March 23, 2014

#Teaching and #Learning

Teaching English

In 1995, I started my educational career as an English and journalism teacher at a small school in the middle of Michigan. I taught English, advised the yearbook, and started a school newspaper; coached varsity softball; was involved in school improvement activities; joined the strategic planning committee — in short, I did whatever I thought I needed to do to understand my career.
I worked a great deal on the English curriculum team at a time when we were examining the curriculum documents other schools and ISDs had created. Then, Michigan released the Michigan Curriculum Framework.

The "framework" was a set of standards and benchmarks for all of the core subject areas. It also included components for the expectations on professional development and other items. I remember working on aligning our curriculum at the school to what the expectations were within the MCF. We did countless gap analyses to ensure that we were meeting the requirements of the State.

Several incarnations of the MCF have followed. Other items like the MiClimb (Clarifying Language in Michigan Benchmarks) documents followed. Then, the Grade Level Content Expectations and High School Content Expectations arrived. This is when Michigan arrived with curriculum. These were not quite power standards as recommended by educational consultants like Ainsworth, Schmoker, and Marzano but the new documents were able to be "unpacked" and easily "aligned" in student–friendly terms.

Power Standards

Ainsworth came up with the idea of power standards and shared the theory in his early 2000s book called Power Standards. Schmoker pushed idea forward with Results and Results Now. Schmoker's work inspired me greatly and I have used Results Now with a number of teachers and teacher groups to share the idea of power standards, professional learning communities, and effective instruction.

I've had the opportunity to work with Schmoker a number of times, including bringing him in to ISDs and conferences to share his information. He presented to the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District in 2009, focused on the work in that book. He came to the Michigan Association of State and Federal Program Specialists fall institute in 2012 and also presented to a group from the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. His focus at that time was on his latest book, Focus.

The journey

The educational journey has been a good one. I've spent time as an athletic director, curriculum director, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent. I've learned a  great deal over the years but always have tried to keep the focus on teaching and learning. In the past few years, the popular thing to do is to focus more on the learning as a result of the teaching.

It's still the same world (education) but it's vastly different (students' needs). I believe that a good curriculum taught by teachers who have the materials and tools they need to be effective will take care of any test score concerns that schools and parents have.

No comments: