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Monday, May 28, 2012

How Do You Create a School? (Part 1 of 2)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/adrenalin/
     (Part 1 of 2)
     The first question that hit me when I said I wanted this job was how do we transform an existing school, Decker Middle School in Manor Tx, from what it is to what it will become?

     I mean the school building is there.  There are students attending the school.  Heck, a lot of the students I was teaching came from that school.  But, the school it is about to become doesn't exist and the teachers, administrators, and I have the chance to mold the school in whatever fashion we desire.

     Luckily I am a teacher who has been trained by the New Tech Network (NTN) to use project based learning (PBL).  This is the ultimate PBL assignment.  I was given the entry event when I went to the job interview.  I know that a thriving middle school where teachers are using PBL as the means to teach their content is my final product.  It's time to create my Knows and Need to Knows.

KNOWS:

  •      In August sixth graders will be coming through the doors expecting an education (THAT is the ultimate know).
  •      Some of the sixth graders will be coming from an elementary school where the teachers are using PBL in their classrooms very successfully.
  •      The 6th grade teachers I will be working with have been to a 4 day training on how to use PBL and have been working with the 5th grade teachers to see how it is being used at the elementary school.
  •      The 6th grade teachers will be attending the New Tech Network's Annual Conference (NTAC) in July with me.
  •      I will be attending the New Tech Network's Boot Camp (for trainers) in June.
  •      I will be attending the Buck Institute for Education's PBL 101 as a guest of White Oak (Tx) ISD's in early June.
  •      I have 20 years of teaching experience, a Masters in Education with emphasis on Middle School Math and Science, and 4 years of PBL teaching experience in a NTN school.
  •      There are NTN teachers and coaches available, all over the country, who I am connected with through Twitter.  They can and will help me with this process.  There are also Buck Institute National Faculty I am connected with on Twitter and they will help me too.
  •      No matter where we are on the opening day of school, we need to be ready to teach and we need to have a structure in place for our students to be successful learners.
  •      The principal may be new to PBL but he has a great reputation for putting structures in place to create a safe environment where students know they can take risks while being successful learners.
     This list of KNOWS is long but I could add many more.  But, by writing them down, I now know that there are safety nets in place for my successful journey through this learning process.  Just like our kids, it helps to reflect on what you DO know about something before you immediately take the negative stance of "I don't know anything about this!"

     No, I have never been an Instructional Coach.  No, I have never started a school.   But there are a lot of things about instruction that I know.  I have been a part of schools, all over the country, who are at some phase of reinventing themselves.  And, most importantly, there are dozens of people with various levels of knowledge ready to help me - and ultimately my school - be successful.  Next time we visit the Need to Knows.  It's a looooonnnnggg list!