Month by Month

Effective learning communities rely on a shared purpose for collective inquiry and individual action. During this program year, our focus will be the learning of our students and the teaching practices that best serve their learning needs. To establish a structure for our work, we have defined a framework for collaboration through suggested tasks and their relationship to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Core Propositions and 21st Century Learning. While mentor partners may choose to work on specific issues and/or hold conversations outside the TTSN online community, program accountability will reside within the established mentoring teams in the online community.

Community Building Notes:
It will take some co-creating on the part of all participants to work out the two levels of the network and what work is most effective at what level: the team or one-to-one conversation with the assigned mentor partners. We’ll take a collective ‘look’ at the structure and what is working best for whom after we have some time in our network. More important than 'where the conversation happens" is that productive conversations occur so that we move continually toward our goal of improving teacher practice to impact student learning.

April Discussion Focus

Foundation: NBPTS Core Proposition 5.
Teachers Are Members Of Learning Communities.

Teachers share with families the education of the young… In the best of all worlds, teachers and parents (families/guardians) are mutually reinforcing partners in the education of young people. But three circumstances complicate this partnership. First, the interests of parents and school sometimes diverge, requiring teachers to make difficult judgments about how best to fulfill their joint obligations to their students and to parents. Second, students vary in the degree and kind of support they receive at home for their school work. The effects of culture, language, and parental education, income and aspirations influence each learner…. Third, the behavior and mind-set of schools and families can be adversarial. … Students get caught in the middle, their allegiance and affection for each party challenged by the other. Accomplished teachers develop skills and understandings to avoid these traditional pitfalls and work to foster collaborative relationships between school and family.

Guiding Questions:

· What student achievements am I celebrating with my student’s families? How is this celebration mutually reinforcing for my student, their family, and myself?
· What concerns do I still have for each of my students? How will I convey this need to the student, their family, and next year’s instructors so that the successes of this school year can inform continued success?

March Discussion Focus

Foundation: NBPTS Core Proposition 4.
Teachers Think Systematically About Their Practice and Learn From Experience.

The beginning text of Core Proposition 4 states that: Accomplished teachers are models of educated persons, exemplifying the virtues they seek to inspire in students – curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences – and the capacities that are prerequisites for intellectual growth: the ability to reason and take multiple perspectives to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problem-solving orientation.

Guiding Questions:
· In what ways do you model curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, and respect for diversity in your classroom (and your school/community)? How has this impacted your practice and/or your relationships with families and colleagues?
What have you learned about the way your students have responded to your interventions that can help you to teach any lesson more effectively?

February Group Discussion Focus

Your responsibility is to first, explore the discussion topic and guiding questions with your assigned new teacher/s so that together you can more specifically target conversations to the actual classroom needs of your partner. Once the specific needs are determined, your companion task is to pose appropriate discussion starting questions in your state team and to enrich the resulting conversations that are started by others in your state team.
New Teachers: Your responsibility is to request assistance that meets your current needs. If this assistance is shaped through consideration of the February focus and guiding questions, great - if you have current teaching needs that are not addressed in the stated focus, then you and your mentor will hold one-to-one conversations about your assistance request and your state team will also be ready to provide feedback on any discussions that you begin.

Guiding Questions
Continue to focus on your ‘target students’, especially those who named two ‘target’ students earlier. For our new teams, please consider a student or two who needs additional attention to be more successful in your classroom.
· How do you encourage your students to take responsibility for their own learning and to take pride in their work? In what ways do you invite your students to reflect on themselves as learners?
· How do you establish and maintain an atmosphere of trust, openness, and mutual respect in your classroom?
· What kinds of choices do students make in your classroom? In which areas could they be making more meaningful choices? How can you guide them to make better choices?

Foundation: NBPTS Core Proposition 3
Teachers Are Responsible For Managing And Monitoring Student Learning.

Managing and monitoring student learning is synonymous with a positive learning environment where all students are invited to participate fully in the instruction that is prepared. NBPTS literature identifies the following elements that influence the learning environment:

· Teacher –student and student-student relationships that are grounded in mutual respect.
· The teacher has high expectations for all students, as well as herself/himself, and students are committed to high-quality work.
· The teacher and students effectively employ routines and procedures that result in the smooth operation of the classroom, maximizing time for instruction.
· The teacher uses agreed-upon standards of conduct, as well as clear consequences for overstepping bounds, to manage student behavior.
· The physical environment is safe, flexible, and conducive to learning.

December and January Group Discussion Focus

December and January are a time for refocus and renewal. During this period of time, you will examine the successes of the last months, both for you and for target students. Building on those successes, you will identify new strategies that you believe will bring about further success in areas that continue to present barriers and roadblocks.

Take a risk – do something innovative, ‘fun’, creative – for you and for your students. Give the gift of knowing one another in new ways.

Guiding Questions:

1. In what ways are you helping students to create a classroom climate of high expectations, respect, common goals, and mutual support through learning activities and assessments, both formative and summative.
2. In what ways are you and your students celebrating one another and the learning that is ongoing in your classroom?

NBPTS Core Proposition 2.
Teachers Know The Subjects They Teach And How To Teach Those Subjects To Students.

Consider: National Board (NBPTS) documents describe effective instruction as ‘coherent’ – that is, all of the elements of instruction must relate to one another logically and purposefully.
Instruction is coherent when:
· Learning goals are selected and learning activities and assessments are planned with students’ diverse needs, abilities, interest, and cultural backgrounds in mind.
· learning activities and assessments all relate strongly to learning goals and standards, and generate purposeful evidence that informs current and future instruction.
· Instructional materials and resources are engaging, assist students in attaining learning goals, and reflect the contributions of women and men from diverse cultures.
· Students are grouped according to the purposes of their learning activities and can choose learning pathways based on their needs, abilities, interests, and cultural backgrounds.
· Lessons and units are structured to build understanding in steps and ultimately illuminate overarching concepts.
NBPTS Core Proposition 4.
Teachers Think Systematically About Their Practice And Learn From Experience.

Consider: As stated in the text of Proposition 4, <Teachers model> … a commitment to creativity in their work and the disposition to take risks in exploring new intellectual, emotional, physical or artistic territories.

November (... or sooner if the team is ready to go!) :

Consider: As teachers we are given a classroom filled with students who are at varying levels of cognitive, social-emotional, and behavioral development. Every student provides the teacher with unique challenges and opportunities with which to grow.

Foundation: NBPTS Core Propositions - Proposition 1: Teachers are Committed to Students and Their Learning


New Teachers (1st and 2nd year): Your first task is to choose two students from your classroom who provide diverse challenges. In your team, discuss their unique abilities (socially, emotionally and cognitively) and how, as a teacher, you can best capitalize on this knowledge to build educational experiences for them (and all your students). With your mentor teacher and your team, consider the following questions as you discuss the needs of these students and develop a plan of action:
  • What do you want the selected students to learn and/or what growth in social-emotional or behavioral development is required?
  • How will the student’s abilities impact your teaching strategies?
  • How will you know if/when the student demonstrates successful growth levels? How will the student know?
  • What will you do if they are not successful?
  • How do the plans for these students, impact the plans for all your students?

Mentor teachers: Your task is to ‘listen’ to the new teachers, guiding the conversation so that specific needs are being addressed and specific issues/problems articulated. (And, of course, coaching and consulting along the way, as appropriate and requested by the new teachers.)

Mentoring Teams: The result of this initial work should be a narrowing of needs that will be addressed within the team. (Be realistic about the limited time and nature of our network.)
A statement of need by each 1st and 2nd year teacher in the form of a question that they need team collaboration to address, will best focus the work of the team and of the assigned mentor.
Keep in mind, that the team conversations are private to team members only.

September/October:During this initial month of the network, participants are expected to become familiar with the online community, clarify their roles and responsibilities in the network, and begin the work of the teams.
One starting point for beginnning your conversations, is to examine and focus the needs of the beginning teachers in the team. Various needs assessment tools are provided at Partner-Team Tools for your consideration and use.