Back-to-School: Timeless Wisdom for Educators
As we begin a new school year, teacher teams will meet to review standards, unit plans, team goals, state mandates, board policies, and the school’s mission and vision. Each new school year comes with excitement and uncertainty. Teaching and learning have changed over the past decade. Genius Hour, Makerspace, 1:1 learning, Project Based Learning, Formative Assessment, and Collaboration were rarely discussed in most classrooms in 2004. The following wisdom will help teachers and administrators focus on student understanding. Regardless of your new initiatives, these pearls of wisdom will help you reflect on teaching and learning. We need to have the courage to continue transforming teaching and learning in order to meet the needs of today’s students and their future employers.
"All learners benefit from and should receive instruction that reflects clarity about purposes and priorities of content" (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006, p. 6).
When it comes to Learning Space, educators are “still pouring ‘old wine into new bottles,’replicating the 30-student, 900-square-foot classrooms that both support and often dictate teacher-directed whole-group instruction. These environments will not support student learning of 21st century skills and will be seen in the coming years as outmoded learning spaces requiring a building retrofit” (Pearlman, in 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn, 2010, p. 144).
Glatthorn (1987) wrote, "One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized" (p. 4).
Collegial Culture and Professional Learning Community
Roland Barth (2006) highlighted the importance of professional learning teams in K-12 education when he wrote, “A precondition for doing anything to strengthen our practice and improve a school is the existence of a collegial culture in which professionals talk about practice, share their craft knowledge, and observe and root for the success of one another. Without these in place, no meaningful improvement - no staff or curriculum development, no teacher leadership, no student appraisal, no team teaching, no parent involvement, and no sustained change - is possible” (p. 13).
“Formative assessment, done well, represents one of the most powerful instructional tools available to a teacher or a school for promoting student achievement. Teachers and schools can use formative assessment to identify student understanding, clarify what comes next in their learning, trigger and become part of an effective system of intervention for struggling students, inform and improve the instructional practice of individual teachers or teams, help students track their own progress toward attainment of standards, motivate students by building confidence in themselves as learners, fuel continuous improvement process across faculties, and, thus, drive a school's transformation” (Stiggins & DuFour, 2009, p. 640).
"Across the United States, I see schools that are succeeding at making adequate yearly progress but failing our students. Increasingly, there is only one curriculum: test prep" (Wagner, 2008, p. 25).
1. Consider reading one of these quotes at a grade level team meeting. Ask each person to share their thoughts on how the quote applies to the ongoing work of the team/school.
2. As a school district, form a leadership team or district advisory committee. Ask the committee if the district is moving in the right direction.
3. As a building level administrator, review each statement. Reflect on the importance of teacher leadership and seek ways to involve teachers in accomplishing the work outlined by these educators and researchers.
4. As a building level administrator, meet with your school improvement team. Review the master schedule and ask - “Where are we creating time in the week for teachers, students, and administrators to do this type of work?”