Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How did we get here? Where do we go next?

Thanks so much to all of the teachers who so eloquently represented BES and OCS for the soon to be published article by the Public Education and Business Coalition. It was a pleasure to be "a fly on the wall" for the conversations during the interview by Paula Miller, Staff Developer for the PEBC, as she worked to learn more about: How did we do it? How did we learn how to teach like this? How do we get our kids to think deeply and use the strategies? and the ever important question: Are you there? "Uh, NO!" Ok, so what's next?
For everyone's viewing pleasure, here are some of your peer's thoughts on:
  • Superintendents' Support- Mr. Upchurch's leadership, "We're in the business of helping kids." and the other superintendents' support. -AND WE CERTAINLY ARE HERE AT BES!
  • A focused vision- that we go in-depth to understand, and it's sustained over time through PDs, instructional faculty meetings, and PLC group meetings. We share this vision with the other OCS.
  • A collegial community from TOP to bottom- The culture developed because we have a principal who told us, "I don't know all the answer's either, but we'll work though this together." We struggle together here. As E.Keene said, we know the understanding is in the struggle.
  • An iinstructional leader-  a principal who knows good instruction and shares in our new learning.
  • Reading research- optional (but encouraged) book clubs to foster our understanding and to encourage us to dig-in and work/wrestle with the strategies and concepts we are/were learning. We have learned the benefits of GRR, using the workshop approach, and teaching through the thinking strategies.
  • Permission to practice. "There is no failure here.- ONLY SUPPORT. We believe it's a way of teaching reading... an all over approach that Lisa has given us permission to try... and to fail. "But it's not like we really fail, because we are always offered support and encouraged to try, try again."
  • Supportive (not competitive) Colleagues we can go to, lean on, talk ideas and questions through, and even go into their rooms and observe them in action.
  • Everyone is on board-The extent of the collegial support here permeates through our Special Education teachers, Related Arts, Instructional Assistants, Media Specialist, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is on board. Kid don't just learn about, talk about, and apply  the thinking strategies and writing expectations in their own classrooms, but in all classrooms.
  • A model The first year we got to see kids really talking about their reading and engaging in a Share Square. Now, we can have a literacy coach in our own room, or to other teachers' classrooms (in and out of BES) and see for ourselves how to do it, or how to go deeper and how to figure out our next steps. Sometimes we even take our classes on "field trips" to learn how others are successfully doing what we're trying to do.
  • Reflective practitioners- we constantly analyze and reflect our practices to make decision for the next DAY, WEEK, UNIT, etc.
  • Literacy Coaches- support us in planning, modeling, co-teaching, and the sharing of ideas and resources from both inside and outside of our building- they have a global view that we don't always have in our classrooms- they have a network in the district to draw from
  • We listen- We ask our kids, "How's it Going?"  and really listen so we can focus on their needs, not our next lesson in our "plan books".
  • We read, and read, and read- We always read up on the best practices we want to use in our classroom.  Book study or not, we're always looking for something to read and grow us professionally (so we can positively impact student learning)
  • Evidence of effectiveness-  Since our journey began, our classroom observations and test data show the improvement in our students' learning. (e.g. Reading scores in 2004  before we began our intensive work with thinking strategies were 97.02. In 2010 103.9. Our writing scores 2004 = 79.57. In 2010= 103) the list could continue!
Are we there yet? NO. NO. NO.

To go deeper- to move our, and our students', understandings to a deeper level. The
thinking strategy language can be heard, but the depth is still not where it needs to be. We've got to continue on this journey to understanding and thoughtful teaching... and we will.
Yes, BES, we will. Because we strive to grow in our craftsmanship, consciousness, efficacy, interdependence, and flexibility. Yes, we will.
Thanks again to everyone. You and your students were amazing. How fortunate we are here at BES. How wonderful it is to be on this journey with you. As the song goes, "We're all in this together!" and together we'll go far!

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