Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The grades don't go with them, the learning does.

"At the end of the year, the grades don't go with them...but the learning does."

Recently, at a building meeting, I made this comment. It was meant to be a jumpstarter to conversation among professionals. It challenged some and certainly resonated with others. It meant nothing more than my personal feeling about what we needed to provide our 7th and 8th grade students before they left our building for the high school. I've challenged teachers to think about their instruction in ways that they've never thought about it before. We've worked together to implement more digital-age skills into the curriculum and daily teaching practices. I like the risks that I am seeing some educators take. But is it enough?

This truly came full circle for me yesterday when I heard Heidi Hayes Jacobs (@heidihayesjacob) say "What if we were held accountable to innovation in schools?" YES! Too often we stifle the innovative minds of our students (and our teachers in some cases) because of routine. Assigning a grade at the end of the unit, going from period 1 to period 2, etc., giving a report card at the end of the marking period 1 or 2 or 3 or... This year my wife and I are now able to access our 5th grade son's grades online. Such a bad idea for me...I have found myself more focused on his grades this year than his learning simply because I can use an app to see his grades. I have found myself fall into the trap of asking "How did you do on your test?" rather than "What did you enjoy learning most? Why?"

I'm not necessarily advocating for getting rid of these things, but if we cast aside the focus on grades and earning points (after hearing a group of 8th grade students ask the teacher this afternoon "How many points is this worth?") we truly free our classrooms to focus on teaching and learning and innovation. I look forward to the challenge of leading a building that is free to create and innovate and focus on improving the craft of teaching.

I REALLY look forward to asking my son what is the most interesting thing you read today or what challenged you most in math this week. Those answers don't have a letter grade attached to them.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The next step in my professional learning

A few months ago I embarked on a journey to begin teaching again...  

No, I didn't leave administration to go back to a high school social studies teaching position.  Now I am an adjunct professor through a local college that is offering a Master's cohort in our school district.  

The course, Contemporary Issues in Education, is the same course that lead me to leave the doctoral program I was previously enrolled in.  I'll go down that path again someday, but now the timing is just not right.

With this new journey, I've found something that I didn't realize I was missing...the opportunity to teach, to lead other professionals in their learning.  This gave me the chance to be relevant.  See the professor of that doctoral class was not that - relevant.
He is a great story teller.  Just not a practitioner that challenges my thinking or helps me grow professionally.

Here is my chance to shape students' minds in a completely different way.  For that I am truly excited...

Monday, February 9, 2015

So, how's it going?

Nearly 6 months ago I wrote the following...
Today we opened school.  We welcomed students.  Finally.  After several weeks of uncertainty, confusion, flailing about, laughing and honestly, nearly crying...the students arrived.BEST. DAY. EVER.  I have to admit...I felt pretty good today.  I also was fairly nervous to start the day.  But they came to school, opened lockers (some better than others), ate lunch, saw their friends/classmates, had an assembly, and went home.700+ lunches served, 48 buses in, 48 buses out, 1 student missed the bus...NO SCHEDULE PROBLEMS!!!
That's the management part of the the real question, "Did we do enough to ensure that they WANT to come back tomorrow?"  Here is what I saw in classrooms...

  • Adults making relationships with kids
  • Teachers sharing their Twitter, Instagram, Remind usernames (no students actually following or liking)
  • Students excited to go to lunch
  • Seating charts, assigned seats, awkward looks from a boy to a girl and vice-versa
  • Humor
  • Worksheets, worksheets, worksheets
Did we do enough to convince them that it will be an enjoyable YEAR?  We only have one chance to make a first impression...what is the forecast?  Dark and stormy OR Bright & sunny.  If the forecast isn't favorable, what are we going to do to change it?

So how are we doing?  Do our students enjoy their learning experience?  How are we using social media to "tell our story" of learning each day?  What's the forecast for tomorrow? Are we student-centered or ME-centered?  Are we still using too many worksheets/packets? (We have run out of paper twice this year already!)
It's not too late to make sure we have positive learning experiences for the rest of the it?

Friday, January 30, 2015

No Office Day at RLASD


via Storify -- January 30, 2015 at 03:38PM