Friday, June 18, 2010

30 Goals Challenge X Day 2

I took a day (or two) off after posting the first goal I accomplished for the 30 day challenge, I guess life (and work) got in the way.  Here goes my second goal and thanks again Shelly Terrell for coming up with the 30 Goals Challenge!

Goal #7: Step out of your comfort zone.

A few months ago I was asked by my House Master to attend a conference in Las Vegas (end of June), to present about the Freshman Academy Model that we use at Plymouth South.  The conference is run by Education Northwest, "From Structure to Instruction", and it is the first national conference I will attend.  Presenting to an audience of educators and administrators isn't exactly out of my comfort zone.  I have presented at MassCue the last two years and NERC last year, as well as PD sessions in my school, but always on instruction, teaching, motivation and technology integration.  This presentation and conference is an entirely different animal.

Comfort Zone Violation #1: I will be presenting with two administrators from my school.  I already have a great working relationship with both of them, that isn't the concern.  My concern, I am extremely controlling when it comes my work and the finished product we are creating.  I'm going to have to let go and understand that we are working as a team and recognize that I can't and shouldn't do this presentation alone.  I need their help, and we will be better off each delivering a portion of the presentation, the part that we are the most knowledgeable about.

Comfort Zone Violation #2: The purpose of the conference is to demonstrate and present how change can occur in schools.  The premise, we changed our structure at Plymouth South and we now have a Freshman Academy that has been in existence for five years.  We then have to demonstrate how that model improves instruction to benefit, teachers, students and the school as a whole.  I thought this task would be easy.  However, I soon realized that as a teacher I was only seeing the tip of the "freshman academy iceberg".  There was a grant that I had never read through, long term plans that I didn't know about and perspectives from the administration that needed to be woven into the presentation that I didn't know existed.  The experience of putting this presentation together has been eye opening.

Comfort Zone Violation #3: Data, data & more data.  As part of the presentation focuses on how instruction has been improved, I thought it would be important to share data with the audience.  The data that I chose to analyze was: freshman failures rates, team teacher experience and freshman discipline statistics.
I gathered data going back to 1999 for the failure rate data, and back to 2005 for the discipline data.  I used google docs spreadsheets to organize the information and then displayed it in the google gadget "Motion Charts".  I rarely examine data.  Although I might look at test scores and item analysis every so often, I have never looked at big picture, school wide data like this.  The results absolutely pushed me out of my comfort zone.  My impression was that our freshman academy model (100 students with the same History, Math, Science and English teacher) was lowering our failure rate.  However, I never did any analysis or research to figure out if we were actually achieving our goal.  Hopefully this data will push everyone teaching on the freshman academy out of their comfort zone and we can begin a process of increasing learning and driving these numbers down.
Percentage of Freshman Class Failing Multiple Core Academic Courses (1999-2010)
To view the chart correctly:
1. Change X Axis preference to time
2. Change the color preference (top right) to unique
3. Change the size preference (top right) to percentage of class
Then hit play in the bottom corner of the chart.

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