TL Standard 6: Communicates and Collaborates With a Variety of Stakeholders

Teacher Leader Standard 6: Communicates and Collaborates with a Variety of Stakeholders was met during the course EDAD 6589 – Engaging Communities. Entering this course I knew that there were many voices and perspectives (stakeholders) which desired and needed input into school decisions, yet, I was unclear as to how to successfully navigate the flood of input which would be coming my way as the principal of a school. This course helped me to chart my course and secure a plan to not only involve, but engage all stakeholders all for the benefit of our students.

Washington Principal Evaluation Criteria 7 Partnering with the school community to promote student learning

An effective leader engages with the community in sensitive and skillful ways such that the community understands the work of the school and is proud to claim the school as their own. An effective leader understands the greater community to be a valuable resource and works to establish a genuine partnership model between home and school. An effective leader understands that aligning school and community efforts and values is an ongoing work in progress that must be nurtured, sustained, and monitored, and is able to influence others to adopt the same understanding.

As I read this standard, I recognized that this is a high calling. At the start of this course I asked myself, “ How will accomplish this? How will I meet this standard?” The first step on my journey was to read the many articles Dr. Bond provided us. One of the main ideas that struck me as I read the Madsen and Mabokela article was what makes a “culturally proficient” leader. From the examples given in the article I didn’t feel that either group, the European American or African American group, were culturally proficient or as we learned last quarter the higher standard would be culturally responsive. On page 85, the authors quoted the European American principals as they commented on their thoughts about teacher differences (between European American and African American teachers). They stated that white teachers had the mindset of “you must respect me because I am the teacher”, where black teachers were more interactive with kids, more relational, and white teachers would get frustrated and jealous of that. My response to that was, “Where is the mindset of kids first?” and “being relational and building connections is just best practice and should not be a matter of black vs. white”.

I found myself wondering where this study took place. Was it in the South? Midwest? Chicago? East Coast? Surely it couldn’t be on the West Coast! My experience living on the West Coast most of my life and then moving to the Midwest and having family in Chicago made me understand that my West Coast mentality of race and culture was a sheltered one. I found this article sad and hard to relate to as I don’t see these cultural stereotypes in the way they are presented, yet, I know that they are still present today and that saddened me. How could parents question why diversity in schools would be a good thing? (p. 87) My connection was that parents in our school question the allocation of school space and funds to our two learning center classrooms. Yes, these classrooms have only 8-10 students who all have very impactful special needs, but they represent a population who equally deserves public education. On page 98, the authors voice the parent’s concerns over hiring African American teachers and having to justify their qualifications to said parents. That is appalling to me! I cannot understand this mentality, yet I know that it is one I must not just understand but dissect in order to bring about the change necessary to ensure a quality school experience for all our students.

Referring back to the main idea of being a “culturally proficient” teacher or principal. I see that this study had one key component which needs to be recognized. All of these teachers and principals were part of a desegregation program where inner city African American students were bused into white suburbs. This was not a culturally diverse group by nature, but one by design. I feel that perhaps this was the reason for so many issues and problems with culturally responsive teaching and leadership. It was a contrived situation, not a natural one. These were not neighbors with common ground, living experiences, and culture. They were two worlds colliding in the school yard. Although this article presented very different demographics and challenges than those at my current school, one thing that I am able to apply is the need for all stakeholders to be involved in decisions and there to be a shared mission and vision for the school. We do have diversity and it is those common elements and goals which unite us.

Another article that resonated with me was one emphasizing the use of the Epstein model. I have wondered if using the Epstein Model (http://pebsaf.org/page47.html) would increase parent involvement, especially in our ever-increasing ELL population. After reading this article I realize that while the Epstein model is a good starting place it is clearly not the “fix all” remedy that the Hawk school was looking for and therefore I can make the assertion that it would not be a fool proof solution for my school either.

Some key elements that stuck out to me in the reading were that the Hawk school was primarily African American. The text stated that, “This model also fails to address the form of advocacy demonstrated by African American families and their church involvement (Fields-Smith, 2009), which is their primary form of community collaboration among African Americans (Bradley, Johnson, Rawls, & Dodson-Sims, 2005; Day-Vines & Day Hairston, 2005) Coming from a multi-cultural background growing up in San Diego around a high Mexican-American population and then moving here and attending a “black” church for many years. Even as a “white girl” I have learned that these cultures see the world and function in very different ways than the white culture. We cannot assume that our way is the “right” way. Their way is equally “right”, just different. Even in the reading where the primary culture was African-American, it is from a European American perspective that I read. I would be interested to read a study from a differing perspective to better understand what another culture’s take is on school involvement.

Another key take-away I had from our readings was that –

lower socioeconomic backgrounds expending considerable effort, including more informal conversations and unscheduled visits, to demonstrate their involvement to teachers and the school at large (Freeman, 2010); however, these less structured approaches are often viewed as obtrusive by schools and teachers (Fields-Smith, 2007)

What hit me was that these families are trying to relate, trying to connect, and we need to get over it! Yes, we can educate them eventually as to what is most preferred for communication, but really, if they are reaching out we need to embrace them! When we are too formal in our requests for prearranged communication, our unintended message is that we are unwilling or unable to be a partner. We need to bridge this communication gap and do whatever it takes to ensure student and family success.

The one thing my school does that I feel has made a huge impact is our multi-cultural night. This event has the greatest turn out of any event at our school. We have a cultural potluck where families bring a dish from their culture. They can wear their traditional clothing. There are student and family performers from many cultures and the Lakeview choir performs a medley of different cultural songs. This one event brings out more families than I see any other time of the year. We have the greatest diversity and it really is standing room only. I believe that the key to that is we celebrate who each child and family is. We don’t ask them to conform to a “norm” or certain way to interact at school.

Another article spoke to the ways that schools can successfully integrate parents into the education of their children. The Robbins and Searby article analyzed the work of three different middle school interdisciplinary teams in engaging parental involvement in their schools. All teams involved expressed that “communication with parents as (is) an organizational practice most likely to result in achievement gains and viewed the middle school interdisciplinary team as an effective tool to engage parents.” (Robbins and Searby, p. 116) There are many ideas to take away from this reading and a few key points I will want to remember and reflect on in my practice. One key point to remember in all our work with families of all cultures and socio-economic backgrounds is, “researchers have repeatedly documented that parents with low income, limited education, or minority status are just as likely to help their children with homework as other parents.” As educators, we need to have this frame of reference as we interact and work in our schools.

The most influential piece of research that emerged from the article was the four themes that all three schools found in common. Those were that effective middle school interdisciplinary teams all:

  1. Believe that parental involvement is essential to student success
  2. Are open and approachable to parents
  3. Serve as a resource to the parents of adolescents
  4. Approach problem-solving opportunities with parents as a team instead of individuals.

The following is a list of applicable strategies that the teams used with success.

What do effective middle school teams do to involve parents?

  • Are persistent in making contact.
  • Conduct regular face-to face conferences.
  • Require strugglers to maintain school– home parental contact.
  • Establish a clear open door policy.
  • Are welcoming and friendly with their words and actions.
  • Meet regularly as a team.
  • Develop team approaches to problem-solving issues.
  • Create team procedures, policies, and expectations and communicate them to students and parents.
  • Conduct all conferences as a team.
  • Exhibit a clear understanding of adolescent development and effective at- home strategies.
  • Clarify the role of the parent in facilitating student success

(Robbins and Searby, p. 128)

The article also highlights implications for us as teachers and administrators, key items that we can implement into our schools which may aid us in engaging our parents.

Another article that enhanced my learning was by Agbo. The article by Agbo was very interesting to me because I had a personal connection in that my niece was a volunteer in AmeriCorps and they were stationed for part of their year on an “Indian” reservation in South Dakota. Her experience there dealing first hand with the tribe and the “band” made this article even more real and true to modern day schooling for me. I was struck right away by the quote, “the education and training of teachers for First Nations students should be firmly divorced from any association with the idea of Eurocentric schools.” Wow, that is clear and somewhat harsh. Basically, I take that as they want nothing to do with us, but want their culture preserved.

A teacher once told a friend of mine that, “you know your child at home and I know your child at school, and somewhere in the middle is who they really are.” This quote has stuck with me and is echoed in this reading. Agbo states, “Rogovin also believes that when teachers establish close working relationships with a family, little by little, we get to know the whole child. Families’ observations and insights about children inform our teaching and help us better understand children’s behavior.” (p. 2) The text goes on to state however that while it is known that a close parent/teacher relationship is key, that “teachers can be resentful of parent participation.” I find this to be true in my own school. We value parent participation, yet resent it all at the same time. We have to plan for parent involvement and educate them on how to work with students and not just focus on their own child. Sometimes, it would be better if they just worked at home on homework and projects and left the day-to-day work in the classroom to us. Yet, we know that a parent presence is not only desired, but also needed. So there in lies our dilemma.

This study like many others involving culturally diversity has the discussion of differing viewpoint of the community. It questions whether parents direct involvement in the school is necessary for student success and “how much involvement is appropriate or desirable”. In this study it was further clouded by the “Band” which consisted of its own governing council which usually had “one chief and several council members”.

A key take-away I had was a quote on p. 7 that stated, “the main problem of schooling in this community is lack of communication between parents and teachers. A Band office worker stated it best –

All the teachers are new to our way of life. They don’t know what we do with our kids at home. Ask the teachers, how many of them have ever attempted to visit a parent and spent a weekend with him and perhaps, go on the trap-line together and see what children and parents do over there. They are teaching children whose way of life they don’t understand. They are just teaching them what they think (the students) should know. It is only when teachers know about the home environment of the children that they can teach them well. Parents and teachers have to work together. (p. 8)

Finally, my learning was solidified through the completion of two course assignments, the case study and Community Improvement Plan –  CIP 2014. Developing these two products for this course enabled me to take what I had learned and apply it to my own building. I was able to synthesize that learning into a comprehensive plan which would enable me to communicate and collaborate with all stakeholders in my building.

As a future principal I know that this is a key standard for me to master. I have seen first-hand the problems which arise when key stakeholders are not engaged. When the community is not on board with the mission and vision of the school it will soon be derailed. At the end of the day we are educating “the band’s” children, whatever band that might be. It is my duty to learn, serve, and engage that community to envelope them in the learning and growth of their children, my students, for the ultimate goal of growth for all of us.

 

References:

Agbo, S. A. (2007). Addressing school-community relations in a cross-cultural context: A collaborative action to bridge the gap between First Nations and the school. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 22(8), 1-14.

Castagno, A. E. (2013). Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness. American Journal of Education, 120 (1), 101-128.

Elias, M. (2013). The School-to-Prison Pipeline. Teaching Tolerance, 52 (43), 39-40.

“Harvard Family Research Project.” Harvard Family Research Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

Madsen, J. & Mabokela, R., (2014). Leadership Challenges in Addressing Changing Demographics in Schools. NASSP Bulletin, 98, 75-96. Doi: 10.1177/0192636513514110

Robbins, C., & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams. School Community Journal, 113-136.

Westmoreland, H., Bouffard, S., & O’Carroll, K. (2009). Data collection instruments for evaluating family involvement. … Project Cambridge, 1-19.

 

TL Standard 10: Understand Effective Use of Research Based Instructional Practices

… an art of teaching is seeing the commonality in diversity, in having peers work together, especially when they bring different talents, errors, interests, and disposition to the situation, and understanding that differentiation relates more to the phases of learning – from novice, through capable, to proficient – rather than merely providing different activities to different (groups of) students. (Hattie, 2012)

Teacher Leadership Standard 10: Understand Effective Use of Research Based Instructional Practices, was met during my completion of two action research courses with a focus on the school setting.

I have taught for a number of years so I have quite a variety of instructional strategies to draw from. However, I quickly learned that I was stuck in a rut and using the same strategies over and over. During our Survey of Instructional Strategies (EDU 6526) course I learned several new strategies I had never heard of as well as pulling out some that I had not used in some time. Meeting this standard not only changed how I teach in my own classroom, but also how I approach the professional development that I lead as a teacher leader in my building.

Embarking on my first action research project was daunting. The time of year, the demands in our classroom and the demands of a full graduate school workload loomed over my head. At first I was going to approach my 3rd grade team with the proposal to use advance organizers in our math lessons. Yet, I felt the need to share the knowledge and “tune up” that I have experienced in my practice through this class with my colleagues. Bonnie Green, a fellow cohort member and teacher at Lakeview, approached me with an idea of doing the action research project together and using our staff as the “students”. She too felt the urgency to share our knowledge with our staff and I jumped at the chance to collaborate with her. The following is our journey in this project.

In Stage 1, we started with identifying the problem we saw in our school and wrote our inquiry question. We knew that the teaching staff in our building is very talented, but our school climate is currently in a state of healing. In recent school years, morale was low among teachers. The atmosphere in the building was more competitive than collaborative. In addition, our school was assigned an ELL program, causing a quickly changing demographic in our student population. This resulted in teacher anxiety over best practices for serving ELL students. We decided to approach our principal with our idea and request feedback. She shared our vision and felt that a professional development workshop around this learning would be beneficial to the staff. She offered us staff meeting time to introduce the concept. We decided to use that time to administer a “pre-teaching” survey. Our inquiry question was: What impact will teaching colleagues instructional strategies have on their level of comfort in implementing these effective strategies in their classroom?

Stage 2 was focused on data collection and research. We surveyed the staff on their “comfort level” on four instructional strategies: Synectics, Non-Linguistic, Cooperative Learning, and Advance Organizers. In addition, we asked for further clarification as to a student sub-group they would like strategies for. We offered them the following choices, Level 4 students, ELL, Safety Net and IEP’d students. Following that survey we analyzed the data gathered and designed a workshop model interactive presentation based on the data and the identified needs and desires of our staff. The lowest level of comfort was in Synectics. The next areas were Non-Linguistic and Advance Organizers which had similar numbers. The group which teachers wanted us to provide specific strategies for was the ELL students. We were very purposeful to have the presentation include a high participation by all members. They were not an audience, but a member of a collaborative group. On the May LEAP day we taught the workshop on multiple learning strategies by guiding participants through various activities utilizing the strategies we were teaching about. Anticipation_Guide_for_Advance_Organizer_and_Activating_schemaHere is the presentation Prezi we used – http://prezi.com/vixndwhqeyxr/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

At the conclusion of the workshop we conducted a post survey and gathered closing data. Following that, we requested feedback on the presentation from participants.

During Stage 3, we used that data and feedback to formulate our conclusion and guide recommendations and next steps. We saw a significant increase in the comfort level teachers felt in using these instructional strategies. In addition, the feedback showed that teachers wanted more teacher led professional development in the future. Many referenced the positive and collaborative atmosphere of the workshop and expressed a great desire to participate in that type of work again. This evidence led us to the conclusion that teaching colleagues about instructional strategies in a collaborative format had a positive growth impact on their comfort level, and therefore, their implementation of these strategies in their classrooms. Action Reseach Final

After many hours of work, I feel that this was a very productive use of time. Bonnie and I both learned and grew from this experience. Our staff was energized and provided with many tools they could implement immediately. The feedback was hugely positive and many asked for more workshops such as this and follow ups in the fall. I am hoping we can honor that request and create that natural “next step”. Above all, the opportunity for our staff to “toot their own horn”, collaborate, and share successes, brought positive morale back to our staff and enabled us collaborate without competition in a way we haven’t been able to in a very long time. We left with smiles on our faces and a renewed passion for our craft. I am excited for our next steps and continuing to build on this work in the future.

In my future work as a building administrator, I see using these instructional strategies to be key in designing and leading staff meetings and professional development. Good teachers can spot good teaching immediately. Using research based instructional practices to aid in their learning will both earn their respect and attention and will also provide training on strategies they can bring back to their classrooms. This experience of teaching and using these strategies with my peers taught me that good teaching transcends age and does not only occur within the confines of the classroom.

 

References:

Anderson, Steven. “Four Box Synectics – Stokes County Schools Strategies For Student Engagement.” Four Box Synectics – Stokes County Schools Strategies For Student Engagement. Stokes County Schools. Web. 16 May 2014.

Couch, Richard (1993). Synectics and Imagery: Developing Creative Thinking Through Images. In: Art, Science & Visual Literacy: Selected Readings from the Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association (24th, Pittsburgh, PA. September 30 – October 4, 1992). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 363 330)

Dean, Ceri B., Elizabeth Ross, Howard Pitler, and Bj Stone. Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2012. Print.

Dubas, Justin, and Santiago Toledo. “Using Marzano’s Taxonomy To Enhance Feedback Strategies For Students And Faculty.” Texas Lutheran University (2012): n. pag. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <http://bul.sagepub.com/&gt;.

Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.

How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2008. Print.

Sagor, R. (2011). The Action Research Guidebook: A Four-Stage Process for Educators and School Teams (2nd Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California, United States of America: Corwin.

 

 

 

 

TL Standard 11: Utilize Formative and Summative Assessments in a Standards Based Environment

Meeting Teacher Leader Standard 11 – Utilize Formative and Summative Assessments in a Standards Environment, took me on a reflective journey of my teaching practice. Having been a teacher for a number of years, it has been a long time since I took such a critical view of the assessments I was giving. We simply gave the test, used the data, and moved on. To meet this standard it meant I needed to go deeper. I needed to be sure the tests that are provided to me by our curriculum and district are really testing the standards that I expect my students to achieve. I needed to look at an even bigger scope and ask, what do the key organizations which helped create the standards say about what my students should know. Finally, I needed to focus on what to do with the data the assessments provided and determine my next steps in instruction to my students.

At the beginning of our course, Standards Based Assessment (EDU 6613) I was asked, “What do I know about assessment?” That was a great question. I felt like I knew a lot, but at the same time in trying to form that answer I realized it was sort of a canned response. I know there are formative and summative assessments. I know that assessment should be timely and on-going. I know that assessment should give me feedback on what my students know, what they don’t know, and what my next steps in teaching should be. There are good assessments and not good assessments. Valid and invalid may be a better way to say that. There are many different kinds of assessments as well. Tests of all kinds; multiple choice, short answer, essay, performance, hands on, standardized, etc. In assessment there is a difference between standards based assessment vs. traditional percentage based assessments. This an area that I identified that I struggle in especially when trying to take former percentage based assessments and make them standards based. Leveling of questions, weighting questions or assessments (quizzes vs. weekly tests vs. unit tests) are all very difficult to do and an area that I wanted to grow in.

I began by asking myself, “What do I want my students to learn?” This first critical question can be answered by starting at the standards. In my case, the CCSS for 3rd grade math. I spent time reading and researching the standards that I wanted my students to meet. Additionally, I researched the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) to find out what they have determined as the key learnings for 3rd grade math. In my research of the NCTM standards I was pleased to find that NCTM has adopted the CCSS as their standards as well. In addition, they have published a resource for teachers and administrators to aid in the implementation of the CCSS in schools. This book titled Principles in Action, “Builds on NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics and supports implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics to attain much higher levels of mathematics achievement for all students.” NCTM also issued the following statement regarding the CCSS – “The widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) presents an unprecedented opportunity for systemic improvement in mathematics education in the United States.”  — NCTM CCSSM Position Statement     Module 1

After I determined the standards my students should be achieving I asked myself, “How will I know when my students have learned it?” To answer this question I looked to the tests themselves, the rubrics, and scoring guides. What information would these assessments give me? What standards were they testing and to what learning level – Knowledge, Reasoning, Skill, or Product. In order to track their learning and determine that my students had met the standards I used portfolios. I questioned how I might authentically use portfolios in the teaching of my unit. I had to decide what kind of portfolio would best demonstrate assessment for student learning and would work best with my learning targets for the unit covered in the exam. The type of portfolio that I believed would work best for my unit was the growth portfolio. The key statement from our reading that helped me choose this portfolio was, “The student writes a self-reflection to summarize growth: ‘Here’s how far I’ve come and here’s what I know and can do now that I couldn’t before’ or ‘I used to.., but now I…” (Stiggins, et. al, 2012) Since I was using a learning target tracking sheet in my unit and each day students would be demonstrating achievement of the daily learning target and documenting their own growth and learning, turning this into a portfolio with artifacts to also document their growth toward the overall learning targets, seemed like a natural progression.

The evidence we collected in the pre-assessment gave us baseline data and information students needed to track their learning and growth. This helped them answer the statement, “I used to…, but now I…” Next, we collected each of the formative assessment quizzes that we took during the unit (quick checks). Those quizzes ensured a representative sample of student work because they were done independently, teacher corrected, and spread out over the course of the unit. Those represented “typical work” of the students as many of the questions are similar to our daily work which students had been learning and practicing with. I also had my students self-select one artifact from their daily work that they felt showed progress and growth toward their learning targets. Particularly if they did poorly on a quiz for that learning target, but they had work to show they had made growth.  Module 3

All of these forms of assessment and the rich data they provide gave me the ability to determine if my students had met the standards I was teaching them. This data also allowed me to know when a student didn’t meet the standard and prompted me to ask myself, “How will I respond when some students do not learn it?” Without Pre-assessment – knowing where my students begin, Formative assessment – knowing where my students are along the way, and Summative assessment – knowing my students learned and met the standards, I can’t answer that third critical question and develop an intervention plan to meet each student’s needs in the standards they have still not mastered.

Finally, pre-assessment is the way to determine if my students already know and have met the standards. I used that assessment data to save precious instruction time from being wasted teaching them something they already knew and created an enrichment program to challenge and deepen their working knowledge of the standards.

My Final Lesson and Assessment Plans,  3rd Grade enVision Topic 03 Assessment with highlights, 3rd Grade enVision Topic 04 Assessment with highlights,  all show the culmination of my learning in Teacher Leader Standard 11. In my future work as a principal, I am excited to share this working knowledge with my staff as we use assessments and data to set student growth goals and continuous improvement (CIP) goals for our school. Learning and doing the work myself I believe has provided me with more than a book knowledge, but has moved me into a working skill and product level of learning where I am now ready to teach and lead others in this standard. My principal has supported this work by providing training and consistent time solely dedicated to PLC work. Those are two things I want to take forward to my staff as well.

 

References:
Arter, Judith; Chappuis, Jan; Chappuis, Steve; Stiggins, Rick. (2011) Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right, Using It Well. Pearson,

Charles, Randall I., Janet H. Caldwell, and Mary Cavanaugh. EnVisionMath Common Core. Glenview, IL: Pearson Education, 2012. Print.

Common Core State Standards http://www.corestandards.org/.

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos?landing_page=Common+Core+Landing+Page&gclid=CMjDvoiQ6LACFaQaQgodglZ-xg.

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2010. Print.
Marzano, Robert. (2009) Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading: Classroom Strategies That Work. Solution Tree

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics – http://www.nctm.org/

O’Connor, Ken. (2009) How to Grade for Learning, K-12. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website for Washington state http://www.k12.wa.us/Curriculuminstruct/

Stiggins, Richard J., Judith A. Arter, Jan Chappuis, and Stephen Chappuis. Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right — Using It Well. Upper Saddle River,       NJ: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.

Wiggins, Grant P., and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005. Print.

TL Standard 7: Utilize Instructional Frames to Improve Teaching

During the 2013/14 school year I was asked by my principal to be our building leader and district representative for the changing teacher evaluation system, TPEP, known as the Professional Growth and Evaluation (PGE) system in my district. My understanding of the Danielson Framework was limited, but I needed to quickly become an expert. As the PGE coordinator for my building I have been at the forefront of the professional development work and staff training in my building and district. However, even with all that work I still strive to push myself to distinguished in all areas of my own practice. This is a high challenge and one that I gladly accept because I believe that is also what is best for kids. The distinguished area moves my practice away from being just a good teacher, to being a great practitioner of our craft by enabling my students to take the ownership and drive in their own learning.

As a part of our Accomplished Teaching course (EDU 6528) we closely examined the Danielson framework and used it as a tool for reflection of our own practice. I began with a reflection on Danielson’s framework, specifically on component 1b – Demonstrating Knowledge of Students. I studied the breakdown of the attributes between a proficient and a distinguished teacher. The key distinction is that of intent on the teacher’s part and a difference between knowledge and a “systematic” approach to individual students vs. a “purposeful” approach to groups of students. I have always been someone who wants and needs to know my students as individuals. I believe that the true magic of teaching happens when we connect with a student on the individual level and watch the “light bulb” turn on. Connecting with students and knowing them means being involved, knowing their parents, attending events, and engaging them in their areas of interest. I tend to differentiate based on that knowledge. I will find pictures, videos, or other ways to connect to the details of students’ lives. We will share knowledge and ideas. Many of my students travel extensively and share their experiences. I work to incorporate their experiences into our curriculum and discussions. They feel that connection and it also benefits the other students in class as well as our classroom culture.

I then reflected on Danielson’s Domains 3b and 3c specifically asking myself, “How do these domains affect my reflective work as an individual, partner/group member, and school leader?” Applying what I was learning about personal and group reflection as it related to the Danielson Domains 3b and 3c made me realize practicing reflection myself and with my PCC team and then teaching those reflective techniques to our students, empowers them. Our students using these tools equips them to meet the high standard of, “Students formulate many questions, initiate topics, and make unsolicited contributions. Students themselves ensure that all voices are heard in the discussion and Students invite comments from their classmates during a discussion.” Having our students this engaged in discussion and applying discussion techniques, moves us as teachers into the distinguished category, but more importantly that is what is best for kids.

One specific strategy I taught them was from watching Lynn Simpson in the video “Improving Participation with Talk Moves”. She says, “When you are confronted with new information, you should change your thinking.” Teaching kids to “revise their thinking” I believe will make them more brave in sharing their ideas and changing those ideas will be an accepted and encouraged part of that. Finally, her “me too” sign is one I have used when I taught 1st grade, but I hadn’t tried it with my older students. That was a next step for me and one I know incorporate successfully into my teaching.

I have shared some of these techniques with my grade level team and we have all agreed to being using them in our math groups to give our students a common language for discussions. As a school leader I can see researching these communication tools further and including them in a future staff training time.

The new teacher evaluation system was such an area of focus for me professionally, that as a part of my Masters work I have chosen to go deeper in my understanding. I have researched and compared the various teacher evaluation frameworks, their development, theory and research behind them, their links to NCLB and Race to the Top, and the choice by Washington State to adopt the Danielson Framework over the Marzano model. During our course, Human Development and the Principles of Learning (EDU 6655) The writings of Linda Darling-Hammond in the areas of teacher preparation and teacher evaluation, led me to choose, Teacher Evaluation: The Old Way vs. The New Way, as my topic for my final project for this course. EDU 6655 Final Presentation.  Giving this presentation to my cohort help to strengthen and solidify my learning in this standard.

Another area of focus was Domain 4: Growing and Developing Professionally. During our Leadership in Education course (EDAD 6580) we developed two documents that reflect that domain. Both the Visionary Leadership Analysis – VLA and the Profession Growth Plan – PGP speak to my current and future work as I continue to grow and develop professionally.

In my future work a focus on implementing the highest standards of the Danielson Framework in my own practice is a goal in addition to continuing to come alongside my staff to coach and improve their understanding and practice of the framework as it relates to their practice. As a principal, my deep understanding and working knowledge of the TPEP framework will serve me well as the evaluator in my building. I plan to take a coaching role to support and guide my teachers to becoming distinguished in their own practice.

 

References –

Boser, Ulrich. “Race to the Top: What Have We Learned from the States So Far?” Name. Center for American Progress, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2012/03/26/11220/race-to-the-top-what-have-we-learned-from-the-states-so-far/&gt;.

“Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.” Washington State TeacherPrincipal Evaluation Project. N.p., 2012. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <http://tpep-wa.org/the-model/framework-and-rubrics/instructional-frameworks/danielson-framework/&gt;.

“The Danielson Group.” The Danielson Group. N.p., 2011. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <http://www.danielsongroup.org/&gt;.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2012). Creating a comprehensive system for evaluating and supporting effective teaching. Stanford, CA. Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.Stanford Center.

Klein, Alyson. “GAO: Race to Top States Have Mixed Record on Teacher Evaluation.” Http://blogs.edweek.org. Education Week, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. <http://blogs.edweek.org/&gt;.

“Improving Participation With Talk Moves” TeachingChannel Video, https://youtu.be/hQhysblB0oc.

“Learning about Teaching: Initial Findings from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project.” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. N.p., 2011. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <http://www.gatesfoundation.org/&gt;.

Marzano, Robert J. “Educational Leadership:Teacher Evaluation: What’s Fair? What’s Effective?:The Two Purposes of Teacher Evaluation.” Educational Leadership 70.3 (2012): 14-19. Print.

“The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model.” Washington State TeacherPrincipal Evaluation Project. Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Puplic Instruction, 2012. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <http://tpep-wa.org/the-model/framework-and-rubrics/instructional-frameworks/marzano/&gt;.

“Teacher and Principal Leadership Evaluation.” Teacher and Principal Leadership Evaluation. Learning Sciences International, 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2013. <http://www.marzanocenter.com/&gt;.

U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Race to the Top program executive summary. Washington, DC: Retrieved from <www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf>

Weisberg, D., Sexton, S., Mulhern, J., & Keeling, D. (2009). The widget effect: Our national failure to acknowledge and act on differences in teacher effectiveness. Brooklyn, NY: New Teacher Project. Retrieved from <http://widgeteffect.org/downloads/TheWidgetEffect.pdf>

 

 

 

TL Standard 4: Engage in Analysis of Teaching and Collaborative Practices

I met TL Standard 4 through two different assignments in my Accomplished Teaching course. Both the Partner Reflection and Collaborative Analysis Instructional Plan were key to my learning in this standard. At the beginning of Accomplished Teaching I did a strengths and intentions inventory and identified areas I needed to grow in.

First, my level of comfort and knowledge in my individual reflective practice was high.  I found that I am constantly reflecting on my practice while in action, modifying and adjusting lessons and instruction based on the needs of my students and the direction we should go for deeper learning. I also reflected back after lessons or back on the day to think about and jot down notes on what went well and what I would change next time I teach those lessons. I also planned ahead and reflect forward for our next steps. My biggest obstacle to reflection is time. Jennifer York-Barr states, “One of the first considerations for reflecting with ourselves is finding and guarding time and space in our lives for significant pauses.” (York-Barr, 2006) Two words really stuck out to me – guarding and significant. I believed I took time, but it isn’t guarded as sacred and life can get in the way of that. It also wasn’t significant time, but more time in passing as I cleaned up my room or move to another task. Those were two areas I identified to work on.

The next area I considered was collaborative reflective practice. I am lucky to be on a grade level team which meets frequently, plans together, and discusses student growth. However, there were barriers to our reflective practice as a group. Two members of our team are long time 3rd grade teachers and they have taught with each other for all of those years. One issue for us was openness which leads to issues in thinking and learning. Much resistance to reflective practice comes with excuses and the idea that “we have always done it this way”. I believed we were in the “storming” phase of group development. I was hopeful with our school moving to a PLC model for team collaboration we would be able to move to “norming” and become a “performing” team. My position on the team is a tough one and I have struggled to gain their trust and understanding. We all have strong personalities and it has been a “them and me” type of environment this past year. My goal was to focus on what I can do to heal and change our team. I knew I couldn’t change them, but I could change my approach and maybe gain some skills to help move us forward.

Finally, I reflected on my understanding of Danielson Framework as an area I felt particularly strong in. As the PGE, Professional Growth and Evaluation, coordinator for my building I have been at the forefront of the professional development work and staff training as the state has moved to the new teacher evaluation system. In addition, as part of my Masters work I have researched and compared the various teacher evaluation frameworks, their development, theory and research behind them, their links to NCLB and Race to the Top, and the choice by Washington state to adopt the Danielson Framework over the Marzano model. However, even with all that work I still strive to push myself to distinguished in all areas of my own practice. This is a high challenge and one that I gladly accept because I believe that is also what is best for kids. The distinguished area moves my practice away from being just a good teacher, to being a great practitioner of our craft by enabling my students to take the ownership and drive in their own learning. A focus on implementing the highest standards of the Danielson Framework in my own practice was a goal in addition to continuing to come alongside my staff to coach and improve their understanding and practice of the framework as well.

The first step in my learning was to engage in the analysis of teaching through a partner coaching session. My coaching session took place with a fellow 3rd grade teacher who approached me for help in planning and implementing a reading/writing (ELA) workshop model into her classroom. She knew that I had experience successfully running such a model in former 1st grade teaching role and now as a 3rd grade teacher as well. In preparation for our coaching session I knew that I had to clearly focus on my active listening skills in order to make this be successful and productive for both of us. I reviewed the SPACE acronym: Silence, Paraphrasing, Accepting Nonjudgmentally, Clarifying, and Extending; and determined that I would be very purposefully in my use of that technique during our session. I also prepared by gathering materials, examples of student work, and descriptions of the systems I use during ELA workshop. These steps proved key to our success during this coaching session. I did not immediately utilize the materials, but began with a mindset of listening and understanding before we dove in and looked at how it all works.

Our session began with my colleague describing her past experience as a 6th and 2nd grade teacher in another school. Since coming to our building as a job-share partner to a current 3rd grade teacher, she has been frustrated by the pacing and schedule she has had to keep with her students. “I don’t feel like we accomplish much.” she explained. “We go through the material, but it is rushed to get it done in my two or three days a week and then I am gone. I want to know that they get it and go deeper with them.” During this time I listened to her and asked some open-ended questions to gain further insight. I also thanked her for being so open and commented on her past successes to help her to see that these current frustrations are not what she is characterized by and can be worked through. In addition, I shared a personal connection of being in a job share and feeling a similar way.

I wonder now if sharing my story was a mistake. I feel that shifted the focus from her to me and that was not what I wanted. Doing some further research I found I was correct in my concern. “Coaching must be teacher-centered. Teacher-centered is different from coach-centered. When conversations are coach-centered, the coach’s expertise has the upper hand.” (Tschannen-Moran, Tschannen-Moran, 2011) I continued the session by asking her what she would like to see work differently in her classroom, that put us back on track of her being the focus and zeroed us in on the work we were there to do. Examples of other questions that I asked were, “When did you feel like you were the best teacher and had the highest student engagement/achievement?” “How do you think you could implement those ideas into your current teaching role?” “When you reflect back on last year, what are some things you would like to see work differently this year with your students?” These questions brought us to a solution based conversation where we were then able to brainstorm and plan how a workshop model could work in her classroom on her teaching days. It was only then that I brought out the materials I had gathered and we could collaboratively plan and discuss how we can use them successfully in our own classrooms.

In reflecting back on this coaching session, I know that there are some things I did well, but others I need to work on. I was good about focusing the conversation on her strengths and what she has done in the past and is currently doing well. I also think I was successful at creating a “no-fault” environment which kept this a coaching session and did not cross over into being evaluative. (Tschannen-Moran, Tschannen-Moran, 2011) For future coaching, my goal is to remain “teacher-centered and not coach-centered.” Withholding my own personal stories and connections will keep the focus on the person I am coaching and off of me. I would also like to see a coaching model where we utilize action research. Focusing our work on an action research project could heighten the collaborative process and provide ways for us to, “systematically reflect on and improve practice.” (York-Barr, et. al, 2006) Action research allows for a clear implantation plan and includes collecting and analyzing data in order to inform and plan next steps.

Coaching allows us as educators to discuss and analyze, “complex problems of practice” in a meaningful and productive way. (p. 119) Overall, this was an enlightening and positive experience that I am looking forward to participating in again.

Following this individual coaching time, I worked to utilize my collaborative strategies and engage my PLC team in the analyzing of student work. This was new learning for my team and I was eager to work toward my goal of growing my team from a “storming” phase to a “norming” or  even a “performing” phase. My 3rd grade PLC team chose to analyze our end of Topic 6 assessment for math. We know that research shows working in a team results in teachers showing, “significantly higher levels of knowledge about students, skill variety to their work, helpfulness and effectiveness within their work group, teaching efficacy, professional commitment, and overall satisfaction and growth.” (York-Barr, et. al, 2006) We have found this to be true in our own practice and this collaborative analysis again proved that to be true.

We began by analyzing student daily work from the unit which best related to the standard. Following that analysis we determined that the majority of our students were ready to be assessed on the summative assessment for this unit. Those who were still struggling with concepts were given extra review time in a small group and daily review and practice in their safety net math class. All students were administered the summative assessment the same day. We met the following day after scoring them to discuss our students’ results. My PLC decided to use the Analysis of Student Work Protocol from the New Teacher Center to drive our work – analysis of student work template.

The results of our analysis included what our students could do related to the standard, what their needs still were related to the standard, a differentiation and re-teaching plan for our students, and a plan for re-assessing the standard through the school year – Collaborative Assessment Instructional Plan. Through our work together we did grow out of our “storming” phase. One aspect of our PLC work was to establish norms which we would use and refer to during all of our PLC meetings. This proved key to our success of growing our group collaboration and cohesion. The “norming” phase was a short one and I believe we are now in a “performing” phase as a PLC team.

My work towards TL Standard 4 was deep and meaningful to my practice as a classroom teacher and teacher leader. In my future practice as a principal, this work will be key as I take on the role of the instructional leader for my building. I know that I need to be able to lead teachers in this work, supporting them in their PLC’s and providing professional training and development as needed. Smith and Piele state that, “The likelihood of success (in the learning process) increases as leaders collaborate with their teachers – drawing from their collective insights – and use the knowledge provided by the professional research community.” (Smith and Piele, 2006) I believe that having done this work myself I can lead with authentic experience and provide insight and support to my staff ultimately resulting in increased student learning and achievement.

References –

Danielson, Charlotte. “Danielson Group » The Framework.” Danielson Group The Framework Comments. N.p., 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

Houston, Paul D., Alan M. Blankstein, and Robert W. Cole. Spirituality in Educational Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2008. Print.

“Preparing America’s Students for Success.” Home. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

Smith, Stuart Carl, and Philip K. Piele. School Leadership: Handbook for Excellence in Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2006. Print.

Tschannen-Moran, Bob, and Megan Tschannen-Moran. “The Coach and the Evaluator.” Educational Leadership 69.2 (2011): 10-16. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

York-Barr, Jennifer. Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2006. Print.

 

 

TL Standard 1: Model Ethical and Moral Behavior

In the beginning of our course, Moral Issues in Education (EDU 6085) I was fairly confidant in where I stood on being a person of faith and a public school teacher. As a public school educator, I saw my responsibility to be a person of moral and ethical character. My personal faith should not be the driving force of my work as I teach students of all religious and cultural backgrounds and no distinction should be made by me as to which is “better or worse” or “correct or incorrect”. I am simply there to teach and to uphold and model a high moral standard of values such as honesty and the Golden Rule which all major religions have in common.

The reading in The Abolition of Man , by C.S. Lewis, was especially poignant to me. I could relate to so many of the insights Lewis discussed and found myself nodding in agreement much of the time. First, the text rose the issue of teaching our students to be great thinkers and discerners of text and the world. Part of ourselves that is innate to us and therefore influences the world and how we see it is our emotions. To discount our emotion as trivial or unimportant, discounts who we are as humans. Likewise, the statement Lewis made, “It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and it presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all” speaks to the strong influence early teachings can have on students. If we teach a wrong or flawed philosophy early on, they may not fully grasp it, but it sinks in and can form their thinking years down the road.

This is where I think parents and society get held up in character education. People think if we “teach” character then we are influencing students and pushing them to make decisions a certain way or that we are teaching “religion”. I don’t agree with that premise. I think without character education that students could be at the whim of any author or teacher to influence them into wrong thinking and patterns as we saw Lewis describe with “The Green Book.” He continues the argument by pointing out that every major world culture has a set of universal truths and “the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.”

The next section of text is one of the deepest and most thoughtful I have ever read. Lewis describes the universal truth that “children are delightful”, he then turns this discussion to himself and says that he does not enjoy the company of children and he must recognize that as a defect in himself. How profound! What a concept that we can teach our students to test their thoughts and ideas against commonly held truths which may sometimes show us that it is we who are wrong or flawed in our thinking. I teach my students that all mistakes are something to learn and grow from. They are teachable moments. Why shouldn’t we do that with their character and not just their academics?

I teach in a very affluent area and one thing that we as a staff have struggled with the past few years is the sense of entitlement in some of our students and families. Somehow, the rules don’t apply to them. These universal truths seem to be lost on them and we are steeped in a culture of relativism. We tried to bring in a character curriculum to our school and unfortunately due to weak leadership and flawed implementation it failed to take hold. We also had a very vocal group of parents who felt that it was indoctrination and religious in nature. It in fact wasn’t and other schools (over 4000 nationwide) have been able to implement it with great success. The curriculum gave us a common language with the kids and was based on the universal truths of many cultures and religions which C.S. Lewis referenced in the reading.

I believe this kind of teaching is key to our kids. They need to see that there are certain things that are right and certain things that are just wrong. There is not always grey area. Not always a reason why they can justify their position, sometimes we all make mistakes and recognizing that and being able to admit to it helps us grow as humans. Schools need to provide a safe and developmentally appropriate place for this kind of learning to occur.

Without this kind of teaching I think we will see the moral compass of our society shift. I found it interesting that in the readings in Genesis and in All the Kings Men these moral issues of integrity and honesty played out in the characters we met. While separated by thousands of years, the same issues remain. Again, they are universal and common to all men/women throughout time. My hope for my students is that regardless of a lack of curriculum, I will be able to instill guiding principles to them, critical thinking, discernment, and passion for learning and life. The heart and the head go together and need to drive one another. C.S. Lewis put it beautifully, “The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.”

Following this, an interesting question was posed in our class, “Are the ‘Ten Commandments’ a form of the Tao?” I would have to answer yes. Maybe that is because of my answer to the next question, “What is the ‘Tao’ by which you live?” My answer for that would be, “The Bible.” Including the Ten Commandments, the Bible is my “blueprint for life.” When the Bible does not explicitly call something out as right or wrong, then I use prayer and seek wise advice from mentors I trust and who hold to the same values that I do. In Exodus, we read about God giving the “Law” to his people. This includes the Ten Commandments, but goes much more in detail in the later chapters. For me the Law is a guideline, but I am so thankful for the New Testament and to live under Grace. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law. God knew we couldn’t live by the letter of the law and ultimately he provided “a way out.” However, we are still to live in accordance with the values in the Bible. Jesus commanded us to “Love one another” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” among many others decrees for believers. I see these as being values all humans can aspire to and should live by.

In The Abolition of Man, Lewis argues the existence and validity of the Tao. Some call it, “Natural Law or Traditional Morality, or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments.” (p. 43) He does explain that by putting all the “traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagan, and the Jew” together, you will “find many contradictions and some absurdities.” However, I think we see more common ground than differences. Much research has been done on this subject and many commonalities between the seven major world religions exist. Four common themes emerged as I read through different literature –

  1. Commitment to something greater than oneself – honesty, justice, truth
  2. Self-respect, humility, self-discipline, personal responsibility
  3. Respect and caring for others (The Golden Rule)
  4. Caring for other living things and the environment

(Kinnier, Kernes, Dautheribes; 2000)

This leads to another question, “What moral standards do you consider most important for schools?” I refer back to the original posting and the quote from the Washington State –

All teachers shall stress the importance of the cultivation of manners, the fundamental principles of honesty, honor, industry and economy, the minimum requisites for good health including the beneficial effect of physical exercise and methods to prevent exposure to and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and the worth of kindness to all living creatures and the land. (RCW 28A.230.020)

I do believe that teaching manners, courtesy, honesty, respect for self and others, respect for the environment and living things, and personal high standards and character are extremely important concepts and values for students to study and accept. These are the life skills and personal attributes which permeate all cultures and will benefit them for their entire lives. As teachers we have all had very smart and capable students who were very book and study smart, but lacked the social skills and personal values to be successful in the classroom and with their peers. These students “don’t play well with others”. They lie, cheat, steal, don’t share, exclude, are unkind and even mean. I don’t have a problems telling a student who is cheating or lying that that behavior is “wrong”. I believe that falls under the universal values that all cultures hold and it is my job as a teacher to teach that value to my students. I will refrain from using right/wrong when I feel it is a difference in culture or core belief. If it is purely a Christian value that I hold personally then that may or may not be right/wrong to another religion and culture. In that case I will choose different words or speak for myself and not in a way that all should hold that same value that I do. If that is a more private value or something not appropriate for an elementary school discussion then I will say, “That is a great question to ask your parents” and leave it at that.

The idea of an “entitlement mentality” seemed to be following me throughout this course. In the readings in All the King’s Men, we see that Jack is on a quest to get the information he needs on the Judge. Through this chapter he reflects his past with his dad and uses his thinking about the character of the judge to drive his investigation into the judge’s past. The ideas of money and corruption continue going on in the reading. Willie is giving 6 million dollars to build the hospital and Anna is asking Willie for money for her charity. The motivations of the characters are at the forefront of the writing. In Amos, he is warning the people against entitlement as well. They are morally corrupt in their worship and in their society as a whole. They are practicing slavery for profit, using the poor to get rich off of, and worshiping idols. He warns against their destruction which is an extrinsic motivation, but it is clear that God wants their hearts. He wants to remind them of all He has done for them and have them turn back to Him on their own without having to destroy them. I think that is my bottom line as well with my students. I would rather have them feel an intrinsic sense of reward and pride in themselves than to have them motivated by “destruction” or negative consequences. Ultimately that is my greatest goal.

One example of a cultural difference where the issue of right/wrong was tested happened this year to me. I had a student move here from Iraq. He had previously gone to an all-boys school and the parents warned me that things were very different there especially on the playground. Well, that was an understatement. My student came in and even after going over the rules and guidelines of the school and playground (with translation for him as he spoke only Farsi), we had serious issues with him right away. Very aggressive play, pushing, yelling, threatening behavior, literally scaring other kids. If this was an American student who knew our system and rules and language this would have clearly been “wrong” behavior. However, this was “normal” for my new student and it took a lot of time, conferences, and finally a behavior plan translated into Farsi for him to be able to understand the differences and follow the rules and norms of our playground culture. For me the key was his motivation, his heart so to speak. I knew in his heart he was not a malicious, mean kid. Aggressive and competitive? Yes, but mean and a bully? No. He needed to learn the values and understand that even if “everyone” is doing it, that doesn’t make it right. I am happy to say that he is a very happy and adjusted kid now who has made great gains and no longer needs that behavior plan.

The idea that “everyone” is doing it is how I see the changes happening in Willie in AKM. He was once an idealist and went into politics to make a difference. Now, he “plays the game” and is willing to sacrifice his values to get what he wants. He will literally do whatever it takes to succeed. I thought it interesting that his lawyer had to resign and I took that as his way of distancing himself and not compromising his own values any longer. That shows real character and values in itself.

One theme seems to run strong in my learning around TL standard 1 and that is one of character education. In my opinion, teaching our students character and values in the school can only benefit them. These are character traits and values that they can bring with them throughout their lives. In order to deal with this moral issue, my school decided to implement a character education program called “Leader in Me”. Going through this process caused me to ask many questions and I addressed two of them in my moral inquiry essay. The first question was, “Is character education key to a strong school environment?” I believe yes, and my research agreed with that premise. So I asked myself next, “What are the best practices to implement a character education program into an elementary school?” This is the question I chose to focus on for this project. I took a case study approach to show what not to do in implementing a character education program and provided some practical suggestions for a successful implementation plan that I might use in my future as a principal. The research I did around this inquiry question solidified my belief that character education is as key to our student’s success as their academics. –

The Washington Principal and Program Administrator Standards, Standard Five states – Ethical Leadership: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner. As I look toward the future and my continued work in education as a principal I know that being a moral and ethical leader will be key to my success.

 

 

 

TL Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school levels

Teacher Leadership Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school levels, was met during my completion of two action research courses with a focus on the school setting.

I began my Action Research journey reading, journaling, and conducting interviews of students and colleagues. Through that process I was able to identify themes which ran like ribbons through the work I was conducting in my classroom and school. Connecting this work to the literature and research helped me to find a purpose and track for my project. However, that did prove to be a challenging process which took many twists and turns throughout the project. The real need for reflective practice took precedence and moved to the forefront of my thinking rather than something which plays in the background of my usual day. Sagor spoke to this in our text when he spoke of our busy day to day life as an educator and how the “pace of school leaves little opportunity to engage in purposeful reflection.” (Sagor, p. 13) He suggested “to accomplish this (meaningful reflection) I must find a way to temporarily shut out all other distractions and create a time and space for the quality reflection necessary for zeroing in on a meaningful topic for action research.” (p.13) That was exactly what the Phase 1 portion of our class forced me to do and it was a valuable experience.

Next, during Phase 2 of our project I made my plan of implementation and rubrics upon which I would base the gathering of my data. This process helped me to hone in on what I was really looking for and what would show me that change was occurring. Narrowing down my variables was a daunting task. I tend to think of independent and dependent variables being part of a scientific controlled experiment. This being a behavioral science project which includes human subjects, it is impossible to control every variable. Yet, I was able through the reading and our work in class to identify my two achievement targets (change in dependent variable) and what my actions would be (independent variable). Sagor illustrated this relationship in the following table on page 62 –

Choice of Independent Variables = Change in the Dependent Variable
(our actions) (achievement target)

 

During Phase 3 we worked on our research questions and data collection plan. This is where the project began to take shape for me and I felt a much clearer and defined course of action. The 3 questions I used were directly from Sagor’s text –

  1. What did we actually do?
  2. What changes occurred regarding performance on the achievement targets?
  3. What were the relationships, if any, between the actions taken and any noted changes in performance? (p. 88)

I then began the implementation of my project. My implementation plan was side lined by several factors, but ultimately did produce results. My students moved from 76% at or above standard in discussion engagement and participation to 92% at or above standard. Answering question 3, determining the relationship between actions take and changes in performance, was the most difficult. I chose to rely on both the data and my own anecdotal evidence and intuition. Sagor supports this approach as well saying, “You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with the use of intuition in this context, even if you are a novice action researcher…you aren’t new to the world of the classroom.” (p. 148) This was the validation I needed to persevere in my answering of question 3.

In reflecting on this project one area became glaringly clear to me, especially after reading the section in Chapter 8 of the Sagor text “Allocating Time”. Sagor says, “Another valuable use of the data…is to determine if the actual expenditure of time was consistent with what you had anticipated when planning your project.” (Sagor, p. 131) He goes on to show a visual graph of anticipated time use vs. actual time use. One of my biggest pieces of learning from this project is that I over plan and schedule too much into our day. The pressure to keep up with curriculum and stay on track with district and CCSS is so high that any deviation from our plans is just not possible. It took eliminating one area of teaching, Problem of the Day (POD), to adequately implement this project. I had originally thought it would work into my ELA or science instruction, but that did not prove to be the case. In addition, I received a new student who is a Level 1 ELL and a recent immigrant from Iran. This in itself would have been a huge impact to our classroom and my teacher time, but he also has ended up being a very high management case with behavior issues that transcend the language issue. Many of my 10-15 minute blocks that I had carved out for my speaking and listening instruction were taken away by dealing with recess issues, receiving phone calls, and answering emails with regards to this student.

The first question asks, what did we actually do? My project centered on student engagement and participation during partner and group discussion time. First, we began with having discussion times in various subject areas. Next, I shared with the students the rubrics for student engagement in discussion and participation. The students helped to fine tune the rubrics, adding details that they felt were important. I then had the students self-assess their speaking and listening during group discussion and set a goal for the level they would like to improve to. This is a similar process that we have done in preparation for our student goal setting conferences so my students were used to the process and for the most part gave an honest self-assessment. Following this baseline data collection, I began to instruct the students in various discussion techniques which included good questions, good comments, responsibility to participate, and everyone has a chance to speak. We realized that each student has two important jobs: listening carefully and participating thoughtfully. The class had previously used a process called “two pluses and a wish” for when we peer revise our writing. At a student’s suggestion I decided to apply this to our discussion time, but change it to “two comments and a wonder”. Students continued to self-assess and reflect each week.

Several positive changes occurred from the work we did. I tracked increased student engagement and positive contributions to discussions moving from 76% engaged to 92% engaged in the discussion time. This was documented in a video journal and through teacher anecdotal notes. Student self-assessments of their speaking and listening skills also rose from a median score of 3.07 in the baseline data 3.61 in the final evaluation (out of a high of 4). In addition, students moved more quickly into discussion time and many times did not want it to end. This is a change from before and not one that I had anticipated seeing.

The relationship of what we did to the changes that occurred seem to have a clear connection. Up until the implementation of the project, no positive progress had been made in my students’ engagement and participation during partner and group discussion time. The same kids participated and the same ones didn’t. This was my primary reason for pursuing this project. When I implemented the “two pluses and a wish” for peer revising I saw immediate positive results. This was what led me to want to pursue further instruction around listening and discussion strategies. Upon the teaching and implementation of “two comments and a wonder” I again saw a jump in their participation and engagement in the activity. While far from conclusive evidence, this did seem to have a direct relationship with the instruction being given during this action research project. My final conclusion was that providing instruction and clear guidelines and structure for their discussion led to increased student engagement and more productive conversations.

In reflecting on this project one area became glaringly clear to me, especially after reading the section in Chapter 8 of the Sagor text “Allocating Time”. Sagor says, “Another valuable use of the data…is to determine if the actual expenditure of time was consistent with what you had anticipated when planning your project.” (Sagor, p. 131) He goes on to show a visual graph of anticipated time use vs. actual time use. One of my biggest pieces of learning from this project is that I over plan and schedule too much into our day. The pressure to keep up with curriculum and stay on track with district and CCSS is so high that any deviation from our plans is just not possible. It took eliminating one area of teaching, Problem of the Day (POD), to adequately implement this project. I had originally thought it would work into my ELA or science instruction, but that did not prove to be the case. In addition, I received a new student who is a Level 1 ELL and a recent immigrant from Iran. This in itself would have been a huge impact to our classroom and my teacher time, but he also has ended up being a very high management case with behavior issues that transcend the language issue. Many of my 10-15 minute blocks that I had carved out for my speaking and listening instruction were taken away by dealing with recess issues, receiving phone calls, and answering emails with regards to this student.

This project proved to be a valuable one – Action Research Project Data. Though the process to get here was frustrating at times, I am pleased with the results and plan to continue the instruction and reflection for the remainder of the year. I know now that this instruction is crucial to student success and in coming years it will be a standard part of my curriculum.

I continued learning and working with research in the course, Applying Action Research in School Settings. Using research to drive our instruction is only effective if we as teacher leaders know how to analyze and evaluate research and determine whether it is applicable to our teaching and school environments. Research is published in what is called a primary source – critique of article 1, Critique of Article 2. Then those primary source may used to support the hypothesis of another person or group. That group uses those sources to support their own work and publish articles. Those articles are considered secondary sources – summary of secondary article. As a TL, I first need to determine if  the primary research is valid and generalizable. I should then be able to critically evaluate secondary articles to see if the original research is being used appropriately or is skewed in some way.

For example, in educational research we hear the terms “correlation” and “causation”. It is important to note that these are not synonyms for one another, nor does correlation imply causation. Simply because variables in a research project can be related or influence one another (correlation) does not mean that one causes the other (causation). Ravid defines correlation as, “The relationship or association between two or more numerical variables. These variables have to be related to each other or paired.” (Ravid, 2011) He also explains that, “It is important to understand that correlation does not imply causation. Just because two variables correlate with each other does not mean that one caused the other.” (Ravid, p. 114) For example, one could say that on a hot day more people will eat ice cream. While there may be a correlation, we could not empirically prove that it is a cause effect relationship.

During our course I had the opportunity to conduct data analyses, article critiques, and finally a comparison paper of a primary and secondary source (Final Paper) all these prepared me for the work I will be doing in my future as a teacher leader and principal.

 

References:

Anderson, Richard C., Paul T. Wilson, and Linda G. Fielding. “Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time outside of School.” Reading Research Quarterly Summer 23.3 (1988): 285-303. JSTOR. Web. 22 Apr. 2010.

Baldwin, R. Scott. Effects of topic interest and prior knowledge on reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly 20.4 (1985): 497-504. JSTOR. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Chapell, Mark S., Z. Benjamin Blanding, Michael E. Silverstein, Masami Takahashi, Brian Newman, Aaron Gubi, and Nicole Mccann. “Test Anxiety and Academic Performance in Undergraduate and Graduate Students.” Journal of Educational Psychology 97.2 (2005): 268-74. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.

Dochy, Filip. The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies: The case of research on prior knowledge. Review of Educational Research 69.2 (1999): 145-86. JSTOR. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Ravid, Ruth. Practical Statistics for Educators. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. Print.

Sagor, R. (2011). The Action Research Guidebook: A Four-Stage Process for Educators and School Teams (2nd Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California, United States of America: Corwin.

Spector, Stacy. “Cultivating Labor Management Collaboration.” Leadership 42.5 (2013): 16+. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

 

EDU 6528: Individual Reflection

“…Teaching also involves complex choices about difficult problems that, if left unaddressed, often escalate. A different type of thinking is needed to address such choices. Tough choices call for teacher to engage in sophisticated reflection – including self-reflection.” (Danielson, 2009)

I chose for this individual reflection to keep both a “sticky note” journal in my plan book and a written journal of the overarching ideas of the week. I felt that the sticky notes which I took directly after a lesson would capture my immediate thoughts and reactions for that lesson, while the more detailed and time-intensive journal would allow me the time and space to truly reflect on my practice and provide next steps. After looking at the various methods I felt that this would be the easiest way to capture my thoughts in real time. It is hard to remember details if you wait too long and I knew that would be a key to learning for me.

The beginning of the project went relatively smoothly. Following each lesson I would record positives (+), negatives (-), and next steps for future practice. Then at the end of the day I would reflect on the notes I took on each lesson and write my further reflections, thoughts, ideas, and next steps that were not already documented. I utilized the 4-Step reflection process for my journal portion as detailed in the text. This idea of individual reflection dates back to the work of Dewey in 1933. He suggested, “Reflection begins with a dilemma. Effective teachers suspend making conclusions about a dilemma in order to gather information, study the problem, gain new knowledge, and come to a sound decision. This deliberate contemplation brings about new learning.” (Danielson, 2009) The dilemma I was having is that my lesson pacing seemed rushed and I was struggling to get to my closing activities and implement them with any fidelity. I was hoping through the reflection process that the “why” this was happening would be clear to me.

At first, to be honest, this seemed like another tedious act that would not provide much impact for the amount of work it was taking, but quickly, I realized I was wrong. Each lesson that I reflected on, asking myself the What?, Why?, So What?, and Now What? Questions, I saw easy changes that I could make immediately. I realized things about my students that I had not known before and I would come into the next lesson that day with a different mindset and drive. I discussed some of these observation with my grade level team and one realization we made was that my class this year is very young compared to the other groups of third graders. My students have later birthdays with many in the spring and three of them just turning eight this September, where most of their peers are turning nine during this school year. This observation was clearly linked to the dilemma I was having. This group needs many more examples, visuals, and hands on learning opportunities than my third graders needed last year.

This is an example of “deliberate thinking” which goes beyond just reflecting back on each lesson and having notes for future practice. While that is extremely worthwhile and enables me to plan better for next year and even for lessons for this current group. Deliberate thinking means, “An educator purposefully seeks more information than the immediate context provides by, for example, revisiting theory, talking with colleagues, interviewing students, or reviewing student records. The goal is to learn more to better understand the dilemma.” As the authors stated in Reflective Teaching to Improve Schools, “In preparation for future use, she makes changes in lesson immediately, not only to capture specific ideas that emerge but to document the reasons and thinking underlying the changes as well.” (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, & Montie, 2006) As far as addressing my original dilemma, some recurring issues stood out to me in my reflections. I was basically trying to do too much. By incorporating good teaching strategies, wait time, deeper questioning, and allowing for the extra processing time this group needs, I was trying to add too much content into a day. That is why I couldn’t get to that final and all important piece of my closing activity.

I decided to implement some changes right away. This week for science I used my reflection observations as I planned. For each lesson I took out one step and moved that to the next day. Then I added a lesson on Friday which is usually not a science day. Making a few simple switches to our schedule and finding the extra 45 minutes gave me time to complete all the teaching needed, slow down my pacing, and incorporate the closing activities. I saw that my students were less stressed and it seems that their learning has already been deepened. I was also less stressed and enjoyed the teaching much more! Clearly, the time it took to do the reflections was worth it and enabled me to actually make better use of time overall. This realization has made me see that reflecting on lessons and daily practice is not just something we should do as a student teacher or when we have a problem and want to solve it, but should be a part of my daily practice. A next step for me will be to incorporate students’ reflections into my closing activities and then use those comments as part of my own reflection process. Being intentional in reflection can only be a positive to myself and my students.

 

Danielson, Lana M. “Fostering Reflection.” Educational Leadership 66.5 (2009): Web. 1 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Fostering-Reflection.aspx&gt;.

York-Barr, Jennifer. Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2006. Print.

 

TL Standard 9: Teacher Leaders Evaluate and Use Effective Curriculum Design

Teacher Leader Standard 9 states: Teacher leaders evaluate and use effective curriculum design. Previously, I felt confident in my skills around curriculum design, however, given the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and increased demands on teachers and students, the rigors of curriculum and unit design have drastically increased. I initially felt overwhelmed and despite my years of experience, I was doubting my abilities to step up to the new rigor. This course allowed me to apply my previous knowledge and experience while implementing new learning and standards into my unit planning all increasing my confidence and ability to use curriculum in an effective way.

The readings for this course were Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe and Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The first text, Understanding by Design, gave us the format and method upon which to build our unit design.

I focused on the three stages of the backwards design model during my unit planning:

  1. Identify the results
  2. Determine acceptable evidence
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.

(Wiggins & McTighe, 2005)

By beginning with the end in mind. I started with identifying the CCSS and key understandings that my students should have following this unit. By creating the curriculum map seen here –

photo unit map,

I could get the big ideas laid out first and move from there. I then looked at my unit assessment and decided to pick out how each question aligned to the standards that I want my students to achieve. I also looked at the target type. In Classroom Assessment for Student Learning, the authors break learnings targets (standards) into four types: Knowledge, Reasoning, Skill, or Product targets. Teachers should consider, “whether the content standard’s ultimate goal is the acquisition of knowledge, the development of reasoning capabilities, the demonstration of a physical skill, or the creation of a product.” (Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, Arter, p. 61) I determined that all of the CCSS associated with my unit are asking for a reasoning level in order to reach the standard.

As I analyzed my learning targets and compared them with the questions on my unit exam I was surprised to find that what was being asked of the students on the unit exam were skills where they had to apply their knowledge and reasoning to create an equation. The exam was also very heavy in text which requires the students to apply reading comprehension skills as well as math skills to solve each problem. I do know that the math unit teaching covers the learning targets above and gives opportunity for the students to achieve a reasoning level of proficiency which is what is being asked of them in the CCSS. I have two ideas as to how to cover the gap between the learning target and what is being asked of them on the exam. One is to use a different assessment where the equations are given to the students and they have to use reasoning skills to determine the correct answer (multiple choice). Second, I can make sure that during the teaching of my unit I include ample opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and reasoning to create their own word problems and equations, there by moving the learning targets into the skill and product levels. This was the option that I decided to focus on.

Once my unit assessments were in place and aligned to the standards (steps 1 and 2 of UBD), I was able to move on to step 3 and plan my learning experiences and instruction. Formerly, this would have been my first step in the process, but my knowledge now of the backwards design method enabled me to plan activities and lessons which directly related to the outcomes I was expecting to achieve. The Final Unit Plan and Lesson Plans capture the standards and the scope and sequence of what will be taught, incorporating both formative and summative assessments in the process.

In order to fully plan my unit and make it relevant to my students, the readings in Curriculum 21 were key. The author, Heidi Hayes Jacobs gave us the “philosophical, theoretical, and historical aspects to curriculum design.” In the opening chapters of Curriculum 21, Jacobs makes a compelling argument for why and how we need to upgrade our curriculum to educate today’s generation. “You are making choices for the generation you are charged to nurture. You are making those choices now.” (p. 5) Jacobs poses a poignant question to us, “Do our students enter our schools and classrooms and feel like they have time traveled back to the 1980’s (or even earlier) and then at the end of the day do they feel they have returned to the 21st century?” (p. 7) She lays out how much of what we do in education is out of habit and historic patterns that were set up in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I reflected on my own practice and asked myself, “Does my classroom represent what I did in school or am I preparing these students for their future schooling and careers?” Although much of what I teach is the same (content), how I teach it and the tools I utilize with my students, especially in technology, are very different. The instructional strategies I use are something I never had as a student. In my elementary school, classrooms were quiet and not collaborative. Desks were in rows and lecture and recall of facts were the primary method of instruction and student work. Within my unit design I made sure to apply the instructional strategies and technology that would be relevant to my 21st century students.

One key aspect to my work was Curriculum Analysis. I chose to analyze the Third Grade math curriculum that my district uses, Envision math. In this analysis, I found that overall it is a sound and comprehensive program. However, I did see that there were issues in regards to too many text based questions which would alienate our ELL population and lower level readers. I also noted that this curriculum is a spiral based program and in my study of the CCSS I learned that it is a mastery based standards system. I researched further to analyze the alignment of Envision to the CCSS I found the following quote in one of their own publications –

Unlike many state curriculum frameworks, the Common Core State Standards do not present a spiral curriculum in which students revisit numerous topics from one year to the next with progressively more complex study. Rather, the CCSS identify a limited number of topics at each grade level, allowing enough time for students to achieve mastery of these concepts. The subsequent year of study builds on the concepts of the previous year. While some review of topics from earlier grades is appropriate and encouraged, the CCSS writers argue that reteaching of these topics should not be needed.

(Transitioning to Common Core Teacher Guide, Pearson Education, 2012)

It is clear to me that in a very spiral based curriculum such as Envision, meeting the standards to mastery will be difficult to accomplish if we continue planning and teaching as we have in the past. Further work in this area of curriculum alignment is needed by both the publisher of the curriculum, the district, and school based PLC teams. My PLC team will be looking at this closely this year to make the necessary instructional changes so that our students can meet the new standards and be prepared for fourth grade and beyond. As a result of the learning and experience gained in this course, I feel ready to meet this challenge and be able to lead my team in this important work.

In my future work as a principal, I know that my learning in TL Standard 9: Evaluating and Using Effective Curriculum Design, will be key to my work. As the instructional leader of my building, it is my responsibility to understand and drive this work and know how to support my staff in the important instruction they do in their classrooms each day. Having the background of Understanding By Design and planning with the end in mind, can be expanded to the whole school environment. Understanding how to set student end of year growth goals and work backwards to see those goal achieved is a vision I have for my future building staff. I eagerly anticipate this work in my future.

References –

Charles, Randall I., Janet H. Caldwell, and Mary Cavanaugh. EnVisionMath Common Core. Glenview, IL: Pearson Education, 2012. Print.

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2010. Print.

Harvard Family Research Project – http://www.hfrp.org/

Stiggins, Richard J., Judith A. Arter, Jan Chappuis, and Stephen Chappuis. Classroom

Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right — Using It Well. Upper Saddle River,       NJ: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.

Wiggins, Grant P., and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005. Print.