Obstacles or Opportunities?

What started back in November has finally come to fruition. It’s a pretty exciting time in our school as we prepare for next year. After a second consensus vote, a new master schedule will be in place in 2014. Not lost in the excitement however is the realization that there are still questions to be answered and unknowns to confront.  So why would a group of teachers agree (14-2!) to new master schedule with questions yet to be answered? Two words. Autonomy & Opportunities.

I”m blessed to work with a group of teachers who truly do what’s best for kids. It’s not a phrase used as a cliche’ punchline in their world. They truly believe that if something is going to be good for kids, they will do it. But what’s good for kids to one teacher, team or school, can be viewed as barriers to great too overcome in another. Experience has taught me that when given the choice, most educators will retain the known and comfortable. They believe their world has worked well for kids without any real data to support their claims. Nice notes from parents and students are great but it’s no guarantee that what we’ve created is working for ALL kids.  Here’s a simple task. If your test scores have flat-lined for more than three to five years, you might want to start rethinking everything and asking the tough questions. Something isn’t working. It’s time to figure out why. Objectively.

weather vaneThe new schedule is substantially different than what it’s been. Our school has had it’s SINA battles in reading and math. Science scores bounce around as well and our students struggle with writing. Does this mean we have ineffective teachers? Not all. Not even close. What we have is a system that lacks the agility and creativity to meet the needs of our students. Our teachers wanted more access to kids and now they’ll have it.  They will also have greater decision-making authority to address the needs of their students. And they will have the time to make it happen.

Here’s a quick look at where we’re heading in 2014.

iTime

First, there are two periods of iTime. The primary goals of iTime are to provide enrichment and remediation opportunities for ALL students while remaining flexible enough to meet their social, emotional, and physical needs. How will this look? We have no idea!. Yet!

The Core

Next we have The Core or what some have called the meat and potatoes of schedule. This is time dedicated to core content instruction. So what’s so special about this you might ask? Nothing. Unless your a teacher who craves access to large blocks of uninterrupted time, no pullouts for lessons (No offense music and special ed folks!) and the ability to function like a school within a school since your time is yours.

Fine Arts

Again, there really isn’t anything new. Unless you’re a fine arts teacher who can now have open labs for kids, or enjoys being able to collaborate with core content colleagues in the development of robust P3BLs (problem-passion-project) instead of functioning in isolation. As my good friend Bridgette Wagoner (@B_Wagoner) so eloquently states, “It’s no longer acceptable to be an island of excellence.”

Passion-driven Courses

Yes teachers are passionate about their content and that’s why they love to share it with kids. But what else are teachers passionate about? Their passionate about their hobbies, interests and activities that bring them happiness. What better way to open the door for this to happen than by creating an opportunity for this to happen. Each teacher will be creating a passion-designed course rooted in the Core, 21st Century Skills and or the Universal Constructs. That’s my only caveat. The rest is up to them.

Yes it’s an exciting time for Clear Lake Middle School (#ClearLakeMS). But when you have teachers who are student-centered and solution-focused the sky is the limit. Having worked as a building principal in five middle schools this I can tell you for a fact. What some will see as obstacles others see as new opportunities. Would you want to create these iTimes when your principal tells you, “I don’t know. Figure it out.”? Would you want to create a brand new course and increase your teaching load? Would you want to have contact eight out of nine periods a day with students? I guess that all depends. If you’re a Clear Lake Middle School teacher the answer is simple. “Yes!”.

Special Thanks to:

Timothy Scholze (@scholzet) for sharing his blog.http://timothyscholze.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/students-first/

Paul Reville: How to Create a New K-12 Engine

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/04/23/29reville_ep.h33.html

 

 

 

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