Routine Redux #sol19

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 5.47.55 AMRoutine Redux:  Reunion Day #sol19

March 15, 2019

We wake predawn… 3 a.m.  Coffee is dripping through the pot in the kitchen.  The sound is comforting.  I know that if I can get through the next ten minutes,  a cup will be the reward.  Clothes laid out in the bathroom to minimize the wake up of others.  Lunch in the refrigerator.  Teacher bag packed.  Quick shower.  Have to have a quick shower.  As I dry my hair,  I look through the agenda I downloaded yesterday thinking about what I might go to.  What if I finally connect with my Connecticut friends too?

Check the time and put it into high gear.  Have to be at the meeting point by 3:30.  Quietly out the door.  Bob will take you out later Lily when it’s really time to get up.  She looks at me accusingly.  Dark on the steps.  Dark on the walk.  Dark in the garage.  Dark on the driveway.  Dark on the street.  All the roads are empty and dark as I drive to the meeting place.

Usually first, I wait in the quiet car.  Whose turn is it to drive?  Oh, mine. I check the seats, the floor.  All fine.  Gas and car wash the day before.  The car fills with Pandora, a yoga music station.  The lull.  Lights illuminate the car and she is there.   She opens her door, grabs her bags, her water bottle.  She leans over as she opens the car door and smiles a tired  smile at me.   She stretches her long legs into the small car.  She never adjusts the seat.  Sometimes I remember to stretch it back for her before she arrives.

We laugh for a moment about how sometimes we go some other random way that the GPS takes us, missing the Merritt all together.  Where is the first Starbucks?  Hartford?!?

And then… the words start pouring out.  In the darken car, in the long hours, we talk. Talk.  This is almost the best part.

Thursday Reflection #OLW #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

unnamedThursday Reflection #OLW #sol19

March 7, 2019

I chose a word in January to guide some choices that I made throughout this year.  It’s the eight year that I have chosen a word.  This year’s word is reflection. Reflection.

I wrote a few days ago about a entry from my collaboration journal where I encouraged strongly two of my collaborative teachers to chuck the scripted assessment for the end of the Information Reading/Writing units (third grade) and take up slightly modified ideas that more closely aligned to the work they were doing in their classrooms.  You can read about my initial idea here.

The first idea was to use an information topic that individual students were working on in their genius hour projects to have the students do a flash draft in information writing. The plan for this assessment was to inform their genius hour progress and complete an end of unit assessment in informational writing.  In hindsight,  I should have coached into two things that we consistently do when writing.  The students should have had an opportunity to turn and share everything they were going to write with their writing partners.  We know how important the oral rehearsal is, especially with our school population.  The second reminder is also completely on me,  even though we wrote about something specific to the students, we should have introduced the task with the same assessment directions that we would have used in the writing progression work.

Please keep in mind that you’ll have only this one period to complete this, so you’ll need to plan, draft, revise, and edit in one sitting. Write in a way that shows all that you know about information writing.

“In your writing, make sure you: • Write an introduction. • Elaborate with a variety of information. • Organize your writing. • Use transition words. • Write a conclusion.”

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exemplar text from UOS

I hope the teachers were informed about many things in the students’ written essays, especially thinking about them in comparison to an exemplar.  I often think we are expecting too much of some things and not enough of others.  Few of the writers used parts or sections in their writing.  Many of them used transition words, expert words and had an introduction and conclusion.   Mostly success.


The second task we tried was more complex.  The teachers selected a text that they had read often and used as a mentor text.  Carter Reads the Newspaper for one class.  Harvesting Hope for the other.  Both of these texts are lengthy picture books with complex ideas new to all of the students.  We typed the text so it would be presented in  format similar to the testing protocol and other assessments. We considered presenting it through google classroom, but in the end used paper copies.  Through Newsela, we located an article at a third grade level that was related to the popularity of black history for Carter Reads the Newspaper, a book about Carter Woodson, the driving force behind Black History Month and an article about the continued plight of farmworkers in the United States to go with Harvesting Hope, a picture book biography of Cesar Chavez.  The first day the students summarized the informational article and the second day, the writers used cross-text synthesis to examine either black history or the condition of farm workers.

Perhaps the teachers would have gotten a cleaner assessment from the easier narrative nonfiction text provided in the unit paired with an equally easy informational article, but those articles were about roller coasters.  The students thought about the development and promotion of black history and what has contributed to the rise in popularity of civil rights sites and other related black history museums.  They thought about how little the conditions of farm workers whose products we eat has changed in the nearly sixty years since the Farm Workers March.  Their conclusions rang of so what and now what in a way that I don’t think writing about roller coaster would have.  They will walk away from these days with more than a thought that they wrote for two solid writing workshops.  Perhaps they will consider both of these topics for a long time to come.  I hear Lucy Calkins reminding me that we are raising citizens.  I know I’ll consider how we introduced a timely, important topic to them.

The Stuff They Carry #sol19

The Stuff They Carry  #sol19

February 26, 2019

I am definitely not the art teacher, but I appreciate the work she does with our students each day and admire the fruits of that labor as I walk down our main corridor each morning.  This morning I was thinking about a completely different blog when this display struck me.  0-2

All these smiling faces. Well maybe except that one very hipster looking young lady in the bottom row.  But then,  I noticed this…0-4

This young friend wasn’t thinking about one thing.  He was thinking about more than one thing at once.  Perhaps he couldn’t decide about the one thing or maybe that is how his brain works, lots of things in there at once, quite possibly very revealing.  I This first grader’s thinking is a mystery to me.  I like his wide smile and bright eyes. I can tell that on the right he’s considering a basketball and a football. I’m not sure about the left.  I am reasonably sure that our wonderful art teacher discussed each artist’s thinking as they worked away in her sunny art room.

This made me think about a focus conversation I had midday yesterday.  A teacher and I were discussing a student’s current progress.  She had set an executive functioning goal along with his reading goal for the student to maintain independent work for ten minutes.  She sighed.  I don’t think he can stay focused at all.  But then we dug in,  could he restate the directions?  He could.  That takes focus.  Maybe the task was too big or too daunting for him right now.

I was thinking about that conversation and that student when I looked at the self portraits.  What would be his self portrait?  He seems sad and tired when I am with him in reading.  Does the work feel too difficult?  Is he silly to avoid the difficulty?  So today when I was with him in his class,  I looked with new eyes.  What might we do to help him?

0-5.jpgOur Art teacher had a plan when she did these self portraits with the first graders.  Still when I chatted with her about them today,  she said there were a few who struggled with creating that self view.  One was worried about failure before he began.  As she talked and drew with him,  he didn’t see himself as successful and anticipated criticism.  At his request,  she didn’t display his self portrait.

Other saw themselves like the happy girls I shared at the beginning.  Covered with hearts, I hope this is the life view they are carrying now and into the future.  What can we as educators do to keep that happy spirit afloat?

My young sad reader has had a lot of trauma in his young life.  I imagine risk taking and difficulty are something he would understandably like to avoid.  What tiny steps can we take that will germinate that seed of success?  I offered a token idea up to him today full of choices and encouragement, hoping to create in him a self portrait of a happy reader.   He was tentatively open to it.  We’ll try that first step tomorrow.  download.jpg



Reflect #sol19

0Reflect #sol19

January 1, 2019

My one little word from 2018 was notice.  I take this last look at what I noticed in 2018 and reflect on what I’ve taken away.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed in this last 365 days is the power of the struggle.  I read once that the broken places are where the light gets in and also that the person doing the work is the one doing the learning.  But honestly, when you get down to it, it’s always about giving power to individuals, allowing students, teachers, co-workers, and ourselves the room, the tools, and the time to figure it out.  It’s a fine line the struggle, but so often it results in break-through learning, self-reflection, and growth.  Letting others see their own strengths is where positive mindset really comes from. This idea is the strongest thing I took to my bones this past year.  I hope it’s the strongest coaching I did as well.

One of the reasons that this struggle resonated so fiercely with me is the commitment I made to read the Calkins Units of Study from cover to cover. The cover to cover approach strengthens the global view of the units and allows for flexibility to match student needs and experiences.   I haven’t made it through all of them yet, it’s my commitment for this school year.  Seeing the units vertically facilitates closing the gaps, strengthening outcomes, and envisioning the purpose.  Each one I read gives me a deeper understanding of the verticality of literacy skill development, the connections between the learning progressions, the reading and writing processes, and the logic of helping students see what is essential in reading and writing.

Some simpler things resonated this year when I took the time to notice.  Tools can be simple and flexible.  I can travel with some stickies, a composition book, my phone, and a few go-to books.  Along with tools, visuals can explain a lot!  I used so many drawing this year to show connections, steps, big ideas broken down, and planning.  Traveling lighter seems to facilitate flexibility in thinking on my part.

In human interactions, I noticed that partnering strengthens us.  When we reach out, listen, give great wait time, and talk regularly,  our work is stronger and more consistent.  Nothing takes the place of scheduled talk time or taking unscheduled time to talk.  While visuals and tools can be electronic,  I have found more than ever that emails are limited and limiting.  I’m still prone to using picture books, drawings, read-alouds and cookies to smooth, explain, and develop ideas.

The final reflections that I have for 2018 right now are that giving yourself some quiet time to think over problems, situations, and plans is essential.  Nothing replaces time in working things out.  I’ve written many a blog when I first wake up in the morning or sitting in the quiet literacy center before or after school.

Here’s to the partners that helped me learn those lessons this year.  Some were in books like Debbie Miller, Jennifer Serravallo, Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan,  Ralph Fletcher.  Their books published this year were eye-opening and practice changing.  Here’s to the blog writing practitioners that encouraged me through difficulties in writing and practicing, my instagram troop, twitter pals, and facebook groups that shared so much of what works for them. Here’s to my morning partners, each day of the week I learn from you and with you.  Here’s to my day partners mostly under 10 who make me a better learner, explainer, and experimenter.  In 2019,  I’ll be reflecting on what you teach me.


Routine #sol18

IMG_3194Routine #sol18

December 18, 2018

I haven’t been in my regular routine for weeks now.  In the last weeks, everything about my everyday was disrupted and I found myself suspended, timeless and placeless for a number of days.  I moved forward, but the movement was unfamiliar.  I breathed in and out, but the air itself seemed somehow different.  I was amid very familiar people but every action we took was far from familiar.

I returned after this week feeling unsettled.  My day to day routines seemed unfamiliar and returning to them seemed like that turbulent bump when the plane wheels hit the tarmac, the jostling bounce, the rush of air, being thrown backward.

I entered the soft glow of the school early morning light.  You know it.  Silent halls, familiar hums, shiny floors.  Still tenuous in my entry,  i walked down the hall to the literacy center just as I left it,  The pregame ritual rushed back and enveloped me like a warm sweater.  Preparing for 2nd grade student work.  Meeting with a first grade teacher. Emails.  Mail sort.  the hum of the heater in the light of my desk lamp.  

Then the real comfort began.  Wrapped in the favorite comfy sweater of my colleagues support and routine, I began my day.  Strategizing about the game plan for this week before vacation, transitioning from a unit to an upcoming one in third grade. Goal wording for an upcoming literacy plan.  Discussing vowel work in first grade in the happy confines of a teacher’s classroom before school.  Drawing little maps of ideas and pouring over student writing.  Asking questions for ideas.   Moving on to reading over writing projects with seven and eight year olds, hearing what they’ve learned about dogs and spiders.  Enjoying partner reading about cat and dog negotiations.  Having a listen to third grade reading as we think about what next in instruction.

And in between, gentle smiles, an arm rub, a kind word.  Cards and flowers and genuine caring.  This is what it means to belong to a teaching and learning community.  Connections lingered. Cookies on the counter.  Routines cherished.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 7.22.13 AM.png    I write in the company of my fellow travelers within the Slice of Life Community.  Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for forming this group.

The Example We Set #sol18

downloadThe Example We Set #sol18

November 6, 2018

I had a different slice in my head on my drive to work this morning, scratching it out in the parking lot already filled with voters on this election day.  However, a collaboration meeting, a phone call, morning duty, and then this adorable mouse entered my world.  It wasn’t actually this mouse.  The mouse in question was just a baby, terrified in the first grade hallway filled with six year olds beginning their day.

The first sighting actually happened before I made my way down to the door.  This little mouse minding his own business in the quiet of the pre-day school when confronted by a six year old on the way to the rest room.  He made his way to the hallway where I imagine the noise and activity paralyze him with fear.  I found him there surrounded by screaming kiddos, all cute whiskers and long mousey tail.  Here’s when, in the moment, 50 pairs of six year old searing eyes look to one and say what will you do now?  So I found a drawer, I carefully scooped him up, and carried him to the woods near the side of the school.  They were still watching me, as I slipped him from the drawer to the grass and questioning me when I returned inside.

Of course,  I’m not sure what those six year olds were thinking this morning.  Perhaps they saw problem solving, compassion, and a lack of fear.  I wasn’t really thinking about being a particular way, just thinking about doing the right thing.  Afterward, I thought about it as metaphor.

When things are difficult, whatever they might be, in our adoption of the new curriculum, in scheduling, in collaborating, in planning,  I know eyes are watching me.  In simple things, a we-are-all-working-for-the-kiddos and it’s-tricky-business bring us closer to consensus.  Sometimes, the expanse seems wider and I have to wait for my actions, my calm, my consistency to show, not tell.  No one needs a big old lecture from me about what’s right or what will work,  they just need me to consistently chip away at things with them.  To be helpful. To be a partner.  To be trustworthy.

While I might have been the fixer with that little mousekin this morning,  I really don’t want to be a fixer.  Fixing doesn’t really work.  Telling someone what they should do or making a problem go away won’t feed us for long so to speak.

So I’m coaching in the hard parts.  I’ll be here when there isn’t agreement.  I’ll stick with each of them, teachers and students, until we work it out.

I rode on a roller coaster many times in my own kids’ childhood so that they wouldn’t be afraid or see me be irrationally afraid of something.  I’ve picked up spiders and bugs.  I’ve stopped bleeding.  I’ve driven to the emergency room.  So I’m not leaving the side of these teachers and kids either.

The life of a coach.   Gentle steps forward.  Waiting.  Listening.  Waiting some more.  Suggesting.  Listening.  Trying something.  Suggesting again.

Baking some cookies.  Saving a mouse.  Finding a book.  Being there and being here.

Perhaps they will see problem solving, compassion, and a lack of fear.  I won’t really think about being a particular way, just think about doing the right thing for this moment.

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Thank you this week to Tammy Mulligan, my coach,  for being there and being here,  for teaching me to talk in menus, for gentle reassurance, and strength.  Read more amazing slices at

Turn & Talk #sol18


Unlike many previous meetings as represented here, this gathering was technology free

Turn & Talk #sol18

Yesterday we had a curriculum meeting.  The staff gathers after school and chats together about some aspect of the curriculum.  In many years,  I made a presentation, teaching into this or that topic of interest or new learning.  I think those days are gone… in a good way.

As we consider who is doing the heavy lifting in our classrooms,  the gradual release of responsibility in our classrooms,  so to might we consider DIY PD.  DIY PD is not a new idea, but I don’t think I consider it in the same way I once did.  Let’s go back to yesterday.

Our new principal is getting to know everyone around here.  He’s had some (lots) of goal setting meetings and as he opened the meeting yesterday, he said, A goal is just another way to look at what you’re interested in.  Leaving that very provocative thinking aside, he went on to say that partner work, the essence of students talking, collaborating, and working together was at the heart of most of his discussions.  And then he said something that sounded like it was directly from his heart.  He said that in light of the dangers faced in the world today, the hate, the discord,  how we help students develop the ability to communicate, to cooperate, to listen and be heard is the vital work.  Then he said magic words, Let’s just get together in some small groups now and talk about what were doing, what questions we have,  where we would like to go next.  

Then we did.  We had no power point, no shared reading, no lecture.  Just groups of eight or ten educators across the grade levels having an unstructured discussion regarding student-student feedback or student-teacher feedback.  I heard just a little bit choosing to linger in a small group.  But what I heard…

I heard educators talking about the power of partnerships for students.  How each partnership can lift the level of student work by encouragement.  That encouragement seems so authentic to students.  You’re doing the same thing I am doing and you have an idea about what I might do next based on what you’ve tried.  In the book,  Thanks for the Feedback, the authors focus not on exactly how the feedback is delivered, but how we choose to receive it.

When we as coaches or administrators,  team leaders or teachers,  top-down every conversation,  choosing what we’re thinking about,  how we are thinking about it, and unfortunately, sometimes what we should think about it,  we are doing a disservice to growth, learning, and respect.  I’m imagining myself saying now I don’t do that.  I am allowing thinking, conversation, and certainly respect.  It what way would that not be the case?  Maybe you do.  But I didn’t always.

Yesterday… Perhaps some conversations went off course.  Perhaps some dwindled down to complaints.  Perhaps,  just perhaps, some were right on target.  It wasn’t my target. Hopefully, it was on target for the participants. When we allow for conversation, we allow for growth.  When we aren’t looking for one answer, many, many show up.

I can’t leave my fixer mentality completely behind.  I walked away from our meeting later thinking about resources that I want to make available to the educators in our building, discussions I hope to have, and visits between educators that I hope to facilitate.  The difference is that these queries weren’t generated by me.  They were generated by inquiry, conversation, and sharing.  Now when they show up in the teacher lounge,  in a mailbox, through an email, the receiver may say, that’s just what I was thinking about, looking for, wondering.  And the learning community takes another move forward together.

So I’m considering the gradual release of coaching,  the inquiry of community, and the DIY of learning for not just the classroom, but our whole community.  Here’s to learning!

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Slicing about the life of a literacy coach weekly on Tuesdays with my Two Writing Teachers Slice Community.  Read more amazing slices here.

It’s All About Approximation #sol18

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It’s All About Approximation #sol18

Our district is in the midst of an overhaul… in a good and also messy way.  We have an interim superintendent, an interim assistant superintendent for curriculum & innovation, a new reading curriculum, a new writing curriculum, a new reading assessment and at my school, we have a interim principal…  That’s a lot of new(ish) stuff.

The absolute truth is that new can be really, really messy.  It can be full of starts and stops, trial and error, and especially misunderstandings and enlightenment.  Messy can be beautiful and a marvelous learning experience if you fully embrace it with a clear vision of the why.  It can also be exhausting… sometimes not in a good way.

Like many in my PLN, I spent the day on Saturday at Teachers’ College.  I look forward to it for half a year,  drive through part of the night and the dawn to get there,  absorb like a sponge all day and then process all I have heard for months afterward.  For years, when I went to the Reunions,  I was catching up…  I didn’t quite understand the visions, the nomenclature, and the rhythm of the talk.  But somewhere along, I began to keep up.  The talk makes sense.   I see the connections between things.  I’m actually in stride.

So… how do these things go together.  You just have to suck at something for a while.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s tiring. It is definitely not the easy path.  In the fray, it’s hard to see the route.  Our district was high functioning.  Students were making adequate progress for the most part.  The need for a new curriculum wasn’t mandated or even needs-based.  It was about innovation.  Thinking about a future we don’t quite see for a generation that’s on their way there.  Changing the narrative and the practice from teacher directed to student led.

Unfortunately,  the vision setting,  the dream-casting,  the history of change is frequently communicated in short hand and at the wrong frequency.  Someone compared our work once to rebuilding the car while driving down the road.  The image of that is truly terrifying, but yet we coach teachers into that in a room full of elementary students every single day of the week.  Unpredictably, uncontrollably, sometimes unmanageably every solitary day of the year.

It took me five solid years to have a vertical vision of the Calkins’ reading and writing curriculum.  Every day I learned additional components, interpretations, and resources.  I’ve breathed, discussed, and attempted these ideas most days over the course of those years and still… I’m back in the books, reading more, going to more reunions.  Learning, questioning, adapting more all the time.

Where does that leave us right now?  In a glorious place!  If we are growers, learners, and innovators every day, it leaves us open to encouraging growing, learning, and innovating in our students.  If we struggle, we are closer to their struggle.  If we have to work things out, try and try again, we exhibit growth mindset in the realest, most authentic way.

I never was that good as an educator, administrator, interventionist, or coach to make things really look easy or perfect, but I know many who can.  I always admire that perfect looking space, those creative bulletin boards, that neat writing in student portfolios, but now I admire a narrative that sound more like approximation.  We’re so close… My students are nearly there.  We tried this today and it bombed, but tomorrow we’re going to…  I noticed… I wonder… Man, today was HARD… 

So here’s to the disequilibrium that comes from change and attempts and deep, deep learning.  I have to go to bed earlier, but I’m very excited to get up in the morning.


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thank you to all of the writers who encourage me to say I don’t really suck at this anymore including all of the voices behind Two Writing Teachers.  Read some amazing thoughts here.

Teachable Moments #sol18

(Teachable) Moments #sol18

October 15, 2018

Most mornings I have the opportunity to greet the first graders as they arrive at school and wait with them in the hallway until it is time for class to begin.  These moments with them-fifteen at the most- are ripe with opportunity for observation, idea generation, relationship building, and teaching in the moment.


One day last week, it was terribly humid inside and out.  The floor began to collect condensation.  We cautioned the students to wipe their feet and exercise caution as they walked around the large corridor.  As six year olds will be just that,  some began to skate around on their shoes as if we had created a large rink just for them.  Peels of first grade laughter accompanied slips, cheers, and slides around the hall and the minutes flew by until it was time to enter class.  Another day, an ambulance came before school and there was much discussion about the fire truck escort,  how the person (adult) was bundled for the ride,  who would go with her, what was wrong, and so many other inquiries.  I am able to listen in on conversations, note who is talking to others and who is observing.  Who has a comfort item in their backpack.  Who is seeking out friends.  Who is seeking out me.  So much to learn and see in such a little time.

Idea Generation

While we are in narrative writing in first grade, we focus on small moment.  Sometime moments are upon us, like Friday.  Friday a small spider was navigating along the wall near where the students were waiting in their class lines.  Mrs. Kennedy!  There’s a spider.   What should we do about it?   Save it or smush it.  SAVE IT!   Can you carry it outside?  What should we use?  Let’s try your paper.  (Close watching.  Several attempts.  Spiders desperate tries to escape me, the paper, and them. Spider curls up.) This seems like a good story.  I pick up the spider in my two fingers and gently carrying it outside.  His status among the living unknown to me.

Sometimes it’s merely oral rehearsal of their own stories relayed from that morning or the afternoon before of soccer games and playdates,  television watching or cookie baking.  All of these are ripe for partner talk with mediation, rehearsal,  oral story telling, and of course, encouragement.  I’m not sure how many show up on a page, but we have the opportunity to talk over stories practicing the cadence and organization of problem/solution, beginning, middle, end, and character development.

Relationship Building

That’s seems obvious.  The gentle greeting at the door, good morning. The noticing of a interesting shirt.  The use of a student’s name.  Triangulating between students until their conversation takes off like wood from kindling.  Every day a few more initiate talk with me.  Conversation that is practice for working together.  Conversation that is the beginning of stories.  Conversation that cements that we are here in the same place, with similar interests, to do this school thing together.

Teachable Moments

Finally considering the teachable moment of conversation, observation,  and interest, we come to consider who is actually being taught here.  I’m  going to the open classroom of the first grade, learning how one puts together a sentence, considers a possibility, and tries out a new idea.  I’m schooled on Pokemon, cartoons, and the best place to buy t-shirts.  I’m afforded the gentle confidence that come just at a magical moment in the hush of the beginning,  the hilarity of idea intersected with action,  and the noticing of those aware of so much.  While I do work our daily work into the conversations with those first graders, it is they,  they themselves, who are teaching me so much about being six and seven.  How fortunate I am to receive these lessons.



Data Meetings: Planning for Growth

IMG_2586Data Meetings:  Planning for Growth

October 8, 2018

What comes to mind when I say data meeting?

Not looking for the benefit of data or meeting together.  Just thinking about when we sit at that table in that room together.  What are we trying to accomplish? Backward glance? Problem Solving? Correcting course?

Do you have a plan in mind?

Many meetings have identity problems.  Data Meetings are constructed with the principal, our grade level team, a specialist or two.  Data meetings have limited time. Educators arrive with varying amounts of data having spent varying amounts of time examining it.  Individuals think in divisions: students that are ‘on track’ and students that are ‘behind’. Cheers for how well they got it. Cheers for our teaching.

Data meetings are available three times a year.  In the fall, educators are getting to know new students and assessing summer loss.  In the winter, educators may review students acclimation to grade and their mid-year progress.  In the spring, educators may reflect on progress toward goals.

The developments from the meetings can varying.  When educators have clear indicators they are looking for in the data, they come to the meeting prepared to future plan, both for the immediate and the long term.  When indicators are less clear, either from the team or the leadership, meetings feel like show and tell. These meeting have potential. Potential to drive not just particular teachers, not just particular grade levels, but whole learning communities forward.  If we only ask,

What did we want to learn?  Did we learn it? How will we use this information to reflect, to move forward, to improve?  

Do we and can we finding meaning in this work,  the work of data meetings?

I know what you’re thinking,  sometimes these meetings are just a waste of time.  As a person who goes to a LOT of meetings, I’d say meetings are exactly what you make them. I’m sure in some places, people trot out their “data”, test scores, assessment levels, attendance even,  and praise each other for how far students have come. Educators race to complete assessments and hair on fire arrive at a meeting with the ink proverbially still drying. We rarely have time to think about what the data might be telling us beyond the scores.

But, we can do better.

When we began data meetings, we were just thinking in the meeting about what new assessment data was telling us.  We were learning about the assessments, considering interventions. Considering the data together. Even then, we thought about and discussed how timing affected students,  which students might need another go, how else we might assess these skills, what skills we were assessing and their importance. Even then, we were searching for solutions to whole class and individual student difficulties, thinking always about how we could assist each other. The data was drawing us to empathy and  to collaboration.

So here we are, eight years later.  What are we going to do with our data meetings?

Are they OUR data meetings?  We extend the time. We reduce the data.  We extend the discussion. We think more about the pedagogy.  We shift our thinking regarding intervention. Still stuffed to the breaking point, squeezing all the assessments in a small window and peeking in.  

And we still wonder what it is we see.

It all really goes back to those simple questions:  what do we want students to learn and how are we going to ‘teachfacilitate it.  Working through our backward design long before we collect the data, deciding together what we are looking for and how we will know it when we see it.  Planning for planning. Planning for talking. Taking those assessments out of the drawers and into the light. Considering the purpose for each assessment and consequently each lessons.  How can we reteach? What will we reteach? Does this data tell me what I need to know to make these decisions?

This seems like a lot of work,  time spent giving the assessments, time spent examining the assessments,  time spend aligning the assessment to the curriculum. It may be that the more time we spend on these elements, the less we will need quarterly meetings to discuss them.  The more growth we will see in students as the instruction becomes focused on need.

Yes,  we could eliminate a meeting.  But sometimes, it is beneficial to talk about how we’ve grown and what we will do next.