A Clearinghouse for Martensdale-St. Marys Community Schools Professional Development

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Whatever It Takes, Chapter Five

We are approaching the halfway point in our study of DuFour's introduction to professional learning communities. From reading your comments over the past few months, it is clear you and your colleagues are working through the text and not only grasping the content but also finding ways to apply your learning to MstM. Chapter five switches from the high school environment to the middle school model.

In addition to working through chapter five today, make sure you have taken the time to plan and schedule your peer observations. The original timeline for the fall indicated they needed to be done before December 8th, but that is not a reasonable expectation at this time. Make certain you have completed and "debriefed" from them by the end of the semester. If you are taking PD for credit this year, you will need to turn in your notes from the observation as well as a reflection. If you are not taking PD for credit, these are artifacts that you may use in your portfolios. Please see me with any questions you have about this or any other element of our work this year.

Here are the discussion questions for chapter five in Whatever It Takes:

1) Some critics of the middle school concept maintain that the model has been too focused on the social and emotional development of young adolescents at the expense of the academic rigor necessary for their intellectual development. What is your reaction to that criticism?

2) How did Freeport Intermediate . . .
a. Identify students who needed additional time and support for learning?
b. Provide that additional time and support?

3) Freeport Intermediate calls upon teachers to give common assessments to students on a regular basis and to share their results with each other in order to identify and replicate successful strategies a colleague might be using. What concerns might teachers have about this process? What steps could be taken to address some of those concerns in a productive way?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Planning Peer Observations

Part of your PD work this week involves planning for peer observations to be carried out sometime during the remainder of the second quarter. Our shared study of Whatever It Takes has not explicitly discussed the use of peer observations, yet they are an effective means of building the shared trust and understanding of our professional needs that are the foundation of the professional learning community. As you work with your teams to plan, consider these tips:

Identify objectives and establish context. While this isn't a formal observation by your building administrator, it is important we have a sense of expectation as both observers and practitioners. In your groups, you should discuss what you want your colleague(s) to look for while they are observing your class. In addition, you should provide your observer(s) with a context for the lesson (i.e. student objectives, the lesson's place in the unit, means of assessment, etc.).

Decide on a means of recording and sharing observations. For formal observations, your building principal uses the district-developed evaluation tool to record notes and share feedback. These peer observations, however, do not need to be that formal. Make sure you and your colleagues collaborate to create an effective yet efficient structure for recording observations and providing feedback. If you would like some suggested formats for this, please leave a comment on this post. In order to adhere to the PD calendar, you might want to plan to meet with your group during your common planning time, team time, or collaboration time to plan and/or debrief.

Know and understand these are nonjudgmental. As educators, we want to ensure our students are in safe, comfortable, judgment-free environments. Likewise, as professional colleagues, we want to ensure we can observe one another with mutual understanding and respect. There is no single quality or formula that defines a great teacher, yet it is clear MstM has a committed, knowledgable, and trustworthy staff. That said, we all have the opportunity to learn from one another through these observations.

If you can think of other tips for effective peer observations, please leave a comment. Enjoy the time in each others' classrooms!

Whatever It Takes, Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of Whatever It Takes delves deeper into the logistics of implementing the kind of interventions and programs discussed in chapter 3. Taking a week to process the content of your discussions surrounding the PLC responses at Stevenson High School will give you and your group a strong grounding as you synthesize the ideas in the book with knowledge of your classroom, grade level, content area, and district as a whole. While there is only one discussion question for this chapter in the study guide, you will also need to work with your group to complete the handout given to you during the large group discussion earlier today. Take the time and energy needed to complete this assignment as it will provide the groundwork for implementing professional learning communities district wide at MstM in the near future. Thanks for your hard work this year; we are well on our way to becoming a PLC school!

1. This chapter describes how Stevenson staff addressed some of the barriers they confronted when attempting to provide students with timely, directive, systematic interventions. List some of the barriers you will confront in your school.

2. Use “Where Do We Go From Here?” Worksheet #1 (distributed earlier today) to develop a plan for creating a system of interventions in your own school.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Whatever It Takes, Chapter 3

Upon completing your PLC groups' reading/discussion of the "Common Core Fact Sheet", you are to continue working together to read and discuss the third chapter in DuFour's book. Despite the chapter's focus on a high school's "response when kids don't learn," there are other elements of the chapter that apply to students, instructors, and administrators at all levels. As with previous chapters, the content (and subsequent discussion questions) of the chapter challenges assumptions and perceptions about our staff, our students, and our profession as a whole. It is important we address these tough questions with an open mind if we are going to better serve our students. The staff as a whole has done an excellent job with the book thus far - keep up the great work!

1. This chapter reflects on the varying explanations and reasons offered at Adlai Stevenson High School in the early 1980s as to why students were not being successful. What explanations are offered at your school?

2. How did Stevenson High School . . .
a. Identify students who needed additional time and support for learning?
b. Provide this additional time and support?

3. Generate a list of the various steps the school created to give students additional time and support.
a. Which steps could be easily adopted in your school or adapted to meet the needs of your students?
b. Which steps could be adopted or adapted after considerable effort?
c. Which steps would be impossible to adopt or adapt in your school?

**If you are not able to complete your discussion of this content during PD, remember you may use your collaboration time to continue your work**

Iowa Core/Common Core Fact Sheet

For the first part of PD today (Wednesday, November 10th), we will spend a little time discussing the Iowa Core/Common Core in our PLC groups. The focus of the discussion centers on a document labeled "Common Core Fact Sheet" in the "Professional Development" folder in the Teacher Common. This document was shared with the Iowa Core Leadership Team during their attendance at the October Leadership meeting in Indianola.
The team felt it would be a good vehicle for initiating discussion and generating questions about the Iowa Core/Common Core and its impact on our district. Use the comment feature to post your questions to the group. When we meet on November 17th, the Iowa Core Leadership Team will (attempt) to answer these questions during the first part of our PD time. Please do think critically about the content of the "Common Core Fact Sheet" - we want to utilize the collective knowledge of our staff to ensure a clear understanding of these ideas as well as provide some problem-solving and support for all.