Sunday, September 28, 2008

Curriculum development . . .

A couple people gave me some feedback about my thoughts related to unit development. They both disagreed with my basic premise and believe that teachers enjoy and should be engaged in lesson creation. It was fun to actually experience sharing of comments.

I don't know that two comments have changed my thinking, but they have confirmed for me that finding a balance will be important as we continue our unit development work. I am convinced that for new staff these units are critical and that for all staff they provide examples of what Classroom 10 looks and sounds like. But, over time we must allow teachers to personalize this curriculum and adapt lessons to make them their own. The unit outcomes, thinking skills, and habits of mind are not negotiable, but the vehicles used to provide opportunities to learn can and should be over time.

It will be interesting to see how we monitor and adjust our thinking and behaviors over time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Teachers want to teach . . .

One of my favorite blogs is Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevant because he talks a lot about leadership and purpose, two topics of interest to me. In a recent post he references three questions from Rodney Trice. They are:
  • How do you intend to bring the global community into your classroom?
  • How will you prepare students for a future that is relatively unknown?
  • How you will eliminate the racial predictability of achievement outcomes in your classroom?

The first two questions raise concerns for me because Scott goes on to say - We should be asking teachers and principals that question more often (and just that directly). Yes, we should, but is it the responsibility of teachers and principals at the building level to identify what students need to learn and how to make this happen in classrooms? Do teachers have the time, knowledge, and skill to create the units and lessons that are aligned with state standards, that are process and skill focused, that provide problem solving opportunities, that include collaborative projects, that provide for information literacy and technology fluency learning opportunities, that . . .?

More simply, do teachers want to write curriculum or do they want to focus on teaching? In our district we have been at both extremes of this continuum and I have come to believe that it is best for teachers and students if the primary responsibility for this is in the district's Teaching and Learning Department. I have also come to understand how difficult this work is, how fortunate we are to have Nancy, and that teachers must be directly involved in the development and review of this work.

I believe that teachers want to teach and not have to always be responsible for determining what content and skills will I cover tomorrow, next week, and next month. Over the course of a year this takes tremendous energy and time and does not result in consistency between classrooms and buildings.

It was interesting to follow the recent Bellevue strike where autonomy over lessons was one of the issues. I don't have much detail about this, but I know it has led to conversations in our system about the model we are using. Do are teachers have similar concerns?

Do you agree or disagree with my belief that teachers do not want to be curriculum writers, they want to focus on teaching?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Improving the capacity to support . . .

Well, it was a good football weekend, the Bears beat Kentwood on Thursday and the Seahawks got a win today. I was actually able to leave a little early from the game without fear of the outcome while walking to the car. That is not always the case. The Cougars also got their first win yesterday so that only leaves the Huskies to make it the perfect football weekend. I think I'll enjoy this one for a little while, because I may have to wait awhile for that outcome.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's opportunity to complete planning for our first teaching and learning meeting with our administrative team, the Educational Leadership Team or ELT. Our focus is on improving our individual and collective capacity to influence the Classroom 10 journey for an individual teacher and for a group of teachers. Much of this work for the year will be in math as we search for the strategies that support teacher understanding and capacity to create learning environments focused on process, Habits of Mind, thinking skills, and our Outcomes and Indicators.

We are asking each administrator to video a planning or feedback conference with a teacher for sharing with the ELT. Prior to sharing the video the administrator will share his/her personal goal for improving their ability to support teacher growth over time. The intent is to provide feedback to support individual and group reflection on the strategies that work for us in Tahoma. I'm sure this will bring its fair share of anxiety because we haven't done a video where the focus is on the administrator not the teacher. It only seems fair since that is what we are asking of teachers, to make their work transparent, to share with others, and to make the shift to Classroom 10.

In a sense, we are doing what winning coaches do; improving our coaching and consulting skills to support the work of each of us and all of us. It is going to be energizing and informative as we use interdependence to support a worthy learning goal.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Post 100!

This is my 100th post - it seems like I should celebrate this milestone with something extra special, but I would simply like to say thank you for reading and occasionally responding with a comment. Ethan, thanks for making me reflect on how what I say is related to the work we are doing in Tahoma. Your reading and comments are especially appreciated.

When I started last year I don't know that I believed I would sustain this long and though I don't post often, with this many over the course of about thirteen months. As I have shared before, however, I have come to enjoy and look forward to the opportunity to share. It makes me think systemically as I reflect on what might be of importance to people in our system. Like all bloggers, comments are like finding treasure because they validate the intent of the blog, creating conversations, and because they make me think. I will truly become a blogger when I can say something that results in multiple people building off of other's comments. That will be a celebration.

Some of you may know that we are creating a Classroom 10 video to capture for our community our 21st Century learning journey. I am excited about this new venture for our system and encouraged by the commitment that many are bringing to it. I have also been spending time on moving forward and You Tube looking at videos for ideas. I ran across this one on Scott McLeod's blog (a real successful blogger) and thought you might enjoy it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tech support around the corner . . .

Tomorrow and Tuesday are the first meetings of the year for our new 10Tech teacher leaders. These are the teachers that have been identified in each of our buildings to support the use of technology by their colleagues. One from each building will become part of our Technology Summit, the staff committee that will support implementation of our Technology Plan and guide us into the future. I am excited about the potential of this model to support teacher use of technology to influence learning and by the enthusiasm that I see from Kimberly who will be guiding their work. The model is possible because of funding from the technology levy.

As the team starts the year, what would you tell them they must do if they are to be successful in supporting you? What one thing should they consider that would have the greatest influence on your capacity to use technology to support learning?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

21st Century Skills and global competitveness . . .

I saw this publication from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills referenced in an article yesterday and thought I would share it. We have used other documents they produced as we were reviewing our Outcomes and Indicators that influenced the changes that we made. This short resource and policy guide is focused on what we must do as a nation to ensure our continued competitiveness in a changing world.

It is another document that affirms the direction that we have taken with our focus on Classroom 10. This focus is well aligned with the skills identified on page 10 of the document. The words used to describe the skills differ, but the intended outcomes are the same.

  • Thinking critically and making judgments
  • Solving complex, multidisciplinary, open-ended problems
  • Creativity and entrepreneurial thinking
  • Communicating and collaborating
  • Making innovative use of knowledge, information and opportunities
  • Taking charge of financial, health and civic responsibilities

We are updating the information on our website to create a common understanding of the why and what of Classroom 10 in our community. This publication will become one of the resources that will be added to this site. Check it out and give us some feedback

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The need for innovation . . .

I found this piece by Friedman both interesting and confirming. The interesting part is the question why are we going to spend $1 billion dollars to fix Georgia's roads and schools? Seems to me we have schools and roads that could use an influx of cash a lot closer to home than Tbilisi. The confirming part is the discussion of the importance of innovation.

"That focus needs to be on strengthening our capacity for innovation — our most important competitive advantage. If we can’t remain the most innovative country in the world, we are not going to have $1 billion to toss at either the country Georgia or the state of Georgia."

The focus we are creating for our young people promotes innovative thinking, problem solving, and working collaboratively on issues of importance to students and our global community. Though the article also includes the usual swipe at public K-12 schools falling behind, I don't think we are deserving of this label. I don't know much about other public schools, but I think we are focused and moving in a direction to support what this article is identifying as important to the future of our country's ability to maintain its place in the world. I get tired of the public school bashing knowing how committed our teachers and staff are to learning and teaching. Is the bashing deserved? Are we that different than others that result in this bashing? It would sure be nice to read something positive about our work that didn't come internally or from another educator.

Friday, September 5, 2008

ELT meetings and change . . .

It has been a busy first week with many issues that make it difficult at times to maintain energy and focus. It always helps to go to a BEARS football game that results in a win. We left in the fourth quarter leading 54 to 14 so I'm sure we won. I think we'll have to wait another week to see how good we really are.

We have our first administrator (ELT) business meeting of the year next Tuesday. These are not meetings that my colleagues all like to attend and over the last couple of years I have found myself cancelling about half of them. I rationalize to myself that it is because the potential items don't warrant a meeting. There is some truth to this, but I know I am also influenced by the non verbals and lack of engagement in the room during the meetings. I am committed to improving these meetings this year and that needs to start with my own mental model and ladders that I bring into the room. It will be interesting to watch how this unfolds and how well I do at improving the quality of these meetings.

Like always, the agenda is long because of the time of the year and because we meet for this business meeting only once a month so items build up. So, I need to model what I teach and begin to focus on my professional learning community. I am looking forward to the challenge. I wonder if my colleagues believe it can happen? My success will also be determined by my colleagues willingness to suspend their assumptions, something I have no control over, but must rely upon.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Correction! Correction!

I made an error when I said the word cloud came from Moodle, it comes from Wordle. They do different things. Give it a try, it provides you with an interesting context for reflection.

Thanks Dawn for letting me know. She is actually also in the office today, came before me and will probably be here after me.