One of the side benefits of doing literally nothing school-related (after summer school was done anyway) is a distinct lack of free-floating anxiety in the weeks leading up to the start of school. I do have a new LMS to learn but my schedule is unchanged so I can use last year’s plans as a starting point.
At some point tho I needed to open my school Chromebook and check email. My district is transitioning to the New Tech model one grade level at a time and this year it is the sophomores’ turn. So a few dozen of us met at the Admin Building for three days of training to kick off the month.
I think a lot of us are already down with the theory behind New Tech (college and career-ready outcomes, supportive and inclusive culture, meaningful and equitable instruction, purposeful assessment), and our freshmen teachers piloted New Tech in the building last year so they are our resident experts. Once we got the basics on project-based and problem-based learning (our trainer wasn’t a math teacher but she spoke the language. Even dropped a Dan Meyer blog post on us and made a Three-Act Math reference) on Day One, we spent some time on Day Two thinking about teachers we have had. And the Region kid in a lot of us bubbled to the surface.
We took a few moments to look over this chart from Zaretta Hammond’s book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain (coincidentally that was the selection for a district-wide book club last school year):
We were challenged first to think about teachers who did not fit the description of “warm demander”. The purpose was to introduce us to the concept of using a rubric and its associated feedback to become a warm demander. So the question to us was, “what’s the worst feedback you ever received?”
And the floodgates opened. From an administrator condescendingly saying “at least you tried” in an evaluation post-conference to a middle school teacher who told a student “you’ll never amount to anything”, everybody had a story.
Region folks are used to being treated like the red-headed stepchild. We’re in Chicago’s sphere of influence but as far as Chicago people are concerned we’re all hayseeds, because Indiana, meanwhile the rest of Indiana doesn’t claim us. It smells weird up here. So we are perpetual underdogs with the attitude to match. We remember the dis far more than the compliment. It’s fuel.
That’s a hell of a PD plan right there. Our facilitators couldn’t have set us up to understand intuitively the kind of detailed, actionable feedback delivered by a warm demander any better if they tried.
So because my mind is wired to make connections, I sat at the table in the midst of this group discussion with anecdotes from a book bouncing around my head.
My suspicions were correct: definite teacher connections in that Dodgers book. One of the theories of the Dodgers’ minor league development people is: baseball is a game built around failure. Famously it’s been pointed out that the best players in the game are unsuccessful 7 out of every 10 times at the plate. So coaches can’t nit-pick and micromanage players’ faults and expect results. Instead they focus on one or two specific, measurable areas of improvement and coach up those things. It’s a little like math in that regard. My kids already think they are bad at math. It does neither of us any good for me to harp on their areas of weakness, unless it’s something specific they can do to get better.
From all accounts it seems like a successful strategy.
They are 75-33, by far the most loaded team in baseball, and are on pace for 112 wins. Andrew Friedman knew he didn’t need to make any drastic moves this trade deadline — so he didn’t. He knew the team in place was good enough to win a World Series. And he knew they were only going to get better as their guys returned from the IL over the next few weeks.
The MLB record for most wins in a season is 116, accomplished by the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners. We may have to start talking about the 2022 Dodgers potentially setting a new one.https://deadspin.com/dodgers-remind-the-loaded-padres-that-they-re-still-the-1849385391
I’m a Cub fan for life but I definitely have some kindred spirits among this Dodger group.
But back to teaching: we had an opportunity to begin working in small content-area groups on using the New Tech format for lessons and rubrics. I took the Spiky Door Project and tweaked it a bit to fit the format. Truth be told I feel like that project falls midway between PBL and PrBL but what I really wanted was practice (with feedback) on the paperwork side. From spending the last 10-12 years hanging around the fringes of the MTBoS I know how to make and/or find project- or problem-based activities. There is quite a bit of crossover (culture of collaboration, non-curricular thinking tasks) with Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, which a couple of us in the department have read. The three-day workshop was mostly there to help us develop a common language and common focus as a staff. Which is a great way to start a new year.
One last takeaway: Day Two of the training the math teachers broke out with a facilitator who had been a math teacher. And that part was great but she delivered a line that will stay with me for a while. Might even end up on the wall behind my desk:
“Your kids’ collaboration and culture is never gonna be better than yours as a staff.”Brette Woessner
Before we left out teachers and instructional coaches from both high schools in my district were hashing out plans to build a bank of shareable project- and problem-based activities for us to add to and draw from. And we are encouraged to develop plans in our PLCs and spread out the burden of making the formal plans. This also forces us to collaborate on which sub-categories of the learning outcomes (agency, collaboration, written communication, oral communication, and knowledge and thinking) we intend to measure.
That, plus having a year as a consolidated school under our belts, I can feel the early-August weight coming off my shoulders already. Yesterday was the last care-free Sunday evening I’ll have for a while. Still got this week to myself tho. Gonna help out with freshman orientation in my building on Wednesday. And be ready for a Teacher Work Day on Monday.
Some of my teacher friends are already back to work today. This is the vibe I wish for them today and every day this year: