It's easy to think about the good things that have happened in our first grade at Chets Creek so far this year. This is an extremely talented group of first grade teachers.
- Technology is at the top of the list- outstanding blogs, a new wiki, voicethreads, flip camera videos - risk takers in every area of technology.
- The student work produced and excitement around the Mem Fox Author Study was phenomenal.
- Teachers have stepped up with passion and commitment to provide leadership for a "green" emphasis for the grade level.
- First grade teachers continue to provide leadership school wide to our Intervention Team, to Science, and to our co-teaching professional development.
Academic disequalibrium. This has been an unusual year because the county adopted a new core reading program. We began the year with not enough information to know how the new adoption would effect our Pacing Guide. The materials dribbled in and we struggled to figure out what we had and what we were suppose to do with what we had. As we have tried to incorporate the materials where it made sense, we have created disequilibrium on the grade level. In giving teachers choices and freedom to think and make decisions about what they wanted to adopt and teach, they have struggled with doing things differently instead of all being on the same page - which is the scenario they are more familiar with. Nothing at Chets Creek has ever been dictated to teachers. Instead, in the past, they would meet and talk through pacing and decide colliagially what they wanted to teach and how they would support each other. But this year the county's adoption and the edict to have all schools use the same program presented a different set of challenges to our well oiled machine. This year sharing among teachers has broken down because for the first time in a long time, everyone is not doing the same thing, time has been more limited without PLC days (which included more intense time for conversations had to be cut because of the budget), and the grade level has gotten even bigger - 15 teachers! In thinking about the isolation some teachers may be beginning to feel, I realize that it is important as we come to January to regroup. That will be easier as we all work through the Kevin Henkes Author Study which is a study that was developed at our school. This group has worked through and revised this author study several times together, so it provides a familiarity which should help solidify the team. They will also begin a test-taking unit that they originated, so they have a deep history of collegiality embedded in these units as they come back. While the strength of their bond has been tested, I have faith that the stronger members of this team will provide the glue that will bring them back together.
Curriculum. Another change for this year was the county imposing a learning schedule for writing. In year's past we had aligned our reading, writing and skills so that we had echoes across the day - each subject supported the other. In trying to move toward the county's directives, that "tried and true" alignment was fractured - another reason some teachers are feeling disjointed. So far, teachers have spent 9 weeks on a narrative unit and spent the rest of the time before the holiday working on nonfiction writing - basically reports. Teachers have done this in different ways. Some teachers have also looked at functional writing at this point in time. Some have not. My goal as we come back together in the new year will be to look at the work our children have done in nonfiction writing, compare it to the rubric so that teachers can reflect on where they are and what they have left to accomplish before finishing nonfiction portfolio pieces as we come to an end of the second nine weeks.
This time of rest and rejuvenation is just what is needed to reflect about where we've come and where we want to go in the new year. It's easy to lead when things go smoothly, but the challenge is in leading and hearing each voice when things are not quite perfect - which simply means we have a learning opportunity. So... bring it on! We want to prove once again that we really are lifelong learners, that this opportunity will make us stronger and that we are all about solutions.