Sunday, February 9, 2020

Week of Feb 10th

UAI Staff News

Volume VII
Issue 25
February 10th,  2020


Deficit Thinking Diminishes When We Start Questioning Assumptions...
This week, I was chatting with one of the 11th grade teachers as they were making copies for class.  Each spring the junior teachers gear up to begin preparing letters of recommendation for next year's graduating class.  We prioritize the letter writing by the student's class rank.  While ultimately all students have recommendation letters written, those students with the highest GPAs will be applying to the more competitive colleges, where their letters will carry more weight.

As we spoke about the logistics, we then went in a review of who was at the top, and our Monday PD discussion about the low disproportional representation of our African American students in the top of each of our graduating classes, the Class of 2021 included.  We chatted more specifically about specific students and discussing possible root causes of why they were not at the top of their classes.  At one point, the teacher said, "[Student X] could be at the top if she came to school on time." I found myself nodding along in agreement, saying, "Yeah - you're right! She's always late, and we've talked about her often."  The teacher echoed the efforts, listing constant family outreach, parent meetings, student meetings etc.

Then in the midst of my own bobble-headed nodding, I caught myself.  "Wait," I thought.  "Why is she late? How does lateness impact her academic achievement and performance?  Should it be that way?"  I continued my internal musing..."There are some cultures obsessed about time and being on time - like the Americans & the Dutch, probably the Swiss (but that's likely a stereotype & bias) - but I'm not certain that timeliness is a universally held assumption."

I don't have the answer, but I do know I need to question myself and my colleagues.  So, I did and I asked the teacher, "Why does her lateness prevent her from being at the top of the class?  Does she know that by being late she is closing off scholarship and college choices that could literally be hers to claim?  Have we ever had that convo with her? If so, does she truly understand the exchange she is making - taking current time for future opportunity?"

As we think about the expectations we set for students, it's important that we question our rationale.  For example, for my questioning and thinking, I still firmly believe that the student needs to come to school on time every day.  Being in the classroom on time and being an active participant, creates a stronger learning experience and valuable work habits that will facilitate the students' future work in college and beyond.

However, I am equally certain that there has to be a way that we communicate more clearly about two categories of achievement - social emotional development (e.g. in this case, time management) and academic achievement.

One way to achieve this is connecting student behaviors to academic outcomes through formative feedback in the classroom (and through calls home with families).   For example, when students arrives on time, imagine the students arriving in class on time.  She is now able to join into the planned Turn and Talk around the Do Now, and now has an extended understanding of the idea.  The teacher hears her ideas and then says, "I'm so glad you made it on time today.  Your ideas with your partner provided valuable insight into this topic <because of x>.  If you come on time each day, your ideas will continue to develop and it will show in your (speaking, writing, analysis, etc.)."

Remember, the only way to shift deficit thinking out of practice is through constant attention to it.  There is no magic bullet.  There is not simple answer.  Through our questioning and lack of resolution, there is constant discomfort.  We need to walk towards that feeling and push ourselves to think flexibly and consider multiple perspectives and possible solutions.  The status quo has not worked.  Only through collective reflection and questioning can we hope to find alternate methods to better empower our young women.

Announcements

No Birthdays this Week


Survey Questions.  After analyzing the survey data from our January PD, there are a few questions that need some clarity for folks (just informational).  This is just an indicator that I have not been clear enough.  Here are the things that some folks indicated concerns in their responses and commentary that are readily cleared up with some facts:

  • Hiring New Professional Personnel:  Teachers are involved in the hiring process throughout the spring (I described that in last week's blog).  If we are left to hire in the summer, teachers who are in summer school fill in for the hiring committee.  Just to remind you, the hiring committee includes:  Tiffany, Marsha, Rebecca C, Rachel, Sarah M, Phillan, Jamie, Sarah R., Kelly, Elena, Joey, Annie, Jen, and Kiri.  11 our of 35 classroom teachers (or nearly 1/3 of the teaching staff) are on the hiring committee.
  • Planning How Discretionary Funds Are Used:  Each year people get tripped up by the word "discretionary."  Discretionary funds are all funds outside of budgetary requirements (e.g. Title I requirements) and staffing.  Every time I ask you guys for your wish lists, I'm asking for your input on discretionary funding.  This year teachers have submitted orders (all of which were placed in the summer), over the course of the Fall, and now for the spring orders.  So each time you have submitted a ShopDoe order or come to me asking to buy XY or Z for your class, that was your input into discretionary funding!


To-Do This Week

March Not Madness PD.  This Monday the ELA teachers kick off their multi-session PD series on text selection and scaffolding access to rigorous texts in the ELA classroom.  At the end of this series, the team will submit a collaboratively decided list of texts by grade level.  They will be working together on 10FEB, 24FEB, 02MAR, 09MAR and 16MAR.   For the rest of the staff, we will be launching our annual March Not Madness PD series.  In this series, teachers have the opportunity to select from a variety of workshops focusing on well-being and pedagogical effectiveness.  Taking feedback from the survey, we are incorporating your requests on PDs around Classroom Management, Strategies to Support ENL students, and Strategies to Support students with IEPs in your classroom.  The workshop descriptions are listed below.  During March Madness, we'll be holding focus groups around the Survey Data  to get your input on how to address concerns and extend accomplishments.  If you're not in a focus group, you'll be participating in one of these workshops.  Please complete THIS SURVEY to submit your choices.

  • Pedagogical Effectiveness Workshops
    • Developing Strategies to Support Students with IEPs:  Hallie from the Affinity Support team will be running a PD to help teachers understand how to best leverage student IEPs and develop strategies to better support the academic success of those students in their classrooms. March 9th ONLY. 
    • Classroom Management Techniques:   Ms. Nina will be hosting a classroom management PD to share her strategies and techniques for creating a safe, warm, and orderly learning environment.  March 23rd ONLY. 
    • Scaffolding Readings & Assessments to Support ENL Students: Ms. Rebecca F & Ms. Laura will be running a workshop on supporting teachers to develop strategies and approaches that increase ENL student entry into rigorous texts and more accurately assess their learning. March 16th ONLY. 
    • Independent Work Time with Co-Planning Team:  Teacher teams may elect to choose a Monday to get a jump on the week's planning.  Repeating Sessions.

  • Mindfulness & Well-being Workshops
    • Learning Walks:  Walking with a colleague and just talking about pressing topics is a great way to process your thinking and collaborate on new ideas around issues that have been persistent struggles.  On the learning walks, staff can choose a topic, colleague and destination (e.g. walk across the Brooklyn Bridge). Repeating Sessions.
    • Yoga: Exercise and Meditation combine to provide staff with a means to manage stress, health, and exhaustion.  We will have a yoga class offered to those who are interested in joining!  Exact Date still TBD.
    • It's Game Time!: By popular request, we have created a Game Day PD.  Come join your colleagues in blowing off steam with games and puzzles.  I'm bringing Elena's cards against humanity and Dashiel's new game called "Joking Hazard."  I also have Settlers of Catan, Monopoly, and others.  Bring in your favorites (puzzles and games alike). Repeating Sessions.
    • Sip and Paint:  Also back by popular demand is the Sip and Paint workshop.  The "Sip" portion of the Painting PD will be open to all at the UAI staff happy hour on March 20 (after our PM SLCs have completed) and the Paint portion will happen the following Monday on March 23 ONLY.


Monday PD.  Final orders for the Spring Term.  The end-of-the year budget deadlines are fast approaching.  We cannot make any modifications to the budget (i.e. move money around) after March 4th.  This means we need to get your orders and process them all by Friday so we have enough time to move funds that were not used on materials or books into other budget areas (e.g. technology or per session/per diem).  This is your Spring Input into discretionary funding.  During Monday PD, we will all meet to go over announcements.  Then, we will split into ELA team and everyone else.  (ELA teachers can use their Tuesday time to submit their requests.) Everyone will have the remainder of PD time to put together their ShopDoe Cart.  Your cart must be fully checked OUT (I'll remain in PD to show you how if you need support) and submitted to me and Nancy by the end of the PD period.


Tuesday Notification Celebrations and Promotion In Doubt .  Please continue to use these next two Tuesdays before the February break to reach out and review each of your advisees' growth and performance for the fall term.

  • Discuss Academics.  If she passed everything, how can she continue to excel?  If she is failing a class (or HS Regent exam), her promotion may be in doubt.  This means that she may have to attend summer school.  Parents often need to hear this early so they can prepare summer plans accordingly.  Remember, All HS Students have another chance to take exams in June and in August.  All students have another chance to recover current failing grades by passing their courses by June.  Solicit from parents what they would need from us to support learning at home.  Share your information on Skedula and with your grade teams.
  • If attendance is the issue (lateness and/or absence), find out from the parents what seems to be happening, and ask them how we can help. Share your information on Skedula and with your attendance grade team leads.
  • For behavior and Social Emotional Development, share her strengths and areas of growth.  Find out from parents if there is anything we can do at the school level to help them continue to build her growth in key SEL areas. Share your information on Skedula and with your grade teams and counselors.


Social-Emotional Learning Update


Per Session Opportunities

No new postings this week


 




Sunday, February 2, 2020

Week Of Feb 3rd

UAI Staff News

Volume VII
Issue 24
February 3rd,  2020


Deficit Thinking Diminishes When we Start Paying Attention...
Last week I was giving feedback to a teacher and she was explaining how she was providing supports to ENL students in two different classes.  Both students were pretty new to the English language, and both students were tasked to engage with rich texts written in English.  In one class, the teacher made the decision to provide the student with time to practice English (vs. the content).  In the other class, the teacher used Google Translate to translate the document into Arabic.  The teacher had doubts about the accuracy of Google Translate, but chose to use it anyway.  The teacher was "surprised" when the student wrote (in English) her response to the questions associated with the text.   

In one case, the teacher viewed English language learning as something that needed to be "fixed."
In the second, the teacher viewed English as another language, and provided the students' stronger language as an alternative.   

In one case, the teacher's focus on addressing the limitation as targeting the learning English limited the student's access to the lesson & thus to thinking.  

In the second, the teacher's focus on the providing the correct linguistic scaffold to access the content unlocked the students' intellectual potential and empowered her to demonstrate her thoughts, and thus engage in learning with the rest of her classmates.

On a daily basis, teachers make a million different decisions rapidly.  Time is highly structured and in schools, it moves forward with particular zeal.  We all have the best intentions, but the challenges of time coupled with the limits of our current capacity is what opens the door to deficit thinking.  

This teacher may have missed the target on the first effort, but lessons were certainly learned in seeing the outcomes with the second method.  There are no secret formulas that protect us from deficit thinking.  Instead, the thing we need to do is to try and the recognize & challenge ourselves when we're "surprised" or hear ourselves saying our students needs X because she can't do Y.  The more we reflect, the more we will see how and when deficit thinking sneaks in.

And once we're pretty good at recognizing and challenging....Then you'll notice a shift in your mindset and subsequently (because you already are accomplished and creative pedagogues) a growth in strategies to support student learning for all.


Announcements

No Birthdays this Week


Good Luck to Val!  After 8 years as a teacher and assistant principal, Val has elected to move on from UAI.  An opportunity at her former school popped up this January, and she decided to pursue that option now.   We wish her the best of luck and send her off with good feelings as she enters the next chapter in her careers.  For UAI, Val's responsibilities will fall to Annie.  So, all teachers whom Val evaluated will not be evaluated by Annie, and all compliance, trips, and facilities coordination now go to Annie.

Celebrating Black History Month.  Please check out the SEL updates which will include the events for this month. In your classes, include raising awareness within your subject area (e.g. introduce famous African American female scientists in science class, read influential texts from powerful African American female authors, discuss important contributions in social justice from African American female activitists).  These amazing people should be highlighted in your courses throughout the year, but if February is our month to draw extra attention to them.

Attendance Check.  Nancy put copies of your CAR in your mailboxes last week.  You can always check your CAR and other payroll and HR services using the Payroll Portal.  You should make it a habit to check your CAR and attendance periodically.  Mistakes can happen, but they can be corrected!  Please review your CAR, attendance, and coverage pay to make sure your records are accurate.

Hiring Committee.  It's hiring season again!  This year's hiring committee consists of: Tiffany, Marsha, Rebecca C, Rachel, Sarah M, Phillan, Jamie, Sarah R., Kelly, Elena, Annie, Jen, and Kiri.  If you are interested, here's what happens on the hiring committee
  • First Cast a Very Wide Net.  To find the best teachers, we cast the widest net to get the most applicants.  From this pool interview and select candidates for demo lessons & debrief interviews.  We post for all positions and all grade levels each year.  We then interview all the candidates at multiple interview fairs that happen on several Saturdays throughout the Spring.  The hiring committee is charged with interviewing panels of candidates and selecting the best of these candidates to perform a demo lesson and debrief the interview.
  • The Demo Lesson.  Annie and Kiri watch all demo lessons, and where possible, hiring committee members join (volunteering their prep, lunch and/or professional period).
  • The Debrief Interview.  After the demo lesson, Annie & Kiri lead the interview to listen to the candidate reflect on the demo and see how well the candidate is at taking in and using feedback.  As with the demo lesson, hiring committee member join in on the debrief interviews.
If you are interested in joining the committee, please reach out to Annie! 

To-Do This Week

Monday PD.  This Monday will be our last PLOP writing Grade Team Meeting.  We will finish up the PLOPs for the year in Monday's meeting.   The PD Committee is still finalizing the plan for the upcoming Mondays.  However, as per staff feedback, we will be including Monday sessions on ENL/SPED strategies in the classroom, Classroom Management, and we will be bringing back our 2nd annual series of March -not-madness - a series of wellness-focused PDs.  If you have special requests for March-Not-Madness workshops, please email Jen with your ideas.  In addition to these PD opportunities, staff will also be pulled in small focus groups to discuss the survey feedback (which you can see HERE) so that we can gather ideas and more detailed input on how to continue to improve the school. 

    Tuesday Notification Celebrations and Promotion In Doubt .  Please continue to use these next two Tuesdays before the February break to reach out and review each of your advisees' growth and performance for the fall term.

    • Discuss Academics.  If she passed everything, how can she continue to excel?  If she is failing a class (or HS Regent exam), her promotion may be in doubt.  This means that she may have to attend summer school.  Parents often need to hear this early so they can prepare summer plans accordingly.  Remember, All HS Students have another chance to take exams in June and in August.  All students have another chance to recover current failing grades by passing their courses by June.  Solicit from parents what they would need from us to support learning at home.  Share your information on Skedula and with your grade teams.
    • If attendance is the issue (lateness and/or absence), find out from the parents what seems to be happening, and ask them how we can help. Share your information on Skedula and with your attendance grade team leads.
    • For behavior and Social Emotional Development, share her strengths and areas of growth.  Find out from parents if there is anything we can do at the school level to help them continue to build her growth in key SEL areas. Share your information on Skedula and with your grade teams and counselors.


    Social-Emotional Learning Update


    Per Session Opportunities

    No new postings this week.