Sunday, March 8, 2015

Understanding Poverty Reflection

Understanding Poverty Reflection
Through each of these book studies, it becomes clearer to me that we must remain focused on finding ways of providing high quality education for each of our students.  In fact, I believe our school’s mission statement strongly parallels this philosophy.  It states, “The mission of the Rugby Public School District #5 is to foster personal and academic excellence in all students.  What is understandably the most difficult part of this process is determining “next steps”.  I believe we are on the right path and I’m proud of the focused efforts our district is making to see this process through.  As a district, we are prioritizing a great deal of collective time, effort and various resources on developing grade-level goals and expectations; common formative assessments; and a system of specific interventions / enrichments.  Although we are only a couple of years into this progression, we are already beginning to see positive outcomes.  In closing, I commend our district's stakeholders for trusting us with our improvement process and for allowing faculty, staff and administrators to have the flexibility to dedicate precious time to meet regularly during our Wednesday late starts.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teaching With Poverty in Mind (Next Steps)

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of where we are and where we need to be in terms of next steps, is to continue to improve our focus on the use of hard data within the context of standards based grading.  This process of sorting and prioritizing instruction is a challenging task that can often lead to difficult conversations.  Our teachers have been engaged in on-going dialogue for the past year and half (Wednesday PLC sessions) on the following considerations:

  1. What is it we want all students to know and be able to do?
    1. Grade Level “I Can Statements…”
  2. How will we know if the students have mastered a skill?
    1. Common Formative Assessments
    2. Common Summative Assessments
  3. What will our response be to those students have not mastered the skill?
    1. Interventions
  4. What will our response be for those students have demonstrated mastery?
    1. Enrichments
I look forward to and appreciate participating in the PLC meetings, as I can clearly sense our teachers’ passion for what they believe in by the urgency at which they go about their work.  I would also predict that most teaches would say that the entire process has been both perplexing and rewarding.  The transition to standards based grading has moved us beyond traditional data.  It has provided us with a host of information that enables us to focus on instructional specificity; it has brought clarity to our responsibilities within the tiers of instruction; and ultimately, it has assisted us in developing system of using results to drive future instruction (targeted interventions and/ or enrichment strategies). 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Teaching With Poverty in Mind Book Study Reflection

In summary, chapters three and four provided a road map for educators to take in an effort to reach all students.  Eric Jensen opens the study by addressing and clarifying one of the biggest misconceptions having to do with the circumstances of poverty.  Quite simply put, each child’s situation will likely appear to be unique.  According to Eric Jensen, the “Bottom Line” is that we need to establish positive relationships with all students.  To do so, we must focus on results with an understanding that:

  • Kids from poverty are often different
  • Brains adapt to suboptimal conditions
  • Brains can and do change everyday
  • We can facilitate that change
  • Students can change, if we change first
  • We will have to let go of every single excuse we’ve ever heard
  • We can ensure our kids graduate

Jensen’s research based method of effectively addressing the negative impact of poverty on learning is for educators to focus on system-wide relationship building; providing students with additional autonomy in their learning; and teaching stronger coping and stress management skills.  

I remain convinced that our volunteer and district book study offerings are a critical platform for all stakeholders to come to the table and share takeaways, experiences and perspectives.  I especially appreciate the candidness of the participants and the willingness to take a few risks in discussing critical concepts.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rethinking Homework Pt. 2

As I mentioned in our first reflection, I feel the reading of this book
and the follow-up discussions have been very productive.  I also believe
that this book study has reaffirmed many of the thoughts that I have on
homework.  Undoubtedly, we all agree that there are many ways in which
homework can be assigned to students and it will positively impact
students' learning.  However, I think we need to be more deliberate and
calculated in making homework assignments so that we provide the needed
practice and avoid the potential of negative implications.  How much is
enough vs. How much is too much?  I think the discussion can and will go
on forever...  My opinion is that in the case of many homework situations,
“less is more”.  A quote from the book that I think illustrates this
point is, “For many kids, homework is like having to do their taxes every
night.  How would we feel if we came home to hours of work from five
different bosses?  At least some of us would quit or enter therapy-which
is where some of our children now find themselves.” (p.32)
I also believe that giving students timely and accurate feedback is
critical to the learning process.  I think that in going forward, we
should have open discussion on what it is students actually need from us.
I know that in my case, I taught students many lessons, I collected many
assignments, I corrected my share of papers and returned the students'
papers with a score at the top of the page.  Within this cycle, I focused
a great deal of my effort and attention on teaching and learning to teach
well.  To my chagrin, I have since learned that to best reach students you
need to focus on the learning as much as the teaching.  In John Hattie’s
book, Visible Learning, he states, “The major message is simple-what
teachers do matters.  However, this has become a cliché that masks the
fact that the greatest source of variance in our system relates to
teachers-they can vary in major ways.  The codicil is that what “some”
teachers do matters-especially those who teach in a most deliberate and
visible manner.  When these professionals see learning occurring or not
occurring, they intervene in calculated and meaningful ways to alter the
direction of learning to attain various shared, specific, and challenging
goals.  In particular, they provide students with multiple opportunities
and alternatives for developing learning strategies based on the surface
and deep levels of learning some content or domain matter, leading to
student building conceptual understand of this learning which the student
and teacher then use in future learning.” (p.22-23)  In the age of greater
accountability and high stakes assessments, the process of homework has to
consist of more than assigning tasks, hoping that the assignments are
returned/completed, correcting the papers, writing the students’ scores at
the top of the page, handing back the papers and moving on to the next