LWISD Bullfrog Bulletin
December 4, 2015
Alex and the White Cat
During the time I resided in South Dakota, my doorbell rang one morning at 4:00 am. Opening the door, I spied a young boy dressed in shorts, a light jacket, and cowboy boots. I soon realized that the little boy was one of my neighbors, and his name was Alex. About a foot of snow was on the ground, and little Alex just stood in front of me holding a large white cat. I invited him into my living room; he handed me the cat and then sat down on my couch. I had no idea what he was doing at my house at such an hour, so I called his dad and sat down with Alex to wait. His dad must have had a hard time waking up because it took him a long time to make it the whole block and a half to my door. He apologized and with very little explanation walked out the front door with Alex. I called after him, “Oh, you forgot your cat.” His father turned slowly toward me and then replied, “We don’t have a cat.” I was a little upset about the fact that I had let a stray cat in my house, not to mention that I am allergic to many cats, and I was sneezing profusely at this point, and needless to say had lost all hope of returning to sleep before my alarm rang. Nevertheless, it is an incident I will never forget, and I have learned much from it.
I think in schools, we often hold on to things just like that white stray cat, without even knowing why. Are there practices in our classrooms that we consistently use without any great or even positive results, and we don’t even know why we continue to use them? For example, do we ever give students vocabulary words to define with a dictionary, resulting in an entire hour or so spent defining words when research shows there is absolutely no benefit in defining an entire list of words?
I believe that every classroom activity should be strategically planned. David Lemov in his book Teach Like a Champion talks about choosing the best method to teach concepts the quickest and fastest way (at the level of Bloom’s Taxonomy stated in the standard). This means that we don’t plan activities in the classroom. Lesson planning is not about what activity we are going to do today. Planning is about what students should learn today. When we think about the strategies we use in our classroom in terms of student learning, then we can measure whether or not learning has actually taken place. How? A ticket out the door is probably the easiest and quickest method (but definitely not the only one). I can place student responses in three piles: students who have learned the concept, students who will have the concept with a little help, and students who do not have the concept. Then, I can determine the best method to meet the needs of all of my students such as setting up group activities designed to meet the needs of those who almost understand, those who do understand, as well as those who don’t.
I think often teachers are very overwhelmed when they are taught new teaching strategies. Sometimes teachers say that they don’t have time to do anything else or anything more. I believe that new strategies offer teachers the opportunity to let go or give up old strategies that no longer work for today’s students and open the door to new possibilities or to at the very least examine what works and doesn’t work in the classroom. In truth, we do not have the same students that we did twenty or even ten years ago in our schools. We have very diverse students who live in a technologically rich environment; students who don’t necessarily rely on teachers for information because they can access more information than they have time to synthesize via the Internet, etc. We have to constantly increase our repertoire of strategies to meet the needs of learners today.
It is a very exciting time in education, a time of many possibilities. However, if we hang on to things that do not work as I did with that stray cat in South Dakota, we may find that we are a little sick, somewhat sleepy, and probably irritated. We can’t change the fact that the 21st Century learner is different from learners in the past, and if we try to hang on to the past, we will just end up frustrated. What we can do is see the beauty of the opportunity we have to be a part of the future by spending time with students daily and by passionately guiding them in learning about contents that we truly love.
I didn’t ever learn why Alex rang my doorbell that morning, but eventually I realized that it didn’t really matter because it did happen. Alex showed up at my door, and I needed to respond. Students show up at our classroom doors each day, and we need to respond. As far as the cat was concerned, I just had to let it go. Although I felt remorse about putting a cat out into the cold, I couldn’t keep the cat and be miserable. Sometimes we have to let things go.
Upcoming Events for the Week of December 7-11, 2015
Record all of the objectives (every classroom) in the building. Tally the percentage of objectives you find, the percentage of 4-part objectives you see, and the percentage of objectives that, in your judgement, have a good "by". Send me your results and bring 10 of the objectives you review to the next principal PLC on January 7th.
Upcoming Events for the Week of December 14-18, 2015
Tuesday, December 15, 2015--Instructional Rounds at Collins
Wednesday, December 16, 2015--Early Release
Thursday, December 17, 2015--Administrative PLC @ 9:00 am at admin
December 16 EARLY RELEASE
SECONDARY SOCIAL STUDIES: GRADES 6-12 @ LWHS 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm Kathy Uhlich REGION XI will work with TEKS with secondary social studies teachers. -
WORK ON FROG TIME/ADVISORY
3:00 PM CTE MEETING
ELEMENTARY LEADERSHIP LITERACY TEAM: 1:00– 2:30 @ ADMIN
ALL CAMPUSES (EXCEPT HIGH SCHOOL): SUICIDE Prevention TRAINING PROVIDED BY COUNSELOR(S)
PLEASE DISCUSS THE START TIME WITH YOUR COUNSELOR; THIS IS A 2 HOUR REQUIRED TRAINING.
“We educators are directly responsible for crucial, life-saving work. Today, a student who graduates from school with mastery of essential skills and knowledge has a good chance of successfully competing in the global market place, with numerous opportunities to lead a rewarding adult life. In stark contrast, students who fail in school are at greater risk of poverty, welfare, dependency, incarceration, and early death. With such high stakes, educators today are like tightrope walkers without a safety net, responsible for meeting the needs of every student, with little room for error.”
(quoted from Burns, Appleton, and Siehouwer in The Why Behind RTI by Austin Buffum, Mike Mettos and Chris Weber)