Elementary School Principal's Blog

What Our Teachers Do to Keep Current

Posted on August 30, 2009

by Dr. Edna Hussey on August 30, 2009

The Open House event for all parents of children in grades three through five is Wednesday, September 2, 6:30-8:00pm. The next two paragraphs in italics appeared in last week's posting, but the message bears repeating. If you've already participated in your child's Open House (preschool through second grade), scroll down to the fourth paragraph where I begin a series of future posts about inquiry and the assessment of student learning. 

From the 8/23/09 website posting: We distinguish participating in Open House from merely attending.  Anticipate an evening in which you'll engage first-hand in some of the learning your child experiences and discuss the process with other parents.  Take a look at a visual presentation of what happens from the time your child is dropped off at school through the end of the school day.  Get to know the parents of your child's classmates.  Ask questions about what your child will be learning throughout the year, how learning takes place, and how your child's performance is assessed.


From your child's seat at the table, experience what he sees and hears.  Participate in Open House; don't just attend it.  Since your full participation and undivided attention are important, the Open House is for parents only.  This is the only school and classroom event when childcare will not be provided. We expect 100 percent parent attendance and participation in Open House. Please report to the Dining Room for check-in, nametags, and a parent meeting before going to the classrooms.


I would venture to assume that as parents, you expect the faculty of Mid-Pacific Institute to teach your children using what's known in education jargon as "best practice. "Sometimes "current" suggests strategies that change with every whim and wave of what's new. Rather, in our classrooms, current means practice that has been "tested" in a wide range of settings and among diverse learners over time and in progressive schools that are preparing students for 21st century expectations in the workplace.  That's why our teachers need to be engaged in meaningful, ongoing professional development, as opposed to a workshop or conference that sometimes has little impact on deepening one's practice.  


In the preschool and elementary, we have come to understand that professional development is daily reflection about our practice, looking at multiple modes of student assessment, talking with other teachers in the same grade level and across grade levels and content areas, and reading articles or books that provoke thinking about teaching.  Our participation in the Schools of the Future initiative to improve teaching and learning for the 21st century has helped us to chart out a systematic plan for growth and development in terms of teaching and learning. The first year of our five-year plan is to take a careful, critical look at our present inquiry practices and to investigate ways to improve our practice.


At the elementary school, every faculty member is part of a small study group that meets during lunch on different days of the week.  We're beginning with our close reading of Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action, co-authored by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels.  This text helps us understand how to help our students become better inquirers and collaborators, and our discussions are posted on an electronic community -- Moodle -- so that our group thinking about inquiry is documented. Over the year, we'll be able to talk in depth about our observations of students and their processes of inquiry.  


Following through on our self-study (accreditation) process last spring, we began to take a careful look at the performance continua (these are the tools we use with parents to indicate where students are in their learning over time).  We realized that continuity from grade to grade was not as explicit.  Moreover, the language for describing students' movement to the next grade level showed students beginning the grade level at a deficit rather than continuing with a set of learned skills.  We also discussed the notion that progress over time might be better depicted in a continuum that describes overlapping and more complex skills as students learn. During the Open House, teachers briefly discussed the revised continua.  However, over the next few weeks, I'll be giving more detailed explanations about the continua, beginning with inquiry since this is our focus of study over the next two years.  Stay tuned.


If you've reached this paragraph, you've done your part as a parent to keep current with the information communicated via the website.  Thank you for taking the time each week to read our postings on the website. At last week's Open House, every teacher giving a presentation said more than once about how much effort she is putting into her weekly blogs.  You might want to email a comment or question now and then to your child's teacher or any of the specialists about what they've written.  


We are thrilled by your response about the Welcome Barbecue next Saturday, September 5, 3:00-5:00pm.  Your immediate family is invited, as well as grandparents and special aunts and uncles, but please make sure to rsvp so that the committee prepares enough food for all.  On the menu: lots of fun. Plan on it.


For our children,


Edna L. Hussey