Monday, July 11, 2005

An Early Start

Three weeks of early-morning training sessions began today. I was at Phoenix at 7:45 this morning to begin my training as a NeXt Generation Teacher.

As nerdy as it may seem, I'm excited to be part of the NeXt Generation program. To be a part of the first wave of the program is even more exciting.

I'll admit, I was a bit out of my element at first. Today's session focused on following up on training everyone but I had attended during the second semester of last year. So, each time they were referring to what they had discussed during their last meeting, I was listening to everything I could in order to catch up. I was the kid in class who desperately wanted to contribute, but who had to learn the language first.

About a third of the way through the day, I was up to speed on the whole process and able to be a part of the discussions. What it boils down to is a way to look at teaching in hopes that a class includes a focus in three distinct and important areas: engagement, alignment and rigor.

Is an observed class engaging a large percent of its students at a given moment, and are those students focused on what they should be learning or just on appearing to be listening?

Has the teacher made certain that the materials and tests are actually based on what the state and county say students should be learning? OR Are lessons aligned with state standards?

And lastly-

Is the material being covered at a level that is appropriately challenging to the students.

No matter how much you know about education, it should be fairly clear that these are all areas that are difficult to really say with any certainty whether they are being observed in a classroom. Of, if they are, to what extent.

What I took away from today's session, though, is the idea that evaluating these factors will hopefully lead to those teachers doing the evaluating make sure they focus on EAR when they design their lessons.

Again, so much of this stuff feels like "duh" stuff, as in, "Duh, shouldn't we already know this?"

I did not raise my hand and say that. It would have been disrespectful and rude.

Changing the Subject

I got my classroom assignment today. I'll be teaching 8th Grade Language Arts. Well, to start the year, I'll have 3 sections of 8th grade and 3 sections of 9th grade. My focus is to be on improving our writing scores. I can't wait! What an amazing year we're going to have.

I was talking with Dr. Shelley today and she showed me an article that ran in the New York Times about the school Phoenix is modeled after. Click here to read it. It's an amazing story we should definitely find inspiration in.

It's so funny to talk to people about Phoenix and tell them I'm working there and see the looks on their faces or hear their remarks of pity. They act as though I've been sent to detention. They just don't know, yet, that I'm working at what will be the most successful school in the county when the school year is done. Both Mr. Cantees and Dr. Shelley have made the comment that, "If we can just get the students in the building, they will be sold on coming to Phoenix." It's true.

Though this year will have it's challenges - I would be foolish and ignorant not to acknowledge that fact - it's successes will far outweigh any failures.

I can't wait.

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