Instruction Update: December 20, 2018

Instruction Update: December 20, 2018
Posted on 12/20/2018

November and December have brought a flurry of activity in two significant areas: School-Wide Walkthroughs and our Staff Intensives.

Walkthroughs: We have hosted three walkthroughs:

  • Dr. Salim on November 7th,
  • School Committee Member Laurence Kimbrough on November 16th, and
  • Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Anda Adams and District Coordinators: Janet MacNeil (Science), Adrienne Stang (History), and Julie Ward (Math) on November 30th.

In each case visitors were impressed with our focused effort on mastery objectives, constructed response, and engagement. Highlights were: the level of respect evident between students and teachers, the consistent approach to constructed response across grade levels and content areas, classrooms and hallways that contained posters and images of people who represented our students in all of the disciplines, as well as a significant amount of student support materials, and an overall energetic and enthusiastic learning environment.

Staff Intensives: Our staff have been enjoying their intensives so much that we added an extra day for them to meet before the winter break! Here’s what they’re up to:

In the Race, Gender & Intersectionality group facilitated by Pamela Chu-Sheriff, Assistant Principal, we have been exploring the concept of intersectionality, or interrelated systems of oppression, as related to race and gender. Through articles, videos, case studies, and discussion, we have been working to identify our own implicit biases, reflecting on how oppression impacts members of our school community all in order to identify ways to support students and staff in their multiple identities.

Cogenerative/ Restorative Practices, facilitated by Jiar Ahmed, School Adjustment Counselor, started with the creation of group norms; it is essential to establish group standards because this is the vehicle in which members of the group will become comfortable sharing their voice and knowing that the group will validate their opinions. After establishing the norms, the group discussed power dynamics in their classrooms and wrestled with Dr. Emdin’s concept of Pentecostal Pedagogy. Teachers reflected on how power and control shape the dynamics in their classes. In the coming weeks, members of the group will identify students to have in cogen groups, explore how cogens can be used to increase student's voice and reflect on best practices from the perspective of their students, and learn or review the tenets of restorative circles as a means to facilitate the cogen groups.

In the Neurodiversity and Other Cool Stuff staff intensive, facilitated by Desiree Phillips, Special Education Coordinator for Upper Schools, High School, and Out-of-District, ten of us have had the opportunity to discuss neuroplasticity, basic neuroscience, connections to Zaretta Hammond's work on Culturally Responsive Teaching, and the Eight Principles of Neurodiversity from Thomas Armstrong.

Eight Principles:

  1. The human brain works more like an ecosystem than a machine.
  2. Human brains exist along continuums of competence.
  3. Human competence is defined by the values of the culture to which you belong.
  4. When you are regarded as disabled or gifted, depends largely on when and where you were born.
  5. Success in life is based on adapting one’s brain to the needs of the surrounding environment.
  6. Success in life also depends on modifying the surrounding environment to fit the needs of your unique brain (niche construction).
  7. Niche construction includes many factors
  8. Positive niche construction directly modifies the brain (neuroplasticity)
  9. A cool resource to explore is the Neurodiversity Strengths Checklist.

In Design Thinking, Vicky Wu, Founder and Executive Director of Youth CITIES, reports that often, design-thinking is only associated with invention and selling new things, even if it’s not needed. However, design-thinking can be applied to any decision-maker looking to improve another person’s well-being. People often create "solutions" (also known as products) in a "bubble". What we find is that the ones in charge of decision-making do not truly understand the problems (and therefore the needs) of the user and the result is that the “product” often exacerbates the problem. Staff are engaging in the design-thinking process and putting themselves in the students’ shoes. We are also exploring how we can turn high-level concepts such as the "need to build trust with the students" into the more tactical steps of getting student voice and choice into the conversation, which starts to build the connection between students and teachers and class content.

In the Inclusive Practice Academy and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), facilitated by Mirko Chardin, Head of School, and Christina Farese, Instructional Coach, staff have had the opportunity: to attend keynote sessions led by internationally renowned educational consultants, Dr. Katie Novak and Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, to collaborate with more than 50 schools across the state, to analyze our own practice and collect research on Universal Design for Learning, as well as to practice implementing UDL practices in our classrooms. Liam Doherty, 8th Grade Social Studies teacher and our UDL Coach, has also participated in UDL coaching and a virtual book group on the book titled "Culturally Responsive Design for English Language Learners: The UDL Approach." As a team we are looking forward to digging deeper into our data when we return from winter break.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2019 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.