Class Ten – Yay me!

On Professional Development Friday we talked about Best Practices. What are they? How do you recognize them? As we began to discuss these questions Peter (co-director of the program) pointed out that we were all talking about qualities of practices rather than specific practices. Then he laid out some things to think about when planning instruction:

    • Be intentional – know what you are teaching and why you are teaching it and why you are teaching it that way
    • CREATE motivation
    • BE GUIDED by assessment
    • CUSTOMIZE to meet needs
    • INVITE meaningful Applications
      • (context of real world, of their world)
    • ENGAGE in rich (meaningful) text
      • (Broad definition of ‘text’)
    • PROVIDE sufficient time and space

All of these things speak to me, the ones that grab my attention most is “create motivation”, “Invite meaningful Applications”, and “Engage in rich text”. Without motivation, you will get crappy work, or at least work that has been done to the barest minimum and will have NO IMPACT on the students’ LEARNING! Which is the whole point, right? Meaningful Applications with rich texts. This will create Motivation. If kids aren’t aware of how and why what they are doing fits within the real world (or their world, which isn’t always the same as the real world) then they are going to roll their eyes at you and whine “why are we doing this?!” I have made it my mission as a teacher to never hear this question. It is part of my larger mission to be transparent with my students about my teaching methods and motivation.

Providing learning experiences that relate to the real world (though school is real too) is important. As an ETEP student I interned at King Middle School in Portland, Maine. It was amazing. So amazing that as soon as I was hired into a teaching position I started lauding the Expeditionary model to everyone and anyone who would listen (read more about EL). Eventually the admin got on board and sent the 8th grade team and some related arts teachers and the curriculum coordinator to attend a two-day workshop at King, provided paid summer time to plan an expedition and made a five-year plan to bring the school into EL. This past year we pulled off our first Expedition (see the Truth Posters, read the Press coverage). The seventh grade went to the King workshop last year and are planning their first Expedition for the upcoming year. It is very exciting and has led to fantastic learning experiences and demonstrations of learning.

Related to this are the three Influences on Learning:

    • Environment
    • Texts and Materials
    • Instruction

As this list appeared during the PowerPoint, I really focused on Environment, which to me includes a sense of community and the culture of the class and school. Before class I went to the Registrar’s office to get a copy of my English Degree. I want to display it in my classroom as a subtle way of showing that education is valued. I’m proud that I have my BA (my MA Ed will go up too) and believe that education is important. I think that kids will see it, look at it, and ask me about it providing me an opening to talk about their thoughts on education and it’s importance.

The sessions on specific stages of literacy development were good, strategies were shared and I always enjoy that.

Back with Team Awesome we split up and looked at our last lesson plan and talked about planning for Monday and gave each other feedback. I found this very useful. Emily asked me great questions that made me think about the big picture plan – something we’ve both been struggling with. I also found it helpful just to talk about what I’m doing and how it’s going, yes I blab on and on here but a live interactive (ahem you could comment on this post and make it more interactive!) audience is so much better. Hearing what she is doing and how it is going and trying to help her answer the questions she was so invigorating (really? am I that geeky about teaching? . . . um yes I am!). This is kind of professional development that makes me wish time would hurry up so I can get back in the classroom.

Though this discussion I realized something: I have good ideas about helping kids! Go me!

It feels a bit weird to say that, I don’t feel that comfortable patting myself on the back like that. I like to think that I’m a good teacher, but I cringe at the idea of saying it out loud for fear of the reaction it would bring. “I’ve only been teaching for three years, how good could I really be”, but within those three years I’ve watched and learned and listened and experimented and pushed myself and my students and my school to be the best we can, and before those three years everything was leading up to me becoming a teacher; working in a teen group home, the 1:1 behavior specialist work I did, the classes and discussions and choices I made have helped shape the person and teacher I am. So it isn’t just those three years, it is also the path through life that I took to get here. Just like readers bringing all their schema to a text, teachers bring all their life experience to their teaching.


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