From parent engagement and best practices to collaboration and culture-building, here's a look back at a few highlights from the 2017-2018 school year.
The Importance of Teacher Collaboration
The Taos Middle School team arrives early for their daily planning meetings. It gives them time to review the previous day’s assessment data, prep for upcoming lessons, and simply to connect with each other as colleagues. One morning, they discussed some of their struggling sixth grade students to pinpoint why their learning growth may have ebbed in the weeks following winter break. Was it the number of students assigned to a particular math advisory? One teacher observed a correlation between one student's recent string of absences and his performance. To get quickly get them back on track, could extra one-on-one time during the Independent Learning Zone help?
As our instructional support team puts it, personalized learning models like TTO ask teachers to go from being neighbors to roommates. What once was autonomous—classroom space, students, accountability, and other responsibilities—is now shared. It’s a lot to get used to in the first year and the Taos teachers were understandably anxious about the shift.
“In the beginning I thought, ‘This is way too much. Why are you guys always here?’” says Valerie Fresquez. “I wasn’t used to collaborating like this but I’ve grown to embrace it.”
For Andrea Martinez, the first year of TTO also happened to be her first year at the middle school. She admits all the changes had her more than a little worried.
“I feel like I’m finally doing my job the way it was meant to be done,” says Martinez, a math teacher in the program. “I can’t imagine teaching the same thing over and over again to the same 30 kids every day. Now, I’m reaching all of these kids and I don’t think I would feel this way if I weren’t part of this kind of team.”
Learn more about the school experience with Teach to One: Math
A Taste of Parent Engagement
Teachers at Bear Creek Middle School used social media to let us know about a creative—and tasty—take on parent engagement in their school’s personalized learning environment. Bear Creek sees parents as a critical part of the support team for all students in the school. Not only is their principal, Anthony Newbold, the father of a student who attends his school, Bear Creek’s teachers work overtime to create experiences for parents that mirror how their children learn during the school day.
Case in point: In December, Bear Creek held a parent night called “A Taste of TTO” with a menu that included more than just fresh-baked cookies. Parents logged into online portals to see their students’ Skill Libraries and get a glimpse at how TTO’s daily scheduling works. They learned about linear equations during a teacher-led Live Investigation modality and participated in small-group activities with their children. At the end, they received a gift bag with sweets and treats as well as a packet of strategies and resources to support student learning at home.
Leading Culture Shifts
John Lanphear and his colleagues at LEARN Romano Butler, in Chicago, are on a mission to build a positive learning culture with high expectations. To set the tone early in the school year, Lanphear wanted something to showcase student’s work while reinforcing his team’s high expectations for academic excellence. The most visual representation of this culture shift was a “High Flyers Board,” a colorful bulletin board that recognizes students who are learning and mastering new mathematics skills at high rates.
“Kids pay attention to it now because they really want to be on it and it’s right outside the classrooms for everyone to see,” Lanphear said.
The High Flyers Board is part of a broader effort to recognize and celebrate exemplary student work. Inside the classroom, the Romano Butler teachers take moments at the end of class--as students are finishing their online exit slip assessments--to highlight those who hit their individual learning goals. The culture of celebration has spread to students, who now are quick to praise each other.“Even though students are working on different material, they are talking a lot more about their progress and celebrating when they reach their goals,” says Lanphear.