Q: There is a nearly-viral email going around about the temperature in the classrooms. What are you doing about it, Tracy?
A: There are viral emails district wide about this issue, enough so that it made the Daily Camera today! All heat and all cooling is run from the maintenance department at the district. They blow cool air into the classrooms at night, but clearly it’s not enough to keep the rooms cool throughout the day. I’ve been in mass contact with maintenance over the last two weeks (as in at least five phone calls and mean emails from me a day)… and there’s just not really an answer. Jon Wolfer at Douglass installed a misting system on his playground. I’m not sure how much one would cost, but if anyone wants to help me find out, let me know. It’s important to note that Dr. Bruce Messinger is heavily involved in this issue already; he spent 10 minutes at the K-12 principal’s meeting this week talking all about it, how he’s aware, what he’s thinking about, etc. This feels hopeful to me.
Q: Why do teachers need more collaboration time?
A: I love this question! Imagine if you found out you had cancer. It was a type of cancer that is curable, but the doctor who really knows how best to treat the type of cancer worked in another state. What would the doctor do? Certainly, s/he would make phone calls, have conversations, attend professional conferences, and collaborate with other doctors who have had success in the area. How would you feel if the doctor said, “Well, I COULD ask other people and brainstorm the best treatment for you, but unfortunately, I just don’t have time. Sorry. I’ll treat you with the medicine that I’ve been using for this type of cancer since 1972. Yeah, it doesn’t really work, but there’s just not a structure in place for me to work with my colleagues to determine what’s best for you. Sorry.”
During collaboration time, teachers are analyzing your children’s data and making instructional decisions about how best to help them grow and achieve. This is not a process done in isolation, but working and learning from and with one another. For us to truly prepare students for the jobs that don’t yet exist… for us to be able to be at the ‘top of our instructional game’, we must operate collaboratively.
Q: What’s with the district calendar? How is it developed? Who makes these decisions?
A: The school year calendar is developed first by a district calendar committee that includes upper administration, school level administration, teachers, and parents. The calendar is then taken to the community in a series of district calendar community forums. Following feedback from the community, the calendar is then adopted.
Q: What is the length of the instructional day at Birch? What are the district/ state requirements for the instructional day/ year?
A: Instructional time is based in minutes/ hours. Schools structure their days in ways that best meet the hourly requirements for the year.
In Boulder Valley, elementary schools are required to have at least 1060 hours of instructional time for the entire year in grades 1-5 and at least 456 hours for kindergarten.
This year, Birch students in grades 1-5 receive 1075 hours of instruction and kindergarten students receive 524.6 hours of instruction.
Here’s how BVSD and Birch differ from the state requirements: Colorado state law requires a minimum of 968 hours of instruction in grades 1-5 and 450 hours of instruction in kindergarten. Comparatively, Indiana state law requires a minimum of 900 hours of instruction in grades 1-5.
Q: How did schools decide how to structure their collaboration time this year? Why did Birch opt for collaboration time in the afternoon instead of doing late start??
A: All schools were required to adopt a collaboration time plan by the end of the 2011-2012 school year. Most schools have adopted their plan for this year (and all Broomfield schools have already adopted this year). It was a building decision to either 1) have a late start or early release collaboration time and extend the school day on the other days to accommodate for this time, or 2) have collaboration time outside of the school day, but adjust the amount of time teachers need to be at school. The Birch staff opted for #2; our collaboration time is on Thursdays from 2:45-4:15pm each week. The adult time in the building is governed by the Boulder Valley Association Contract. Teachers are supposed to work 37.5 hours a week. Here’s the specific contract language:
Concerning questions surrounding teacher's hours, Tracy provided some contract language:
C-5 TEACHING HOURS AND TEACHING LOAD: Employees shall be on duty in their respective
buildings 37 1/2 hours per week as arranged by the principal in cooperation with the faculty.
The 37 1/2 hours per week shall be inclusive of (a) duty-free planning time, (b) necessary
travel time attributed directly to teaching schedule and (c) at least a 30 minute guaranteed
daily, duty-free, lunch period.
C-5.1 A minimum of 4 1/2 hours of duty-free planning time will be provided per week.
Every reasonable effort will be made to provide planning periods of meaningful
length of 30 minutes.
There is additional contract language that includes the number of minutes of ‘meetings’ that can be required. The collaboration time decision in each building had to take all of this into account. It’s important to note that the thought that teachers at Birch ever actually work ONLY 37 ½ hours a week is hilarious to me… but it does bring up this point: Teachers are salaried… and their salary is incredibly low for the number of hours they put into their job. Some professions work under billable hours… teachers do not. On the average, teachers at Birch work 10 hour days; some work 12-15 hour days. Most teachers also work 5-10 hours on the weekends. Thank you, as always, for your continued support of the above and beyond work that Birch teachers do!
Q: How is the Daily 5 program working? How do you feel Daily 5 is supporting reading improvement at Birch?
A: The Daily 5 program teaches kids what it means to be an
independent literacy learner. What does
this mean to you? As we know, fluency
and comprehension are an important part of EVERY subject – math, science,
etc. Increasing their literacy skills
will have a profound effect on every aspect of their learning.
Pre-Daily 5: There
were classroom management structures in place, and there was a lot of NOTHING
going on during “quiet time”.
Now, during Daily 5, if kids are getting “off task” during
“read to self” or “read to a partner”, the teacher rings a bell, the kids
return to the carpet and problem solve how to stay on task. Kids
are reading 2-3 times as much as they were before. Ask your kid about their reading
stamina! First graders are up to 25 minutes
already & they are very proud of it!
Mr. Butler is having troubles getting kids to STOP reading, and move
onto something else. So, all-in-all, we
think this program is a HUGE success!
A tip for
reading at home: Practice reading for
meaning with your child. Both of you
read independently for 5 minutes, and then talk about what you just read. Feel free to read People magazine, or a
recipe or something. We want the kids to
know that reading is MUCH more than just picking up a book. Model for your kids how to read.
Q: How is the 8am start time working at Birch?
A: It is working OKAY. We
don’t have any more tardies this year than we did last year. The start time wasn’t our choice. Transportation and High School sports drove
Q: How can I get involved in my kid's education?
A: We LOVE this question!
Read to them EVERY night. Make sure your reading is fun. Ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to email your teacher. Come into the classroom. (You may bring your younger child into the
classroom when you volunteer until it becomes a problem.) We want you here. We want you involved. We want you in the classroom!
If you can’t be in the classroom, but want to help, get
involved in B.E.S.T.!
Q: What if my kid needs extra / harder work?
A: Email your
child’s teacher. Use specific
information in your communication with the teacher, such as: “Here’s what I am seeing. My kid is flying through his homework. “ “Here’s what I notice.” “Here’s what I really want as a parent.” “How can I partner with you to get that
done?” You may have to be the squeeky
wheel about it, but follow up! Teachers
are busy. They are NOT ignoring you if
they don’t respond to your email right away.
Q: How can I support the PAWS program at home?
A: Personal responsibility; Accepting others; Wise choices;
Use specific language at home. Rather than saying “Was that a wise choice?”,
say “That WAS a wise choice. That WAS personally responsible.” Using the language at home in a positive way
will reinforce those behaviors.
We are working hard here to create healthy, safe, engaged, supported,
and challenged children. We want to
engage them in problem solving, not only in the classroom, but also on the
playground. We work on the WHOLE CHILD
approach to learning. Check out this
video that we watched during our meeting: