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Lash the rafts together!

Well, we have almost made it to the end of the first nine weeks.  With all the changes we are working through in education, one focus remains…our students and their ability to learn.  I think we would all agree that the ability to learn is the most important skill our students can have, as well as a skill with which our students seem to struggle.  Being able to learn has to come before critical thinking or problem solving skills can be developed.
I know I am guilty of focusing on the content–after all, I know my students are tested on that and must grow in that.  As a teacher, I know simply force feeding students a diet of new information will not lead to mastery of the skill or content.  Ohio’s New Learning Standards demand we teach our students how to learn.  This article from Mind/Shift was a good reminder for me to teacher students HOW TO LEARN.  (Click here to read it). There is a list of strategies we can use with students or teach students to use.  I find myself asking students more and more to explain how they came to understand something.  How do you know?  Why did you do it that way?  What went wrong here?  What in the text made you think that?
I was reminded of the importance of learning about learning this week as I worked on a high level thinking process with some other English teachers.  The students were posed with a question and from there it was their jobs to figure out what they knew, didn’t know, and what they needed to know to fully answer the question.  The goal was to research, collaborate, and build knowledge.  The goal is not the end product but rather the process.  We are finding our students are not good at open-ended real-world processes.  But shouldn’t that be THE SKILL they have when they leave Vantage?
I challenge you to examine if your classroom is about learning to learn.  We cannot deprive our students of the ability to know how they arrived at an “answer” or how they determined the procedure to solve a problem.  This is called metacognition, and it is also the skill we must have as teachers as we learn to explain why we do what we do in the classroom.   I would also challenge you to collaborate on a lesson with another teacher.  I have written units with my other staff before, but this week I tried something totally new with some other teachers.  We were constantly reworking and reflecting about the process.  The week was energizing….and we can all use that.
I am still treading water and keeping my head above the surface, but this week I lashed my raft to a couple others and floated for awhile.   I was still paddling like mad, but the journey was shared.  AND THE STUDENTS REAPED THE BENEFITS!!!

Feel like your head is spinning?

Ohio is a place of change….at least educationally.  So much change that it is mind boggling at times.  Three changes are affecting classroom teachers in my building directly.  The New Learning Standards (what I teach and when I teach it), the Next Generation of Assessments (how students are evaluated as a measure of overall school effectiveness), and the Teacher Evaluation system (my effectiveness measured via observations and the growth my students achieve and then boiled down to a one word rating).  Plus new school rating report cards, the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, and changed in Early Childhood Education standards.   And in Career Tech our school board structure will be shifting.  Yep, all that AT ONCE….spinning, spinning, confusing, and dizzying.

And, some things did not go away.  New teachers participate in a four year residency program in addition to this.  Ohio Graduation Tests and the Next Generation of Assessments will happen simultaneously for awhile.  Individualized Education Plans will still be written and implemented.   And on, and on.

This handy chart from ODE offers a quick look at what is happening when.

Time to jump in

Well, it is time to do it.   Time to jump in.  Time to take the plunge.  Time to blog professionally.  I have been actively blogging for two years on a personal blog (arlaallen.com), but now it is time to add a professional blog.  I am guessing the blog will be more a repository or curation of all the amazing material I find about teaching, learning, and technology.  I also hope to provide an easy way for my colleagues to find information they need when they need it.

I have been busy this summer.  I have volunteered to teach administrators, support staff, and teachers how to use Google Apps effectively to do their jobs more effectively.  In June, I completed the three-day training to become an OTES Certified Assessor.  OTES stands for Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.  This system of evaluation will be required in my building beginning next year.

I also was accepted to be part of the Ohio Department of Education Network of Leaders.  Our job is to become knowledgeable about the New Learning Standards in Ohio and the Next Generation of Assessments and then go forth and train others.  It is exciting to be more closely in contact with ODE.