Day Three: Teacher Evaluation Goal – Including Differentiation in My Lesson Plans (& why I DON’T want to do it!)

I will have to say that the part of our TKES (Teacher Keys Effectiveness System) in which I am weakest is DIFFERENTIATION. I don’t PLAN it into my lesson plans like I need to do for the teacher evaluation process.

After reading a little bit on the subject, it seems that there are three terms: Differentiation, Personalized Learning, and Individualization of Learning. I personally don’t have an interest in spending much time “differentiating” among these three, but I will discuss them because it is an interesting concept. “Personalization” is not something that teachers can provide – it’s what those of us who are reading this blog are doing: directing our own learning. I do encourage students to do such, however.

I realize that I am a long way from documentation of individualized learning. I work about ten hours a day, I never get my daily goals completely accomplished, and I don’t do a good job of differentiating in my lesson plans. That being said, individualization is not on my radar as a “planned” goal. I already give up here.

Now – do I DO individualized learning with students? Of course! Most teachers do….We see how or why a student is struggling OR why he/she is so far advanced, and we create an explanation or a question specifically for that student. That is individualized teaching (learning?-doesn’t matter what you call it in my opinion). Am I going to spend time to put that in my lesson plans? No.

Do I differentiate? Of course – same as above. Most teachers do. Is it important to put that in my lesson plans? Not in my opinion, but that’s because I know I am doing it – so documenting becomes is a burdensome task. I suppose that with 150 teachers at our school it needs to be documented somewhere in case someone might possibly want to see it. Although I hope that I do the right things most days, I know that others may be falling short and that documentation should be required.

It’s only my third blog, but it’s already time for me to reveal that I am not a fan of educational drama. I know that those outside the classroom love to research the latest and greatest things that those of us in the classroom should be doing, but to me good teaching is just a combination of “teacher sense”, professionalism, loving kids, content knowledge…and enough sleep.

Back to the goal. I WILL include differentiation in my lesson plans – and the best part of this is that I work with a great team of peers and a supportive administration. We will work together to accomplish this task so that I can get a check mark on my teacher evaluation. And so that I can go to sleep at night.


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Day One: My Goals for the New School Year

What are my Goals for 2014-15? I love challenges, changes, and plunging into more projects than a person should tackle. So, my goals will be aligned to my list of commitments for the year. Here is my “To Do” List:

1) I will teach chemistry students using a “MODELING” approach. Yes, I will model, but not in the context of Vogue magazine. One of my amazing colleagues, Dr. Karen Pompeo, participated in an AMTA Workshop in the summer of 2013. AMTA is the American Modeling Teachers Association. She is sharing this methodology with our innovative chemistry team so that we can teach our students to understand how matter behaves based on logic, analytical thinking, and visualization of particle behavior. Gone will be the days of blindly rearranging equations and rote memorization of facts. After three weeks of school, students have already drawn numerous diagrams of particles in (and out of) boxes. They explain, through drawings, how particles behave when they are heated, when they are squished, when they combine with other particles, when they vaporize,…. I am the world’s worst artist, but that plays an important role, because my drawings will never intimidate and are a sense of comic relief, which is an important tool for teaching the sometimes overwhelming concepts of chemistry. Imagine how dreadful it could be for a student to sit in chemistry for 90 minutes without laughing or having a bit of fun. (another blog topic, one day)

2) I will focus my AP Chemistry Course more closely to the Learning Objectives that the College Board implemented in 2013. My AP Chemistry mentor is Adrian Dingle of Westminster High School in Atlanta, GA. I just completed one of his online workshops and have subscribed once again to his teaching resources, which are clear, concise and thorough. He is an enormously helpful and responsive teacher. Read his insightful blog to see that he respects that we all have different teaching styles but that we can empower our students equally well to succeed on the AP Chemistry Exam on Monday, May 4, 2015.

3) I will co-host a Technology Professional Development learning group for the teachers at East Coweta High School (ECHS). My partner from last year, tech expert Micki Byrnes, @mickibyrnes, and I are teaming up this year with one of our tech pioneers Matt East, @eccoacheast, to teach our colleagues new ways of implementing technology. Our topics include Google apps (hangouts, slides, docs), digital storytelling, presentations (Prezi, HaikuDeck), research (diigo),cross-curricular collaboration (Canvas) and all the features of Edmodo. I also hope to contribute manageable ways to incorporate STEM lessons into their classrooms.

4) East Coweta High School will present our first Invitational Science Olympiad Tournament in November 2014. Science Olympiad is arguably the BEST STEM extra-curricular organization available to students. It is the most exciting science competition for students grades K-12. Students are completely immersed into 23 science and engineering fields as they compete against their peers. Science Olympiad is a National Organization, and any school that claims to have a good STEM program, in my opinion, MUST have a Science Olympiad team.

5) I will continue the work on ECHS earning the title of STEM Program Certified School. Our magnificent science department chair Stefanie Easterwood and I have passed the baton to our dear colleague Candice Mohabir, who has fantastic vision and can make progress toward our school STEM goals.

5) I will apply for GRANTS to fund a newly renovated STEM Classroom through Contrax Furnishings. The furniture in my room is outdated. It is a tight, winding pathway for me to move throughout the classroom. This literal maze doesn’t serve our peer grouping or lab experience well. It is time to update and innovate our workspace. It’s not going to be cheap, however, and grant money is the only hope for a new look. I have written and won grants before, but it’s time to break out the big pens to be able to locate the funding for this HGTV-type overhaul. I am grateful for the confidence that our school administrators have in us, the teachers. Innovation leaders Evan Horton and Donald White always encourage me in these new endeavors.

6) I will make a presentation on, guess what, HOW TO WRITE AND WIN GRANTS at the West GA RESA Instructional Technology Conference on Sep. 8 & 9 at Callaway Gardens, GA. YES – I am combining two of my goals, a time-efficient move that I carefully chose. Creating a presentation will inspire me to WRITE the grants for my new furniture project and research all the available funding sources. Making this presentation is also my way of hushing up those teachers who complain that there’s no money for them to incorporate technology. Well, excuse me, Mr. or Ms. “My school won’t buy us anything, so I can’t use technology”, but if you really want to have the technology for your students, then spend a couple of hours writing a grant. Get off your financial soap box, get your tush in front of a computer, and find the money.

7) I will manage my time wisely. Time Management is not my strong suit, but I must work at it if I am going to accomplish these goals. If I am successful, then I will certainly write about it one day. Until then, I am off to reach my goals.


“Goals may cause systematic problems for organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior,
increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation.
Use care when applying goals in your organization.”

Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us