Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Importance of Life Skills

Today’s Focus is more business-like than my usual philosophical brilliance J.  My plan is also to display recognition of the professional and reflective nature of the teachers at AAK.  Your diligence is respected.
The Potsdam Central School District has re-written our Grading and Homework Policy in recent years.  During and after the first re-write, teachers, students, and parents delved into the much needed conversation of effectively grading a child’s performance.  It was at this time we recognized the significance of reporting on other, non-academic characteristics; separate from academic grades.  Throughout the initial phases of implementing that policy, the middle school defined these desirable traits and thus was born our Life Skills Rubric. 
After much feedback, reflection, and dialogue, the Grading and Homework Policy was, yet again, edited.  A component of both re-worked policies was that the Life Skills were strongly supported and that teachers should report on these non-academic skills.  As our building continued to support the use of the Life Skills Rubric, we noticed its’ limitations.  A few concerns were voiced during our Team Leaders meeting and so we decided to re-work the Life Skills Rubric to better reflect the character traits our teachers wish to report.  Currently, our Team Leaders are presenting the potential new rubric to their constituents.  If I may speak for the Team Leaders, your feedback is valued.  The areas that are reported on in this draft rubric are work habits & preparation, organization, and class participation. 
In reflection from the past few years, I am glad that we continue to believe these desirable traits need to be reported.  As I review student report cards, I often contemplate on the Life Skills in comparison to the academic grades.  There is little irony in the fact that students who traditionally score well with their behavioral grades also score well in their class averages.  While this certainly applies to the majority, it’s not always a steadfast rule.  This is where the significance lies, with students who don’t reflect the norm.  Most of us can think of a student who works hard and displays desirable characteristics, but doesn’t always receive equally high academic grades.  Similarly, there are students who do receive the high academic grades, but struggle with some of the skills we identify with successful students.  This additional behavioral grade adds tremendous value to the report card.  As a parent, many times I look to this assessment before viewing the academic grade. 
I thank you for standing tall and demonstrating that teachers do more than teach the curriculum. 
                                                                                                Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Healthy Practice for Teachers

This is an activity which I asked you to participate in a few years ago.  I actually had a lot of feedback at the time from teachers on my staff as well as teachers from other districts (who my teachers had contacted).  It’s a quick activity and I feel you’ll get a lot out of it, professionally.
I normally begin my Friday Focus with a quote, thought, or idea, which expands to a reflection and sometimes a revelation.  Today I’m changing things up and asking you to be an active participant.  Your task is relatively simple and will take only a few minutes of your time.  I would like you to visit five teacher websites and spend a moment navigating around them.  If you like something about the website, then send that teacher a quick note to let them know.  Here’s the catch – I would like it if you would only view one site from your team and one site from another teacher at AAK.  (That leaves three sites left, right?)  Please select one teacher site from the high school and one teacher site from the elementary school.  For the fifth site I’d like you to travel the internet waves to another district and view a teacher site from outside the Potsdam district.  It’s important to remember to send a note or email telling the teachers what you liked about their site.
Thanks for being such willing participants in this exercise.  Have a fantastic weekend!