Consistency is Essential
Nothing is achieved without it.
It's not about perfect. It's about effort.
In the middle of my third week of training, I hit a wall (figuratively speaking). I went out for a four mile run, and I physically could not do it. My back was killing me, my side hurt, my legs hurt. I ran the first mile, and then I walked the rest of the way. I am embarrassed to say that, if any one of you would have driven by and offered me a ride home, I would have taken it. I was angry. I was tired. I was done. Done with the training, done with the thought of having twelve weeks of this strenuous activity, done with having something to prove. Done.
The next day, I talked to Glenn Lambert, Director of Fine Arts and avid runner, about my experience. He reminded me of something that I already knew, but I had somehow forgotten. This training is not about the destination; it's about the journey. The race itself will just be a symbolic celebration of the work that I will have done to get there. The race is nothing. When I arrive at my half marathon, I will have completed two hundred and sixty-five miles throughout my training. And, some of those miles will have tested me.
I'm happy to report that, two days after that horrible run, I went out and had the best run of my life. Six miles. Happy was an understatement.
I have come to learn that consistency is key. I know that I will continue to be challenged, but the effort I put forth will determine my outcome.
If you see me running this week, take the time to wave. But, don't worry about offering me a ride.
I won't take it.
Below, you'll find one page from an English I pacing guide. Notice how it is broken down into reading and writing sections and includes guiding questions, vocabulary, learning objectives, formative assessments, and teacher notes. I love these documents. They're pretty amazing.
When you're printing your IFD's, take the time to print the pacing guides, too. I think you'll agree that it will be worth your while.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
There's a trend that's been developing for a while now, and we must be reactive in order to ensure that we are breaking the pattern. When we look at summative assessment data, generally in the form of unit assessments, we are finding that our students are performing low on the revising and editing sections. This includes English I, English II, English III, and English IV.
Revising and editing skills are part of our state curriculum. Because English I and English II students are held accountable for those skills on state assessments, there is sometimes more emphasis placed on those skills at those levels. We cannot abide by that mentality. Revising and editing skills are important because they develop students' writing and reading abilities; they cannot be ignored.
I've been talking to you in your PLC's about what we are going to do to close these gaps and help our students to grow in this area. We've had some great conversations. From listening to you, I know what we are lacking.
If our students are only being held accountable for revising and editing skills on district unit assessments, they will not be able to grow, we will not have enough data to track their progress, and we will not be providing them with the instruction they need. We must consistently practice these skills with our students. We must use both formative and summative assessments to help them along the way. We must own this task.
There are parts of our job which seem incredibly overwhelming. This is one of them. Growing writers is not easy; but, it's what we signed up to do. Let's collaborate to work smarter instead of harder. Let's hone in on consistent development of lessons which will provide learning to occur.
I am creating revising and editing lessons which I will share with you. If we all do our part, we can make a difference.
I'm up for the task. Who's with me?
Focus on Form
While it is important for teachers to use formative assessments, I believe that the students are the ones who should ultimately be using formative data. If we can get to a point where our students are looking at their work through the lens of determining their strengths and weaknesses, we will have reached an entirely new level of what it means to be data-driven.
Melissa Cox, ELL teacher at Wylie East, recently developed a tool for teachers to use with students when reviewing unit assessment data. The Wylie East English I and English II teams are currently using this tool with their students, and they're seeing great results. Students are taking the time to break down their own data and are setting goals for future improvements. This is creating conversations in the English I and English II classrooms that allow students to take ownership of their learning and move forward with an understanding of skills that they are expected to master.
I'm proud of the work that these teachers are doing with their students. Thank you, Melissa, for sharing this tool with us. We are loving it.
Follow the Plan
On Tuesday, October 25, Michael Stone will be joining us to discuss college writing. Mr. Stone is an English teacher at El Centro College in Dallas. He has graciously agreed to join us to discuss college writing and what we can be doing to ensure that our students are prepared. This will be an informal opportunity for us to "pick his brain" and get an exclusive glimpse into the assignments that are being given at the college level. We will be able to look at examples of student work, ask questions about the validity of our own practices, and leave with a better understanding of how we can close the gap between high schools and colleges.
Please come if you can. This is an opportunity that we don't often get.
Tuesday, October 25
ESC Learning Center
951 South Ballard Avenue, 75098
Don't Forget to Celebrate
Here are the winners of the book character contest. Prizes will be delivered next week.
Most Impressive Theme: Wylie East Administrators
Most Inspiring: Scott Dillon
Best Attention to Details: Katie Comingore and Melanie Ankersheil
Most Creative: Donnie Dona
Thank you, Sharyn, for all you do for our students and for our district. We are lucky to have you in Wylie ISD.