Monthly Archives: October 2011

Bad acronym, good work

Bad acronym, good work

Taking action planning to the teachers – Professional Learning Advisory Council (PLAC) tackles supporting learning needs aligned to core initiatives at Graded. MAP, Backwards Design, Rubicon Atlas and Integrating Technology begin to get a plan for more consistent clarity.


Will standards get ‘er done?

… standards, by themselves, do not improve education. Standards can do a great deal: they can set clear goals for learning for students and teachers, and establish guidelines for instruction and performance.

But to have an effect on the day-to-day interaction between students and teachers, and thus improve learning,  you have to implement the standards. That will require changes in curricula and assessments to align with the standards, professional development to ensure that teachers know what they are expected to teach, and ultimately, changes in teacher education so that all teachers have the capability to teach all students to the standards. The standards are only the first step on the road to higher levels of learning…

From: Five Myths About the Common Core State Standards

Robert Rothman

What kind of conversations do we want to be having?

We have recently committed to join a partnership of schools that lead  “Laptop Institutes.”  In collaboration with ASB, The Lausanne Laptop Institute and The American School of the Hague,  Graded School will serve to offer learning opportunities in South America, fostering thoughtful practice of technology in schools.  Yesterday was the first planning meeting to compile a to-do list before handing over the tasks to the committed group of faculty that will make it happen.

Lots of pieces fell into place quickly – recommendation of dates, key events, suggestions for speakers, and structure of the conference all seemed to rise to the top gracefully… until we got to theme and name.  Admittedly, this dialogue around theme brought me face to face with the challenge I see with implementing a 1:1 program. I think we’ve all heard that “it’s not about the technology” enough times to mutter it in our sleep (or at least I’ve been told that I’m muttering it in my sleep).  But so much of the international dialogue remains rooted in technology and digital tools.  I miss talking about quality work  not quality tools,  exploring  “Good Work”, and nurturing character, not just digital citizenship.

The good news is I don’t believe these conversations are mutually exclusive — and the really good news is that even though the conference will be a pile of work, it gives us the opportunity to control the conversation at our school, and potentially in the region.  To talk as much about the power of reflection and inquiry in a classroom, with or without the digital tools to support it… to speak to the art of living skillfully and thinking with precision… of intellectual endurance. This is our opportunity to craft a learning experience that fosters the conversations we want to be having. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Conference Dates: January 19-21 2013

“What did you want to see happen when…”

I used to laugh at sentence stems. I thought they were contrived and superficial, but I’ve discovered it is quite the opposite. Like a good protocol (yes, I really love protocols) they change the frame of thinking. They help build a different habit of discourse, and I find that I can weave them into dialogue fairly gracefully. This prompt that serves as the title is from a collection of prompts I’ve gathered over time for probing teachers’ thinking about instruction – about helping them visualize what they expect from students based on an instructional move.

I use this prompt to backwards plan meeting outcomes as well… and today, LLT (Learning Leadership Team) was the meeting. For the first time in awhile we had the opportunity to stop and reflect on our efforts in supporting teachers, specifically through observations and feedback. We had the opportunity to stop and reflect on the quality of our feedback and the value it serves in a teacher’s practice.  I was humbled.

When I presented research-based criteria of quality, I wanted to see leaders use this as a tool to self-assess and plan for refinement BUT I saw them identify areas where their feedback was not strong and reach out to their colleagues for critique and ideas… I saw them identify their greatest challenges and seek advice from another perspective… I saw them eager to learn, to serve and to lead well…

The prompt certainly served to set the stage, but I recognize the culture of our meetings empowers a sense of vulnerability that really does allow us to enter as learners.  I can’t help but take this question to the classroom level… how does your classroom culture empower a sense of vulnerability and reflection?  Need a prompt?

Finding the core in planning

I was lucky today – I got to do some of my favorite thinking with a colleague. C- and I met to work on refining a unit. We started by quickly ticking the AERO the standards, identifying the benchmarks, and then describing the final assessment. To wrap up this stage, we popped back up to the beginning to make sure both aligned. At first glance, this probably isn’t very compelling work, and most might even suggest there is a tedium to it, but I love the grace of alignment. I love that there is deep integrity between what we say kids should know and be able to do, and what C- was going to hold them accountable to in the final assessment – and in her instruction.

… and this is where it gets good. As I prompted C- to talk through instruction, to name the sequence, to consider the resources, there were many  thoughtful pauses. We wrestled with a lot of ideas, trying to stay on the simple side of things, until this short unit unveiled 5 core learning goals anchored in rigorous content. Two of these five goals specifically referenced character – perseverance and respect. As easily as it was to consider formative assessment for science content, we were able to name routines of reflection and collaborative critique that would enable students to identify their progress.

Sometimes it feels as though it is easy to fall back on the conversation that asks us to identify strategies for effectively using Rubicon or to defend the importance of teaching 21st century skills. This planning reminded me of something deeper – As my friend (and former teaching colleague used to say) we are “raising humans.”