Since so much of our goal in working with Summit Learning this year was about shifting teacher and students mindsets, I asked teachers and school leaders to reflect on how their own perspectives have changed over the course of the year. Each teacher’s brief reflection is followed by some commentary and background on how they were impacted by our Summit experience.
Lynne Yulish, 6th and 7th grade Math Teacher
I used to think… I had to be in the front of the room
but now… I love walking around and hearing my students teach each other.
I used to think…math should be tracked and student such be divided into homogeneous groupings
but now… due to the activities and projects, I have become an advocate of heterogeneous classes and discussions where student are valued for the different ideas and approaches they bring to the classroom.
The math component of the Summit Learning program differs in a number of ways from the way other courses are designed and, in math in particular, there were new ways teachers were challenged to think about the goals of instruction and role of the teacher in the classroom. Summit builds significantly off the acclaimed Illustrative Math curriculum which emphasizes collaborative problem solving and conceptual understanding of math. While we found guidance for differentiation and supporting struggling learners lacking, this summer’s platform update includes a re-design of the math units in ways that addressed our primary concerns. See the components of their units in the great visual here
Vanessa Russel, 6th grade Science Teacher
I used to think… that differentiation was difficult to accomplish in a classroom.
Now I think… I have the ability to meet the needs of students with a variety of teaching techniques.
Beyond curricular content, Summit provides teachers with incredible resources for differentiating instruction including scaffolded content, suggesting teaching strategies and clear rubrics. The resources continue to be enhanced with summer updates that include recommendations for students with IEPs, suggested pacing guides and lesson plans. Experienced teachers like Vanessa who really understand the structures and philosophy behind the system are able to cull from the resources and adapt them to meet the needs of the unique students in their class.
Danielle Gottesman, Learning Specialist
I used to think…teachers needed to set goals for their students
but now… I know that students can set their own goals and be part of their learning experience.
For our struggling learners, we entered the year with concern regarding how they would handle aspects of their schedule that demanded independence and self-direction. Ultimately, we learned that these concerns applied equally to all 6th graders but the explicit guidance and instruction the Summit structures create through 1:1 mentoring helped students progress much faster than we (and their parents) imagined. The nature of mentoring also changed the role of our Learning Specialist from re-teaching or pre-teaching content outside of the classroom to supporting students in selecting and internalizing strategies as they learn in the classroom.
Ben Fried, Junior High Principal
I used to think…the classroom environment necessitates having students learn the same content regardless of individual student abilities to learn at a faster pace.
Now I think…that the classroom structure can allow for students to maximize their capacity to learn as much as their minds will allow.
I used to think…that there is not time for students to meet with teachers weekly to discuss their learning and set goals.
Now I think… that students can and should engage in meaningful and productive conversation with a caring educator and that this can be a crucial part of their school experience.
Our work with Summit Learning was about so much more than a technology platform or a curriculum! I liked to talk a lot over the course of the year about re-thinking structures and how changing structures helps align the student and teacher experiences with our overarching goals. Without the Summit structures it would have taken tremendous effort for teachers to design differentiated curricula and make sure to find time for mentoring conversations. Dedicating time for PLT and mentoring allowed teachers and school leaders to see the efficacy of providing students independence and support!
Avery Joel, Head of School
I used to think…providing students and parents with new, innovative learning opportunities coupled with sound reasoning was enough to cultivate buy-in.
Now I think… that change of any sort requires a great deal of emotional support as well.
Change is hard! Through our mistakes in underestimating the anxieties around change, we have learned how to better support and communicate our educational vision. We’ve learnt the importance of not making assumptions about what parents and stakeholders care or don’t care about and continue to think carefully about the language we use and way we communicate our goals and structures.