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Archive for the ‘School Climate’ Category

September 20th, 2015 by Luann

All Means All, Part 4: Learning from Parents

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. #AllMeansAll 

At the beginning of each year, I send a safety contract home with my students to sign with their parents.  There’s also a place for parent and student to sign that they read and understand the course information and syllabus. The truly important questions, though, are on the other side of the paper.

Yes, I want to know what parents expect for their child in my class. While this survey is far from scientific, every year the answers I receive cause me to reconsider how I communicate with students and parents. Here, in general terms to protect privacy, is a summary of some of the most common comments from parents explaining what they want for their kids. Some comments are not at all surprising. Some comments, however, make me step back and think.

Parents want me to:

  • be enthusiastic about our learning.
  • be a really great teacher.
  • know if their child will learn to work with chemicals safely.
  • treat their children courteously and with respect.
  • know their children are kind, funny, clever, interesting, talented, intelligent, hard-working, conscientious, scared, stressed, anxious, are quick learners, struggle with math, are gifted artists and writers and musicians.
  • be available for any help their child might need with understanding concepts or learning skills.They want me to know their child doesn’t always like to ask for help.
  • communicate with them if there are any issues with their children, be they behavioral or academic – assignments missing, failing grades. They want to hear from me if they call or email.
  • actually teach the class and not just hand out papers and expect students to understand.
  • know they can’t help with chemistry homework.
  • provide career guidance and prepare their children for college.

Parents want their children to:

  • be challenged appropriately.
  • enjoy science and learning.
  •  “just please pass this class.”
  • be able to ask questions and get answers delivered in a way that doesn’t make their child feel like an idiot.
  • be challenged.
  • be given clear expectations

Parents want to know what they can do to help their children be successful.

Most of all, each parent wants me to know his/her child; to know that Rosa loves her dogs more than anything; that Abby is on the state equestrian team and is a horse whisperer; that John needs frequent check-ins for understanding, that Katie lost her glasses and won’t be able to get a new pair for 3 weeks; that Zach is having surgery in October and will miss at least a week, that Mindy has anxiety attacks before tests but does just fine if I offer some reassurance beforehand that I know she can do well; that Jose wants to be a physicist and will take AP Chemistry and physics both next year; and that Roger wants to take over his grandfather’s machine shop after graduation.

There are very few surprise responses. Parents do ask questions,  and they expect answers.

How am I changed by knowing all this?  Students love knowing that I know a bit about them when I plan our work together. I can better craft physical and emotional learning environments that meet all students’ needs. I know  student seating preferences, who is reserved about speaking out, who doesn’t read aloud in class,  There’s something positive to talk about when I call home.

What do you do to better know your students?

September 14th, 2015 by Luann

All Means All Part 3: Graphing our Learning Styles

This is the third in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

 
Evaluating-learning-styles
Disclaimer: I’ve read a good deal of literature and opinion around the validity of learning styles. Nonetheless, at the encouragement of a colleague (this colleague) during some collaborative course design work, I pulled out the learning styles inventory* again this year, in Physical Science classes. The intent was to use the data gathered to introduce graphing, and that was a win.  The colleague suggested we share with students WHY we are interested in their learning styles. We are interested so that we can be sure to make learning available to all students in the modality each student best learns. We discussed this in both classes. The real win, though, was what I learned about my students, and what they learned about themselves.

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September 11th, 2015 by Luann

All Means ALL, Part 1

This is the first in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

This year, my district has adopted a motto.

All means ALL.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this……

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August 29th, 2015 by Luann

Seeking an Instructional Coach Who…

Are you an instructional coach? If so, have you encountered teachers who don’t think they need your services? You know, that old, cranky teacher whom you assume pulls out the same copy of a lesson plan each year because they’ve “always done it this way;” the teacher who doesn’t jump at every new app or piece of hardware, the teacher who eyerolls when new methods are introduced with more excitement than practice?  Before you make assumptions about why that teacher is resistant, here are some questions, in no particular order, you might want to be ready to answer before you walk into this teacher’s classroom:

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March 31st, 2015 by Luann

A Perspective on STEM in the US and Interesting Implications

Today, I read this article from the Washington Post. The author’s opinions of STEM are interesting. The connection to STEM as I know it is pretty broad. Some claims are backed up with evidence, some simply reinforce his stance on a liberal education for all.

The author made some great points. I read with interest.  The twelfth paragraph really jumped out at me.

“No matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon (and the owner of this newspaper), insists that his senior executives write memos, often as long as six printed pages, and begins senior-management meetings with a period of quiet time, sometimes as long as 30 minutes, while everyone reads the “narratives” to themselves and makes notes on them. In an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, Bezos said: “Full sentences are harder to write. They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”

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March 1st, 2014 by Luann

Instead of an instructional coach…

Here’s what I’d like to have instead of an instructional coach:

instead

Instead of a coach…. an assistant*.

Yup.  That’s right.

I want an assistant. Not actually an assistant for demos and teaching, although that could work. I want more of a, well,  lab manager.

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February 17th, 2014 by Luann

A Teacher’s Letter to Bill Gates

Background:

I worked every possible angle to attend the T&L conference, but it’s not in the cards this year. I was very disappointed that I could not attend,

Dear Mr. Gates

Dear Mr. Gates

and then I saw the email about Bill Gates as a speaker. I’ve been a long time supporter of NBPTS, having certified in AYA/Science in 1998 when the certificate was first available and renewing in the 2006-2007 cycle. I’ve supported initial cert candidates and renewal candidates, having written the renewal workshop materials for Washington State (WEA). I am working hard to promote certification to potential candidates in Oregon. I was watching the revisions as carefully as an outsider to the process can watch, and was very much hoping that the process would maintain the rigor and standards I’ve known since 1997 when I began the process. Associating Bill Gates with our profession, no matter how much money he might give, has alienated a good many potential candidates and has many of my NBCT colleagues across the nation questioning whether they will bother to renew. We do not want anyone who is not an educator in the position to offer financial incentives for following their decisions about what they believe is best for our profession and our students. I don’t remember a time I’ve been so disappointed in the direction my profession is taking, and it’s not my nature to watch in silence as it’s destroyed.

With that in mind, below is my letter to Bill Gates as he prepares to address my colleagues at the National Board Teaching and Learning Conference on March 14, 2014.

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December 15th, 2013 by Luann

Using Teacher Leadership to Facilitate Change

Last week, our superintendent announced her decision to modify the model under which our high school has operated for the past several years. We run as 4 small schools, courtesy of a Gates grant and other funding. Each small school has a principal, counselor, and central office staff.  We will continue in 4 small schools as student/parent/staff surveys, dropout rates, and other sources support the model. We will lose our 4-principal structure. Instead, we will have one decision-making principal, and three assistant principals. The likely structure will show one head principal, two assistant principals in charge of 2 small schools each, and one assistant principal will be charge of learning and professional development. Who will do each job?

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