Dear Administrators

While the rest of the academic world is caught up in end-of-the-year craziness, you are busy getting ready for September.  Your mind is likely full of ways to change your practice for next school year.  Wouldn’t it be great if one of your ideas included a new way to collect lesson plans from your teachers?

I have to say, I was never obligated to turn in lesson plans.  And I was never the greatest of planners.  I’m good at responding in the moment, though, and very reflective.  That’s why I balk when I see some of the lesson plans that teachers are required to hand in.  Lesson plans with many, many boxes to fill out.  Plans that require alignment with The Common Core.  Lesson plans that ask teachers how they’ll assess learning, how they’ll keep kids engaged, how they’ll differentiate and scaffold and link to other subject areas.  If you ask me, it’s a little too much.  Yes, I know, you have to make sure that teachers are on task.  But is a lesson plan really the way to check that?  YOU know who’s on task and who isn’t. And a lesson plan, no matter how many boxes, won’t change the ises or the isn’ts.

So here’s an idea: give teachers other options for sharing their teaching with you.  One of my favorite principals, Marc Biunno, of McKinley School in Westfield, NJ offers this to his teachers, in addition to the usual, fill-in-the-boxes:

You will have several choices for how you may submit lesson plans to me:

  • You may collect a copy of one student’s work in a folder for two weeks.  At the end of the two weeks, rather than submitting lesson plans, you will submit the student’s work folder (grades and all).  I will review the work that the student has completed and provide you with feedback.
  • You may schedule a planning meeting with me to review and discuss your plans for the next two weeks.  This option allows you to tailor your feedback, start a conversation, seek support, or just talk through your thoughts.  It’s also an effective way for me to get to know you as a teacher.

So why not, principals?  Wouldn’t you rather spend your time looking at student work or meeting face-face with your teachers when it concerns instruction?  All those little boxes might not mean anything anyway.  Teachers can (and do) cut and paste from year to year and who can blame them?

 

Why I Love My Job

Today I was invited to a presentation of McKinley KidTV at McKinley School in Westfield, NJ.  And wow!  That show rocked!  Under the direction of Joe Paradise and Cathy McGarry, two teachers at McKinley, a bunch of fifth grade students produced a one-hour TV show that made me cry happy tears.

The backstory: Four days a week, during recess, the kids meet with Joe and Cathy to write, direct and produce TV.  The kids decide on issues, or themes or news of interest to them and then they research the topics.  This year the show centered on Super Storm Sandy, how the brain learns to read, students composing music about endangered animals, and don’t forget MythBusters!

I love that the kids choose the topics.  THEY decide how to shape the content of the show.  THEY create it, and THEY’re the stars.  Thank you, Joe and Cathy for making this possible for McKinley School kids.   Teachers like you make me love my job.  Check out a video at vimeo.com/67690352.