Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Growing Pains

Feeling comfortable is not the pathway for growth. I’m not implying we as teachers should be uncomfortable but we should grow. Being uncomfortable sucks. Growth hurts.

I remember when I was six years old; I used to get these night time leg cramps. Even now as I write this post they send shivers down my spine. I would lie in bed, unable to sleep, stare and the bottom of the bunk bed above me, and inevitably scream out for my parents to help me. When I told my dad about the pain he responded that it was all part of growing up. According to him (and at seven this made perfect sense) at night my legs were growing. These were in his words “growing pains.”

Growing as a school community, expanding our network of educators, through people leaving to teach in other places and administrators moving on hurts. However in the end it is growth.

Ok I must admit the leg thing didn’t all work out in the end exactly as dad had said. I was in so much pain I figured I should be about seven foot tall. I’m only 5’7”. I guess I’m sharing this because my dad’s acknowledgement of the “growing pains” helped me finally get some sleep.

Moving on, growing, separating from comfortable situations and risking growth is never simple.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ruminations at Year’s End (or Proctoring Regents Exams: The Devil’s Work)

Lori writes:

One thing that I learned from being in other people’s classrooms is that many of us don’t distribute letters, like the one about cell phone policies during Regents week, to our advisees. I found stacks of them (why are we given so many copies?) in several rooms I was in. All of that information belongs on a website that parents could check; the kids leave them on the tables when we actually do give them out.

When I proctored in Lieber’s room, however, I found some more pleasant surprises. There was good material from both his SLC cohort group and his English class. I was able to swipe a few good templates. A good use of PD Day in June might be a share fest where people present some of their good stuff. We all say we’re not up for it this time of year, but many of us are already dreaming about the clean slate, fresh start, and new ideas by the time Brooklyn Queens Day comes around. I’m thinking about workshops like I’ve been to at NCTE’s annual conventions. Or even just something they do called the Idea Exchange where people photocopy lessons, units, ideas, etc. and you can walk around tables and pick up what looks interesting. If not, maybe the TI kids could do the conference that they used to do on a weekend, and present workshops for us along with reflections of their experiences. Thinking ahead.

As for proctoring, teachers need to chill with talking about colleagues behind their backs. Proctors can read, and most of us have told kids write in ink a hundred times only to see them write in pencil. And we’ve begged them to fill in every answer, but a kid that failed math all year and says he doesn’t have a clue what to do is not going to answer every question. Get over it. In general, teachers need to be nicer to one another. Especially to newer teachers and student teachers. We need to use our experience to guide not intimidate.

And remind kids to bring sweatshirts.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book talk for July?

Ok well we have tried online summer book talks in the past with some partial success. So here is my plan for this summer. On July 21st we will start posting chapter by chapter talk around the following book:

Results Now: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching And Learning (Paperback)by Michael J. Schmoker (Author)


"Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives." – Richard Vacca (Quoted by Mike Schmoker in Results Now)

"Imagine. . .all students, regardless of socioeconomic circumstance, having spent most of their class time in English, social studies, and other courses closely and carefully reading, rereading, discussing, and writing about the ideas in various texts. Imagine every student graduating from high school having analyzed and imitated excellent examples of adult writing and having written countless close literary analyses, essays, grant proposals, business plans, and position papers on multiple political, scientific, and cultural controversies-after carefully reading and discussing two or more conflicting documents on innumerable engaging issues."
– Mike Schmoker, Results Now (ASCD 2006)

N. Pugh Writes:

Leadership and literacy are my two passions. Over the years I have read much about both. While I have always felt that they are intimately connected, I have never previously read anything that endorses this. A short while ago I was handed Mike Schmoker's Results Now to read in preparation for my new position. To my delight, I find that this inspiring book puts literacy right at the heart of leadership (three of its ten chapters are devoted to literacy education). This will be Empowerment's focus for work next year and I fully expect to be calling upon a number of people at QHST to support this work.

In Results Now, Mike Schmoker challenges the reader to imagine a specific scenario (see above) then deflates the reader by showing the research. Research clearly shows that best practice, or Schmoker’s imagined practice, is not in place in most schools. QHST is not most schools. Much of his imagined practice is either in evidence in many classrooms here or is on the school’s radar for development.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Does QHST need SLC meetings?

At the heart of the philosophy of QHST are several key concepts. Structured SLC meetings, Critical Friends Groups (to those who are new to QHST we used to have these), Inclusive Mixed Ability Classrooms, Advisory/DEAR, three small learning communities, and supporting distributive leadership throughout the building are pillars in our school.

We just voted to continue having SLC meetings. We are staying the course.

But there is concern among some of the professionals in the building. Those voices need to be heard. Attempts at these conversation electronically have proved fruitful in the past.

"Maybe we need to have a conversation about why those 13 people wanted to do away with SLC meetings. " -Lori

"Good idea. I am curious as well and it may lead to changes in what is happening in SLC's that may not be considered beneficial." -Dierdre

Why are 13 fellow union members unhappy with our current structure? What are we doing to support these teachers? How might administration address this potentially philosophy changing vote in the future? How might QHST benefit from not having SLC meetings? How do SLC meetings change our practice as teachers?