Friday, June 1, 2012

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


   (Part 2 of 2)
    As I said in the first part,  what we want the new school to be doesn't exist and the teachers, administrators, and I have the chance to mold the school in whatever fashion we desire.  And, 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.

{Clarification:  There have been some questions such as "Are you building a whole new school?"  This school is, currently, a traditional middle school (6 - 8) with about 750 enrollment.  Starting with the incoming 6th grade we will be building a school that uses PBL to teach the curriculum and we will be affiliated with NTN.)

Now for the NEED TO KNOWS:

  • New Tech Schools use a "School Success Rubric" (SSR) that is established at the beginning of the school year, revisited (usually) mid-year, and then revisited again at the end of the year.   What will we model our SSR on?
  • What strengths/weaknesses will there be in my teachers who have eagerly accepted this change?
  • What do the curricula for the four core areas look like and how might we start thinking about projects centered around key concepts?
  • When do we finalize the Master Schedule and how is that going to affect my teachers' planning?
  • What will PD look like this year?  Will our teachers attend different training than the rest of the middle school teachers in the district?
  • What technologies (2 or 3) do we want to incorporate in our classrooms to enhance the PBL experience and when do we fit in training on these?
  • How can we get the teachers to become active users of twitter and, in particular, #PBLCHAT ?
  • What are key times this summer that we need to meet as a team?  And, how receptive will our teachers be to coming in during their summer break?
  • How should I create a "Year at a Glance," (YAG) for PBL implementation and training.
  • What are the 1st year goals for the teachers? For the students?  For me?
  • Is a Problem Based approach (PrBL) better for 6th graders (rather than a full blown PBL)?
  • How many of the incoming students will have had a PBL experience in 5th grade? (one of our feeder schools has been very successful with PBL at 4th and 5th grade)
  • What are the current academic concerns from the Superintendent?  The Principal? And, what are the concerns with bringing on PBL?
  • What Learning Outcomes will be used at our school?  Will we just adopt the district ones for now and use the district definitions as our guide for creating ours?
  • Will we use Group Contracts or is 6th grade too early for a group contract?  What are elementary/middle schools using for contracts?
  • Are there any Elective Teachers who are ready to take the plunge with the 7th graders next year?  If so we can start including them in discussions.
  • When do we start recruiting/training the 7th grade core teachers?
    The Need To Know list I have written is only some of the many questions looming in the back of my head.  As with any project I will revisit this list often and eliminate any that become known.  Then I will shift them to my Knows list.  Some of these I may not know until we already have students in the classroom.  But, by reviewing and reflecting I am actually firming up my foundation of knowledge about what it takes to create a school like we are about to create.

    This Summer I will be have "Scaffolding "sessions to increase my knowledge.  After each one I will be writing a post about what things I can take with me to eliminate any of the Need to Knows.  These scaffolding sessions may actually add more Need to Knows - and that's OK.  As with our students, there are times when the teacher holds a Workshop (what we call these in the NTN)  and the students realize that there are concepts that they don't know or foundations they have that are weak and need reinforcement.

    Let the Workshops begin.....