By SHERI DAHL
Assistant Superintendent of Schools
Have you ever stepped into a classroom and observed all the displays on the walls, papers in trays, materials on shelves, desks crammed with books and folders, and the teacher with students who are busily engaged in learning activities?
As a parent, I used to marvel at how one teacher could keep so many students on task for the amount of time needed in a particular activity without completely losing control!
As a former teacher-turned-administrator, I am still inspired by the amount of information in which our teachers engage students with their learning. But the difference is that now I have a much more developed appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes with the planning of lessons and meaningful activities.
Because of the amount of “new” and “old” information teachers are required to fit into a school year, they have to become masters of juggling and integrating all the information into units that not only make sense to students, but that are also authentic and useful in their 21st century lives. Not a short order to fill!
The diocese has therefore scheduled workshops for teachers to collaborate and mull through the standards and to develop long range plans in order to fit their curriculum into one school year. How do they do it? Our first workshop day, facilitated by Catapult Learning consultant Andrea Wasden, included activities that help us to learn best, no matter how old we are - cutting, pasting, color-coding, and manipulating standards, discussing the process with each other, and checking for understanding. And all of that revolved around just one subject! Imagine elementary teachers who plan for several subjects! Whew!
The next time you have the opportunity to visit a classroom and witness engaged students learning something new, imagine for a minute all the planning those teachers do to foster students’ growth in all subject areas, including their ability to learn alongside others and help each other, much like these teachers did that day of the workshop.
The same is true if you walked onto a field where students were engaged in sports – what type of planning goes into making sure our athletes are safe and having fun while developing skills? Around 300 parents found out the answer by attending our first “Play Like a Champion Today” parent night at St. Ambrose.
Kristen Sheehan, director of the program at Notre Dame, led parents from our 10 Tucson Sports League elementary schools through discussions and videos on what they can do to help their children grow in skills while practicing sportsmanship and, most importantly, having fun! In our schools, sports are a part of our ministry and sometimes we adults need to be reminded of what that means for our children.
Our teachers and coaches work hard “behind the curtain” so that our children can experience success on the stage called “Life.”