Thursday, June 20, 2013

Update on "Creating a School"

In May and June of last year I wrote two posts (How to make a new PBL school (part 1) and How to Make a PBL School (Part 2)) about my working at Decker Middle School and transforming it from a conventional school to a New Tech Network middle school with PBL as the primary mode of instruction.

PBL teachers should always review their Knows and Need to Knows each day. And in keeping with that practice, I took a look at my "Need to Know" list from those posts. I've updated the list, here, with strike-throughs for those things I now have an answer to.

  • 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 Apps (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 2nd 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?
There are many more questions that come to mind and this is the point in the process where we would add those Need to Knows to the original list. These new questions are ones that have come up because of my exploring the project.

Just like students in a project I am now focused on what needs to happen in "Year Two" in this journey we started.  And, even though I have been beating myself up about not getting anywhere during the first year, I can see that there has been progress. Just like students, again, I can take pride in my increased knowledge.

And now my Next Steps - (1) I'd like my teachers and administration to see the original posts and my update. That way they can see where I was coming from in May/June of 2012, where we are in June of 2013, and where we need to go on this trip to become a school that is recognized for quality instruction in the New Tech Network and in our district/state.  (2)  Create a new Need to Knows list with updated items needing answers and have it posted in a prominent spot for all to see. Then visit it periodically and not just in June 2014. (3) Create a "plan of attack" to answer the items on our new list.

DMS is no longer in its infancy in this process but we are still holding on to the table as we walk around the room. It's time to let go of the table and go off on our adventure.