Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rethinking

I taught junior high for 15 years. I was young, a new teacher, and full of enthusiasm. If there was a committee, I joined it. If it needed to be done, I did it.

When I transferred to the high school, I quit doing anything. I was burnt out. Tired of being the go to girl. A big part of not wanting to be involved was feeling like I was involved in a dog and pony show. No one really took what I thought seriously. I was just a teacher, after all.

Three years with my current principal has convinced me to throw my hat back in the ring. This year I volunteered to be on the 7-12 Academic Building Leadership Team (BLT). Tonight, my principal just made me smile and wish I had many more years to teach.

We've been talking about the classes we offer, whether they have to be leveled by grade or if we could open many of them up and let kids take them when they want. It was brought up that some areas need to be leveled. There are just some classes you need to take before others. We all agreed. Someone mentioned English might be one of those areas.

My principal knows me too well.

I must have been making a face.

"Speak up Mrs. Day." He knows that I hate speaking out in meetings, especially when I think my voice doesn't matter. I also don't really want to ruffle any feathers. But, I know that my voice matters to him. He really wants to know what I think. He really will make things happen if it's in the realm of possibility. He really listens.

Here's my thought. I don't think we need "English 9" and  "English 10". I think we need to make sure they pass the standards at those grade levels. Students should be able to read and think and write. They should be able to comprehend complex text and offer their opinions. They should ask questions and know how and where to find answers. They should solve their own problems. We should offer classes that help them meet those ideals and then let them move on.

We don't need the labels (Someone smarter than me called this Standards Based Grading). When I write a lesson plan, create a unit (or a class), I think about what I want my students to be able to do when they leave my room.But I don't believe that the 10th grade class depends on what is learned in the 9th grade class. I believe we give students two years to meet standards.

What made me smile was the rather rebellious remark by my principal (and I'm paraphrasing here).

"I'd like to throw it all out. All the grade levels, classes, all of it. We need to say here's what you need to know. How about it we said,' You need some help in English? Show up with Mrs. Day in the morning. You need to know how to do something in Math. Meet at 1:00."

I love that my principal wants to rethink school as we know it because I believe that needs to happen.

What will that look like?

I don't know. He doesn't know either.

I'm not sure it will happen in my teaching life.

But I sure would like to see it.

12 comments:

  1. I like your principal. Can I come work in your building?!

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  2. I cannot express how much I love this. School needs to be rethought. I hope it is in my career because I want to be part of it. The idea excites me completely.

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  3. Good leadership is a) incredible and b) hard to find. And to think that he would start all over again, from scratch. I'm THERE!

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  4. Glad you were able to share and that your principal believes in you. I so agree with you.

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  5. I'm on our BLT this year too! (Except that I didn't volunteer -- my principal picked me, which I think is a big compliment!) Your BLT obviously needs you -- I'm so glad they have you! Your principal sounds AMAZING! Is he on Twitter, or does he have a blog? I bet my mom would love to talk to him. (She's a high school principal, in case you didn't know that.)

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    1. He does have Twitter @tfelderman78 I wish he blogged. Haven't been able to get him on the bandwagon yet :) Our district also the hashtag #2020HowardWinn You and your mom should follow along!

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  6. I like those ideas! Why is it that the things that make the most sense are the things that never seem to come to fruition? I hope you do get to be a part of this!

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  7. May I come teach in the classroom next to you?

    We can dream and be genuine and do our best all day long...reading, writing, thinking.

    Thanks for being so real.
    Ruth

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  8. Amazing what a difference good leadership makes. We all know that we signed up to be part of a system that we cannot control, but knowing your leader dreams big has got to make some of the non-negotiables more palatable. Not that I would know from experience...

    Your leader is brilliant if he knows to listen to your voice. Yours is a vision worth sharing.

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  9. You want us all to move there and teach together, Deb? We'll be there! At my school, one of the concepts is 'no ceilings'. Isn't that exactly what you and your principal are thinking about? I have a story. In my class kids wrote all over the place, everything, essays, stories, memoir, poetry, etc. Sometimes from research, sometimes created, but one or two things every week, 6th, 7th & 8th graders. When they go to high school, it's pretty easy, & they so needed teachers like you who would have taken them into new places. I had one student return to say that his English teacher assigned an intro paragraph for the week, and many in the class complained that it was too much. He laughingly said he would never, ever tell the teacher what he could do! I don't still know whether to laugh or cry at this. I hope your expertise can lead the way!

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  10. Thanks for the comments ladies. Don't know if you will get back here but thought I would add a couple of links for you to check out. Here's what's going on in our district. You can follow the twitter feed at #2020HowardWinn

    http://www.kimt.com/news/north-iowa-school-receives-10000-grant

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  11. Your principal sounds amazing, as do your ideas for rethinking the way classes are taught (and standards are met).

    If I were a secondary person, then there's no doubt I'd want you to be teaching next door to me. You're incredible, Deb!

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