Google+ Badge

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Teaching Next Year: Stay Strong and Focused

My voice, research, creativity, and effort are not regarded well by the leadership in the system where I teach. They essentially degrade my ideas, ignore my achievements, and disrespect my efforts. This has been a long standing experience, and anyone who reads my blog knows that I've been working with administrators who do not value me for a long time.

Fortunately parents, students, and community members value me. They see my work upfront and know that I am invested in teaching students well. My family members similarly value the work I do, and support me. This is all good.

I can't continually get down by the way I'm disrespected on a daily basis, and while some advise me to leave my position, that is not a good choice at this time in my career for a number of personal and financial reasons.

So what's a teacher to do?

First, I have to distance myself from the disrespect. I have to follow the dictates of a large number of administrators, and as much as possible, going forward, I'll do what they tell me to do as long as it does not include anything that will harm a child. If their requests cross the bar of safety to children or contractual agreements, I'll seek union support.

Second, I'll work to contract. Thank goodness we have a contract that outlines our professional responsibility--I'll follow that.

Third, I'll dedicate myself to what I can do in my classroom with and for students, and I'll gain my learning and growth from my many education-related activities outside of the school as I'm a member of many teaching/learning groups.

Fortunately I work with a dynamic team and I'll continue to work with and learn from these dynamic educators. I also work with wonderful families and terrific children who are ready and willing to collaborate with regard to serving children well.

While I note injustice around me, I will not speak up about it unless it is illegal, affects human dignity or challenges safety for children or colleagues. As for all the ridiculous things that happen, I'll turn my cheek in another direction. Earlier this year, I had to speak up when our contract was illegally broken by administrators. Fortunately our union was able to confront those that broke the contract and remedy the situation.

Teaching well is challenging and rewarding work. At its best it's a team effort that's well supported by many. Unfortunately in many school systems, there is undue pressure, oppression, and quieting that occurs which keeps teachers down, limiting what we can do. I hope that families, citizens, educators, and others will advocate for more modern systems of leadership and effort--flattening the hierarchies that exist and replacing them with learning communities that value the voice and choice of all stakeholders.

In the meantime, and over the summer, I'll find some reprieve and a chance to research and study to continue honing my practice and serving students and families well on my own and with my colleagues. Onward.

Moving Beyond a Discouraging Last Day

I teach in a wonderful school. The educators give 200% in time, effort, creativity, research, and care. Our students are happy and typically skip down the halls. The parents are supportive. There's lots of smiles and cheer, deep learning, and success. It's generally a good place to teach and learn.

Yet today, on the last teacher day of school, it was very discouraging. We spent a long time talking about cabinet orders--there's been numerous emails exchanged about the cabinets. Cabinets have been proposed and denied. In the end, there is one cabinet choice that appears acceptable, and that cabinet will be filled with supplies mostly chosen by administrators. The cabinets seemingly paid for by extra dollars from the after school program will house materials for school, after school, and summer school. I estimate that there's been about 100 hours or more collectively spent on the cabinet discussion/research when in fact there's been little to no teacher voice and choice in the matter. In hindsight, it seems like the administrators should have just told teachers that they are ordering cabinets and the cabinets will be placed in our classrooms. That would have saved a lot of time and frustration.

Also, there was a discussion about the order in which to teach standards. Administration essentially told me that it's my job to follow the order directed by them. I believe in responsive teaching which means teaching the standards in ways that match the children that come to your class. I like to order the standards in meaningful, engaging, intersecting ways that build excitement and capacity for learning. But to keep my job, I have to follow the rules with no real professional voice or choice.

Further, at the end of the meeting, teachers were essentially chided. I'm not really sure what we were criticized about as I didn't understand the references made, but it wasn't a positive ending message.

This is all very disconcerting as I am a big fan of distributive leadership, flattened hierarchy, teacher leadership, learning communities, responsive teaching, and researched-based development and growth, but today it seemed so old fashion as about 50 women sat in a circle and listened to ridicule and choices made for them with little to no chance for discussion, exchange, or debate.

What's a teacher to do?

To keep my job, I'll follow the many rules and dictates set for teaching and learning, and find ways to serve and support students with as much care, creativity, and kindness as I can within the tight boundaries set. I'll continue to advocate for change in respectful ways that I can find as I continue to think that some of our mandates mirror old fashion ideas about what works in classrooms and schools rather than new research and methods for powerful, passionate teaching and learning.

I will also continue my research, create a warm and inviting classroom environment, and support my talented and dedicated colleagues who give so much of themselves each and every day to teach children well.





It's My Idea

For some, only their ideas matter.

In fact, for people like that, there's almost no use in trying to share ideas or have voice, because no matter what you say, their idea will trump.

This is problematic when people like this are leaders because that means few to no are represented in decisions, and when there is little representation, there is often little buy in or valuable success.

It is troubling to face situations like this in both small arenas and large arenas as large as a state or country.

When What You See is Not Supported?

I see so much potential and promise in education, and it's very difficult to get support for that vision. It's a vision well supported in research and in many places, but in my close community, support is sometimes lacking.

Parents and close colleagues generally see things the way I do. They read the newspaper, live and work with children daily, and continually develop their ability to serve children well whether it be at home or in school. But some, distanced from children, but with power, simply don't see what I see when it comes to empowering and developing schools.

What I see is the following:
  • Inspiring and developing teacher leaders make schools strong and provides wonderful mentors for students
  • Creating and developing collective goals in transparent, strategic, and holistic ways with all stakeholders build strong schools
  • Decisions related to how to spend dollars at school should be a collective decision by all stakeholders including those who work closely with children day in and day out
  • Problems should be regularly addressed in strategic ways that look carefully at the data, observations, and anecdotal information w/teamwork and collaboration
  • There should be a strategic plan related to budgets and activities that is informed by good research and created by all stakeholders
  • Communication should be timely, inclusive, transparent, and accurate
  • Research and development belongs to all, and new ideas should be readily explored and tried out
Vital, vibrant communities depend on empowering the people who make up those communities. There is so much lost potential when the voices of stakeholders remain silent and unused for important decisions that affect students and their families with regard to school. 

There is so much good possible, but this good depends on strategic process that enlists that voice and choice of all stakeholders and does not rely on the opinion and decisions of a few distanced from those we serve. 

Do You Destroy, Maintain or Build?

It seems that most people maintain. They neither destroy nor build. Some destroy and destruct, continually tearing apart what's possible, and of course, others are builders--they like to create and make.

In each of our lives we probably mainly balance maintenance and building. We maintain what serves us well, and perhaps, build where we see room for better. At times we may destroy too in areas where we see no promise or possibility.

In general, I think we do best with a builder's mindset as that mindset fits a changing world. Our world one minute to the next is never the same--it is always changing and the builder knows that he/she needs to continually redesign and re-think his/her life to flexibly move with changes in his/her world.

The maintainer often loses sight of the changing world. He/she sometimes maintains for good reason, but at other times, may maintain long after a tradition, process, or routine is valuable--he/she may not recognize the impact change has on our days and our need to build and develop in response to those changes.

The destroyer may be one without hope, one who cannot see possibility and promise and therefore only pays attention to what's not working and looks for ways to take down or deconstruct his/her world.

The builder's mindset creates team, forwards possibility, and leads positive change. In general, this is where I'd like to put most of my time and energy.

Closing Remarks: So Much Good and Room for Development Too

There was so much good in school this year.

The teaching assistants were extraordinary--always teaching, helping, counseling and caring. If I were in charge of the world I'd elevate their salaries and shorten their work year a bit. They are true gifts to the school community.

The office staff, custodians, lunch room staff cared and supported educators and students daily. They put into place new protocols and served us so well.

The specialists led the students in engaging projects and activities while the recess monitor ensured recess safety.

Countless parents contributed to the school program by chaperoning field studies, offering expertise and new ideas, and volunteering their time to make the school year very successful.

High school and middle school students joined us to help the young children learn.

Colleagues worked together and supported each other day in and day out as we created and carried out numerous programs, interventions and special events.

It was overall a super year.

As I look ahead though I see lots of room for development, areas that I would like to forward change include the following:
  • more efficient, streamlined, targeted, timely, regular, and transparent communication about initiatives, ideas, and research
  • more teacher voice and choice when it comes to decisions, supplies, curriculum, and all efforts that impact the professional work we do--authentic choice and voice
  • a better collection of holistic formal and informal metrics to assess and evaluate the work we do individually and collectively
  • more accurate, transparent, and honest share related to individual and collective efforts
  • better, collective and holistic goal setting and action plans that mirror current research as well as study and learning community requirements, needs, and interests
I think that developing our processes of communication and strategic action will develop what we can do with and for each other and most importantly the students and families we serve. Onward. 

Lost Opportunity

When I listened to the keynote speaker at my son's graduation, he essentially said that the worst sins are sins of omission--not doing what's possible, leaving good left undone.

We never knowingly want to not do the good possible. If we err, we want to make sure we apologize. If we leave someone out, we want to make sure we include them later. If we notice good work and effort, we want to acknowledge that. We want to spread the good that we can.

A long time ago a friend and I parted ways. I treasured that friend so much that I didn't want our relationship to end without a meaningful note. I wrote a long letter telling the friend all that I valued. I have always been happy that I took the time to write that note.

Significant moments of time are extraordinary opportunities to seize the potential and promise possible. We want to inspire and elevate those around us whenever possible with truthful, kind, and inspiring words and acts. Onward.

Listen to Children

It's so easy to prescribe what students need, want, and desire, but it's much more difficult to make time to listen to children and let them lead.

Children generally know what they need, and if we give them time to speak and make choices, they typically speak and choose well.

Too often we speak for children. Too often we think for children. Too often we plan and prescribe for what we think they need.

The real strength in teaching, learning, and parenting is to give children the voice, choice, and leadership they deserve with regard to the environment, experiences, and events that impact them.

One of the best ways to do that is to have a daily meeting. Other ways are to invite students to write emails, lead meetings, make changes and engage in meaningful discussion and debate.

Good teachers everywhere know that listening to children is essential when it comes to teaching and learning well. I want to lead 2017-2018 with this point.

Putting Out Your Fire

There will always be those who work to distinguish your fire.

They've got the hose ready to spray whenever you have a new idea, pose a question, or create. They truly dampen your spirit as they dictate formations to follow with rigidity and little room for voice and choice.

All through our lives we meet people like that, and it's likely that we've been that kind of person from time to time too.

As I think back, the first person in my life that was like that was my high school French teacher. She perseverated about the little things, the tiny details related to speaking and writing French. I could never succeed in her class and dropped French after a couple of years.

Later in life their was boss at my first job after college. He was a stickler for details. Similar to the French class, that job was short lived, but dissimilar to the French class, I did learn a lot during that rigid work experience--in fact, I use many of those skills that I learned during that one-year period in my professional and personal life today.

There was also the most difficult education course that I ever took. The teacher was very detail oriented and seldom pleased with my work. I worked diligently to pass the course, and remember almost nothing. I liken the lack of retention to the rigidity of the course.

As I look over my life, those three experiences and one or two close to home now are the only rigid experiences I've had in my life. In most experiences, both professional and personal, there's been more flexibility and elasticity--they've been loose-tight learning experiences, and mostly learning experiences that I've enjoyed and retained.

As I think of rigidity and learning, I don't think it's the best way to teach or learn. I am much more a fan of experienced-base, responsive teaching and learning that avails itself to voice and choice. I think this kind of fluid platform for learning connects better to the latest cognitive research. While parameters are important, relationships, sensitivity, connectivity, and responsiveness are more important. When you're learning with passion including both heart and mind, retention, engagement, empowerment, and inspiration occur, and when those critical attributes occur, the learning sticks and develops.

I noticed this in college, and that's why I always chose courses based on the quality and dedication of the professors rather than topic, class size, or course rigor. I found that when I had a passionate professor, I learned more no matter how the course was taught--the professor's passion was contagious, impactful, and inspiring.

So as I think of the topic, "Putting Out Your Fire," I first want to caution myself about putting out others' fires, and instead inspire myself to embrace the passion, ideas, interests, and drive my colleagues and loved ones exhibit. If it's good for others, I want to cheer them on. I also want to make sure I'm always cognizant of the fact that I don't know it all, and many around me have answers and ideas that I've never even thought about. I want to be open to their dedicated voices and choices as they live and love.

Next as I think of those that "put out fires," I will heed their words and think carefully about their halting remarks and dictates. I will listen for the truth in what they say and regard their experience and outlook with respect. I will also, however, respect my own experience, research, passion, and drive since we know ourselves well, and we all have a good idea about the gifts that are ours to give. While I won't disrespect those who extinguish my flame, I'll also not disrespect my own experience, professional training, and direction. Onward.

The Value of Tight Protocols and Dictates

Typically I run a loose-tight classroom, a classroom that leaves room for modern-day research, inspiration, student voice and choice, parent input, and collegial efforts. I don't usually have a lot of tight dictates or rigid rules. I believe in loose-tight as I think it opens the door for greater creativity, personalization, development, and inspiration. It would be interesting to measure the results of what I do in a holistic way with a classroom teacher that is more rigid and less bending with regard to procedure and protocol. Perhaps a more rigid style leads to greater learning and progress. I'll be thinking about that.

In general I like to think of education as a conversation--an ongoing, developing effort to nurture children forward in their current studies and future pursuits. When I look around me and research, I notice that it is the personal, thoughtful approach of building relationships, knowing students well, and utilizing research in an ongoing and developmental way that leads to student success, happiness and contribution. I utilize a similar approach to parenting.

Yet, I don't know all, and there may be advantages to tight protocols and dictates that I am unaware of. If you know of those, please educate me as I want to understand.

Social Media Builds a Positive Community

While many chide social media as they share stories of its ill effects, I'm noticing how our PTO president has used social media to build positive culture, voice and choice in the school community. Similarly the principal, administrative assistant and educators at our school uses Twitter, blogs and websites to spread the good news. At its best social media becomes the transparent conversation, debate, discussion, idea share, and day-to-day communication vehicle for organizations and communities big and small. This leaves our face-to-face time for more meaningful, rich, and deep share--the kind that moves organizations forward in ways that matter.

Outlining Summer Research: Teach Well

Outlining your summer study and research helps you to learn more, make the learning meaningful, and embed the learning into program change. I've outlined my study below:

Focus: Building a sensitive, relationship-strong culturally proficient teaching/learning program

For White Teachers Who Teach in the Hood. . . by Chris Emdin
I read half of this book last summer, took a lot of notes, and embedded Emdin's ideas into our shared teaching program with good result. I'll read the rest of the book and look back on last summer's notes, and think about how we might embed Emdin's research, words, and experience into our revised orientation programs, start-of-the-year selfie project, and our efforts to build strong student-teacher relationships and a culturally proficient program.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Similar to Emdin's book, I hope to use Coates book to deepen my ability to build strong relationships with students and build a culturally proficient teaching/learning program with colleagues.

In the Heights bQuiara Alegria Hudes (Author), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Author)
Students will attend this play and I'll read up on it so that I can use what I learn to prepare students to have a full experience of the musical. This is also part of our efforts to build a more culturally proficient program.

Integrating SEL and Academic Learning by Dacey, Criscitiello, Devlin
I co-authored this book with educational colleagues. We spent a lot of time looking at ways to embed SEL into academic lessons and came up with some great lesson plans which I plan to use in 2017-2018 to build a stronger learning team and program. As I read through the finished book, I'll decide where and when I'll teach each SEL skill/lesson. I'll also offer specific lessons to colleagues, lessons they may want to integrate into their teaching.

Redesigning Learning Spaces by Robert W. Dillon 
I plan to read this book and apply the learning to writing a grant to update and modernize the learning environment. I want the environment to be a more modern STEAM learning/teaching space. 

Thank you for Being Late by Thomas Friedman
I want to read this book as one way to develop my awareness for what the future holds for our students. I want our teaching/learning efforts to help students prepare for their futures, and this book will provide information to help me do that.

I have collected a number of other titles and articles to build this effort in the classroom too:

Focus: Engaging, Empowering Math Education

I look forward to reading this book and using what I learn to elevate my algebraic thinking, numerical expression, and patterns and relationships emphases with regard to teaching math.

YouCubed by Jo Boaler
I'm going to study the YouCubed site and apply specific learning exercises, research, videos, and activities in specific math teaching/learning units as one way to build greater meaning, engagement, and cultural proficiency to math teaching and learning.

Article/Course Collection
I've collected a number of articles and a course to study over the summer to empower the math program as well:

Focus: Reflect for Success
I have decided to make my professional consultation focus reflection since I value the role that reflection plays in elevating the work we do as educators. I will attend a conference this summer that focuses on reflection as part of obtaining National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification. I will likely collect titles, articles, and other information related to this topic throughout the summer as well. 









Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wonderfully Choreographed Final Day: A Team Effort 2017

The final day was wonderfully choreographed. I give my colleagues and the parents credit for this good learning/teaching design for a final day of school.

First we visit the high school where students have the chance to engage in all kinds of wonderful outdoor and indoor games. Students played soccer, tennis, basketball, drip-drip-drop, a version of capture the flag, and ran the track. They also spent some time exploring nature and playing chess. I had an awesome game of chess with one of the best opponents I've ever faced. I learned a lot and had fun even though I didn't win the game.

Later parents served delicious pizza and water. After that we hiked back to school and I handed out progress reports with a few kind words for each child. Then children shared summer plans.

At 12:30 we met with the parents in the gym for a terrific farewell slideshow produced by the parents. Students joyfully sang along to the popular songs as they watched images of themselves from their earliest days through fifth grade. Finally we gathered back in the homerooms and then students marched through the school as the whole school paid tribute to them by lining the halls and clapping them out. Parents lined up at the back of the school and continued the tradition with proud clapping and words of celebration and cheer.

It was the perfect way to end fifth grade and send our young students onto the Middle School.


Success in 2017-2018


As I think deeply about the past year and the year ahead, I am focused on attributes of success. The past year met many criteria of success and left some challenges to meet in the year ahead as well. Clearly documenting efforts and related observations, anecdotes, and data can help you to measure success as well as plan for the year ahead.

Success next year will be identified in the following way:
  • Successful, engaging mastery and/or progress towards mastery in all math standards. While students met mastery or progression towards mastery last year, I'd like to really focus in on the word "engaging" in the year ahead by deepening and enriching math units with attention to relevant, blended units of study.
  • Positive student advocacy and leadership with respect to their individual and collective learning paths. As a team we inspired this attitude and behavior throughout the year, and I'd like to continue and deepen this effort with a focus on embedding SEL, growth mindset, learning-to-learn, and mindfulness behaviors.
  • Everyone Belongs. With careful listening, questioning, and attention to cultural proficiency and individual student strengths, talents, passions, and challenges, our team will continue to build a sensitive, culturally proficient program that welcomes and encourages voice and choice from all stakeholders: students, family members, colleagues, administrators and community members. 
  • STEAM: As a team we'll look for ways to employ greater science/STEAM teaching. Time was a challenge this year, and it will take a close look at the time available in order to meet this expectation with depth and breadth.
Essentially in the year ahead, I'll plant a 

Steam: interdisciplinary study using the design process
Engaging, deep, standards-based math study
Everyone belongs, is treated with respect, and acts with respect toward one another
Develop self-advocacy, choice, questioning, and ability to create/navigate personal/collective 
     learning paths. 

A Time for Analysis, Practice, and Research

Educators know that doing the job well requires the continual intersection of analysis, practice and research. During the year, practice and analysis typically trump since we spend so much time-on-task with students. Now that summer is about to start, it's a good time to shift that equation by putting most of the energy and time into research. Good research and reflection set the stage for promising teaching in the year ahead. Hence, I'll make that shift today. Onward.

Redesigning the Math Unit

How can we redesign math units so that the learning is rich, deep, and memorable. Here's what I hope to do next year:
  • Make home study simple and interesting
  • Include one floor-to-ceiling exploration in each unit
  • Organize the learning path in each unit from standard introduction to review to grade-level standard to enrichment
  • Give students a chance to navigate the learning path on their own with check-ins, coaching, team projects and assessment along the way
  • Make the learning relevant with real-world data, scenarios, and problems
  • Build one unit on top of another so that students are able to continually apply the lessons learned
  • Add opportunity for reflection and metacognition
  • Present/Teach the learning to others
  • Discuss and debate the standards in multiple ways
I will use this template as I rework each unit. 

Deep, Satisfying Learning

Yesterday when I met my rising fifth graders, I asked each child to share one learning experience in their life that they truly enjoyed. All students shared experiences of deep, satisfying learning. The kinds of learning shared included learning to sail, reading a good book, writing stories, engaging in STEAM projects, and computer-related learning.

Similarly, the projects that students enjoyed most this year were the deep, rich projects they engaged in. No one is saying that they really enjoyed learning lots of facts or taking tests as that's not rich learning and teaching.

As I think of this, I am cognizant of the fact that I want to include these rich learning experiences in each subject area next year. These projects take time and require lots of teaching/student investment, but they are the kinds of projects that stick since these projects are rich, memorable, and real-world. Students get excited about this kind of learning. They talk about it and extend the learning well beyond the school hours. This is the kind of learning we want to reach for in schools everywhere.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Last Day

There will be unexpected twists and turns--say it 100 times as the unexpected can be expected during the last days of school. It's a guarantee, and the best teachers roll with it keeping peace and harmony as their mantra as children enjoy a final day of school.

We have a good day planned including closing remarks, time for friends and play, a class lunch, the fifth grade slideshow, and the clap-out.

And similar to the previous few days, the goal is to be positive, energized, and caring as students spend their final day of what has been a very good year overall. Onward.

Big Classes

A controversy ensued as parents recognized that some fifth grades in town will have 17 or 18 students, and others will have 25. I noticed the difference when the numbers were first published, but I wasn't inspired to speak up since I like our three-teacher shared model so much. I felt we could handle the bigger classes.

Yet when I heard parents talk about the reasons for smaller classes, I couldn't disagree. Smaller classes do mean greater attention. Yet, then when a citizen without children spoke about the research, I wondered more. Is this a time to continue to think about one-teacher-one-classroom models of service or are we better off continuing with our three-teacher model and adding more assistants to make sure that there is plenty of staffing for targeted small group and one-to-one attention.

In the end, I'm a fan of building out our model with an assistant in each classroom and time to plan well together. I think we will be able to do a really good job with all students if we have that support and utilize more creative, flexible plans for teaching and learning, plans that include tech integration, project/problem-based learning, interdisciplinary learning units, all-team days, field studies and more.

The options of keeping things as they are, I do believe would lead to greater inequity as we simply wouldn't have the hands-on-deck that other schools have. The option of keeping the model and adding an assistant for each class would be my preference, but I'd be satisfied with adding a fourth teacher too.

Whatever the case, we'll do our best to teach and serve next year's students.

Second to Last Day Musings 2017

The morning was idyllic. We had a good talk about Memory books and some tech choice. Then it was time for move-up day which included 15 minutes talking about our team approach and 15 minutes to meet the students in our homerooms. After that students signed Memory Books, and then it was the girls and boys changing bodies talk. Next, lunch. A day well planned.

The afternoon wasn't as relaxed as I handed out countless last minute notices and papers that were dropped off in my classroom and facilitated a somewhat half-hearted clean-up. Then there was time for choice again, and all was calm.

It seemed like a busier than ever end of the year this year and I think that was partly to do with the fact that weather played havoc with some of our plans causing postponements and cancellations. There were also a few last minute scheduling snafus and tremendous work to complete the fifth grade play, MCAS tests, and the biography project which all went very well.

The team will spend a few days this summer reflecting on the year's efforts and mapping out the next year. I think we may decide that "less is more" with regard to some efforts, and with others I think we'll shoot for greater depth. Further I'm sure we'll tweak the schedule a bit. We'll have 15 minutes more a day and we'll likely dedicate those minutes to a combination of SEL, read aloud, open circle and targeted student coaching and support

I must say that I learned as much as the students this year, and as I often remark that is both plus and challenge of the position.

Response to Critique

As I critical thinker, I'm quick to find fault with my own work and efforts. I can always see better and reach for that continuously.

Yet, at this second to last day of school, I want to sit back a bit and take it all in as I meet with my bright eyed, spirited fifth graders who are filled with tremendous potential for promising futures, contribution, and good living.

Today I'll focus on all the wonderful learning and experiences we've shared this year. These last days won't be days of pushing forward and reaching deep, but instead days of recognizing the greatness each of these children hold for good lives--greatness I don't want them to forget.

I'll thank them for sharing a year of their lives with me, and I'll tell them that I learned a lot from each of them and value who they are and what they bring to the world. I'll encourage them to build their great skills and personalities so that they can pay it forward by helping others to live well and contribute to our world in ways that matter.

I'll respond to critique, my own and others, later in the summer months when my tired end-of-school brain has rested and I'm ready to move into the new school year. Onward.

Teaching/Learning Goals 2017-2018

As students clean up and put away supplies today, I'm thinking about next year's teaching and learning goals.

Math Engagement and Progress
Students made good progress with math knowledge, concept, and skill, and I think we can lift engagement levels more in the year ahead. I believe that the addition of more floor-to-ceiling project/problem based explorations and activities will boost that engagement.

Reading Proficiency and Comprehension
Again students made good growth, and I think we can develop this even more by adding in specific time for read aloud across homerooms as well as adding more guidelines for independent reading in my homeroom. I want to work with our reading specialist and lead teacher in this regard.

Writing Growth and Development
I'd like to help develop this by adding greater math writing to the math program.

Student Support and Coaching
It's always challenging to give every child the time he/she deserves since needs vary and time is never enough. I want to build in more creative coaching efforts next year that make sure every child is getting a good amount of one-to-one and small group coaching from teachers and teaching assistants in the year ahead.

Expanding Students' Lifelong Learning Outlook and Global Lens
I want to work with colleagues to look at the many special events we promote at the grade-level to determine how we can develop these events as one way to develop students' learning depth and global lens. We want to develop strong, open minded global citizens.

Teamwork
I want to look for ways that we can better embed open circle and SEL into the curriculum to help develop every child's emotional intelligence and ability to work with others. We know these are essential skills when it comes to success in our world today.

Passion
I want to continue to look for ways to embed and develop students' passions as part of our overall program.

Metacognition, Personalized Learning Paths
I'd like to develop the student portfolio process as one way to help students develop metacognitive skill, analysis, reflection, and personal learning paths.


Hearsay Does Not Lead to Good Analyses

As I think of an individual's evaluation statement, I recognize that the statement is based on hearsay and the observations/emotions of one or a few rather than good metrics and holistic assessment. These leads me to desire a better system of holistic analysis with regard to school programs.

In the past simple scores and standardized test scores sufficed, but today I notice that it seems like the research is pointing to greater depth with regard to teaching/learning programs, and this greater depth requires new and better metrics.

While educators and family members still want metrics that demonstrate progress in essential skills such as reading, writing, and math, now families want to ensure that their children are gaining good social/emotional skills, teamwork, growth mindset, and the ability to learn with meaningful project/problem based learning and the design process. Family members want their children to be excited about school and able to create and follow their own learning paths to success. They recognize the research that points to success and how that success depends on traditional skills and abilities as well as the emotional intelligence, physical health/strength, creativity, communication and more.

This leads me to wonder about the metrics of successful learning and teaching--what makes a child strong.

I offer the following:

  • The child is developing essential skill and knowledge in reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
  • The child is able to create a personal learning path and seek/use support/resources to successfully navigate that learning path.
  • The child is developing emotional intelligence with regard to metacognition, self regulation and the ability to work successfully with others. 
  • The child is able to think and work intellectually and creatively as he/she completes project/problem base learning.
  • The child is a happy and successful learner.
What would you add to this?

I'll be thinking more about this in the days ahead. 

How Do You Evaluate a Program?

A parent approached a colleague. The parent compared two programs naming one as better than the other. I asked the colleague what metrics she used to compare. The colleague didn't know.

How do we compare one program over another?

I offer the following suggestion.

Begin by looking at essential goals and progress.

For example, it is our goal to help every child achieve growth in basic skill areas such as math, reading, and writing. We could look at scores to determine who grew and by how much. Then we could compare those metrics with past years.

We can also look at standardized assessments to ascertain growth. State assessments come with growth scores, and we can take a look at those scores and analyze to see a comparison over years.

We could employ assessments related to happiness, discipline issues, friendship, growth mindset, social/emotional learning, creativity, and teamwork too.

There's many ways to assess overall program results and development, and the first step is putting those metrics in place in a way that the information is easily collected and able to be analyzed and compared over years.

I do my own assessment of program goals and development to make sure that the program I deliver is continually developing. Some of the measures I use include the following:

  • I analyze standardized scores related to past years, across classrooms, and related to individual students' efforts, support, and stories. I look carefully at who made significant growth versus those who made less growth and make program changes related to that information.
  • I analyze student reactions, happiness, and progress via multiple analysis/reflection points. I work with colleagues day-to-day to discuss these analyses and make changes to better areas of need or concern.
  • I analyze the overall program each year to see where we might make changes to better the program each year.
  • I look at systemwide scores too to see where we might make good change to better the program.
  • I read and research to see what other schools and teachers are doing to improve programs.
As we tracked student progress this year, we found that students, in general, made good progress. There are a few areas that I think we can better, and I think the first step to betterment is to reach out to coaches and directors with specific questions, then tweak our schedule a bit to better the programming with regard to student progress.

On the social/emotional side of teaching and learning (SEL) I'd like to increase efforts to embed SEL into the daily schedule and lessons. I'll use the book colleagues and I just wrote to support that effort and I'll work with colleagues to make more space for read aloud and open circle in the schedule to boost these skills. 

With regard to project-based learning and STEAM, I was very happy with the big projects students engaged with including the fifth grade play and the biography project. I'm also happy with most of the field trips and daily learning efforts. I want to re-look at the schedule with regard to fitting in all the STEAMwork that's recommended for the grade-level. To follow systemwide math recommendations and teach the math well took a lot of time thus leaving little time for lots of hands-on science. I want to re-look at the schedule with colleagues to maximize our use of time. We have some ideas with regard to how we might move things around to build in more time for this. 

I want to think more about how we assess our programs in holistic, forward moving ways over the summer so that we have good metrics to analyze program growth and strength. Onward. 

Prioritize Your Areas of Most Need

We typically know what we need most, and often what we need most is not necessarily known by others. Whether your needs are visible or invisible, it's important to prioritize because when we get what we need most, we are able to serve others better.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Last Week Coaching

During the last week of school, I've got my eye set on the following:

Physical and Emotional Safety
During the last week of school students are sometimes emotional and energy-charged. It's important to remind students about using safe behavior and lots of kindness to end the year with care.

Life-Long Learning
The activities we engage in during the last week are the kinds of activities that students and their families may participate in all summer long--activities that lead to physical and mental health and growth.

Teamwork
They'll be plenty of time to work as a team to play, learn, clean-up, and celebrate.

Memories that Leads us Forward
We'll spend some time remembering the good times, and I'll remind students that they may use those good memories to repeat the good times and make good learning and living happen in the future.

Pride
Students will be clapped-out of the school as one way to say we are proud of all you've done as elementary school students and we wish you well in the future.

Attention to Individuals and the Team
I'll pay close attention to individuals and the team this week to ensure a safe and happy ending to a wonderful school year.

Rest, Relaxation, and Fun
Once the final tasks are complete, I'll set aside some days to rest, relax, reflect, and have some fun. While it has been a terrific teaching/learning year, it's been a busy and energized year too. Some time to rest and relax will be just perfect!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Push On

Godin's post this morning which compares good learning and success to a baby learning to walk reminds us that we have to persist and push on to reach our individual and collective vision. We won't always be 100% but with good thought, camaraderie and care we can be proud of our efforts and enjoy life in many ways.

Our ability to push on can be elevated in the following ways:

Vision
Keep vision in close view, be willing to revise as needed, and let that vision be your light.

Break Down the Vision
Break down the vision into goals and actions. Then move towards that vision step-by-step.

Camaraderie and Collaboration
Don't do it alone. Surround yourself with good people and work together. Always do your part or more.

Expect Some Discomfort
Sometimes you'll have to push through your discomfort to get to the place where you want to be.

Read, Research, and Reflect
Make time to think, dream, wonder, and decide. That's the energy you need to push forward.

Healthy Routines
As much as possible embrace healthy living.

Expect Failure
See failure for what it is, the hurdles on your vision path.

Stay Positive
Positivity brings your journey strength and promise.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Clear Goals and Expectations Lead to Success

Goals that have clarity and expectations that are clear set the stage for success? What are your program goals and expectations? As I begin to think about this, I identify the following from my perspective as a grade-level math/science teacher:

  • Students will learn all math standards with depth and flexibility.
  • Students will be happy, engaged, and empowered at school.
  • Students will learn to be good teammates, and experience what it's like to be an important part of a positive team.
  • Students will understand that they are in charge of their learning and that they are capable of learning anything they put their mind and time to.
  • Students will learn about themselves as learners and use that knowledge to elevate their learning.
  • Students will learn the science standards and utilize those standards with the design process in STEAM activities.
I'll likely add to this list in the days ahead. 

Program Development Requires Time, Attention, and Care

Good program development requires time, attention, and care.

As I think of the grade-level program development, I know the following elements serve us well:

  • Curriculum standards and framework: This includes solid, thoughtful goals and scheduling
  • Planning, Assessment, Analysis: We make time to plan, assess, and analyze the program with care.
  • Inclusion of Multiple Voices: The program is analyzed by many. Parents provide feedback through email and meetings. Administrators meet regularly with us to provide feedback. Students provide feedback and ideas during regular class meetings. We share our own ideas and thinking as a team regularly.
  • Reading and Research: It's essential to stay abreast of new ideas and research via reading, conferences, and coursework. It's important to reflect on, analyze, and embed new ideas and research into the curriculum regularly. 
As I think of the past year's program, I believe we hit many goals. We'll be able to better assess this in a few weeks when the year's standardized scores are in, commentary collected, and an overview of the year shared with one another. 

The one overall area I'd like to improve is giving all children equal attention with regard to teacher-time and interest. I feel that we can make this more equitable with the use of a simple check-list of time-on-task with individuals making sure that every child gets sufficient small group time and one-to-one attention. 

I'd also like to better embed our science standards and teaching throughout the year--finding the time will be challenging on top of the many other goals we have to reach, but I think we can do this if we give it good thought during the summer planning process. 

Further I'd like to look at the opportunities we provide for student support and enrichment--how can we deepen and enrich those experiences in ways that matter beginning with our efforts to employ a thoughtful multi-event orientation for students--one that builds strong relationships, a sense of belonging, and clarity about the year's expectations and opportunity. 

How Do You Rate Yourself As An Educator?

We have a rating system in our schools, but what truly matters to me is how I rate myself with regard to teaching and learning. Like all teachers, I want to do the best I can by my young students.

In this light, I can tell you that I am never completely satisfied as I always can see more and better ways to do the job. Teaching is a limitless job.

Yet, as I look over the past year, I'm proud of a number of actions the grade-level team and I led including the following:

  • Completion of signature, inclusive learning events including the fifth grade performance and biography presentation.
  • Teaching all math/ELA/science standards and the fact that all students completed the Symphony Math benchmark.
  • Good growth in math and ELA.
  • Greater attention to cultural proficiency, SEL, growth mindset, and general positivity throughout the curriculum thus creating a positive, collaborative grade-level team.
  • Terrific field trips.
  • Significant attention to specific student needs and interests.
If I had to do the year over, I'd look for ways to include greater STEAM teaching throughout the year since we simply ran out of time for the depth and reach with this that I hoped for. We'll work to plan this differently next year.

Next year I will rate myself on the following criteria:
  • Greater depth, hands-on exploration, student-ownership, and achievement in math. This year was good, and I want next year to be even better.
  • Greater depth and breadth with science and STEAM teaching--we'll schedule this differently with the goal being that we want to teach all of the new and old standards with depth.
  • Continued wonderful relationship building and learning experiences, cultural proficiency, SEL, growth mindset and general positivity with colleagues, family members, and most importantly, students.
How will I reach these goals?
  • Summer study related to math teaching and learning--lots of reading, revising unit roll-outs, revising homework assignments/expectations, re-looking at related field experiences, adding signature project/problem-based learning events. I will read The Joy of X, YouCubed website, and a number of other articles I've put aside to boost this study. 
  • Continued study and reading about cultural proficiency, SEL, growth mindset and relationship building. Working with colleagues to design and implement a student orientation as well as include SEL, cultural proficiency, and growth mindset in lessons. Using books such as Emdin's What White Teachers, Integrating SEL into the Academic Program (a book I co-authored), Mindset, and Between the World and Me will lend research and good ideas to these goals. 
  • Meet and work with colleagues over the summer to develop the teaching/learning map, agenda, and focus for the year. 
I keep writing about the goals and giving them shape. Once school ends, I'll have the time needed to reach in for the kind of study that will help me to reach the goals I've set. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Teacher Evaluation and Politics

Politics may play a bigger role in teacher evaluations than actual attributes of good teaching. Teachers who speak up, risk, and try new ideas may be seen as rabble rousers while those who dutifully do as administrators ask may receive high scores.

It could also be true that teachers who are related to friends or colleagues of administrators may receive higher marks than teachers who are not related.

Further a teacher whose research, practice, and philosophy differ from an administrator's may receive lower marks even if that teacher is up-to-date and well schooled.

I write of this as teachers are beginning to talk about evaluations--they are starting to notice potential patterns of injustice in this regard. What's the best next step?

I think, in general, educators should be rated proficient or needs improvement, and to get needs improvement would be associated with specific criteria that connects to not doing your job. I believe that the exemplary rating only invites lots of politics into a system and gets in the way of the good work possible--do you agree?

Friday Musings: Last Friday During School Year 2016-2017

We had a good day with the presentation of biography projects, final portfolio work, the completion of the inspirational film, Queen of Katwe, and a playful recess.

Next week we'll hike through historic Boston, host move-up day, have the changing bodies presentation, hand out and sign Memory Books, clean up, play at the high school, watch an end-of-the-year slideshow and clap out our fifth grade class.

Again, like last week, the key is to bring lots of positive energy to end the year with good cheer. Onward.

The Team That Rises

Today our students put on their Global Changemakers project and they certainly rose to the occasion. In costume with researched "interviews," portraits, and digital posters they acted in character for a good hour while parents, teachers, administrators and other students from the school circled around the timeline asking them questions about their significance, childhood and struggles. Just like during the fifth grade play, this class shined making themselves and everyone else proud.

Equity Algorithms

We tend to use simple algorithms for comparison. Each year schools with the highest standardized test scores are listed at the top while schools with lower standardized test scores are listed at the bottom. Yet is using scores alone to rate teachers or schools a fair analysis?

As I thought of this today, I thought about the factors that could be figured into a more equitable analysis of good work and growth with students--factors such as the following:

  • How many students arrived at school having had a good night's sleep and breakfast?
  • How many students in the class are at the poverty level?
  • How many students in the class face daily disruption due to illness, violence, and other disharmony?
  • How many students are labeled as special education students?
  • How many students face issues of chronic absenteeism?
  • How many face language barriers?
  • How many have physical, emotional, or psychological disabilities that get in the way of learning?
  • How many have access to technology at home?
  • How many face prejudice due to gender, body size, race, culture or religion?
  • How many children are in the class?
There are so many factors that affect learning and teaching, and the longer we are satisfied with simple comparisons, the less we'll be able to grow in ways that matter to all students.

Who is working on these better algorithms for good analysis when it comes to good service, teaching, and learning for all children, and how will these algorithms help us to teach and learn better. 

Non-Supporters

We all face non-supporters.

Their lack of support is characterized by the following actions:
  • Little or late response
  • Little to no positivity
  • Minimal communication at best
  • Negative statements and name calling
  • Little to no inclusion with regard to decision making, ideas and collaborative efforts
  • A "better-than" attitude and action
These non-supporters can serve to take us down if we let them, but instead we have to analyze their lack of support by asking the following questions:
  • Does research support their actions and non-support?
  • Are you contributing to their negative attitude and response?
  • Is there a systematic issue at play?
As I think of non-supporters in my close realm of teaching and learning, I can think of more inclusive actions to build greater support, actions such as good, initial meetings, mutual goal setting, and open, steady lines of communication and response.

With regard to those outside of the intimate teaching/learning circle, it's a more complex issue, one that requires steady observation, analysis, and thought as I work to get underneath the negativity, lack of support, and little to no inclusion, transparency, and collaboration. 

What's also important here is to think about when you might be a non-supporter. What efforts in your midst do you not support, and why is that true? How can you be a more supportive teacher, team member, service worker, and friend? These are important questions.

It's best to contribute to a supportive environment, one that fosters positive teamwork and collaboration. I am fortunate to work with a close group of educators who are supportive leading to very good collaboration when it comes to serving all students well and modeling the potential that collaboration holds for positive, forward-moving work and service. Onward. 

Teach Well: Become a Math Expert

As I think ahead to all the goals and efforts for 2017-2018 school year, the overarching goal is to become a math expert and teach math well.

What does this mean in terms of prep?

The following actions will lead me there:

  • Become more familiar with Jo Boaler's work via the website YouCubed and her online courses. 
  • Update the learning/teaching website links and materials for each unit. 
  • Review and analyze standardized test scores to look for areas for improvement in 2017-2018.
  • Review Khan Academy and TenMarks with greater scrutiny with an eye on how these online applications may support student learning. 
  • Think about room set-up and draft grants that can help to inspire students with great signage as well as provide good spaces and structures for optimal math learning.
  • Read math books such as The Joy of X.
This will be the mainstay of my math study. Onward. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Focus In: Final Days

There were more tears today as students navigated the end-of-school events. It's an emotional time for a large number of reasons including fatigue, changing schools, anticipation of summer and more.

Yet there were also stronger friendships forming, laughter, and joy as children engaged in end-of-year activities and choices.

As I think of the final events, I want to focus on the following:

  • Welcoming family members, students, teachers, and other visitors to the Global Changemakers Presentation. Encouraging students' best presentations.
  • Completing end-of-year letters.
  • Leading a successful field trip.
  • Collaborating on a positive move-up day.
  • Facilitating a good clean up.
  • Relaxing on the final day with students playing games, talking, helping out, and enjoying the final slideshow and clap-out.
Then there will be time for family and rest. Later I'll assess the year as I ready for the next year on my own and with colleagues. Onward. 

Lessons From a Year of School

There are always lessons from a year of school.

First and foremost, you can't be nice enough. It's always right to be kind, and when challenged with regard to kindness, that can be difficult. Teaching throws you all kinds curves, and as much as possible, catch those curve balls with kindness.

Reserve Judgement. It can be tempting to make judgements quickly when you first meet students, families, and colleagues, but you'll almost always regret making judgements hastily. Instead keep a notebook of anecdotes, notes, scores, and other factors to support the judgements you make later--judgements related to all kinds of student services and progress reports.

Collaborate. Particularly when issues are tough, you don't want to go it alone. You need to work as a team with regard to tough issues. Seek the consult of colleagues, family members, administrators and students. Take the time you need to think it out and make a good response, decision, or plan.

Take the Job Seriously. Every part of the job matters so treat it that way. Bring a professional attitude, speak, and effort to teaching and learning every day.

Have a Sense of Humor. Be prepared to laugh at yourself and enjoy a laugh with others. That's critical, yet never have a laugh at a child's expense.

When Aggravated Remove Yourself From the Situation. You'll never do wrong to take a break. It's the best thing to do when aggravation, frustration, or confusion hits. Time and space works wonders.

Keep Learning
Connect with other invested educators and continue to update and renew your knowledge and service--this will keep you fresh and develop your practice in ways that matter.

I'm sure I'll add to this list in the days to come.


Mean

Mean hurts whether you're young or old.

The only good part of mean is learning what it feels like because when you know what it feels like you'll rarely if ever be mean yourself.

Decisions Distanced from Students

How often do decisions for schools and children result in conversations that don't include families, educators, and students? Do decisions for students happen with too much distance from students? Do those who make the essential decisions spend substantial time-on-task with students? These are essential questions with regard to school structure, schedules, and process. In general, decisions directed towards students should include those who work with and live with students as well as students themselves.

Class Clean-up With an Eye on Set-Up

The class clean-up begins soon. As I prepare the clean-up, I want to think of next year's set-up. In general, the class worked well this year so next year's set-up will be similar including the following:

Professional Books
I have a large collection of professional books. I'll cull that collection, keep the best and give away others.

International Collection
I'll add the international objects to a display case; that will save space in the classroom and give the whole school a chance to look at those wonderful objects from around the world.

Math Daily Supplies
I stored the math daily supplies in bins at the front of the room. That made for ready-access. I'll do the same next year and as I clean up, I'll make sure those bins are filled with colored pencils, scissors, rulers, tape, and more.

Math "Sometime" Supplies
Those supplies are placed in drawers and containers around the room. I'll leave those there and in the fall think about a good spot for those.

Books
I'll leave the books in bins on the shelves. I reduced my collection a few years ago and now I have a good collection including a variety of genres.

Paperwork
Anything I can store online, I won't save as paper. There's little need for paper files today thanks to technology.

STEAM Supplies
My STEAM supplies are a bit of a mess right now, but I'll do that sort in the late days of August as I prepare for the start of school and our STEAM/science/maker math projects.

Math Drawers
Students will clean out their drawers and take home their baggies of personal math supplies.

Posters
Old unneeded posters will be recycled and good posters, magnets, and signage will be stored away for next year.

Comfy Chairs
The comfy chairs will be folded and placed on top of the yellow cabinet.

Fortunately since I won't be moving and my classroom will not be used over the summer, the clean-up will be less intense than in years past. Students will help me with the clean-up during our clean-up afternoon next Tuesday.



Good Scheduling Matters

As I thought of the year to come, I realized that good scheduling will be essential. First, it's integral that we have a fluid schedule framework one that allows the requirements:

  • one hour of math a day
  • 120  minutes of ELA combined with science/social studies
  • 5 45-minute specials: art, music, physical education, library, technology
  • 1 30-minute music workshop/instrumental period
  • 1 45 minute band/strings period
  • 2 45-minute reading RTI periods
  • 2 30-minute math periods
With the time left the team would like to include a number of special science days--days that we focus deeply on science study and STEAM. I'd also like to add time for read aloud and class meetings.

Other scheduling factors that are important to schedule from the start of the year include:
  • Title One Math
  • English Language Learner
  • Tier Three Reading
These services when planned before the school year starts and consistent throughout the year add great value to what we can do with and for students.

The year also includes assessment hours and mornings during the year, field studies, special events, and more.

As I think back on this year's schedule, I want to review the field studies with the team to make sure they are well planned and the kind of field studies we think make a difference. I'd also like to move some of the field studies to early spring rather than the very end of school due to the late spring threat of thunderstorms, the Global Changemakers project, and the need for greater sensitivity and flexibility at the end of the year.

Creating a solid pattern of learning and teaching ensures that you hit the goals you set and provide students with substantial care and attention. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What's Next?

Writing to inspire myself forward, I'm thinking about the final days of school. We're down to the last week now--a week that includes a visit to the Middle School, a Global Changemakers Presentation, Changing Bodies Presentation, a historic tour of Boston, clean up, and the final day celebrations. As I've written before it's all about staying energized, kind, and caring in these final days--time to support the children in as many ways as I can.

These days call for special touches including daily meetings, time to talk and play, completing final films and other activities, writing special messages in memory books and more. When a young child cried today about the end of school, a child who has enjoyed the year so much, I too was moved. It is an emotional time for all of us as we prepare to say farewell and move forward.

Revisiting Culture, Traditions, and Protocols

How do learning/teaching organizations revisit, analyze, and revise culture, traditions, and protocols to meet changing needs and interests of stakeholders.

I thought about this today as colleagues and I discussed a number of issues. What kind of inclusive, transparent process serves this work best. I'll be thinking about this.

Making Decisions During the Last Week of School

A number of issues exist at the end of school, issues that in the best of circumstances would have been analyzed, reviewed, and decided upon in March before educators and others had a host of paperwork, clean-up, and special events on their minds.

These issues require substantial thought, collaboration, and care.

I think the decisions should be put on hold as we end the year with care, and then with inclusive teacher-parent-administrator-student-community member teams, the decisions should be apart of good process--the kind of strategic process that leads to good resolve.

The AC Factor

We had a heat wave and some classrooms have air conditioning and others don't. That makes a big difference.

This year I happen to have air conditioning. The room is comfortable and children relaxed. In years past I've been in small room with large groups of students with no air conditioning, and I can tell you that makes everyone agitated, creating tough conditions for teaching and learning.

When I was a young child few had air conditioners. Even our cars did not have AC. We learned to live with it, but having air conditioning definitely is a step up. You have more energy and comfort with air conditioning.

Will global warming create conditions where schools that don't have air conditioning are now updated with air conditioning? What are other ways to mitigate the air conditioning factor? Private schools start later and end earlier--is that the kind of school year that makes air conditioning a non-issue.

I don't really know, but what I do know is that it is a sensitive issue during a heat wave in school--a sensitive issue we all have to be aware of.

Fortunately the heat wave has passed.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Promise in the Problem: Year End Review

As you look back over a school year, you'll note room for celebration and room for revision. That's typical.

It's good to refrain from analysis the final weeks of school, and then when you're rested, do a great big analysis of the year. After that you can set next year's agenda.

Look for the promise in the problems that occurred and make change in those areas. Also celebrate all the good work that happened throughout the year--well meaning educators everywhere are doing a great job by students, and it's important that they don't forget that.

Rushed Decisions are Rarely Good Decisions

Years ago we needed a new car. I quickly bought one. It was a bad decision, and the car didn't last long. We lost a good deal of money due to that rushed decision.

Rushed decisions are rarely good decisions.

It's best to operate on multiple levels, and one of those levels is the level of analysis, reflection, and review. As I've written about countless times, good decision making depends on considerable lead time. Good decision making also relies on inclusivity, protocols, and communication.

When a decision is made with too much speed not only might that decision be a poor one, but that decision may hinder or block other good decisions.

Rarely does a delay in decision making create havoc. Yet, if a situation is an emergency situation, then a decision has to be made right away. Generally, however, good decisions rely on time, inclusion, transparency, research, and good communication.

A Good Day

Today we had a good day as students complete final efforts related to portfolios, the biography project, and other matters. Students had time to make appropriate choices on the computers too. I played a great game of Chess with a student--one of the best chess partners I've ever had. I forgot how much I like that game.

I took bubble making mixture and appliances out to recess which helped us stay cool and have fun on the extremely hot playground. I also let children play with the spray bottles. They gave complimentary sprays to those that wanted them.

Tomorrow is Field Day--we're ready for a day of athletic play. The teachers vs. fifth graders is always a favorite end-of-Field-Day event.

I'm glad we've slowed things down as it gives teachers and students a chance to talk, solve problems, and end the year with peace. Onward.