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Are You Curious About What is Happening At School?

If you are like me, you are eager to find out from your child how they have spent their day. As soon as I pick up my teenage son from the bus, I ask how was your day? More often than not I get the response, “Good” or “Fine.” Looking for a little glimpse into how he spent his eight hours away from me I wrack my brain for other questions I can ask to elicit a more detailed response. Sadly, the teachers in high school don’t send regular updates with photos so the conversation quickly fades and the drive home is a quiet one.

This fall Lower Division teachers began regularly sending classroom updates to help promote conversations at home.The photos that are included in the updates are a wonderful way to naturally inquire about the school day. Asking your child about the activities and people that are pictured or the topics that teachers have written about in their communications are great ways to launch a discussion. The stories your child will share (maybe slowly at first) will give you a window into their day, the friendships they are developing, the activities that they love, and possibly the challenges they face. Enjoy the dialogue that you can share with your child about school especially while you are getting hints about what to ask to gain a greater understanding. And if you are like me and still needing better questions to ask on that ride home click this link for 25 Ways to Ask Your Child How Was School Today.

Enjoy the conversations!

 

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How Are Teachers Thinking About Documentation?

As part of our year-long commitment to thinking about ways to document student work, we kicked off the initial Lower Division faculty meeting by creating a piece of art using materials that are commonly found in any Lower Division classroom. The objective of this exercise was to allow teachers time to reflect as they created. During their work time teachers were asked to think about about the following questions: How did this activity help you to reflect? Process? What in this activity can you bring back to your classroom? What were the skills you used to complete the activity? How could you prompt more thinking and reflection into your classroom routines?

Once teachers completed their piece of art they were asked to partner with a colleague and find a way to connect their two pieces. Teachers had thoughtful conversations with colleagues, problem solved with one another and in the process found meaning in each other’s art. Thanks to Megan Haddadi, Head of Academic Technology, we even learned about a new tool to document our work! Click the image below to check out our Storify timeline:  

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Lower Division Goals for the 2016-17 Year

As I write this post, teachers are busy preparing their classrooms to receive students on Wednesday. An integral part of the back-to-school preparation that isn’t seen by students or families is goal setting. Each summer teachers and administrators set personal and division-wide goals and commit to checking in with a supervisor throughout the course of the year. As outlined in my recent back-to-school letter, the two initiatives that the teachers in the Lower Division and I will focus on this year are documenting student learning and parent communication.

When educators document learning as it happens in a classroom, that evidence tells a story to anyone who views it. Viewing this of evidence with colleagues, coaches, educational leaders, and yes, even parents, benefits both teachers and students. It makes learning visible and provides incredible insight into next steps, student needs, curricular directions, instructional strategies and more! Together, the Lower Division faculty and I will tackle the question, “How can documentation help to further student understanding?” This question was at the heart of the learning at Project Zero (www.pz.harvard.edu) where seven Lower Division faculty and I took part in a summer institute dedicated to investigating the nature of intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity and more.

In addition to thinking about documenting learning, the Lower Division faculty and I were inspired by the article, The Positive Results of Parent Communication, which stated,

“Parents and teachers are two of the most important contributors to a student’s educational success. When parents and teachers communicate well with one another, they are able to support student learning together. As such, communication between home and school is vital.”

The article sparked curiosity about how, what, and how often we communicate with parents, which led to a day-long summer workshop that I had the great opportunity to co-lead with Katrina Mills, Lower Division Math Specialist. Lower Division faculty analyzed the cycle of teacher-to-parent communication over the course of one school year and our conversations resulted in setting division-wide goals for effective and predictable parent communication in 2016-17. I am confident that the work we engaged in around this topic will build even stronger relationships with families.

As the school year unfolds, I look forward to the delight both you and your child will experience as you watch the classroom come to life.Take time to notice the bulletin boards. Pause to appreciate the process that leads to your child’s ever growing understanding. Enjoy the regular communication you receive from your child’s classroom teacher and most importantly, use the content of that communication to ask your child about their day.

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Members of the Lower Division Team at Project Zero this past July