Monday, June 25, 2012

Digging Up New Curriculum Ideas

Summer...finally.  I am spending some time sitting in my office surrounded by piles of papers, books and projects.  Buried in each pile are a lot of good ideas for teaching to more rigorous standards, using inquiry in science, integrating technology, helping students understand math...and many more.  I am sure all of you have similar piles - be they on your desk, in a book bag, on the dining room table or electronically as files on your computer.   During the school year it is easy for all these good ideas to get covered over by the daily info like student worksheets, attendance bulletins and faculty updates or the seemingly endless supply of vendor proposals and sales brochures.   Summer is the time to do some workplace archaeology.

I spend my time off in the summer as a field supervisor for the Archaeology Field School of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  What I have learned over the past 8 seasons is that first, you have to scrape off the "disturbed dirt" in the plow zone to get to the interesting stuff - much like clearing off your desk and getting rid of all the miscellaneous papers and forms that might be covering up information your really can use.    Once you get to the interface - that area where all the interesting stuff actually is - you need to take time to examine what you see, troweling down through important features carefully looking for key artifacts.  So, as teachers or administrators, pick out the information and ideas that you think will be most useful to you as you plan new or revised assessments, new lessons and new activities for the coming year - and get recycle all of the rest.   I have two files that I am working on for the summer. The first file contains vital information that I need to reference in order to make decisions about ordering supplies, planning  etc. The second contains articles, hand written notes, and lists of resources that I want to spend more time thinking about before the next school year starts - my key artifacts that will help me to put together a clear picture of what I can do to continue to make the transition to the new Common Core, teacher evaluations and assessments.

If you'd like to learn more about what I do in the field, you can follow the CMNH archaeology blog written by Dr. Brian Redmond ( I am in the picture on this week's post - at the right with the blue bucket)  I am working on developing unit materials that tie Common Core Standards and Ohio Model Curriculum to the archaeology work being done at the museum - we are focusing on pre-European contact populations in NE and NW Ohio.  There are many math, science, language arts and social studies standards that can be addressed using the real world data being generated by the museum team.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shifting to Common Core - Building the Plane While We Are Flying It

With all the change that needs to occur in the educational culture of Ohio between now and 2014-2015, we, as educators,  can not afford to wait until the last minute to shift our professional thinking, our evaluation plans, our assessment methods, our grading practices or our course content.  This reality has left teachers and administrators throughout the state trying to figure out different ways to "build the plane while they are flying it".  As I take time to reflect back on all of the discussions, workshops, articles, conferences and parking lot conversations I have participated in over the past year, I have begun to identify the plane parts that really need to be in place going into the 2012-2013 school year.

The Fuselage - every plane needs a solid body to attach the parts to.   In our district the "fuselage" is made up of the administration team, the k-12 curriculum teams, the grade level teams, course departments, tutors, and support staff.   As we move into next year, we need to make sure that these groups communicate effectively, have the right data or information they need to make decisions and have adequate time to collaborate.

An Engine - In order to keep moving forward, a plane needs an engine to provide the energy to keep it up in the air.  Energy in education comes from innovation and the sharing of ideas. I think there is a misconception that new ideas come from only new teachers.  It has been my experience that sometimes it is the more veteran teachers, who have a solid understanding of classroom management and their curriculum, who are more willing to try new grading ideas, new assessment ideas, and new approaches to teaching.  We have a lot to learn from each other as content shifts grade levels, we adjust to teaching content to a greater depth or with more rigor, and we all shift the way we think about how to assess and support student learning.  The more reading we do, the more conferences we attend, the more websites we use for resources, the more we collaborate...the more energy we generate for our district.

A Tail - Some of you might argue that wings are more necessary than a tail - but remember, we are building the plane as we fly it.  The tail provides stability and direction for the plane.   There are two pieces to our district "tail".  First, we need to take a good hard look at the data that we have available to us to make decisions that impact student learning and growth.  Then, we need to decide what additional data we might need and how to collect it.  Secondly, we need to work together to build a revised set of district level SMART goals, that can be used to drive building level SMART goals that can be used to create classroom level SMART goals.  These goals will help to keep us on course as we move toward 2014-2015.

As we  all pack up our classrooms and look forward to summer break, we need to pick one of these parts that we are willing to spend some time thinking about over the summer and come back with new ideas to share with each other.

Have a WONDERFUL summer break!  It has been my pleasure being part of the Bay Village team.
Check on my blog over the summer, I will continue to share ideas and resources.