Clarity

I believe that educators are constantly searching for ways to improve themselves.  The passion that attracted us to the teaching profession may have periods of intensity balanced by lingering flames… but a true teacher never lets that fire die.

For years I have hoped for the opportunity to sit in another teacher’s class.  Too often, we work alone to refine our skills and improve our methods.  Today I had the chance to observe another teacher at the elementary level (I teach secondary), and try to understand how students responded to a lesson plan designed around learning goals.  To begin, I admire any other working professional who allows others to observe their ‘inner sanctum’, since so many of us are used to performing in front of an audience of individuals who, by age alone, stand to gain something from our work.  I’ll admit that I feel much more comfortable sharing my thoughts with my classes instead of my peers… the fear of judgment is enough to paralyze the faint of heart.

A good teacher not only considers where they are going with their students, they must also think of how they will get there… while justifying the entire journey.  This is not a negative comment in any way ~ it is an observation as well as an awareness.  Who hasn’t heard “Why do we have to learn this?” from one or two students?  It may seem to be a complaint (and perhaps for some it is), but some students need to justify what we teach them.  Honestly, if I took a course, I would probably question the instructor why I had to cover certain material too!

Today’s grade 7 & 8 students explored a variety of ways that messages are conveyed using persuasive language.  Using stations, groups of students were able to watch videos, read articles or respond to advertisements — each station used methods to convince the viewer to buy a product, adopt a pet, or to act upon new knowledge.  Guided questions probed students as they processed information and tried to communicate their understanding of new material.

There is a magical moment when a teacher reaches a student.  For many of us, that moment defines our practice.

Today’s activity allowed me to see this happen through a series of deliberate steps that were planned by three professionals working together (who decided to team-teach).  As students began to summarize what they learned and they worked with their teachers to co-construct learning goals, the lesson revealed itself.  Clarity began to emerge as each goal was written on the board.  Each activity began to develop meaning as it related to the larger purposes as defined by the students.  Success!

It was so refreshing to step out of the classroom and have the chance to see purposeful teaching in action.  Clear goals, meaningful activities and effective feedback all work together to guide students to a better understanding of course material.  Now, to check my files and binders to see how I measure up!

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4 Responses to Clarity

  1. Donna Fry says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share yesterday’s learning with the rest of us. It is easy to attend a PD session. It is important to reflect on the learning, but it is valuable to all of your colleagues when you make that reflection public. We can all learn from your personal experiences and the conversations that follow.

    Lucy West talks a lot about the value of collaboration, and getting into other classrooms. You can view some of her work here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfeMzMm4pCk

    As well, there are many sources of information that demonstrate the value of teacher collaboration and deprivatization of practice (example: Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures – http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/leadership/IdeasIntoActionSpring.pdf)

    You are modelling exactly the direction that teaching needs to go – working together in an inquiry stance to find the strategies that work best to engage learners and move learning forward.

    I look forward to our conversations as we all work to improve our practice through collaborative inquiry.

    • colleenkr says:

      Thank you Donna! I’m enjoying this learning journey as well — especially since so many educators are involved. I appreciate the breaking down of barriers as we all realize that we can learn together and the hierarchy of our profession need not get in our way. Very encouraging! I can’t wait to check out the resources you have recommended.

  2. Nicki says:

    Good morning Colleen,
    Your reflections, beautifully written might I add, have truly inspired me. In this process of Instructional Rounds we aim to make our practice “visible” to all – that every teaching move is completely transparent and purposeful. Reading your reflections on the work from yesterday allowed me to see and understand the debth of this transparency. Your reflections support the work and the notion that we must learn from each other in a truly job-embedded manner – that this is how our learning can be deepened. Our colleague yesterday also referred to often feeling overwhelmed when the professional learning is delivered in a traditional “telling” model; however when we are in classrooms together with the opportunity to define the effective practice in a non-threatening manner that is a true component of descriptive feedback, not only is our learning enhanced, but we feel that sense of efficacy. As a teacher and leader, efficacy is critical – along with the realization that collaboration is a foundational component to this belief.

    • colleenkr says:

      I really do think that we are working towards a better way of learning and teaching. It seems to come down to the phrase “Two heads are better than one”, doesn’t it? In the classroom, students are often hesitant to share their learning unless they’ve had the chance to check their thoughts with another student. Shouldn’t we follow this model as well? I am enjoying the trend to think, pair & share with my colleagues!

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