Friday, May 17, 2019

“Teacher, Teacher, how do I do this?” ... or ... “What are you going to do when I’m not here to help you?”

Ever wonder how to help your students know what to do when they don’t know what to do? Me too. I like to give a lot of lip service to how important it is to support success skills (four C’s, soft skills, life them what you will), but I’ll admit it: They can be overwhelming. I mean, seriously, critical thinking?! What does that even look like?

One thing that is clear, though, is that they are a critical component of our picture of a successful BPS graduate. Our parents and community want our students to develop them. Our school board monitors student engagement with them. And, if that’s not enough for you, do a Google search for “top job skills for 2020.” They need to be a focus in every classroom...every day. (That’s right, I said it: “erryday!” If I had a microphone, here is where I’d drop it.)

Yeah, yeah, still haven’t told us what they look like, sound like, feel like.” O.K., O.K., I hear ya. Honestly, I’d tell you if I knew. It’s not like there is a rubric out there for creativity or collaboration (ahem)...and here we are again...OVERWHELMING!

These are just a few reasons that teachers at BPS have been participating in an opt-in professional development project called “Success Skills in Action.” The goal: focus on and learn what success skills look like in our classrooms. When do our students use them? How do our students use them? What does it look like when students aren’t using them? What does it look like when they’re learning to use them?

How are we doing this? With success skills, of course. We are thinking critically about the specific behaviors (both explicit and implicit) in the BPS success skills rubrics (if you haven’t found them yet, drive your web browser to -> Teaching Practices -> Success Skills). We are thinking creatively about what types of experiences and opportunities students need in order to apply these skills. We are working collaboratively by sharing our desired student behaviors and visiting each others’ classrooms to help each other observe which behaviors students are and aren’t demonstrating. We are communicating that information back to teachers and students in those classrooms to build our collective understanding of these important skills.

What are we finding out? Well, take a look at what some participants have said:

“Watching the teacher push these students' critical thinking really reminded me of the importance of creating experiences where the kids are required to find the answers themselves and where I am a facilitator of their learning. Students teaching one another was so powerful, which shows the significance of collaboration.”

“As I read the feedback, I realized how all the work on teaching the 4 C’s throughout the year really paid off.”

“ I was pleased to hear that they were problem solving and helping each other to stay on task.”

“I am so happy I participated in Success Skills in Action because having extra ears and eyes in the classroom was helpful to determine if the behaviors I wanted were achieved.”

“I believe I can impact student ability to think critically more than I used to. I believe teaching the process of critical thinking and modeling it is very important to help students deconstruct problems and ideas.”

We’re still learning how to best support these important skills, but one thing we can say for sure is: success skills aren’t an outcome...they’re an action!

Twitter Tuesday Questions:

  1. What types of behaviors do you look for to indicate student engagement with success skills?
  2. What relationship to you think success skills have with social-emotional learning?
  3. How do success skills allow students to engage in deeper learning?
  4. What do you do to support and encourage communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking?

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