On Friday the district held a staff development day where we split up by curriculum area K-12. The focus for the day was on design questions from Robert Marzano’s The Art & Science of Teaching. Facilitators for each curriculum area were formed into what were called design teams, and included content teachers, administrators, and a technology facilitator. I was the technology facilitator for the Health and IDEAS team.
In our district, health education at the elementary level is done through the IDEAS program. The IDEAS teachers are gifted and talented certified teachers who provide level one gifted programming services to every student in the school. Elementary students have IDEAS class once every five days from kindergarten through fourth grade. At the middle school level, students have health class for 20 weeks in eighth grade. At the high school level, students can take the required 20 week class during any year.
One of the biggest successes is that it was first time all the health teachers K-12 had the opportunity to work together for a full day! Just the fact that they could have professional dialogue with all level colleagues was awesome. They really enjoyed the time to work and share together.
One of the biggest challenges health teachers have is that many times the content they teach is about things students should not do (tobacco, alcohol, etc.) and true assessment can be difficult. While a student can have all the knowledge about why smoking is bad and get a good grade on a health test, it is whether or not they choose to smoke when outside of school that is the true reflection of their skills. One form of feedback we discussed is the Search Institute Survey administered every other year by the Town of Amherst in partnership with district schools. It is an anonymous survey given to 8th, 10th and 12th grade students about their supports and behaviors related to the 40 Developmental Assets. Results for the Town of Amherst (not just the Williamsville district) can be found on the Town website. Individual schools have results for their buildings.
We spent part of the morning defining and refining learning goals and had work time for each level (elementary, middle and high) to have dialogue on topics of their choosing. We also allowed time for working with technology tools of their choice. All of the documents we shared went through district Google Docs accounts in a shared folder. We used Prezi for the main presentation points during the day (see presentation embedded above), and also show examples from Xtranormal and Animoto.
I have the good fortune to see the health curriculum through not only this dialogue day, but also through our district curriculum council. The health teachers presented their overall curriculum recently, and to me there are two overriding themes to all the units health teachers do:
- goal setting
- decision making
These themes are found throughout every unit, at every level. Whether it is an elementary student thinking about food choices, or a high school student thinking about relationships, these themes are essential to those conversations.
Part of the afternoon was spent focusing on providing effective feedback. As many health teachers are also coaches, we used the coaching analogy to talk about how effective feedback in the classroom should be like effective feedback on the playing field.
I have to say for me this was one of the most stressful days to prepare for personally since I was not that familiar with the health curriculum or the teachers involved. That being said, it is not the role of any one person to be the expert at everything. This day was about collegial dialogue, where everyone has something to contribute. The other facilitators I worked with were awesome. We had many meetings where we discussed and planned how the day should go. Once the staff development day got rolling and we were working together, it was great. Overall I think it went very well. Feedback indicated that participants were happy, and they provided ideas on how we will structure the next day we are together, which is scheduled to be at the end of August. I feel much more comfortable about the next time we are together now that we have some momentum!
I’ll finish with a great Animoto video created by Tricia DeSantis (Assistant Principal at East HS) on learning goals – note the awesome soundtrack!