Friday, May 23, 2014

Teaching versus Learning

Let's take a walk down memory lane...

During my fourth year teaching I remember sitting in a MEAP debriefing meeting with my fellow fifth grade teachers.  I sat at the table and we went through the entire item analysis.  It was a tedious process that was designed to have us adjust what we were doing in the classroom.  What I reflectively remember is the conversations.  I remember our principal sharing what areas we did not do well.  I remember saying, "I taught that!"  I remember listening to my colleagues and the conversation was very deflective.  We blamed parents for the lack of support and we even pointed the finger at the kids.  Our meeting was all about what teachers taught...not about what students learned!

Truthfully, we could not have been more wrong.  The number one factor in student learning is Tier 1, general education instruction!  Teachers are the number one influence to learning.  The next step is ownership.  Let's think about two mentalities...

First, the old school approach:  I must cover everything! The key word here is cover.  Teachers often feel pressured to cover all materials.  This approach simply does not work.  I refer to this as, Mile Wide and an Inch Deep.  At one time I attempted to cover everything.  I'll admit, I felt good when I was on page 231 and my fellow colleagues were on page 197.  I felt as though I was doing great.  Boy was I an idiot!  It isn't about teaching material, it is all about STUDENT LEARNING.

Second mentality, every student does not learn it the first time.  This mentality is thought of as, Check Your EGO at the Door!  It's critical to have a support system for students.  The number one support system is the teacher.  True story, during a particular tough school year I had one student named Travis.  Travis lived on a farm, he was athletic and he was an all-around nice kid.  Travis struggled with reading and writing.  When it came to helping Travis I tried a plethora of strategies.  I pulled in his mom to heighten her awareness.  I worked with Travis after school.  I supported Travis in a one-on-one setting.  I went to his baseball games and tried to let him know he was a priority.  Nothing was working.  Travis continued to struggle with reading and writing.  I finally opened myself up.  I went to two teachers I deeply respected and I asked them for help.  It was now not about me, it was about Travis.  I needed new ideas, fresh perspectives and support from my fellow teachers.  The good news, Travis made gains, he was below grade level, but he showed growth, he was making progress.  I miss Travis, but I know that we all have a Travis in our classrooms.  We all have students that we don't always reach.  Are you willing to seek assistance and admit you haven't reached every student?  Will you check your ego at the door?

How do we begin to improve?  Let's listen to Becky DuFour point out the four points of a PLC. I hope you'll choose to listen to the two-minute video.

This week's big idea is focusing on student learning.  We are all at the time of the year where we assess student learning.  Let me say that again...assess student learning.  We aren't assessing what was taught.  I had a nice conversation with a couple teachers this week, they both shared the fact that they felt their students were ending the year with gaps.  Let me share a secret...gaps will always be there.  No person is perfect.  Students will not be 100% on every standard.  So now how do we move forward?

First, I hope you watched Becky DeFour, if you didn't please check it out.  Becky DuFour talks about being clear on what we want students to know (Essential Standards).  I believe we must be focused on our teaching.  This will create focused learners.  When I was in the classroom I simplified my teaching.  I taught multiplication one way.  If I had a student not understand I pulled the student aside and tried a different approach.  What I learned is that teaching multiple strategies often confused students.  We need to simplify the process.

Second, are you a lone ranger or a team player?  We call ourselves a PLC, but yet we rarely discuss data and we rarely call ourselves out on the carpet and try to get better.  A true TEAM encourages and empowers teammates to improve.  What I appreciate about my #PLN is the simple fact that they are honest with me.  They push me to improve.  Do you push your colleagues to improve?  

Third, let's state the obvious:  EVERY STUDENT CAN SUCCEED!  Over the last few years I have listened and watched students not receive support.  We have justified it by saying, "They're a resource room student."  OR "I don't want this student to receive support because they are taking away from others."  Our mission is to educate kids.  
- 80% or more of your students must learn through Tier 1 General Ed. Instruction!  
- Our intervention groups must only be focused on ESSENTIAL STANDARDS, with no more than five students per class.  If it is more than five something was wrong with Tier 1 instruction.
- Review the data and be a reflective PLC team player.

This Week's Big Question:  Do you believe we are a Professional Learning Community?


Monday, May 26th:  No School, Memorial Day
Tuesday, May 27th:  Grades 2/3 Envision Math at Admin
Wednesday, May 28th:  Grades K-2 Assembly 8:45 (Jackson District Library)
Wednesday, May 28th:  Jackson District Library visits individual classrooms (gr. 3-5)
Wednesday, May 28th:  Anne and Jeff from the Middle School visit 5th grade in the PM
Thursday, May 29th:  Field Day grades 1-5 at SAU
Thursday, May 29th:  Grades K-1 Envision Math Training at Admin
Friday, May 30th:  CP Federal Credit Union Assembly 2:50pm

Panthers Podcast:

Panthers Podcast 3 - Nancy Pack

Panthers Podcast on iTunes

Articles Worth Reading:

Personalized Podcast with Voxer +Joe Mazza @Joe_Mazza

But that won't help test scores... +Justin Tarte @justintarte

5 Reasons To Embrace Change +Justin Tarte @justintarte

One Last Day... +Tom Murray @thomascmurray

What is Your Vision? +Tony Sinanis @TonySinanis

If you work in a school... +Brad Gustafson @GustafsonBrad

Why My Students are Connected +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

Changing Landscape of Professional Learning +Brad Wilson @dreambition

Agree to Disagree +Spike Cook @DrSpikeCook

I was just a girl in a dial up world +Krissy Venosdale @venspired

9 Things Happy Couples NEVER Think +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Sure to make you laugh!  (4 min)

Are we truly a PLC? (4 min)

Transforming School Culture... (2 min)

Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe... (12 min)

Hilarious! (3 min)


  1. Ben,
    I can honestly say that I look forward to reading your posts each and every week! Without knowing it, you consistently write on topics that resonate with me, and I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this with the world. If I can only read one blog a week, it would be yours every time.
    Thank you for your dedication, and continued timely messages.
    Scott Gaglione

  2. I agree with Scott post what I am in "the weeds" about each week. We are working to take our PLCs from a very good place where we collaborate to the best place where we ALWAYS focus on the student and improving learning! Our teachers have really began to take the responsibility for their entire grade level instead of their own class. I want this to expand where they take responsibility for ALL students in the school! Thanks for the post!