Five Reasons I’m Ready to Go Back to School

I’m heading baback to schoolck to school this morning.  I’ve had a good summer, but I’m looking forward to getting back.  I love the excitement of a new year: back-to-school clothes, a clean desk calendar, and ambitious resolutions (“I will not get behind on my grading.”).  This year, though, presents so much more opportunity for change and growth.  I did a quick brainstorming list of the changes ahead and came up with 12 major “things to look forward to” about 2014-2015, so I combined a couple and then split my list in half.  Here are the first five—the changes that will have the most impact on my school days:

New curriculum.  After 11 years with the same old literature anthologies, we are finally getting new textbooks!  On the surface, they’re quite a bit different, but I realized at my training a few weeks ago that the buzzwords and the standards may have changed, but the material is still pretty much the same—it’s what we’re going to do with it that’s different (see below).  The Reading curriculum, though is totally different.  I spent a good part of the summer helping to write curriculum modules using the Learning Design Collaborative’s format and I can’t wait to help my reading teachers put them into action.

New standards.  I’m glad all the hoopla over the Common Core is dying down and we can carry on with our teaching to the new “Florida standards.”   Increasing the quality of student reading and writing will be good for students.  Last May, I thought my focus would be on the reading adoption, but after taking a look at the new Florida Standards Assessment, I know I’ll be needed in all classrooms.  I have been collecting reading and writing strategies to share with content-area teachers and I’m looking forward to putting them into practice.

Algebra.  Yes, really. Last year I had one of my most interesting “coaching conversations” with an algebra teacher at my school.  After watching her students struggle through the word problems on the End-of-Course exam, asking questions to which even I knew the answer because it was a “reading” question more than a math question, I knew they’re problem wasn’t the math; it was the language.  I am looking forward to working with the math teachers at my school to help their students learn to read their math.

An experiment in education.  During one of my first years at MHS, I was having a hallway conversation with the teacher next door.  He mentioned something that has stuck with me forever.  He said, rather than have prospective teachers shadow a teacher all day, we should have them shadow a student for a full day.  The five-minute walkthrough is all the rage in my district right now; teams of teachers and administrators have a list of “look-fors” and they take a few minutes to go into several classrooms, checking off whether the students were engaged, if the teacher was differentiating, and who was using the technology.  Everyone seems to know that they can’t get a full picture in those five minutes, but it doesn’t keep them from doing it and making judgments based upon what they see or don’t see.  I’m going to slow down and actually follow Mr. Lewis’s advice.  I’m going to shadow a student each month—all day long—and see what a typical day really looks like.

The Big Picture.  I’ve been asked to take the lead on writing our School Improvement Plan this year.  I love our superintendent’s approach to the SIP—he wants it simple and effective:  “What changes can we make in adult behavior that will result in student achievement?”  I look forward to exploring this question with my teachers and administrators and seeing how we can make our good school even better.

I’ll share my “homework” list tomorrow.

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