Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A New Beginning

Unbelievably, we are three weeks into the 2010-2011 school year. The school's lobby and classrooms are decorated to reflect our new theme, Cultivating a Community of Excellence; We had a fun-filled Opening Day for teachers, welcomed and WOWed 1,300 + students back on their first day of school, and began meeting together collegially. And, although we've gotten off to an incredible start, I still feel a level of anxiety and stress in the building that I haven't felt in many years.

Chets Creek teachers are extremely competent, thoughtful, and strategic. They use our school's diagnostic tools in Reading, Math, and Science to assess what students know and use the data to prescribe whole group and small group instruction. They use the Florida standards and many curriculum tools to plan their instruction and stick closely to our pacing guides to ensure that all standards are covered thoroughly. And, they use the assessments we've created aligned with their standards, curriculum, and assessment.

Rewind ten years into the 2000-2001 school year and you will see where this foundational work started. Many Chets Creek teachers worked diligently to build this comprehensive foundation. To create a system smooth as silk, we extensively analyzed and discussed every standard, benchmark, and grade level expectation. We poured over every curriculum tool sent to us from our district and scoured to obtain additional resources. We meticulously and systematically wrote diagnostics, quizzes, formative assessments, and summatives in each core subject area to align with the standards. We created homework to support students' learning. In addition, we picked apart, questioned, and got intimately acquainted with our state standardized FCAT assessment based off the FCAT Specifications. The work hours were long, the process collaborative, the depth of learning satisfying, and the outcomes were second to none.
Then, year in and year out, as new teachers joined our school family, we lovingly handed all of our hard work off to them in hopes of making their road smoother. They proceeded down the path we had created. Each year, together, the foundation builders and subsequent sustainers, we tweaked our work to make it better, built stronger units of studies, and filled the gaps. But, the work was rarely from scratch.

Then, we stepped out of our comfortable self-created world into the Summer of 2010 and enjoyed the last labors of our professional love.

We entered the 2010-2011 school year like a deer in the headlights. It's like everyone groggily emerged from their summer hibernation to the realization that we have newly adopted state standards, that the FCAT test is changing this year to reflect the new standards, and that since we've written diagnostics, quizzes, formatives, summatives, and homework to align with the standards, those too must be redone. Oh, and to add the icing on the cake, our district also adopted two new math curriculum tools. To say the least, those of us from CCE's early years feel like we caught a ride with Marty McFly in his Delorean... Back to 2000.

You can see the founding teachers grinning slightly in recognition as the newbies realize with a gasp that the existing work is history and we will once again start anew. They have no idea how it feels to pick apart every standard detail by detail, or read and reread all curriculum tools for the whole year so we can appropriately build a pacing guide, or slave over the writing of every single assessment and homework piece. We never gave them that opportunity. In 2000, we laid the leg work and created a road map for student learning one small step at a time and we emerged better educators because of the thinking it took.
The tension in the air, the angst I'm feeling across the building is coming from the slow summer awakening of a faculty that knows now that this could be the most demanding school year of their careers. That they now will start from scratch and begin adding in the ingredients to the new recipe for student success.

I could say that I'm overwhelmed by the prospect of a new beginning, but really I'm not. I'm excited by the depth of understanding which came as I worked through this process the first time. I'm exhilarated that the teachers who joined the staff after 2000 are getting the opportunity to build, again, what we had. In fact, they have the benefit of knowing exactly what it should look like at the end of their journey. I can't think of a more capable staff to conquer these challenges and come out on top. I'm not saying there won't be some speed bumps along the way, but we will embrace them as learning opportunities as we move forward. I have great faith in my colleagues as professionals and can't wait to help them recreate a strong and worthy foundation. The harvest we reap will be plentiful.

Stay tuned for our progress...

1 comment:

Dee Dee Tamburrino said...

I have full confidence that you as the curriculum guru and our gifted teaching faculty will come through this year with flying colors.

It's "character building 101" and keeps us from getting stuck in a rut as educators.

Music standards have not yet been finalized, but are in process. My turn is coming...