This week I begin participating in a book club discussion on teaching matters most, A School Leader’s Guide to IMPROVING CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION by Thomas M. McCann, Alan C. Jones and Gail A Aronoff. This week we will be discussing chapter 1 “What are common practices in schools?” I’d like to share some of my take-aways, thoughts and questions in this space. The authors begin by challenging schools to look at and be able to describe in detail what good teaching looks like and sounds like. So what do I think good teaching looks like and sounds like? Recently I read 25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently. Number 1 – Have clear objectives definitely is a must for good teaching. We have been working on getting maps in Rubicon Atlas to baseline. This is tedious at times, but having maps that meet the minimum baseline is so important to good teaching. Having a positive attitude, a sense of humor, expecting students to succeed, being a risk taker, being reflective and being a life long learner are also important. Being willing to try new tools and allow thinking outside of the box will keep school interesting and help in engaging the learner and the teacher.
Along with completing maps of the curriculum we have been working on aligning assessments, teaching strategies and technology. It has taken me a while to completely understand why we are doing this, and how to best record it for elementary is still a bit allusive. However, as I think about what good teaching looks like and sounds like, being able to tell a new teacher to our school, “Here are the curriculum maps with the standards, learning targets, essential questions, enduring understandings, content, skills and resources. Along with that, here are some of the assessments across the curriculum and grade levels, instructional strategies and technology that we as a school feel are important. Other teachers at the school are using the same instructional strategies and the students are familiar with these terms. These are not the only strategies we expect you to use in the classroom, but these are proven and we expect you to use them.” The completed maps and alignment chart will help us as a school be able to articulate what a good instructional program looks like. But is that enough? No, that is what an ideal but what is the reality?
Having people prepared to go into classrooms to measure the present state of teaching is also important. Knowing where we are as a school will help inform what professional development needs to take place to help the teaching staff close the gap between what is the school’s instructional worldview and actual practice. How do we measure where the school is? Who should do the observations? Is this for the administration to do or should the department chairs also be a part of the data collection and discussion of the present state? Would it be beneficial to have staff go into other classrooms to observe and share their findings?
Often schools will single out struggling subgroups of students and seek ways to “fix” the problem. What needs to happen is not fixing of one group or subgroup, but teachers who consistently use best practice across the curriculum to help all of the students to success. Professional development needs to help all the teachers be more reflective and to improve their craft.
So, what does this mean for me? I need to work on getting all of my maps to baseline and help the elementary teachers also check that they are meeting the baseline. I want to help the teachers understand what instructional strategies we believe are best practice and how they can be used in their classroom. I want to make sure that I am using best practice in my classroom but also modeling it when working with my PLC.
Several weeks ago I received an email that the article linked in this post was first posted here. I want to thank Andrianes for letting me know and I’m sorry I didn’t get this link posted more quickly. I had read the first article without searching future.