Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do you see what I see?

At my last principal meeting, we were asked a very simple, yet profound question.  What do you hope to see when you enter a classroom?  After listing out our top items, we discussed in small groups and then shared out to the whole group (as educators tend to do:).  Not surprisingly, many of us listed similar items and we started to group them into broad categories.  Now this was a good exercise, but it was just the beginning of a larger process.  The next step is to have discussion with our staffs about what quality instruction looks like.  This in turn leads to more effective observations and quality feedback.  How can we have a conversation about quality instruction without an agreed upon vision of what that looks like? So with that background, I would like to start the conversation by sharing my vision of quality instruction and what I look for in classrooms:

Student Engagement: I know this can be a generic sounding catch-all term, but it was my number one item that I look for in classrooms. Students can't learn if they aren't engaged.  Engagement doesn't mean they have to be doing a song and dance, they can be actively listening, actively sharing, or actively creating. Students must be involved and invested in the lesson to learn.

Relationships: Another "must have" in my book. Research shows that the more of a relationship a student has with their teacher the more they will learn. Classroom environment would fall under this category for me.  Is it a safe and respectful environment and is that demonstrated through the interaction between teacher and students and students with one another? Relationships are key to learning!

Connected Learning: I had a hard time coming up with this term, but it's designed to capture the concept of scaffolding or connecting to prior knowledge.  It also refers to connecting learning in the classroom to our specific learning objectives.  That's where planning (both short-term and long-term) come into play.  I'm also a firm believer in connecting to "real-world" learning and application.

Checking for Understanding: "I taught a great lesson, but the students just didn't get it". This scenario doesn't happen when we are checking for understanding during our lessons, and we are adjusting our teaching to meet the needs of the students.  Lessons should be fluid and dynamic, allowing the teacher to adapt to the needs of the learners. Good instructors don't wait until the end of a unit or marking period to see if the students are on track.

Collaboration: Gone are the days when students worked on problems in isolation and then got private feedback days or weeks later. In today's world, students (and adults) need to collaborate, share ideas, and play nicely together:). One of the biggest skills that employers look for is the ability to communicate effectively and collaborate with others.  Students today need to know how to access information and apply that information for problem solving.  That involves collaboration and students first learn that skill in our classrooms.

Now there are many more things that could be listed when looking for quality instruction, but I think these five items are essential for learning to take place.  Now you know the things I look for in classrooms and I'm looking forward to hearing from you what you think should be going on in classrooms.  If we are looking for different things, then we may walk away from a conversation about learning with very different perspectives.  However, if we share, discuss, and come to consensus about what quality instruction looks like, then we can all be looking through the same lens with a focus on what we should see in ALL classrooms.

What do YOU want to see in your classroom.

The Effects of Praise
Click on this link for a short and powerful video

Educational Twitter Account @jon_wennstrom


"A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning." - Brad Henry

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." - William Arthur Ward

"Any good teacher knows how important it is to connect with students and understand our culture." - Adora Svitak


Monday, November 3: Title 1 Principals Meeting 8:00-11:00 am
Tuesday, November 4: No Students/Teacher Work Day (Report Cards due at midnight)
Wednesday, November 5: Achievement Team Meeting 8:00 am
Thursday, November 6: Staff Meeting 8:00 am (What does quality instruction look like?)
                                       Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
                                       Rosedale PTA 6:30 pm
Friday, November 7: Lock Down Drill 11:00 am

Tuesday, November 11: Picture Retakes in the afternoon
Wednesday, November 12: IEP (Casucci) 8:15 am
                                            Conferences 5:00-8:00 pm
Thursday, November 13: No Students/Conferences in day and evening
Friday, November 14: No School

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