Let’s hear it for shifting teachers!

December 3, 2008 at 7:10 am | Posted in Collaboration, Learning is Messy, Planning, Project-based Learning, Shift, Tech Integration | 2 Comments
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Being a teacher in a school that is shifting is challenging. There is more to learn and adopt than the newest math or reading program- at least in those cases it was essentially a newer package of the usual way of doing things. Also, teaching in a shifting school is more than learning how to use PowerPoint well enough to teach your students the skills needed to do a report using PPT instead of a booklet. What is needed is deeper- modeling and providing opportunities for students to learn, collaborate, reflect on learning and create in ways that extend and express content and ideas.

Asking teachers to take the necessary risks to learn new skills, view learning and learners in new ways, trusting the tech specialist and colleagues, and risk making errors in front of students is asking a lot from already over-taxed professionals. It is also challenging for students who aren’t accustomed to being asked to use what they have learned and use content to extend their ideas.

This is why I am taking the time to write and share a post about a colleague- one of our fourth grade teachers who is going out on a limb and beginning the shift. In the past few weeks she enlisted the support of myself and our science coordinator, Brook, to help create a Rainforest unit based on the curriculum content to support and challenge her students. She wanted research and projects that allowed levels of engagement and addressed a variety of learning styles. We brainstormed and Kim created the final project descriptions with task descriptions and rubrics for each. Brook and I supported by helping to set up the resources needed. Kim also asked for my support and from parent volunteers in class during the next weeks while students rotate through projects- she is the grade level science teacher and works with all three homeroom groups so she will have 3 hours a day facilitating students working on projects three days a week.

What is so unique about what Kim is doing? She is collaborating and using available human resources. She is revising her expectations for student learning and allowing for a variety of student learning styles, talents and ability levels. Students are being asked to engage in learning and apply and creatively demonstrate what is learned. By the end of the first project day students were becoming engaged and interested in what they were learning and Kim was exhausted.

It’s not easy and it’s messy. It required a great deal of preparation on Kim’s part as well as her willingness to take risks and believe in the value of revising the way things have been taught in the past. She also realizes she’s not alone and is willing to collaborate. And it won’t be easy for the students either.

On the other hand, it’s so exciting to be part of an environment where real learning is taking place for students and ourselves and I look forward to the journey ahead, reflecting and where that will take us.


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