2017-11-20 Performance Anxiety

Although we started this journey to improve our district’s abysmal SBAC scores, we were really searching for ways students could learn. This is an abridged version of our story to this date.

I believe that we, the teachers, want what is best for kids and are trying our hardest to make that happen. Extra duties and other difficulties are thrown in our way that makes it very challenging.

I, as a math coordinator, never want to run a professional development that either adds more to teachers’ plates or worse, is a waste of their time. and that gives rise to this week’s full disclosure from the vantage point of several weeks hindsight. From the perspective of the teachers I serve, I have failed in this regard.

In the effort of full transparency, I am going to share all from this point forward, the uncomfortable, the successes and the failures, and I hope that like-minded folks will pull together to help us all get better together.

Here’s the situation: Our district scores on standardized testing have been in the toilet (no sugar coding) and I take full ownership as the leader of mathematics in my district.

The structure our team created through their hard work and vision was built out to look like the following:

  1. Give students a performance task cold, teachers record data to how students are doing across metrics we hope to inspire (think developing grit).
  2. We meet on our PLN time, share out trends we are noticing, and build instructional strategies to improve student learning.
  3. Teachers return to classrooms and instruct students using strategies to help students improve learning and develop grit.
  4. We are focusing on this idea of fostering productive struggle, as part of developing grit.
  5. After a few weeks, we come together to attend a couple of classrooms and observe what students do on the performance task, as we attempt to see if our work is giving students better access to the content.
  6. We collect data from observations to refine, redefine, and improve for next round.

These were the professional development moments that I shared to assist, support, and reinforce this structure

  1. The dry run of the performance task (first-time students see task) was the first week of September.
  2. We calibrated our learning a week later, most teachers picked CUBES as their strategy to teach students. (Our initial kickoff PD is here.)
  3. From mid-September until mid-October teachers taught CUBES when we met again. Bringing the game to the next level, we explored this article that Jon Corippo had recently reminded me of. I wanted teachers to use a research-based strategy, together with the article strategy, were the focus of this meeting. To help ensure teachers committed to implementation I also asked them to book a mentor teacher, or myself, to view their instruction of the strategy they chose. (This PD is here.)
  4. I failed to communicate the timing, so no teachers gave the second dry run.
  5. Enter Hamish Brewer and my journey changed, this video inspired me to want to change the conversations that are happening around us.
  6. So our third meeting, I went #ALLIN to become #RELENTLESS (Our PD is here.)
  7. The teachers asked at this point for a lesson on what productive struggle looks like in the classroom. So when we had our PD day on 11/20, I was asked to put up or shut up.
  8. The lesson I created for 7th graders is embedded in our PD slides from that same day, it is here.

The results from the day are shown in teachers reflections from our day. (For context, light yellow is <4, or unacceptable grade in my book.)

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.38.06 AM

And suggestions from the teachers

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.38.47 AM.png

There are some valid points here, and the teachers didn’t feel that I delivered on what they needed to see what productive struggle looks like in the classroom. In addition, the setup for how to plan in the afternoon did not meet their needs. In short, I had violated my biggest decree, that any PD I give is not a waste of teachers time, and I empower them with something better than before they arrived. This post is not a pity party, but a moment to reflect on mission statement, and role as a leader. I failed my team, I cannot accept that as a result.

What might I learn? How might I pick myself up and move forward? How might I inspire in them what I know that they are capable of (which is greater than what kids are currently getting)?

These are the questions that I am working on now, I can’t fail, like Hamish says, the mission of our students learning is too important, their futures…no, our futures depend on us being successful.

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