Saturday, March 21, 2020

What is your job description?

Words that I want to lead community building at school.
Years ago when I was looking for change in schools, I wrote my own job description. I was prompted to do this since I felt that many of the expectations for my work were outdated, misdirected, or missing. Since that time, there has been substantial change in my work environment, positive change. Yet, a teacher's role and responsibility is still limitless, thus I desire a revised job description, one I will write today to lead my efforts in the months and year ahead.

Online Educator
The COVID-19 event has made me an online educator. Our team has already been using a virtual classroom and learning menus to lead a lot of what we do in school so students have some experience when it comes to learning with online tools and menus. During this time of online educational support, I want to update our resources and build my skill for interactive online learning via virtual tutoring, class meetings, creating online tools, and teaching online. Today I'll set up my work at-home space to support these efforts. Then, on Monday, I'll listen to what colleagues say about this at our virtual team meeting and then later during our virtual faculty meeting. On Monday afternoon, I'll tutor at least young student from my class online as I did yesterday, and then on Tuesday, a parent and her son, my student, will lead the homeroom in a virtual meet-up. Online learning can be very positive, but it certainly doesn't take the place of school where we are coaching and teaching children in real time--the social side of teaching and learning is critical to good learning, and that cannot be replaced altogether by online learning.

Math Teacher
The main focus of my teaching job is to teach fifth graders math. I have a solid curriculum for the current standards. The limitations that exist are time, students' developmental capacity, and long list of deep standards we have to teach. Time is a limitation because students are learning multiple subjects. You could teach math all day in a large array of ways, but that time isn't available because there are many more subjects to teach. Some may respond to this limitation by asking for longer school days, but I don't believe that would make a difference since there's a limited capacity related to children's developmental stage and ability to take in new information. We all can only take in so much of one subject and new learning at a time, and that's true for children too. So if we did lengthen the school day, I would build in some time for math practice and personal/small group coaching, but not a lot of added time for new learning since I think that one-hour a day of new learning in addition to all the other new learning in multiple subjects meets the capacity of most students in the intermediate elementary school grades. The long list of deep standards is both good and not so good. This list is good because most students gain a strong foundation for continued math learning. The list is not so good because it doesn't leave time for some of the rich and engaging math learning games and projects possible. In order to teach all the topics, you have to move through some information fast and without depth or great engagement. If the curriculum were project based, I think we would foster greater depth, engagement, meaning, and commitment to math learning. This year I tried to meet that goal by adding performance tasks to the mix, but I ran out of time to include the performance tasks with the depth and commitment I wanted simply because I needed the time to teach all the standards, give all the systemwide tests, and allow students to practice discrete skills. My job focus now, however, is to teach all standards to all fifth graders with as much success as possible. I want my fifth graders to master the grade-level curriculum with engagement, skill, and strength.

Reading/Writing Teacher
My goal in this area is to follow the lead of my teammates and support their terrific teaching/learning programs in reading and writing. They are both talented reading specialists who lead engaging, successful programs. I love supporting their find leadership and good work with students.

Community Builder
Another big goal of my job as an educator is to create and develop a warm, welcoming learning environment where we regularly work at building a community of dedicated, collaborative, and successful learners together. This includes a substantial focus on social-emotional skills, an engaging menu of varied team building and independent learning experiences, and positive, proactive collegial and teacher-student relationships. This area of school life is paramount to students' lifelong living and learning success.

With regard to the wider school community, my role is to contribute when I can in ways that are positive. In our successful school system, there are many, many opportunities to contribute. The key is to contribute in ways that your knowledge, skills, talent, and interests are positive. There are ways to contribute to the greater educational community to with regard to presenting at conferences, sharing ideas, and political advocacy. I will contribute in those ways if possible, but that is not a main objective of my job description now as now I want to be focused on my grade-level team first, school second, and system third.

Having a good job description truly helps you to do your job well. When the parameters of your job are too vague or limitless, you spend too much time trying to figure out what your job is. That's why it is important to sit down now and then to focus on the priorities of your position. Once you do that, you'll be able to follow that job description towards doing your best and being successful. Onward.