As I have been preparing for Tuesday's Secondary Quarterly Meeting, I've been doing a lot of reading. I've attached an article by Mike Schmoker that I commend to you. Schmoker is a passionate advocate for effective teachers and effective teaching. In his book, Results Now, he argues that in most schools and districts a "buffer" exists which works against innovation and improvement. "…school culture and supervision tend to ignore or divert teachers from implementing and continuously improving their mastery of effective instructional and assessment practices," says Schmoker.

He turns to Art Wise of NCATE to describe professionalism:
"Professionals do not work alone; they work in teams. Professionals begin their preparation in the university but do not arrive in the workplace ready to practice. They continue their preparation on the job. In medical, legal, and architectural settings, services are provided by experienced and novice professionals working together to accomplish the goal -- to heal the patient, win the lawsuit, plan the building. The team delivers the services…the novices learn by doing, with feedback and correction."

Schmoker isn't anti-teacher. He suggests that when great teachers are empowered -- and given time -- to learn and work together, amazing things can happen. In the last section of his book, which makes the case for professional learning communities, he describes a powerful transformation in a high school English Department.
"I worked with members of a high school English Department who had know one another for years. They made an interesting discovery -- that when they finally began to pick each other's brains on how to most effectively teach a clear, specific standard, something magical happened -- even (or especially) in focused 40-minute meetings. They began to share and refine the collective wealth of what they already knew. They found that they could create lessons that allowed record members of students to master the most sophisticated writing skills, one lesson at a time, at their poor, high minority school."

On Thursday, Dale Hair gave me another book. Titled, "Ahead of the Curve," it is editing by Doug Reeves. Like "On Common Ground," it is a compiliation of articles by some of education's greatest thinkers including Reeves, Stiggins, DuFour and others. This book is centered around using formative assessments to improve teaching and learning and that can help build a powerful learning community.
As you work in your school to strengthen your learning community and to spread the use of 21st Century learning strategies, I commend these readings to you. Reach out first to your colleagues that are open to change and model the power of collaboration. I'm looking forward to hearing of your successes along the way!
Download SchmokerSEDLLetter_v19n01.pdf

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