was and what she could do, reading the book will serve me better as the book will directly respond to my current questions and research about how to embed the math practices better into the everyday math program. I am ready for this read to meet a primary teaching goal of mine which is to deepen the math learning in ways that help every child learn with engagement and success.

What are your learning needs, desires, questions, and goals?

What kind of professional learning will help you to be a better practitioner?

How can you impact the professional learning choices made for you and the learning teams you belong too? What vehicles exist for analysis, shared discussion, debate, and decision making?

Where I teach, much of this is in place. We have weekly PLCs and student service meetings with the larger team to discuss what's important and do some analysis of the work we do. We have parent and student meetings too. Further, sometimes we are asked about what's important to us related to professional learning, and there are dollars set aside to support attendance at conferences and courses to develop our craft.

I think there's room to develop the way we analyze what we do with greater depth, and I believe there is room for us to help one another more with our needs. To get to these new places, we have to build a more trusting, less hierarchical teaching/learning community, one where we coach each other with the collective goal of improving the teaching/learning for all students in collaborative, positive ways. I've written about a possible model for this kind of work--one we've yet to discuss or debate in earnest. In the meantime, I'm happy that our community is finding ways to elevate educator voice, choice, and collaboration. I'm also happy that there's been some efforts to build a more trusting, honest, authentic, and collaborative culture--one where educators' voices are honored, and debate, discussion, and greater analyses are embraced. As always there is room for growth and correction to errors made, but I believe that overall we are moving in the right direction in this regard.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Where will life take you?

Where will life take you?

How much is within your control and how much is outside of what you choose?

Does control matter? Or is it better to simply take one step after another and follow the path that feels right at the moment, a path that occurs without planning or destination?

It's probably a bit of both--both plans and serendipity.

There are places we can clearly see, places we move towards without deep thought or wondering. Then there are places thrust upon us by association, unexpected events, and needs--places we might not imagine or even understand. And there's the natural everyday steps we take to survive and live as best we can.

Where will life take you?

No one really knows, but if we live as well as we can, it's likely we'll find stops upon the life path that are truly gratifying, enjoyable, and well worth the journey we're on.

Saturday Musings: December 15, 2018

What will the next weeks of teaching bring?

Students will start an open ended volume project with a couple of hands-on investigations to learn and then apply grade-level volume standards.

They'll continue their routine of daily "All Stop and Read."

We'll continue RTI efforts in math and reading, and students will complete and share their winter stories for the winter story contest.

An expert visitor will come and share knowledge of matter while guiding students in a number of hands-on explorations.

I'll host a couple of parent meetings to discuss specific student progress in math.

We'll continue read aloud and hopefully complete a book or two that we've started.

We'll celebrate the student teachers' super efforts in our fifth grade class.

There will be an assembly, specific reading, writing, and social studies lessons, and then a special film towards the end of the week. It will be a good week ahead.


Friday, December 14, 2018

Healthy Educators Require Time

As I await a dental procedure today, I am making a number of calls regarding bogus health care bills I've received. I have literally had to wait on the phone for hours to talk to agents about these bogus bills, hours that I never have as a teacher of multiple students during a school day. So far I've learned that the bogus bills are the result of wrong codes, missing information, and other small errors which have resulted in thousands of dollars of bogus bills. What's a teacher to do?

The lack of hours to sit and wait for health care agents or others to solve errors is an issue that stands in the way of educators' financial welfare and well as physical welfare. Teachers typically have little to no phone time during working hours, and it shouldn't have to rely on a medical procedure day to figure this all out.

Some of what I've learned so far are the following:

  • Never trust the billing procedure, make time upfront to review all paperwork and bills.
  • Before getting any procedures, ask up front how much it will cost. I had to pay $500 extra for a health check-up because the nurse practitioner offered me advice I already knew. Before conversing with your health care providers, ask if it's going to cost extra and then decide if it's worth it.
  • Understand your health plans well. Make sure your employer and others are giving you the time to understand and take advantage of the plans you are paying for.
  • Challenge bills that seem bogus.
  • Use summer time well to meet the health care needs that you can, and take the sick time you need in the school year to also take care of your health while issues are small rather than waiting until they get larger.
There's definitely room for improvement in the health care system right now--it's a dense woods to navigate, and that navigation demands time, attention, and knowledge. 

The Practice Goal: Student Accountability and Support

I admit that it's difficult to stay on top of every student, and it's not too difficult for a student who is absent often, inattentive, busy with other activities, and/or lacking at-home academic support to slip through the cracks of the teaching/learning program.

If you read my blog, you know that as I assessed end-of-year scores last year, I realized that a few capable students who did not regularly practice their math did not perform as well as possible. These were students who had the potential and ability to do well, but due to a lack of practice, they did not do well. That's why I've tried to establish a good in-class and at-home study routine. The challenge has been finding the time outside of school to keep up with this routine. I don't always have the six extra hours a week to review student study and then the multiple hours it takes to follow up with students who are not completing their expected practice in class or out of class.

For example, I had a learning menu on the board this week. Most student dutifully followed the menu while I focused on a small number of students who had identified learning needs related to the unit. Then about halfway through the learning time, I realized a couple of students were doing their own thing rather than practicing. Fortunately I was able to let one parent know who followed up, but I was unable to make the time to help the other student who then didn't do as well on the unit test. I'll try to find that time this week. I don't think I'm alone as an educator as I try to help every child master every learning expectation--there's lots of children to serve, and time is limited.

Overall the majority of students are doing well. This is mainly to do with the fact that I work in an environment where children have substantial in-school and at-home academic support. This support makes a big difference when it comes to learning success.

For my part, however, sticking to the weekly routine is essential. That routine includes the following:
  • a weekly practice packet
  • weekly learning experiences
  • weekly in-class and at-home online practice exercises and small group/individual targeted support
  • weekly time for extra support/help
  • weekly math-tech learning times 
  • bonus and enrichment opportunities for students who are interested
  • weekly individual feedback (this is a challenge since it takes substantial after-hours time and energy)
  • regular newsletters that inform families, colleagues, and students about what the program goals and practice opportunities are.
  • keeping good records about student performance and using those records to assess student practice efforts, performance, needs, and interests.
The more we make time to support each and every student and family in loving and kind ways, the better students develop academically, socially, and emotionally. It's not a simple task for family members or educators, but it's a focus well worth the effort and time. Onward. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

Shoulda (Should have)

  • Taken the time to listen and think before responding
  • Made a few moments to sit back and observe before passing judgement
  • Recognized I couldn't do it all
  • Honor the strengths of others more
  • Been more diplomatic and strategic
  • Pursued that doctorate
Woulda (Would have)
  • Expected more from myself at an early age
  • Spoke up against prejudice and disrespect earlier
  • Been less afraid to pursue my passions at an early age
  • Recognized my strengths
  • Saw through the commercialism that has often dictated women's lives
  • Trusted my gut more
Coulda
  • Worked with more dynamic leaders
  • Read more
  • Traveled more
  • Spend less time worrying
  • Taken a vacation from loved ones rather than break ties
We all have life events, attitudes, and actions we should have, would have, or could have taken part in--it's good to write that list now and then as we move towards a more open minded, loving, respectful and caring life. Onward. 

The Sting of Betrayal, Neglect, and Disrespect

It's good to experience the sting of betrayal, neglect, and disrespect because it humanizes you. When you are left out, betrayed, or treated with disrespect, it awakens you to how that feels and if you are open to it, reminds you of times that you may have inflicted the same pain on others. When did you leave someone out, disrespect an individual, or even betray someone you care about or love? My guess is that as you age, it's probable that you've been the perpetrator of one or more of those disingenuous acts and it's not nice.

The more we live, the more we realize that it's best to be inclusive, respectful, and honest. It's also good to try to understand others, get beneath their acts, and understand them for who they really are and what they hope and dream of. I'm still a believer that most of us, if not all of us, begin from a place of good and have a desire to do what is right and good in our lives. The challenge comes when you're tempted to do otherwise by the company you keep, the ambition you feel, the places you hope to go, or the people you hope to be.

We see betrayal, neglect, and disrespect continually play out on the national stage particularly during these Trump times. Trump's words continually negate the hard work, good intentions, and care of countless people and groups. He turns a blind eye towards racism and discrimination and uses derogatory, prejudicial acts and words all the time--he is not a good example of what to do or how to live. He believes you have to step on others to get what you want. I still hold that we can gain win-win solutions to the problems we face as a people and community. I don't think we have to demean some so that others gain.

The company we keep, the beliefs we hold, the work we do, and the communities we foster matter as we work against betrayal, neglect, and disrespect. We have to be mindful at all times of the pain and suffering acts like these cause, and we have to right our roads against such behaviors. It's helpful to have mentors in this cause, to look to people in history and today who model what it means to be supportive, helpful, respectful, honest, and kind. We all know people like this and can use their good works as the light the leads us forth.

Betrayal, neglect, and disrespect stings. What makes it better are apologies, honest conversation, good collaboration, mutual respect, and care. None of us are perfect. None of us hold all of the answers, and all of us are tiny in the sea of time. It's a big world out there and the best we can do to navigate it well is worth our time and attention. Onward.

Teaching Well: The Short List

The details that make good teaching are essential. It's easy to forget those details, but when we do the potential for what's possible wanes.

What's on the shortlist:
  • a warm, welcoming, healthy learning environment
  • the tools to teach well
  • a positive daily schedule of learning
  • positive relationships with students, colleagues, families, and administrators
  • honesty, transparency
  • time for reflection and goal setting
  • regular feedback and positivity as I coach students forward
  • good communication in person and in writing
  • empathy, compassion, support, and care with regard to the learning/teaching team's priorities, personal needs/interests/challenges, passion and pursuits
  • sensitivity and care for self and others as I navigate the challenging teaching/learning path

Reviewing Your Career: What Matters?

A teaching career takes many twists and turns.

I started teaching like a windstorm. I had a strong view of what schools should be.

I have always enjoyed the question of what helps children think in deeper and stronger ways. I like pushing the boundaries of what is considered curriculum and good learning. I enjoy sparking students' creativity, problem solving, voice, and choice.

I have always been sensitive to critique, error, potential to do better, and team, yet when it comes to priorities, I have typically put the teaching and learning first.

During my career there have been know-it-all years of great confidence and pushing forward, and there have been years of defeat too when the challenges were great leading to steep learning curves and fortunately resulting in lots of new learning and better teaching.

The best times have been times when a child created and completed great work--projects and problem solving that resulted in a burst of student confidence, learning, and transformation. The aim of my teaching has been to help students move forward with strength, belief in themselves, and a wide view of the opportunities ahead, opportunities that match their dreams, passion, hopes, and interests--opportunities that help the children to live full, good lives.

My will to serve children and their families has always struggled with the question of how hard to push--while I don't want to push children or their families too much, I also don't want to miss the chance to help a child see that they can strive for better, push through a hard time or big challenge, and achieve well. The same is true for families as I know what we do as families greatly impacts children--the priorities we make, the love we share, and the times we create make a positive difference if we attend to important routines, relationship building, nurturing, and lots of love.

The years ahead will be years of deepening my ability to serve students, colleagues, and families--it will be less about creative bursts and more about deep learning, care, and attention. I am surrounded by earnest, dedicated, talented, and good people--people who learn, teach, love, and care for one another continually. I am also apart of an ever-changing, always evolving teaching/learning community--the kind of community that takes the potential for betterment seriously and the kind of community that continually strives for better. That's a positively challenging environment to work in.

Specifically, deepening my work will involve slowing down, listening more, and attending to the important details of the job--details that help children to happily learn in a warm, welcoming setting. These details will find me learning more about how to teach to students' hearts, brains, dreams, and needs. I will continually be asking the question: What's most important in this situation, and like all teachers, I'll continually prioritize about how to spend time carefully with the children, families, and colleagues who are part of the learning/teaching team.

The years now will be marked by the understanding that no teacher can do or be all. We all make difficult choices all the time about where we will devote our time, dollars, and energy, and where we will let others lead and do the work.

As I review my career, I realize that what I believe is important is that we follow our hearts with regard to who we should be and what we should do as educators. We should recognize our gifts and talents as well as our challenges and burdens as we travel down the teaching road. Further we need to reach out to one another to do the good work possible and honor the variety of strengths, vision, questions, and need that our colleagues, the students, and their families bring to school too. It's impossible to do good work single handedly as strong schools use productive struggle to create just-right synergy and harmony to forward the good teaching and learning possible.

So day-after-day I'll strive to do what I can to contribute to a worthy, positive learning/teaching community. I'll honor the talents, dedication, and care of our learning/teaching community members and continue to hone my craft too to do what is right and good in this environment. A teaching career is a challenging, ethical, and positive career--one that has the potential to make positive growth and change, one I'm committed to even though it's not always an easy path to follow.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Teacher of Teachers

At our school we host many teacher candidates. These teachers in training are a gift to our school because they bring wonderful enthusiasm, good energy, new learning, and a zest for teaching well.

As hosts it's our job to help these educators learn the craft of teaching. Their universities and our state has create positive paths towards teaching well. It's a rigorous program that includes subject area tests, practicums of varying lengths, university courses, and portfolios.

As teachers of teachers, much of the program is planned including teaching lessons, the take-over week, creating a unit of study, managing transitions, observing teaching, and spending time day after day in the classroom to learn what to do. There are parts of the program that are less managed and left up to the discretion of the teacher. As a teacher who works in a team model, we essentially shared the teacher candidate during the day as they learn to teach each subject area.

As I think about what works best as teachers of teachers, I identify the following activities:
  • Take the teacher candidate on a tour of your school introducing the candidate to colleagues and important school spaces.
  • Introducing the teacher candidate to an overview of the curriculum map and schedule for the time that they will be there.
  • Reviewing expectations.
  • Planning together to fit in the teacher candidates' important expectations such as observations and take-over days/weeks.
  • Discussing with the teacher candidate what they are most interested in learning about and getting involved with.
  • Checking yourself to make sure that you are modeling the best that you can do each and every day and also being honest with the teacher candidate about the challenges the job holds even for a seasoned teacher.
  • Increasingly providing the teacher candidate with more and more responsibility. Coaching the teacher candidate ahead as they teach many lessons and lead projects throughout the term.
  • Meeting with the teacher candidate regularly to review their efforts and schedule upcoming events.
To be a teacher of teachers is a role that requires good organization, time, and care. It's a job that educators become better at the more that they do it. 

Related Article


Team Building

Often teams face challenges simply because no one has taken the time to think about the team and what it needs to be strong.

Like anything in life, teams need nurturing, support, reflection, revision, and refinement.

We're all part of multiple teams. Some of those teams may be stronger than others. No matter how strong or how needy a team is, all teams require care, attention, and evolution.

I was thinking about this when I realized a team member was distanced from a team activity. I wondered why. Did the person receive an invitation? Did the person feel welcome? Was the event scheduled in a way that included staff with her schedule, priorities, or interests? I'm not sure, but as I thought about it, it seemed to me that the team member was left out for some reason, and that this didn't feel right to the individual.

Teams occur at home, in the neighborhood, with extended family, at work, and in the community. We can't play a significant role on every team. Instead we can play strong roles in some arenas while we probably take a back seat in other spheres. No one can do it all or be it all.

We all have work to do to be a good team member and to foster successful collaboration, support, and teamwork with the teams we are apart of. This is a good consideration, one I'll think about as I work with my classroom, grade-level, and home team tomorrow. Onward.

Challenge Week

I'm learning a lot this week. It's been a cavalcade of challenges resulting in lots of new and renewed learning. What have I learned?

  • It's imperative to be mindful of the task at hand. When people deviate too much from that task, our work is not as good.
  • Don't overload the students--no matter what the expectations are, when we push too hard, students' enthusiasm, confidence, and engagement wanes.
  • Keep your eyes on the main priorities of the job which may mean that you have to put other interests, opportunities, and events aside.
  • Work with a positive demeanor and outlook--there will always be challenges and it does no one any good to be cantankerous.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable--no one is superman or superwoman.
  • Be clear about expectations and keep to a positive routine in school as much as possible. 
Don't give up, keep working for what you believe and know to be right and good. Onward. 

Test Quandary

The test clearly lays out the learning expectations.The learning points are solid. Yet the test takes too long to complete and there is significant cognitive challenge when it comes to fluidly understanding the number of relatively new concepts included.

Tests call students to independently show what they know. They give students significant quiet time to think about the questions and respond. This is a positive challenge when the learning curve is just right, but when the curve is too great it can be discouraging.

I both like tests and don't like tests. There's good reasons for tests and good reasons not to have tests.

I will continue to consider this point, and in the meantime, I'll find ways to make the test length and depth a more reasonable fit for the variety of students I teach and expectations to master. Onward.

The Test is Too Long

There's a fair number of tests at fifth grade and most take well over an hour to complete for the average student. Today the testing ran into lunch time and the next day. It's clear that I have to split the tests into two in order to fit it all in. I'll do that in the future. Fitting it all in is a challenge of the job, a challenge I am ready to find new ways to meet.

Teaching/Learning 2019-2020


Overall Goal Image: To be determined

2018-2019 Success Criteria

There is great satisfaction in teaching well. To work with a team of colleagues, students, families, and administrators to prepare and implement good work to elevate students learning, self-concept, happiness, and capacity is a terrific way to use your energy and focus your time.



As I think of prioritizing and targeting efforts for the 2019-2020 school year, I'm thinking about the work I will do to support students' learning paths, paths that lead to success with learning-to-learn strategies, social emotional learning, collaboration, communication, and academic standards.


What efforts and evidence will foster this work in the days ahead? The focus during the start of school includes the following:

Social-Emotional Learning and Team Building
The Language and Behavior of Learning
Community Building
Relationship Building
Teamwork, positive routines, and norms in STEAM, math, science classes.

School Year Prep and Planning Chart 

Spring/Summer School Prep for 2018-2019

  • Update  website for 2018-2019 TeamFive
  • Write/Print move-up letter/supply list, place on TeamFive 2018-2019 Website
  • Discuss start-of-year signature project (timeline) and what students have to bring to school to support this. 
  • Keep a supply list throughout the year and Order supplies - ongoing.

Summer Months

Meet with team to plan year ahead during summer months:

  • scheduling and weekly teaching pattern review with the team
  • review administrative expectations
  • Revisit the curriculum night presentation, decide if you'll include movie
  • review curriculum map 
  • discuss homework protocols
  • Plan student orientation: Support for this event is not significant, so I'm wondering if we will forward this again. It is a positive effort, but it demands support to be done well. 
  • Review and plan  Family-Student-Teacher Conferences - see dates on systemwide inservice calendar (face-to-face student/parent meetings) 
  • Review first days of school focus/lessons including SEL lessons (see below too)
  • Review field trip list, complete forms and planning. 
  • Review goal list
  • Review all other notes on shared work document and this page.
  • Review all ed plans, chart student services and needs to prepare for scheduling meeting
  • Review and prep materials for showcase portfolios

On my own:

  • Make an exemplar of start-of-year signature project (Timeline project) and plan for teaching w/colleagues
  • Continue to Update local union website. Ongoing
  • Determine classroom needs, complete order forms, shop for supplies, and keep receipts.  The PTO gives us a few hundred dollars for supplies, but we have to turn in receipts to get that. . Match with system-wide initiatives
  • Review student teacher guidelines/information for fall student teacher efforts if I have a student teacher. 
  • Review, revise, and set up Class Data Chart - keep in mind fall/spring conference data reports
  • Careful attention to scheduling so that all scheduling best meet individual/collective student needs
  • Assess/analyze MCAS scores prior to school year. (when scores arrive)




Teacher Prep Days at end of August:

  • Plan to purchase items that help you to be personally ready and energized to teach--inspiring signage, healthy snacks. . .
  • Organize all materials and classroom set up 
  • Focus on the parent handbook and needed signatures at Curriculum Night
  • Focus on the student handbooks and signatures during the first days of school - Xerox copies
  • Ask about required school forms during set-up days to plan accordingly

  • Meet with special educator(s), to review student services and schedules
  • Communication Protocols, Establish Routines,  Plans to recognize each child: lists, schedules.- ongoing 
  • Ordering: Check orders, put away all supplies. - last week in August 
  • Set up sub notebook
  • Work on protocols and policies for classroom during first days of the year

First Six Weeks of School Year

For Teacher

  • Complete Mandated Online Trainings: This takes about a half day. Make sure that the trainings are up to date at time of completion. Summer/Fall 2017
  • PLC Start: Establish overall focus, norms, roles, protocols. . . .
  • Send out forms, notices right away--and have extras at parents' night for parents to fill out there if needed. 
  • Curriculum Night: Establishing the Learning Community, Extended time: one hour in gymnasium with a presentation/sound (date? time?)
  • Parent surveys: Paper survey worked better than online survey last year. Refine this with colleagues
  • Send out weekly newsletters
  • Evaluation Professional Learning and Practice Goals: Update goals to reflect system-wide goals, summer work, review with admin., continue efforts to meet goals.

For Students:

Day One

  • What's your name? Read name list. Discuss importance of names. Show funny name video.
  • Review sign in, lunch count, and class jobs procedures.
  • Review supply list. Make sure that every child has supplies he/she needs. Organize and store supplies. Collect summer math study packets (review in evening).
  • Review room set up, assign studio stations and discuss set-up, expectations, and share.
  • Review recess rules, recess.
  • Focus on What is a team? What makes a team strong? Introduce notecard tower activity. Students work with team to create note card towers. Students complete lab reports, meet and share. 
  • Review and practice transition and lunch routines. Review schedule.
  • Begin read aloud. Visualization and Empathy to understand historic context and roles as we read historic texts including James Printer, a Novel of Rebellion. 
  • Review homework: make a word find of classmates' and teachers' names by hand on graph papers so every child get to see and read each others names. 
  • Review end-of-day routine and recess.

Day Two

  • Collect homework. Review names, jobs, needed forms, news board, and Practice Routines that Matter again. Just Breathe: Making the most of the mindful moment and other morning routines. 
  • Tell the story of our United States Constitution, and review school handbook which is like a constitution for our school. What makes our school handbook similar or dissimilar to the United States constitution? Active Reading: The Student Handbook: What do we do well and what can we get better at--how can we shortlist the handbook rules and protocols to a memorable phrase, sign, poem, or acronym? How can we make these rules and protocols are own?
  • Work in teams to determine our class government? Share ideas. Work on using handbook and class government ideas to write a class constitution. 
  • Review transition, recess, and lunch routines. Recess
  • Work with folders to create window collages of what everyone sees and knows about you (outside of folder) and parts of you that people might not know and that you want to share in this activity. (Integrating SEL chapter 6)
  • Review homework: Parent/Guardian timeline interview
  • Read Aloud
  • Recess

Day Three: First transitions

  • Review names, jobs, and routines again.
  • What is the Declaration of Independence? 
  • What was the context of time, place, and experience that led Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence and what does the phrase "All men are created equal" mean today? How can we rephrase this for our classroom?
  • Read the Declaration of Independence together. Discuss history of "All men are created equal" and if that stands the test of time? How can we rephrase that statement for modern times and for our grade-level team?
  • Review transition, recess, lunch routines. Recess
  • Review timeline project. 
  • Time Line Prep: parent interview, template, Dream Me activity, and ImportantChanges (Integrating SEL p. 82-84) Coordinate with tech teacher. Prepare for the project which will be completed in tech class. Self Awareness with Timelines: Students will create a time line that includes a parent or guardian's main event before they were born from birth onward, their own main events, and 4-5 events they imagine for their future. This will be done in technology class. Prepare for this activity with early-year homework and classwork including "Dream Me" activity from chapter 6 in Integrating SEL. 
  • Read Aloud


Days Ahead in Homeroom

  • Review TeamFive website together. Introduce computer use, protocols, safety, digital citizenship. 
  • Marshmallow-Spaghetti Towers
  • Build a tower with four pieces of paper that can hold a quarter.
  • Team Talk: What is a learning community? What makes a learning community successful? What matters when it comes to being a successful learner? What matters when it comes to being a positive learning community member?
  • Complete class constitution, sign, and hang up for all to see. 
  • Set up showcase portfolios and complete Happiness Surveys at start of year. Review this with colleagues -- front page cover ideas and back cover potentially "one word posters."

We may want to embed this language in portfolio efforts (specific ideas from SEL book) 

  • Your one word project and Video with Students. Teach/Review Google Draw.
  • Personal Assessment: Godilocks Games (p. 94-95) is a good activity for children to do an early assessment of themselves. This will provide good information for teachers and family members as they goal set with and for students.  (SEL book)
  • What is a Hero? Who are your heroes? Identifying honorable characteristics, finding people to look up to, learn from,  and follow in real time, history, and literature, sharing the story of Malala.
  • What is your point of view or perception? The birds story, a discussion on classroom needs, wants, and desires.
  • Peer Pressure: Do I Dare Do It (Integrating SEL p. 84-86)
  • Study Skills: What do you really think? (Integrating SEL - chapter 6, Socratic Method)
  • Humor Helps: Integrating SEL p.89-90. I'd like to turn this into an activity where students can create a cartoon, write a paragraph, or write and act out a script. I may integrate this with the writing, art, and/or tech teacher. Students love the integration of humor into the classroom and as one who is very serious, I can see how helpful this would be. 
  • Behaviors at School: To get a head start on conflict resolution and language related to bullying behaviors, students and teachers will use the pyramid on top of the page to discuss the kinds of behaviors that can happen at school, and the appropriate ways to prevent and if needed respond to those behaviors in an effort to build a more caring and helpful classroom community. 
  • STEAM Teamwork: Crossing the peanut butter pit (Integrating SEL - chapter 5), Alphabet Actors (p. 94), Can-moving activity (p. 102) and similar activities such as note card towers (p. 108) and marshmallow or gumdrop structures.
  • Where do you want to live? Introduction to environmental education (Integrating SEL - chapter 6)
  • Solar Ovens STEAM activity - embed SEL questioning and activities from Integrating SEL, chapter 6 egg drop activity.
  • Resilience/Grit Activity. Integrating SEL p. 86-87
  • Curiosity: A Critical Element: Use this lesson from Integrating SEL, Chapter 6 as introduction to current events learning/teaching.
  • Think Positive activities and study Note that several of these activities can be integrated with physical education and music class too. 
  • Self Control Lessons (Integrating SEL chapter 5)
  • The Conflict Within (p.106) - this might fit nicely with the writing program
  • Trust Walk (p. 104-105)
  • Difficult Choices (p. 105-106)
  • Deserted Island (p. 107)
  • Reflection (p. 109-110)



Days Ahead in Math Class

  • Names, collecting summer homework, Create math class norms, math study spaces/groups and routines for the math classroom. 
  • History of people: introduction to timelines. History of people, skin shade, timeline - "The past affects the future." video
  • Review norms, introduce and begin Name Value activity
  • Introduce Math Reflection Journal (in 3-prong folder). Complete part of the assignment together and assign the rest
  • Work on Name Value activity.
  • Complete What's Your Name name value activity. Students who are done work on Symphony Math. 
  • Symphony Math practice, follow-up goal setting with Symphony Math.
  • Systemwide Assessment if ready. Possible facts assessment.
  • Collect Homework. Review That Quiz and let students practice.
  • Pattern exercise. Pass out next week's homework, pass back last week's homework.
  • Boaler "Everyone can learn math" Ted Talk. Making Mini posters about a positive math mindset. (Teacher professional day)
  • warm-up on facts and arrays: playing a math game
  • Review order of operations with "How Many Ways Can We Make 48?" Pick up/pass back homework.
  • Introduce new homework. Introduce unit one: Place Value
  • Place Unit continues
  • Follow Standards-Based Scope and Sequence in days ahead using systemwide scope and sequence, unit guides, Boaler's grade five book, and other resources.


Determine Buddy Program


SEL/STEAM Efforts

  • Resources:  Learning-to-Learn Website
  • Create guiding signage with students Be explicit. Ongoing
  • STEAM Workshop: Update STEAM Efforts
  • Naturalist Study Review and update. Consider system-wide updates. 


Revisit School Year Focus: Big Events

  • September: Routines, Protocols, Community, Relationship Building, Assessment
  • October: Beginning, Practicing, and Deepening Learning Routines - early year field studies: Boston Museum of Science, Sturbridge Village, Greenways
  • November: Space Study - McAuliffe Center
  • December: Focus on Matter
  • January: 
  • February: Play
  • March: 
  • April: MCAS
  • May: MCAS
  • June: Global Changemakers, Boston Walking Tour, Celebrations, Environmental Studies w/focus on rivers and wetlands


Professional Learning






Numbers Affect Demeanor

It is essential that educators have a good demeanor.

This isn't always the case for a large number of reasons.

As I think about this, I am thinking about what affects my demeanor positively and what affects my demeanor negatively during a school day.

On the positive side, a good demeanor is supported by reasonable expectations, timely/worthy supports, and open, honest communication. When the expectations are too big, supports unhelpful or untimely, and communication missing or inauthentic, that challenges one's demeanor. Fortunately it is often the case that I am well supported in the teaching/learning environment where I work.

A good demeanor is also supported by educators' ability to care for themselves. Good rest, healthy eating, exercise, and other personal supports sets the stage for a good demeanor. Of course if a teacher has to work two jobs to make ends meet or work around the clock to get the teaching work done, that's going to take a toll on that educator's demeanor. This is why unions work hard to make sure that work conditions support healthy living and healthy working.

A good demeanor is supported by reasonable self-expectations and positive daily/weekly habits. If you keep on the work that needs to be done and set reasonable expectations for yourself, that will support a good demeanor.

And, contact time is another essential consideration for good demeanor. Sometimes in schools the contact time is overwhelming. Looking for ways to make that reasonable with good routines for communication and collaboration can help in this regard. Reasonable contact time also leads to a good demeanor.

Our demeanor matters at school, and it's important to consider the factors that affect your demeanor and work to promote an environment that gives you an advantage in this regard.