This I Believe…Leadership Edition

As a follow up, we were asked to write out our educational philosophy as leaders. Mine is still in a very rough…ROUGH…draft form. Open to thoughts and discussion.

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I believe schools should nurture not only the unique intellectual needs of students, but also their social-emotional growth, to develop them into lifelong learners and empathetic change agents for a better tomorrow. There are many different aspects to ensuring a successful school and they are intricately interwoven in such a way as to require leaders to pay special attention to them all simultaneously. Leaders of schools must develop positive relationships among students and staff by remaining open to communication and fostering family engagement. This will also help schools and leaders strengthen academic achievement, when paired with high quality curriculum and instruction. Schools must celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity to ensure everyone is thriving, academically, socially and emotionally. These things do not happen by accident. I believe they happen only in the presence of strong leaders.

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This I Believe…

Years ago, I started including my pedagogical philosophy on my letter home to parents. It is just a bullet pointed list that stated what I believe about education and the classroom. I haven’t revised it since I first wrote it, yet, I’ve grown so much since then. This is where I started…

  • My pedagogical philosophy
  • I believe children have to be the driving force in their learning.
  • I believe children learn best by doing.
  • I believe children learn more together than alone.
  • I believe children maximize learning through application.
  • I believe children learn through dialogue and reflection.
  • I believe children learn more from the process than the final product.
  • I believe parents play an integral part in their child’s education.

These are the principles I work from when planning my classroom structure, as well as my curriculum and instruction. Yet, they don’t paint the whole picture of who I am as an educator.

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Reading is…

When my first child was born, I asked friends and family to buy me books in lieu of other baby shower gifts. We wanted to build a library for him so that he too would love reading as much as we do. At just a few hours old, he had been read his first book, and it became a daily routine. As soon as he could walk, he would climb into our laps with a book and just wait. Silently communicating to us that it was time to read. We would spend hours, reading together, book after book, every day. I don’t remember how old he was, but around age five, he started reading for himself.

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Who doesn’t love feedback?

 

At the end of last school year, as I was reflecting on the end of year surveys I have my students complete, I had a thought. What if students provided me this same kind of feedback throughout the year, instead of at the end of each quarter? Novel idea, right? I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me earlier. If students had avenues to provide feedback whenever the idea struck, I could utilize that feedback more than at the end of a unit.

In the past, I had students reflect on their own learning through guided open ended questions. Here is an example of that.

While this provided me valuable info for the next year, I wasn’t getting feedback I could use in the moment, while teaching was still occurring.

Sure, I was still formatively assessing their learning through a variety of avenues, but that isn’t quite the same as feedback.

I wanted low-tech on this one. A way for them to easily, in class, tell me when things were boring, not working, hard, but also when they enjoyed things, felt engaged or felt successful.

Easy solution! I created a “What’s on your mind?” board. Basically, the parking lot idea that teachers have been using for years a formative assessment when students walk out the door, but bigger than that, this was a chance for them to be heard. There was the potential for anonymity, if they so desired. The board is visible to others so they can see when others have similar ideas, and build on their feedback. The kids have really embraced it, letting me know when they think something is boring or they don’t realize the authentic application (ie: the purpose.)

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How do you all solicit feedback from your kiddos?

 

 

Crying. Weeping really. #RVANews for Life.

Guys. I’m sad. Not just a little sad, like if someone ate the last cupcake sad. But like real sad. The kind that elicits tears and some minor rocking in my chair asking “why?” over and over and over again.

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Yesterday, I found out that RVANews was to be no more. And while I was only with them writing about education for a little bit, I was a reader and an admirer for much longer.

I’m still not sure I believe this is real. Like, I’m 100% positive Ross is going to post soon that he is punking us.

Come on Ross. Tell us the truth. Because this reality just plain sucks. I’m sad that a crucial and relevant small business couldn’t garner the support it needed. I’m wondering how, as a community, we let them down. And I’m more bummed now that RVA will be a little dumber because of it. Dudes. I’m not lying here. We let them down. We didn’t put up when they needed us. What happened there?

So, now, with this tragic event passing us by, all I can do is say thank you to Ross and Susan and the gaggle of writers that poured their hearts and love into making community news a thing we all valued and didn’t know we needed until it ceased to exist. How the hell will I know what is going on in this city? Where will I learn from friends about the best biscuits? Even more than those things, who the hell is going to teach me about things like the BRT? I don’t TRUST anyone else!

This crew…the differ from the rest of the media out there. They helped build this city’s culture and they helped educate the masses. RVA loses today.

I wish we wouldn’t have taken it for granted for so long.

Lastly, thank you to both Susan and Ross for seeing possibility in me.  For giving me a place to talk about a topic I love so much and am so passionate about.

Someone pass me another tissue…

 

 

Asking Students to Reflect

Throughout the year, I ask students to think about their learning. Not only do I ask them to reflect on the topics, but I ask them to reflect on their work – their effort, their engagement, their behavior. This practice allows them to maintain a growth mindset and make changes when they don’t what they discover. This is modeled after the ways in which teachers should reflect on their own practice before, during and after instruction to ensure they are meeting the students’ needs. In the same way, students can think about their class time and determine if I am meeting their needs and if they are meeting their own needs. This doesn’t come naturally for students and requires some guidance.

As this year crawls to an end, I wanted to give my students a final opportunity to reflect on all they have discussed and learned this year. I’ve adapted the assignment from Site of Sanders to meet my students’ needs for this assignment.

We are just  beginning this assignment, so  I will update the blog as the project is underway, sharing student samples, teacher models, and final products. To see the ways I’ve adapted Sander’s assignments, feel free to check out this Google folder.

Reflecting on Grading Practices

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Since my last post, I’ve been talking to people, including coworkers and administration, about traditional grading practices and the pros and cons of such a system. I’ve been reading up on alternatives, as well, because based on my experience, traditional grading is ineffective and possibly detrimental to student learning.

Standards based grading is a hot topic right now, as teachers and even some schools and districts are approaching a more progressive approach to assessing student learning. Note, I didn’t say “approach to grading.” I think grading implies something that has come to be associated with a negative and punitive practice. We have lost the assessment piece of grading. Students chase grades not learning.

I want students to move away from seeing the grade as the end game and begin to see mastery of standards as the point of school. One way to do that is to reform the way we communicate their learning back to them. Our feedback must be meaningful so that students can understand what they have learned and where they are with that learning.

My children attend a Montessori school and this where I first learned about this type of grading. Their report cards do not have grades, but are scaled from one to three and skills are listed instead of assignments. One means a concept hasn’t been introduced. Two means they are working on it. Three means it is mastered. We may need something more advanced for middle and high school students, but the concept is the same.

Some of the justification I have compiled for this adjusted way include:

Seven Reasons for Standards Based Grading

The system must not allow students to mask their level of understanding with their attendance, their level of effort, or other peripheral issues.”

What’s Up With Standards Based Grading

The current factory model of schooling – with its time-based, bell-curved grading system – will undermine all of our efforts to personalize education. No matter what standards we use, no matter the innovation, a conveyor belt model limits student achievement in two fundamental ways:

  1. It holds back students who could be excelling. advanced placement, dual enrollment, and early college have created opportunities for students to progress beyond the limits of the K-12 system, but this only happens in the final years of high school. Students are held back to the predefined pace of their age-based cohorts throughout their elementary and middle school years. We’ve handcuffed our children and ourselves.
  2. It moves on students who aren’t ready. Students who don’t get what they need are moved along, grade to grade, with bigger gaps in their learning each year until they no longer see a future in school for themselves or graduate with a meaningless diploma. Many who are retained still don’t get what they need. Credits driven by seat time put over-aged, under-credited students at risk of aging out of the system.

These are the most salient points I’ve heard for why we need to move away from the traditional grading systems. How do I do this? How do I transition to a more meaningful grading system? I’m researching it but I don’t have answers yet. How does it fit in the current grading structure mandated by the county?

If you have any advice or resources, let me know in the comments…