I am not talking about the Weezer song but I do now know what I will be listening to tomorrow at work. This last week or so I have been working on some professional development. It has been the culmination of a lot of thinking that I have been doing in the wake of COVID-19 and what I always thought was so out of the realm of possibility that I never planned for it, the closure of schools and move to distance learning a remote teaching. Teachers everywhere were thrust in to an unknown situation and problems many of us chose to ignore or we at the very least grateful did not impact us personally came at us full steam ahead. My own personal reflection was that my practice needed to change. Not for just this moment but for the moments to come. I have always been an advocate for voice and choice and making things available for my students to show their understanding in ways that best suit them but there was the spectre of grads hanging overhead.
I have always thought grades were silly and generally useless. I had this dream of a classroom of writers and readers that worked within conferences and feedback and celebrated each others writing. I started my new position at the middle school a few years ago like I was going to make the dream become a reality. Almost immediately other teachers told me it was not going to fly and students who had been conditioned to see success as a number pushed back hard. I was not prepared enough to push back and caved to the grading monster. Now cut back to COVID and we are at a spot where we have been told that grading needs to look different. More feedback, less numbers.
“If nothing else, we control our ability to dream. People can put barriers up if they want to… but can’t nobody stop your ability to dream.” – @sheathescholar
When I first dreamed of this classroom where were were focused on learning and not scores there were so many barriers in the way. The dream never left but I couldn’t figure out how to overcome the pushback, the barriers. But now with some of them removed I decided to dive back into the idea.
I crave learning. I have had a transformative few years I I have followed different conversations in Social media around education. I have met amazing educators and mentors in various areas. Recently I stumbled across a podcast by Sarah Zerwin for Heinemann where she discussed her new book Point-Less which can be found here I listened and was intrigued and started reading the book and my little dream of a classroom focused on learning and joyful literacy practice seemed to become a bit more of a possibility. I set out to explore ways that I could change my practice and Sarah’s book gave me that roadmap. Another barrier removed. So I started reading, learning and working.
In the book it mentions creating learning goals for out students to strive for rather than points or grades to attain. To do this we first have to determine what we value, then look at what is required and finally craft learning goals that reflect these things. Above is this weeks thinking. It is a Work in Progress.
What I Value
- Developing a Life Long love of Reading
- Find our writing voice and using it
- Think Critically with a focus on equity and justice.
- Embrace Curiosity
- Be Kind
- Have a desire to keep trying
- Work Hard
- Never Stop Learning
- Students can use reading strategies for understanding.
- Students can use language to make connections to self and world.
- Student can think critically about what they read.
- Students can collect and organize data on different assignments.
- Students can work collaboratively.
- Students can plan and create an original text.
- Students can enhance and improve their writing.
- Students can present information to others.
The required list took some work. I went through the Grade 7-9 curriculum that our Education Authority provides us. There are hundreds of Language Arts Outcomes we are expected to cover in some fashion but the Essential ones help to narrow things down a bit. I took those essentials and then organized them into the categories above. Luckily some of this essential finding had been done in working groups so I only had to go through about 30 outcomes for each grade and sort out which one fit together. The result of looking at this list and bringing them together with my values resulted in the Learning Goals that I want to present to my Language Arts students next year.
The Learning Goals
- The Student displays the habits of a reader. Setting and adjusting goals, reading choice books and sharing with peers.
- The Student has displayed understanding of Notice and Note and other reading tools to assist in critically analyzing multiple forms of text.
- The student has demonstrated curiosity in pursuing research topics they are interested in and presented them to peers in an appropriate way that suited their purpose.
- The student utilizes their notebook for reading reflection and crafting written response.
- The student applies connections in their own life to multiple forms of text and provides evidence of critical thinking around these connections.
- The student demonstrates multiple revisions to their writing considering feedback from multiple sources.
- The student has demonstrated being a member of our reading community through bookclub participation and sharing book talks.
- The students has crafted multiple writing pieces creating a portfolio of work to share w/ a chosen audience.
- Student has demonstrated the attitude of a life long learning applying feed back to improve products.
- The student has demonstrated qualities of teamwork participating in class discussions and treating others with respect and kindness.
These are a draft, a work in progress much like myself. I will continue to spend the time learning and dreaming about a “better” and what part I can play in helping that come to light. There is so much work to do. When we start to act on the dreams we have they can become real. Most certainly there will be barriers in the way that make us step back and look for solutions but I think the solutions are out there. Like shea martin said tonight in the last session of a brilliant series I was blessed to participate in, “can’t nobody stop your ability to dream”
Today I took a step towards one of my dreams. Tomorrow I will take another. Things are changing because I am moving forward. I invite everyone to join me.
Here are the dogs because well… they are cute.