Best... Day... Ever .. (at least professionally ... I think ...)

My daughter just started attending the school where my wife and I teach, so she has started joining us on the morning commute. To make things fair, we said that each day we would take turns choosing what we listened to. Yesterday, I chose a podcast that my wife and I enjoy very much, The Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish (follow him immediately if you don´t already). Near the end of the ride, my daughter moaned, "This talking is making my tummy feel bad." 

Cut to this morning. She packed herself three books to "read" in the car, just in case we had to listen to the talking again. Love that kid.

So, the professional part. Some time this week, I read a blog post that was shared by Barry Dequanne (follow him immediately as well if you don´t already) about how a team of teachers were trying to build agency in their students. Inspiring read. This morning I had each student brain storm on post-it notes when reading, writing, maths (yes I like the English way to say it better, blame Jo Boaler (follow her immediately as well), science & social studies went well for them, and when they were the pits. They then posted those thoughts onto posters. We then went around and read all of the responses and put a check-mark if we agreed or an exclamation point if we thought it was a great idea. I also asked them to come up with some community building games, and some rituals and traditions we might start.

During my planning time, I was able to go through all the comments and make some decisions for the rest of the day. One of those decisions may have been a mistake. I decided to give them a baseline maths assessment , well part of one at least. The reason I fear it was a mistake was the fact that it was the first "official" thing we did in maths this year. However, in reading their responses to when maths was the pits, it mostly had to do with having stress, being forced to do very long assessments in one go, and not liking tests. I wanted to show them how it was going to be different this year. I hope it was the right decision. Time will tell.

Fast forward to our team meeting. Our grade-level wants to set some common expectations for safety and share those with our students. When I was thinking about planning this, it occurred to me to try and do so as a group planning conversation facilitated by one of our trained cognitive coaches (if you´ve never heard of either, find out. It´s life changing stuff.) We also invited administrators and other coaches to come and watch (even record!) our conversation. It was kind of a big deal because it was the first time at our school that anyone had tried something like this.  As I was talking to one of our other coaches, she mentioned that we should invite one of our trained systems experts to come in for support (what kind of a great place do we get to work at, huh?).  The conversation was hands down my favorite team meeting I have ever been to. I still need to send a delta/plus reflection to the rest of the team to get their feedforward. The one person I talked to exclaimed that they really enjoyed the format, so I am hoping it´s more if not all of them thinking the same way.

After lunch, I had the students do an actual gallery walk. I say actual because I had always half-assed them in the past, having half of the students present as the other half was the wandering audience and then switching. This time, I decided to read the directions. So I had five "artists" going at once, and another 4 triads and 1 group of 5 as the rotating gallery walkers. Each artist got a total of 5 minutes (Five 1 minute presentations) to talk about their work. During the gallery walk, I used positive discipline effectively to help a student. After the presentations, I then had each table group get together to answer a particular reflection question, and then give appreciations. We had at least 10 appreciations ... which were the first appreciations of the year given by someone not named Mr. Light.

After our 15 minute brain break (want to learn more about breaks? Go here. Oh, and follow Daniel Pink) we brainstormed about what kind of content we wanted to create for the student run classroom website. I then gave a rousing speech about our homework approach, and the concept of JUNTOS (that means together in Spanish, and it´s something my 3 and 1/2 year old son says a lot) which is a major theme of mine this year. 

Rewind to yesterday. I was talking with my wife (follow her too!) about how to get kids to reflect deeply on their work. At the end of the talk, it was decided that I should ask my students if they were proud enough of their work to publish it to a global audience (I unpacked what that meant with them, and then had them write a reflection about if they believed so, why they believed that, and what decisions did they make that caused them to produce the work that they did).

This afternoon. I handed each student back their reflection from yesterday and asked them to reflect again. See, during the gallery walk, each student got to see 17 other exemplars that they could compare their work to, so they could truly get an idea as to what their quality of work was. I had no interest in creating a rubric, or grading them. I know these things don´t help. Seeing excellent work, done by a peer in the same situation as them. That´s the data they need in order to reflect on their own practice. All I asked them to do was write down if they agreed with their assessment of their work from yesterday. Yes. Or no. When they left for home, 7 kids asked me for a new piece of paper, so they could redo their ungraded work.

By the by. The parents of 14 out of 22 of my students filled out a survey.  And they all signed up for my WhatsApp broadcast list that I am going to use to share ideas on how to motivate their kids, and tips on parenting. 

Not a  bad 10 hours, huh?