What assumptions do we make about the life trajectories of the students in our classrooms?
Over the past three days I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to share in learning with the Northern Ontario Education Leaders at their fall conference #NOELONLINE.
The pre-conference address was given by the Director of the Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board, Catherine Montreuil. I learned so much from her presentation that I went home that night, tossed mine in the virtual garbage, and began again, this time aligning my message for the next day with her very powerful approach to educating all children.
Below are my reworked and reorganized notes from the first hour of her presentation. The idea that really stuck with me was the thinking around how to change the trajectory of the lives of the students in your classroom.
It is unacceptable for any child to be stuck and not learning in our schools.
(Think, for a moment, about any grade nine or ten applied class, or about any child who is not reading.)
It is also unacceptable to respond to this with “oh but …” statements, like “Oh, but that child is LD”, or “Oh, but that child came to us in grade 4 and couldn’t read”.
Every child can learn. If the child is not learning, our JOB is to figure it out and fix it.
We do not do this alone though. We solve problems of student learning as a team. We invite in outside professionals who view data differently. We take a collaborative inquiry stance and continue to try until we solve the issue.
Working in isolation as educators is inconsistent with professionalism. We can’t solve all the learning problems in the room on our own.
We measure, very carefully, the impact of our actions on student learning, and there must be a positive impact on student learning.
We honour the fact that teachers work very hard and care deeply, but it is not about how hard teachers work, it is about the impact of their work on student achievement. Working hard and spinning your wheels helps nobody. We need to do it differently.
We need to focus on building the capacity of the classroom teacher. The triple P approach is a place to start: Precision teaching to student needs, Personalization of learning, and Professional learning around how to effectively use assessment data to inform practice.
All students deserve and need a trained, talented teacher who is doing precision work. There is no evidence that working with an Educational Assistant strengthens academic outcomes for students. Our students with the highest learning needs require professionals who can do the precision instruction that will impact learning.
When we step back and closely examine Student Success initiatives, we see that in Ontario they are primarily structural. Necessary, but structural. It does not, however, result in sustained improvement in instruction. If we work on engaging reluctant students, and we can increase their productivity, and then we have something we can work with to move their learning forward.
Every student needs a personalized learning plan. If you we’re to walk into a classroom and “freeze” the room, for every child we should be able to ask, “What is she/he doing?”, and “Why is he/she doing it?”. The answers to those questions must be to meet the individual learning needs of the student, based on observation, conversation, or other assessment information.Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc
Assessment data + Thinking, collaborating teacher + Technology
Accurate assessment data, in the hands of a thinking, networked, collaborative teacher, using technology to personalize learning and engage students can change the life trajectory for a child.