Sunday, August 10, 2014

Learning Targets: Teachers are learners too!

Learning Targets: Teachers are learners too!
The data is in... on my professional learning goals.

Do you ever wonder what parents think about you?  Wonder if they really understand why you do what you do?  Do they know that everything you do is done with careful intention?  Well, I wonder these things all the time.  So, I decided to find out!  

Teachers are always planning for student learning. We have Common Core State Standards for our students, and we make individual student goals with parents during Fall conferences to tweak these learning targets.  But, let’s not forget that teachers are learners too!

Though these were not all written up (our district requires two) I had four goals that drove my planning and preparation this year.  These were the things that I was hoping to achieve as a teacher.  

I reflect on these things every day, and after parent emails or student issues, or in weekly collaborative team meetings when we compare student data.  But, I thought it would be more meaningful to get some input from the people who were impacted most by the things I did in class each day, so I sent a survey to my parents after school was out for the Summer.

I asked them to rate me on a scale of 1 to 5 on the following items.

Goal #1 - To create a peaceful classroom community.
1= Sorry Mrs. Davies, you did not meet this goal.
5= Fantastic job. You went above and beyond in this area.

Goal #2 - To make sure that every child makes academic growth.
1= Sorry Mrs. Davies, you did not meet this goal for my child.
5= My child made exceptional growth this year.

Goal #3 - To make learning meaningful and relevant for students.
1= Most activities were boring or lacked purpose.
5= This year was full of interesting projects and activities.

Goal #4 - Parents will feel that their culture and family values are respected.
1= I did not feel part of this classroom community.
5= I always felt that my opinions, suggestions and views were respected.

The results:
The area in which I did the best, with an average score of 4.85 was Goal #3
The area in which my scores were lowest, with an average score of 4.3 was Goal #2

A problem with the data:  With only seven responses, this is not a very representative sample.  Hoping for more next year!

This year, I will continue work in these four areas.  There are a few things that I plan to do differently this year, and it will be interesting to see if the changes impact the results.

A Community of Peace and Respect
1.  I will discontinue practices that feel like punishment, even if I seem to be paddling upstream in my school community.  That means, no kids standing by the wall during “Beary Quiet Recess.”  We will earn it as a whole class, and I will award it more frequently.  In my observation, these wall flowers are the ones who need an extra recess the most!  

2.  I am re-thinking the behavior chart (flip a card from green to yellow to red, and if it’s red miss the school-wide reward) so it can be a positive tool in our school-wide PBIS (positive behavioral interventions and supports) system.  I need to have a conversation with the ILT (instructional leadership team), principal and intervention specialist about my feelings, and possible adaptations.  Can the system we are using evolve?

3.  I will continue and refine my use of Peace Circles (rooted in restorative justice practices) as a way of developing community and as a forum for listening, sharing, and problem solving.  I would love if this would entirely replace “flip a card” or “you owe me 5 minutes of recess” strategies.

4. I will ask parents for feedback on a more frequent basis.  I plan to use technology better, to ask quick questions more frequently.  I love the google survey - but plan to ask more simply and more often.  Need more homework or Less?  Morning conference or Evening?  Interested in a home visit?  What did your child tell you about school today?

Meaningful & Relevant Learning for Every Child

1.  I will increase opportunities for students to work in small groups, for intervention and also for challenge.  As the reading specialist in my school, I am very aware of the impact targeted small group instruction has on individual progress.  I have taken pride in sharing the learning graphs of struggling students,  at parent teacher conferences and with my colleagues.  But, I have also had discussions about closing achievement gap for a high achieving student (his gap was closing, becoming closer to the middle because he was growing at a slower rate than his peers).  So, make space for small groups at every opportunity (science exploration, math challenge, reading support, writing conferences).

2.  I will introduce a version of genius hour (passion projects, or 20% time) and a maker space in my classroom, in order to personalize learning for students.  I want to develop motivation and a love of learning that comes from exploring a genuine question or personal interest.  I want to help my students find joy in discovery.