Friday, November 8, 2013

Educators reflecting on "The Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades."

There are 20 teachers and administrators discussing the Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades in our school.  Here are their reflections after our first meeting.  Many are grappling with some of the concepts in their reflections below.

Mr. Leier:

Mr. Olson:

Mrs. Bernhardt:

Mrs. Mattson:

Mrs. Sveet:

Mrs. Sjol:

Mr. Gullickson:

Mr. Blikre:

Mrs. Johnson:

Mr. Stewart:

Mrs. Olsen:

Mrs. Miller:

Mrs. Rham:
The first two chapters of  A Repair Kit for Grading made me reflect on some of my past practices when I had to assign letter grades. There are some things I would do differently, such as not deducting points for late work, or giving full credit for students who redo work.

The first two chapters also made me think that to make the changes suggested, standards based reporting needs to be implemented. We used a standards based report card in kindergarten the first quarter of this school year. It was more time consuming to fill out, but I believe it gave parents a better picture of what standards their child had mastered and which ones they are still working on. Behavior and social skills are a separate section on the report card so they were not included in determining the student's grade on the standards.

I use formative assessments frequently to determine if students have mastered a skill, or if reteaching is necessary. The summative assessments are used for reporting on the report cards.

Ms. Skeen:

Mrs. Raymond:

Mrs. Hill:

Mrs. Fritz:

Mrs. Trottier:

Mrs. Stricker:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five roadblocks to teacher leadership

I am reading Learning by Heart, by Roland Barth. Many schools including my own have a reference to creating "life long learners" in their mission statements, but are we actually doing this? What is our culture of learning in our school?  I believe establishing this type of culture for our kids starts with all of us. We need to establish a culture of learning, and that will trickle down to students.
"There are at risk students and at risk educators, an at risk educator is: any teacher, principal, guidance counselor, or librarian who leaves school at the end of the day or end of the year with little possibility of continuing learning." Roland Barth 
According to Barth, there are two types of schools: learning-enriched schools and learning-impoverished schools.  It doesn't take long to figure out if a school places a focus on learning.  I believe you can feel it when you enter the building, and all one has to do is to take a peek at what is occurring in the classrooms.
"If they (students) see adult models who are done, baked, cooked, finished as learners, they to what to be done, baked, cooked, finished as learners." Roland Barth 
So how do we create a culture of learning?  I think it starts with developing teacher leaders.  I believe all teachers should and can lead in some way.
"The way to learn is by leading; the way to lead is by learning." - Roland Barth
So why do very few teacher leaders exist in most schools?  Barth mentions reasons as to why below.

1. Our plate is full

Most of the time teacher leaders have a full plate and see school leadership as an add-on OR they feel leadership is only for the principal and superintendent.  The mantra is, "they lead and I teach."

2. There's never enough time

It's all about time, and time is why the plate is full.  How often as leaders do we use our busiest people, because we know it will get done?  (I am so very guilty of this!) One way we have started to attack the time issue is to use a weekly late start for collaboration.  I believe it is a start for developing our capacity and opening the doors to sharing.

3. Opposition from colleagues

I have seen this first hand, it is hard to believe that we have opposition from our teacher's colleagues when they put their neck out to lead. We organized our two in-service days this year around teacher led professional development.  I thought it was some of the best PD I have seen, it was informal and teachers learned from each other.  We recently received some survey results back and a few hint at resentment towards these teacher leaders that put their neck out there.  This was mind boggling to me.

4. Caution and insecurity

Why is sharing our craft knowledge so risky?  Barth shared a story from a Rhode Island teacher that may shed light on this.

"When a teacher is truly passionate about her work, others are threatened because they don't feel it, or can't impart it to their students.  Sometimes I feel impeded in my work by teachers and administrators who are threatened by my enthusiasm."

This taboo prevents teacher leaders from wanting to present something great that is happening in their classroom.  It's a shame that we allow this to happen.  I think it goes back to the beginning of this post.  Do we have culture of learning or a culture of isolation? A culture of learning encourages and promotes the sharing of best practices.  People are open and willing to critique themselves.

5. Active resistance to teacher leadership

Toxic environments prevent teacher leaders.  Those people who constantly say, "It can't be done" kills teacher leaders.  Barth says there are two groups that prevent teacher leadership. The first group is well practiced at sitting back and waiting for new ideas to die.  The second group actively sets up road blocks.
"Want to reorganize the day? Can't.  The contract doesn't allow it.  Want to form interdisciplinary teams? Can't." 
Regardless of how strong the superintendent or the principal are they may never be able to cushion teacher leaders from these groups. Therefore according to Barth, "teacher leadership can turn into ostracism."

So what are we doing to keep our teacher leaders safe from being outcasts and promoting the idea that every teacher can lead?  This is my struggle.