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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Let Them Lead

I sat back and watched a leader lead.

I thought about how I might do it differently, yet the objective of the event had little to do with my current work or objectives. To get involved in a discussion about the process, objective, or event would only serve to derail my priorities. The leader's efforts were not doing anyone substantial harm, in fact it was clear to see that some were responding well to the process and focus. I continued to watch and had little to say.

No one can be all things or know all. There are countless directions to travel in today's world. This is the reason why I support greater focus on systems and processes rather than individuals these days. When systems and processes are working well with good communication, a lot of decisions are left up to individuals who are well suited for the leadership roles they play.

I want to think more about this, but for now, it helps me to direct my own work and effort to the objectives I've prioritized so that I can lead those efforts well without interruption from entanglement in objectives that don't connect or affect where I'm headed. Onward.

The Dance of Big Picture to Detail Think: This Week's Agenda

After a morning of big-picture think, it's now time to enter the world of details as I plan for the week ahead. Going from big-picture to detail think is like squeezing your brain through a rock crevice, you can feel the squeeze. Nevertheless, I find that the best process is to quickly list next steps after big picture think to stay on track.

So with all those big ideas in mind, and all the details of the week's teaching ahead, I'll follow this list.

Family-Student-Teacher Conferences
This week most of the families and students will meet with fifth grade teachers to discuss the children's education program and goals.
  • Organize conference materials prior to 7:30am start of conferences
  • Copy Xtra-Math parent letters for students who will be using that site to practice facts
  • Prep by reviewing student portfolio, parent surveys, and other data points.
  • At conferences meet family members, invite student to lead his/her conference by highlighting their best work.
  • Ask family members if they have any questions or information to share
  • Review and discuss student stats and goals with student and families
  • Invite parents to have a few minutes alone with the teacher if desired
  • Follow up by adding notes about the conference in student-information binder
Place Value Unit
We'll continue our efforts to teach this unit step-by-step

Facts and Skills Study and Practice
I'll announce to students who made facts level moves, and introduce the practice that's been created for each student. 

RTI Reading Group
Remind students to do their assignment before our meeting on Tuesday. Give students the DAZE on Tuesday.

Independent Reading
Provide students with time to independently read and use that time for individual student coaching and catch-up.

Math RTI
Focus Math RTI this week on TenMarks Place Value efforts.

Math Tech
Focus this week's Wednesday's Math Tech on having students work with similar-ability partners to take a math practice test together to build skill and test taking ability. 

Goals Meeting
Meet with the principal to discuss the school year goals and my own evaluation cycle and efforts. 

Administrative Tasks
Provide parents with handbook sign-off sheet and purple sheet for completion at conferences. Complete, if time, reimbursement forms and field trip check request forms. Also complete field trip and expert visitor contracts, phone calls, and research. Complete permission forms for personal/professional days. 

Professional Learning
Continue to prep the "Reflect for Success" presentation for the MTA New Teacher Conference on November 4th. 

Teachers Union Focus and Opportunity

I am proud to be a member of the Wayland Teachers Association (WTA), Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), and National Education Association (NEA). Data demonstrates that states with strong teachers' unions have strong education programs. I value this reality. Further I like what the teachers unions at the local, state, and national level can do to help me uplift my practice in ways that matter.

At the state and national level, the teachers' unions are continually lobbying for legislation, policies, and supports that uplift teaching and learning for all students. As Diane Ravitch's famous quote states, "Teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions." Anyone who has read anything about education knows that good schools lead to strong nations, and strong nations make the time to support optimal teaching/learning well. As education goes, the USA is loosing step to other nations that are doing a better job overall to foster optimal teaching and learning. Fortunately I teach in Massachusetts, a state that takes education seriously and a state with both a strong department of education and a strong teachers' union. Our students are making good gains, and our state and teachers' union are not sitting idly by, but instead continuing to look for ways to better our schools through advocacy, debate, research, professional learning, and more.

The state and national unions also host a large number of events, websites, and outreach to help educators develop their practice to teach well. These supports are valuable to educators who seek to teach well. The supports are typically affordable and easily accessible. This is equally important to educators who have busy schedules and tight budgets.

At the local level, our union helps to form a positive agreement for teachers' working conditions. We work in conjunction with leadership to solve problems and forward the potential that exists. Our local union focus is admirable, and one that, I believe, teachers everywhere would be willing to embrace as its focused on the good work possible:

As I work with the local union as a representative and secretary, my aim is to help with regular communication and a resourceful up-to-date website to support educators' efforts and aim. As I think of the direction of our local union, I hope we can foster greater momentum with regard to systematic effort, regular inclusive and transparent communication, greater educator voice and choice, and the continued positive, inclusive, and values-driven system development and success. Teachers in the system where I work are proud to teach and generally go well above the call of duty to serve students and families. This is one reason that I've stayed in my role in the system for so long.

In all levels of the union, I find that my voice is regarded with respect and that all points of view are welcome and considered. Our unions are not uniform in that we expect all teachers to be exactly the same or agree on all issues. Instead our unions are democratic bodies with lots of debate and discourse about what's important when it comes to what is right and good for students, their families, schools, and educators. Unlike the preconceptions about unions that often occur, our unions actually serve to elevate our practice and supports so that we have what we need to teach well.

What is your role with regard to the unions you belong to or the unions that support the teachers who serve your students and community? How can the unions better serve you, and how can you better support and advise unions? I am a proud union member and a proud member of the local and state school systems. Teachers can't do their best work if they go it alone; we need the support of dedicated groups that support what we need to do our jobs well, and unions are one of the most important groups that support teachers and children. When system, state, national, and community leadership are willing to work with unions, a win-win situation occurs that fosters betterment for all. I support this kind of positive collaboration and effort rather than the adverse relationships that sometimes occur due to close mindedness, ego, and will for greater power.

Are you a union member or are you a community member who supports unions? How can you work with the union to better teaching/learning opportunities for all? Where do you think your union and its supports can change to affect betterment? I'm thinking about these questions, and invite your commentary if interested. I look forward to discussing these questions with colleagues, community members, and friends in the days to come.