New Moves: Working With and Within

As I said in my previous post, things have been really busy over here. I made the deliberate choice to turn my attention away from blogging and toward some projects that I’ll be sharing as they develop this summer.

One reason was the realization that I felt I was connecting more to teachers outside my building than I was within. I decided to spend more time this semester walking to have one-on-one conversations with my colleagues. Some of these conversations were around the courses we taught together. Others were from the position of my role this year as department head in mathematics. And still others were about connecting on a personal level with the talented people on the high school team.

Here are a few of the ideas that have arisen from these connections:

  • We are designing a collaborative office space for teachers in math, science, and technology, along with a separate quiet space for deep work and focus.
  • We began a discussion around common language, skills, and curricular connections between mathematics, science, and social studies. Ideas like graphing, precision, and command terms could be presented more uniformly in our classes. This might mean that students don’t have to memorize three different expectations about scaling axes or understandings of the terms “compare and contrast”. We also tried some new approaches to curriculum such as population growth, and flexible ways to connect instruction where it was natural to do so.
  • We explored the need for clear but flexible grade descriptors. This lets students understand what grades mean in terms of their learning beyond a collection of points or fractions out of one hundred.
  • We started looking into a more flexible approach to courses that goes beyond an assumed traditional sequence of knowledge. The story of mathematics from counting to algebra to Calculus, for example, does not always best serve the many public relations issues associated with our subject.

Discussions within the walls of our school to think differently and plan more as a team was a valuable way to spend some of my prep time. I continued to seek balance in the time I spent on school projects and projects at home. This meaningful work did not happen by accident. It takes a commitment of time, and a subsequent decrease in time devoted to other things.

This has resulted a redefinition of what I need from (as well as what I can best provide) my personal learning network. The ideas I get from Twitter and reading blogs still keep me energized and encouraged to try new things in my classroom. Sharing what I do myself has admittedly taken a back seat. I’m looking for ways to help shine light on the great things that others are doing in our school. I’m inspired by what my colleagues have helped students do over the course of the year, and I want others to be inspired with me.

There is a lot more to this change in focus. More on that soon.