Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Clash and Your Class: Processes for the New Year

Darlin’ you've got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?.....
BAH NA NA NA NA NA NA.  (scritch, scritch)
            -the Clash “Should I Stay or Should I go?”

As I listened to the awesome Bill McBride at SS District Wide Training on Monday, I was struck (with a 2x4) by something he said.

He said, (ready for this?) “The systems you have in place are perfect for the results you’re getting”

Read that again. Don’t worry – I’ll wait :)

Here’s what I hear: If I want my kids to keep doing x, then I should keep doing Process Y. If I want them to do z, then I need to find another process to get them there. Process Y isn't going to do it.

As we begin another year, it’s time to reflect on what worked last year and what didn't. What needs to stay the same and what needs to change. In the words of a friend soon getting married -- something old and something new.

Every year is different. Every year we have the opportunity to do what we do a little differently, without changing the CORE of our classrooms or content.

As I think about my classroom, I like to think about what I would do differently if I was back in the classroom this year. I think about what I would keep or trash, based on my last year.

Here are some of my thoughts …
  • Keep: I would definitely keep my system for behavior slips (little slips of paper where the kid writes what he or she did wrong and how he or she will fix it for next time) This was hugely helpful in not disrupting my class every time a kid needed behavior correction -- and was handy to staple to a referral if necessary. http://tinyurl.com/mguz52d
  • Trash: I would absolutely change my notebook procedure. A lot of kids had more trouble keeping them organized than it was worth.        
  • Keep: I would keep my assignment notes, descriptions, and directions in PORTAL (ex. Assignment 8/25: read page 12 and write what you and your partner summarized about it). This was awesome for make-up work and fending off parent questions. I could say “the assignment is on PORTAL -- you find it and do it”.
  • Trash: I would change my pass system. All passes should hang on necks. Anything they have to hold in their hands -- EWWWW! They don’t all wash their hands! Yuck!
  • Keep: I would keep Word Sorts, my favorite vocab activity http://tinyurl.com/mau67xv  My kids did great with these!
  • Trash: I would trash the way I did Cornell Notes. I wasn't doing them right. I gave the kids too many notes, and didn't have them make their own notes enough.

I could go on and on as I reflect. I could tell you what I want to keep or trash this year in my current job, as compared to last year, too.

“The systems you have in place are perfect for the results you’re getting”

If your kids learn vocabulary well with your vocabulary strategies, then keep them. If they manage their classroom routines and bellwork well, don’t fix what isn't broken! Keep what works. And feel good about the areas where you rock!

But keep the words of Dr. Bill McBride in the back of your mind as you plan and set up. “The systems you have in place are perfect for the results you’re getting”

If you’re getting great results, you’re doing great. If you’re getting so-so results, you need to try something new.

If you struggled with homework last year, examine your system and see if you can try a different way of handling it this year. If you had trouble keeping kids engaged, see what you can do to increase engagement. If you had trouble with behavior, try to adapt your behavior system. If you had trouble keeping up with your grading, see what you can do to streamline that and make it easier on yourself.

Now is a new school year, which always brings to mind New Year’s Resolutions. Now is the time to think carefully and intentionally about your classroom instruction and management. Make some decisions about your procedures, strategies, and organization, and ask, as The Clash say, “Should I(t) stay or should I(t) go?”

Take a risk. If you stay, there may be trouble and if you go, there may be double -- or, something might work better for you. It’s worth a try. Your KIDS are worth a try.

Don’t hang on to something that isn't getting you the results you want. And don’t be afraid to (thoughtfully) try something new.

Be brave. Rock out to an old Clash song. Rock the Casbah. Or rock the bathroom passes. Or rock the gradebook. Rock whatever you need to. Just don’t be afraid to try something new to get new results.

Increase the tempo now and drum while you sing along...

What are you trying differently this year? What different results do you hope to get? As always, I love to hear! Email me at newmantr@pcsb.org

Reading-in-Social Studies Coach

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