Over the past year, I have been impacted by a series of highly rewarding pro d events and since it is the beginning of a new year, I decided to look over my notes and dedicate some time to a serious review. Below are some nuggets and reflections on some of the pro d sessions that I attended in 2012. I welcome your thoughts especially if you attended the same or a similar session or if anything I have written resonates with you in some way.
Madeline Price from FNESC: 44/50 kids who have trouble reading in kindergarten will struggle in gr 3. It would be worthwhile to review the research or the data behind this. Is this taken strictly from data compiled by FNESC in that it impacts only First Nations children or does it have validity for other groups of Aboriginal children? Is it reasonable to expect children to be reading in kindergarten? By reading in kindergarten do we mean students should be able to decode one-syllable words? I truly need to review the PLOs for K4 and K5 as soon as possible and I need to sit down with these teachers.
David Rattray: Experiencing or witnessing trauma at a young age has a huge impact upon how the brain learns and can result in student behaviours that interfere with learning: sleeping in class; having tantrums; staring out the window; wandering the halls; etc. This type of behaviour is not unlike what I have observed in some high school classes in public school. Because I work on a First Nations school and given the atrocities that have been committed against First Nations people through residential and day school and their combined intergenerational impacts, I know that we need to have David in to help us to better understand and address the residual effects on the students in our present classrooms especially with adolescents. Is it time for us to shift our teaching practices to embrace social and emotional learning and do we need to focus more on collecting students in the ways that Colleen Drobot speaks of below? It seems that the goals are the same and combined, they may allow us to address each student in a more holistic way.
Colleen Drobot: How to collect students: In a friendly space, get in the student’s face and eyes: smile, nod, and woo their hearts in order to influence their minds. It makes sense that Colleen, a student of Gordan Neufeld, is suggesting that we first need to woo students’ hearts before we can woo their minds. Will this help students feel more like they belong to a classroom community where they feel safe and supported? What does this look like in terms of planning, teaching, and assessing? Note to myself: reread some of Gordan Neufeld’s work. Consider this area for future professional development.
David Warlick: Classroom instruction is done as a performance. How compelling is your lesson/performance? I love this way of looking at teaching as it supports Colleen’s notion that students first need to be wooed and in doing so, a relationship may be formed with each student. Just as a good performer must connect with the audience, connections with students may be the result of a teacher paying attention to each aspect of a compelling teaching performance. As performers, teachers need to engage students in a cyclical cycle that moves between I – you -we. Guided practice and collaboration become givens in this approach. Good practice has a repertoire that can be referred to as a performance where the teacher is the director and the students, the captive and engaged audience who look forward to each encore. I like this analogy…
David, after a session on technology left his audience of teachers pondering these considerations:
* What tools do you have now that might make learning more responsive?
*What tools do you have now that might enable learning through conversation – exchange of knowledge?
*What tools do you have now that might bring value to student work, inspiring personal investment?
*What tools or policies do you have that might make the learning (and teaching) environment more playful and more mistake-friendly?
I’ll leave technology aside for a moment and pick up on the other areas. The first point begs the need to consider what is responsive teaching? Cathy Tomlinson and Marci Imbeau have written and presented extensively on this topic, as differentiated instruction is, in practice, responsive teaching. How can technology assist with this? When I look at an app such as Explain Everything, I realize that it does in fact, support David’s first point.
Please do not underestimate the importance of conversation; at a time when children in primary grades are using iPads and high school kids are constantly connected to technology, we need to pay more attention to simple, yet powerful and yes , simple strategies such as think pair share in order for students to put their heads together. As they make connections between each other, accompanied by clear criteria, the results can be deeper and more reflective of two or more minds.
Given the opportunity to engage with higher level thinking, the “what if” and other creative considerations invites students to invest more of their own thinking and explore possibilities beyond the obvious and evident. Some call it stretching the limits of teaching and learning.
In support of the belief that technology can enhance learning, iPads have the potential to enhance learning but only if teachers first plays with individual apps in order to recognize their respective possibilities and limitations. It comes down to knowing how to match apps with the kinds of tasks that will allow students to represent their learning in compelling and multi-dimensional ways. A google search reveals that there are many excellent apps available. Here is one site to check out.
Teresa Campbell: School climate: what is driving the relationships of the adults in your building? Does pedagogy trump curriculum or do relationships between adults in the building? How do these relationships impact the school climate? Is a “student success” focus enough to ground respectful working relationships between the adults in the building? Lots of food for thought and for genuine dialogue.
Justice Murray Sinclair: Education has brought us to the state that we are in and it is also the key to make things better. Such change will take generations to repair and to strengthen the fabric of all of Canada. We know that the legacy of residential and day school remains with us. We see its devastating impact in many ways. Perhaps if we considered the wisdom in Mr. Sinclair’s keynote and a phrase coined by SD 36 Superintendent Mike McKay ” Every child, every chance, every day”, it would help us to maintain a mindset that keeps the integrity and dignity children at the forefront of everything that we say and do. I urge everyone to click on the link and listen to Justice Sinclair’s keynote. A line that resonates with me is this: the day that I became a swan, I realized I came from a great nation.
Sue Gower: Professional Learning Community, PLC oriented school where
• Teachers work together
• Kids learn because of what we do and
• Essential knowledge and dispositions matter
This requires a way of thinking and a way of focusing our work where collaboration is the norm and not the exception. These three premises speak of good practice which needs to be supported in order to thrive and develop.
Dylan Wiliam: Pedagogy trumps curriculum all the time. Ultimately though, curricula is pedagogy- how teachers teach; how they run the lived day to day learning; and how they incorporate the social component.
Marci Imbeau: Schools with a high poverty rate benefit from a differentiated classroom and an orderly, enabling environment. A lengthy discussion for another time as it deserves way more consideration!
Chris Kennedy: New ways innovate and impact student learning.
Joe Morelock: Kids who start out behind may never catch up, ever. This is a BIG discussion that needs to take place with the entire staff as we consider strategies and interventions.
Karen Hume: We build trust by being consistent, by encouraging collaboration, and by creating connections. We look forward to engaging with Karen Hume on Jan 25.
In addition to attending some amazing pro d events I have had the opportunity to observe some powerful learning in classrooms. This has helped me to be a constant learner as I seek to merge theory with practice.
As part of my daily walkthrough in the school and in classrooms, my pro d reflections have me considering the following:
• What is driving the relationships between the people in the building?
• To what extent teachers are working together especially those who are working with the littlest learners.
• How are teachers “collecting” students in the way that Colleen does?
• What types of classroom “performances” have kids on the edge of their seats?
What kind of supports do teachers and teacher assistants need? This is an area that I will pay particular attend to and look forward to those conversations.
Each of the gems above have provided me with food for thought and pose important considerations that all too often live at the periphery of my thinking when daily emergent issues take precedence over everything else.
Two professional pro d goals that I have for this year are the following:
If you know of pro d session in the near future, please let me know.
What pro d events or readings have impacted you as an educator and in what ways might they invite you to reflect on how you begin each lesson; how you plan for assessment; how you engage students with each other; how you work with your colleagues, etc…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!