Sunday, April 12, 2015

Looking to the Future

I have been watching a lot of baseball. We haven't had a great year. Some decisions have been questioned and the answer was, "We will be great next year." That made me think. We should be preparing for the future. But you know if you look for the red light down the road you might hit the car in front of you in the butt. So how do you prepare for the future without wrecking the present? 
First, look at what you have to start with. This may not be what you consider championship quality. But as a leader it is your responsibility to get them where you want them to be. 
Next, evaluate each teacher and hourly worker. What are their good points and what are the points that need growth? That's the easy part. 
Then comes the hard part. Tell them. Yep tell them. What do you see that's good? What do you see that's not as good? I struggle with this part as do most people. It's so hard. 
However, I can't build my future team by ignoring my present team. There are some really good teachers coming I know! But there are some really good teachers here already. They just need to be told what changes need to be made in order to grow. If I just let them continue to teach as they always have they will never change. That doesn't mean they can't. I am not going to throw them away and only work with the new, young teachers. My older, more experienced teachers have a lot to show us. Every few years the curriculum changes. Those teachers have been through the changes before and know how to flow with it. Most of these experienced teachers also know how to manage the classroom. 
I don't know all the answers but I do know we can't throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes we need change, but we don't have to start completely over. If you build a team with all new players you will not be successful. The experience is missing. A great baseball team marries the experienced players and the new players to build a new, stronger team. If you don't use your experience you are setting yourself up for failure. 
Quit looking so far down the road that you don't see what's right in front of you. Like the old saying, it's as plain as the nose on your face." Grow what you have, teach what you are getting, and see success in your present instead of having to wait for the future! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

My opinion


I have been reading a lot of articles and books lately. Some say reteach- redo. Some say build grit. I am not sure which is right. I can see the benefits of both.
One amazing author says giving zeros tells the students the work wasn't important. We should reteach, let re-do, and give full credit. I agree with this because if I require lesson plans from my teachers, and if the teacher takes the time to develop amazing lesson plans, they should require the student to learn the standards. Each standard is required so why would we let the student get away without doing the work and without learning the standard? Why would we allow students to move on (or not) to the next grade unprepared? We all know the next year's teachers will make a judgement on what the student knows. Because of all of this we have developed a ZAP policy at my school. (Zeros aren't permitted.) If a student doesn't do the homework, doesn't finish the class work, or does poorly on a test the are sent to ZAP. In ZAP they are required to complete all work or be zapped again until they do. This has been extremely successful. Most students do not want to miss break or other free time and will get work done on time. 
I recently read a compelling article that says when we started lavishly praising kids and handing out trophies to all we made kids coddled, slower, and less likely to persevere. I agree somewhat with this as well. We have developed a set of students who want to wait until the retake to learn it. We have a set of students whose parents will come to school and demand their child be allowed to turn their project in late because they are "busy". The work is half done but want all credit. 
I do believe we should reteach and retake. It is our responsibility to make sure every child in our class learns what is necessary. If a child isn't doing the work the teacher needs to handle that. My opinion is that the student isn't there "yet". But we can get them there. Zeros are not permitted and that teacher needs to set expectations so the students know it will not be acceptable. The teacher should not accept the half-done project. Make them complete it. The teacher should also be held responsible for keeping the students engaged and making them want to learn. Students will rise or fall depending on expectations of the class, teacher, and school. 
But what about "that kid" : the one that will not do anything, the one that stays in ZAP for a week and still hasn't finished, the one after reteaching stills makes a poor grade? These are the students we end up having to give the zeros to. Time runs out and you have to make the decision to go ahead and move on. Are we teaching that student responbility? Doubtful. I know this because the next 9 weeks he does it again. 
Which is the correct answer? I am not sure. What I do believe though is that every student and every school is different and may require a few different things. We as a school system need to develop what is best for us. Maybe that requires a little bit of both philosophies. 
However, all this is my opinion. And you know about opinions: they are like feet- everyone has them and most of them stink. You decide.