Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Status report

An overview of the various projects I'm working on at the moment, and a brief analysis of where I stand and what happens next on each:

1.) Don Quijote in the 1st and 2nd-year classroom. As part of the a teachers' workshop I attended this summer, I've started working on a module to help people who have never read Don Quijote introduce this work into their early-Spanish classes. When it's finally polished, with luck in time to test-drive in the fall, it will include TPR vocab acquisition, comparisons of culture, authentic materials, and barf jokes. I'm also trying to get good enough at Google Earth to map out one of the various hypothetical routes that Don Quijote took on his various trips. That's probably the next step, because although it's the least important (being only one of many activities that need designing, and not the best), it lets me play with Google Earth.

2.) Analyzing Data Protocol. This is not so much a unique product, as it is synthesizing all the professional development I've been hit with in the past 2 years and fitting it into a note card that I can laminate and carry around in my pocket. It's also probably something that all successful professionals in all fields ever know already, and that makes me surprised that I'd never been formally presented to it before.

It boils down to this: Decide what you want to know. Find out about it. Based on that, decide you want to happen. Find ways of making it happen, and if none already exist, make them yourself. Do it. After a while, take a look and see if it's working.

This isn't rocket science, and on a small scale, we as people do it all the time. But it's a sound process for making decisions of all kind, and I've seen it in a few different contexts. The State School Improvement Framework lays out this protocol for all of its areas of concern. A woman from Minnesota is making an okay, if travel-intensive, living, showing people how to use this process to look at student work in the way it's supposed to be used. The positive-behavior program I'm working on (more about that in a mo) uses the same structure to analyze itself. In short, it's a way of taking self-improvement out of the realm of whim, and for someone as fundamentally whimsical as I am, that's important.

3.) Spanish Department 3-5 year development plan. There's a lot to do in the Spanish Department, and thinking that I'm going to get it done over the summer is foolishness. So I want to write out a plan for where I want the department to be in the next few years. It will, of course, follow the above protocol, but I know most of the information. That doesn't exactly lead to measurable results (important in any scientific or even pseudoscientific undertaking), but it's where I'm going to start.

4.) Positive Behavior system. This is not just the elephant in the middle of my living room, it's the monster drinking my espresso. There's so much work to do, I really have to start doing one thing at a time. The story so far: My school is one of many in the State that has decided that we're not doing all we could to promote behaviors that supplement learning--we could, for example, teach behaviors that supplement learning. As part of this process, our school took a year to decide what we'd most like to see our students to do in class, out of class, everywhere in and out of school and at all times at a school-related event. I had a meeting and a couple e-mail exchanges with a woman from the county school district who knows infinitely more about this than I do, and to whom I'm going to go with questions, just as soon as I'm smart enough to ask them. And now the ball--at least as far as the teacher side of things--is in my court. My principal for discipline is working on "intervention" techniques.

The next tasks I've identified are these: a.) Designing a positive behavior reinforcement system, so we have a school-wide way of telling kids they're doing a good job. I don't really know where to go with this; I'm going to see if I can get the other school teachers in my district to help me. I can do it, but I know a number of other teachers who already have this sort of thing, and if I don't have to reinvent the wheel, why would I? b.) Coming up with a way of teaching students these behaviors over the course of two days, so everybody's crystal clear on what they're being rewarded for (or intervened towards). I hope to design an outline, and farm out bits of this to a bunch of other professionals. However, ultimately it's my PD presentation. So, after all that's done, I'll need to figure out a way to teach that to the teachers and other involved parties. c.) Putting together a leadership team. The truth is that this should have happened much more formally months ago, and it very briefly did. I know who to ask to join--all the people who were at the first meeting in October who worked on the first draft of the behavior matrix--but that group hasn't gotten together as a group since then. It may be a little hairy. Some sort of protocol (see project 2 above) would be good to have in place as well. d.) Well...let's finish the first 3 before we get into long-term projections and assessment methodology, and all the other 67 things that need to get done.

5.) Spanish curriculum redesign and Standards and Benchmarks realignment. This is the first of the Spanish Department improvement projects I'm working on. It's the first, because I've been working on it since the day I started working at this school. The State has recently published some Standards for World Languages that look a lot like the National Standards, and have made them legally binding on the class of 2011, so the high school classes need to be brought up to snuff. In addition, the elementary and middle schools have been running on standards for years. The standards I'm currently working with in K-8, however, aren't tied as tightly to the State's standards as they need to be. I've been trying since day 1 to bring everything up to speed, not to use lesson plans unless they meet higher standards, that sort of thing. The results have been piecemeal and thoroughly unsatisfactory, so this summer I will be working on it. The current game-plan is this: Take a look at last year's Spanish I class (the first high school class to have standards attached), decide what went right and what went wrong, and change the plan for next year accordingly. That shouldn't be too work-intensive, and I should have success. That will help me put the Spanish II class into standards mode, which will be much more work-intensive. And then, starting at kindergarten, design a curriculum that uses the Standards as the baseline, instead of whatever system was used before.

6.) The Art and Science of Teaching. The 2007 book by Bob Marzano is my principal's new go-to book; past experience with similar literature suggests that we'll be hearing a lot about this in the next year. I'd like to have a leg up. Expect commentary as I go through it.

If anybody reads this, probably on accident on your way to somewhere more interesting, I'd appreciate thoughts on any of this.

And now, for the dishes.

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