I apologize to all of my fans for not posting anything in a while. It has been a crazy month. Now that I have apologized to both of you, I will move on to my first list as a blogger.
A week from today, I will no longer be a classroom teacher. Next school year I will be an elearning coach, working with Lodge Community School as our district moves to a 1:1 in the middle school grades. It was 9 years ago this August that I walked into my first classroom in Lafayette, IN. Anyway, I guess I am just being reflective in how much I have changed as a teacher since that first year. There are times I would like to go back to those kids I taught my first couple of years and say, "I'm sorry. I didn't know any better." I guess this is advice to the past version of me. I am also curious about the future me will think of this list as I grow as an educator.
Five Things That Should Drive Instruction
1) Standards - I know this might appear to be painfully obvious. However, I spent too long for me to admit to all of you that will read this blog, just mindlessly going through the text book I was given to teach. I was told it was standards based and the book had a nice chart in the front showing that it was standards based. However, I have since learned that no book out there covers all the standards and there are always gaps. This is why I want to be text-book free. Thankfully, as a math remediation teacher, I haven't had a text book in three years. I have a much better grasp of the standards I teach and my students have benefited.
2) Students - Once again, this should be obvious. However, beyond just the number of students and the age of students, but how those students learn and their interest should drive instruction. Many teachers just teach and hope kids understand what was just 'taught'. When teachers don't consider their audience and how they learn, it's like a golfer not considering the weather or the conditions of the course before he or she takes a swing. There are just too many great resources out there that allow teachers to take a learner inventory. I prefer this one: http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-learning-styles-quiz Get to know your students, and consider your audience as you plan instruction.
3/4) Formative and Summative Assessment - I put both of these together, because teachers have to use both in order to be as successful as possible. Formative assessment is best described as a teacher's version of going to the doctor for a check-up. This is done during the learning process. You're not checking for understanding to assign a grade, but you are checking for understanding to find out what students know and what they need to know next. However, the knowledge is not just for the teachers, but it is more for the students. This way they know where they are, where they need to be, and how to get there. Formative assessment is a huge topic and this little paragraph does not do it justice. I highly recommend that you look up more information about from Rick Stiggins and Bob Marzano. They are the experts and I have learned a great deal from their research.
Summative assessment is best described as a teacher's version of an autopsy. This is done at the end of learning. This is the graded assignment, the quiz, the project, of the test. This is done to put a final grade on a standard. This is to let the teachers know if they did a good job teaching the standard and what they need to work on to improve his or her instruction the next time. It works even better if there are common assessments involved and then a teacher can see how well other teachers do with the same standards. Then they can learn from each others' strengths and hide each others' weaknesses. Once again, this paragraph doesn't do summative assessment justice.
5. Technology - If a teachers is only using one piece of technology on a daily basis in their classroom, then they are like a golfer who uses a driver for every shot. Technology is not the answer to our prayers. Technology is just a tool that we must integrate into our classrooms. It goes beyond using a Promethean Board as a fancy electronic chalkboard, or a document camera as just a pretty overhead projector. It is about maximizing the tools to their fullest extent. It is about using different tools as often as possible. We must also trust that there will be times when our students will have better suggestions than we do on how to use technology.
Somebody send this message to 2002 for me, and I'll be anxious to read this in 2020 and see how much I've changed since I wrote this, because I haven't figured it all out yet, and there is plenty more learning to do. I also know there are more things that could be added to this list. Please leave comments about what drives your instruction.