Friday, February 17, 2012

Living Through High School Redesign

My school has been going through redesign for a few years now. It is starting to wear on me, I feel tired all the time. Sometimes I wish I could turn back a few years and just be a teacher. Then, I watch Sir Ken Robinson and I'm reminded that the redesign is good work and will have long term benefits and I wish that what we are doing at our school was how school would have been for me.

Sometimes I feel I'm ahead of the group and I get pulled back. It makes me question my own thinking at times. Then when I give up on an idea for change, when it seems I'm not listened to, someone else says the same thing a few years after me and we start running with it. I'm happy to support an idea I had a few years before but it is discouraging to feel it was the right idea back when I had it only to give up at the time others want to adopt it. The right idea, but too soon.

Redesign is going to happen all across this country. We've been blazing some untraveled trails, which makes the work harder, because there is nothing to build on yet. We share our ideas with others who have watched us progress and want to do what we have done. We've had to make many changes as we discovered what didn't work, sometimes in mid-year. Some days I wake up and wish it was just done so I can go on with the business of teaching in a well-established system, but it's a strange organized chaos.

We are shifting from grading in the traditional way to grading competencies. Behaviors are separated out of the grade to keep it pure, so it reflects the learning. That means being late with an assignment is a behavior issue and cannot be addressed in the academic grade. So much work has built up to this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning How To Question

In tonight's class we talked about effective questioning as a part of collaboration with teachers and paraprofessionals.

I thought it was interesting that most of the questions that we ask each other are negative. The art of questioning is approaching the person with positive intentions. I remembered a workshop from last month when the presenter stated "Never ask 'what's going on?' when you witness a situation, instead, be direct and state your observation and what should be changed."

Tonight we talked about clarification, creating timelines, writing things down and clearing up questions at the beginning of the project. I have tried this with my students (before hearing this tonight) by giving them a timeline for the semester and found that this does work. I post it online where I know they will log in every day and they can tell you every day where they are at (behind pace, on pace, ahead of pace) and during my observation the other day, my VP asked students "Do you always know where you stand with deadlines" and the student said right away "I'm behind pace, but I'm absent a lot but I know I could catch up if I were to just log on at home and do the work I missed that day. I just haven't done that ... yet." I think it is important that all invested parties know where on the continuum they stand.

She talked tonight about making sure that we give accurate information when asked to clarify or confirm information because in our haste, we quickly answer questions without first checking the facts. I tend to agree. This happened to me with a student who I had seen working in class, and even checked his work in class, but he asked why he was failing the class. I told him he wasn't failing the class, because I had seen that his work was proficient and that he was right on track. When I went into our OpenClass system to double check his work (because his question prompted me to question my own observation) and there was no work in there. I realized what had happened was that he saved his work in the system but never submitted it. The next day I had to find out if he understood how to use the technology and realized he didn't know the difference between the "save" and "save and submit" buttons.

"Take time before you ask questions." She is so right. I'm very guilty of opening my mouth before I had a chance to formulate the question. I have also often felt stupid or humiliated by the question I asked. I tend to ask fewer questions, or I write out my thoughts as another person is talking so I won't forget what I want to ask but at the same time may find the answers in my own notes.