Written by Jackie Bakker, FCS & Specialist Teacher
"Are you interested in co-teaching a unit?" I still remember the moment when one of the connectors in the TLC program asked me this question. My initial reaction was "I don't have the time....this is going to be a great deal of work...someone is going to watch me teach multiple days in a row." Of course, these are the things I only thought to myself. I replied with a "Sure, I will try it."
I decided to pick a unit that I had not previously taught so that if I was going to be putting in "hours" meeting, planning, assessing, collaborating, and reflecting with someone then I would end up with a great unit. Where had I planned to start....with the idea of creating a great PowerPoint presentation. (Ugh....)
The journey over the next few weeks proved to be the most valuable experience I have had during my fourteen years of teaching. While co-teaching, I realized more about student learning, using data to drive instruction, and growing as a professional than I have ever before. It was not about building a great unit and a great PPT presentation! It was not a time sucking experience! In fact, I spent a little less than an hour during the school day planning a three week unit. I was saving so much of my time! Not only that, but both my students and I had someone to brainstorm, problem-solve, and reflect with right during class. Relationships formed that were more precious than time!
The person whom I co-taught with also suggested that we create a pre-assessment to gauge what students knew about pre-construction skills before we got started with our projects. The same assessment was also used as the post-assessment. We compared the two assessments regarding student growth and found 83% of students were in the proficient or almost there category whereas only 28% started in the almost there category and 0% were proficient. Excellent academic growth! I was able to reflect on changes for next year right away (and with student input) by seeing where some gaps still existed. Amazing that this experienced saved me time! But, most amazing is the growth of myself and the students during this experience!
Check out this link for the parade if you missed it!!
Kindergarten classes started the New Year off learning about the Chinese New Year. They learned that China is a country and where to find it on a world map, what their flag looks like and many of the customs that Chinese people do to celebrate Chinese New Year: lanterns are sent into the sky with a wish for the new year. they have a big family feast, they get money in a red envelope from family members(red is a lucky color), and they get new clothes. Kindergartners watched videos of Chinese New Year celebrations/parades in big USA cities and learned what the zodiac animal was for 2017- the rooster. Art teacher Miss Ott helped them make a dragon for the parade and students made rooster masks and Chinese flags. Next, they practiced for the dragon parade...it scares away "bad luck"...firecrackers also scare away the bad luck. Students also found out what animal represented the year(s) they were born: 2010 and 2011 were the year of the tiger and rabbit. Books about China were made, and students came up with a sentence based on the picture in their China book. Students tried using chopsticks during a Chinese feast of fried rice, mandarin oranges, long life noodles and fortune cookies using. , and wrote down facts about the Chinese New Year in their journals.
It's hard to believe we're halfway through our first year of the Teacher Leadership Program! This program has been a new learning adventure for a lot of us involved both directly and indirectly with the program. We started administering a staff survey last August to help guide the teacher leadership program through feedback and data. We are showing growth in areas across the board when it comes to teacher involvement and here is some evidence to show that growth.
*Response Rate in September: 69.5% of staff
*Response Rate in January: 83% of staff
How likely are you to visit another teacher's classroom?
In September, 53% of the staff said they would absolutely (5) visit another teacher's classroom versus 65% in January - a growth of 12%.
How likely are you to invite another teacher leader into your classroom?
In September, we had 38% of staff said they absolutely would (5) invite a teacher leader into their classroom versus 52% in January - a growth of 14%.
Even more encouraging, we originally had 33% of our staff in the bottom half (1-3) on this survey in September. Now, we have only 18% in the bottom half.
Meeting Our Goals
One key goal last semester was to build relationships by meeting every teacher and getting acquainted with their classrooms and students. Although our buildings have the luxury of being closely connected, admittedly, there were many teachers we only knew by name and didn't know personally. Each connector spent three rotations getting to know all of our amazing staff. Our last rotation we also implemented feedback, and honestly, we didn't know if it would be received well. Our survey showed it was the most helpful interaction we've completed thus far (graph below) This is something we'll be offering this semester as a result of the data.
Increase Learning Walks:
Another goal was to increase learning walks in all buildings. Although we did have some people take advantage of them first quarter, second quarter we were able to get more people involved with 51 of our 60 respondents saying they've visited another teacher's classroom.
Getting Others Involved In Teacher Leadership
Another key goal for teacher leadership during first semester was to increase involvement through a variety of activities and adventures. The graph below shows the various adventures that staff took with a specialist or connector first semester with the highest results being learning walks, informal classroom visits, brainstorming sessions, gathering resources, and listening & support.
Driving our 3rd quarter goals are the two graphs below. The first graph (top) shows how many people have initiated collaboration with a connector whereas the second graph (bottom) shows collaboration with specialist. Although our specialists are getting involved in my ways (see our previous blog post), we want to open their doors even more!
One way we'll start getting our specialists more involved is through use of Mini PDs which several staff attended first semester (top). Last semester, three specialists lead mini PD sessions before school hours with a great attendance rate. In the future, we also hope to get others, including teacher leaders outside of the program, involved in hosting mini PDs! We'll be sharing these opportunities in the faculty announcements and on a Google Calendar available here.
As mentioned in a graph above, we also offered break-out sessions (different than mini PDs) during our regularly planned PD. These were not only well received by teachers, but many were able to implement things and spur collaborations from these types of activities.
The first time we offered break-out sessions, we had 5 specialists and 1 connector lead these sessions. Although our next session was canceled due to weather (which we'll make up in the future), we enlisted 3 specialists, 2 connectors, 1 administrator, 2 mentors, and 6 teachers outside of the program to lead sessions! Not only does this show a willingness to get involved, but it shows that our staff is excited to collaborate with one another and finds value in learning from their peers! We're excited to continue offering this type of PD in years to come!
In an effort to reflect on our own practices, we compiled a list of activities that both specialist and connectors have completed throughout first semester. We feel sharing these not only shows how many great things are being done throughout these roles, but also keeps our program transparent and allows for feedback and questions.
Ruehlow's Construction Tech Class are building mini houses. Each team is constructing a house that they have poured a basement, put in a floor and are constructing walls at this time.