Monday, February 24, 2014

Experts Down the Hall

I am beyond grateful to work in a school with such fantastic and inspiring educators. Even more so, I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from them.

Last week, each new teacher was given half of a day off to observe master teachers at our school. We were urged to choose teachers who were different than us and to step out of our comfort zone. For me, that meant exploring IB, AP, and Pre-AP English classes.. 

Although I learned from each of them about their subject matter, I learned more observing their teaching styles.

As a new teacher, I understand the urge to constantly question your practices. I do it all of the time.

Should I have been so hard on that kid? Is letting him make his own choices in the classroom really the best idea? Is letting that one slide again really going to help anything?

But, after watching these master teachers, I've decided that I'm not messing up that badly. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not on the same level as these teachers. 

I need to practice my classroom management. Watching my 7th period get out of hand some days is like watching a blackhole take shape.

I need to stop printing so much and hold students accountable for not having their technology. I get it, you forgot your charger. For the 3rd time this week. But, really, that's like leaving your textbook, notebook, and pen at home all at once. Unacceptable.

I need to come in next year with a plan. I recently took a classroom management that one of our assistant principals put together for us as a PD opportunity, and guess what I learned. My classroom management plan was ridiculous and really needs some shaping up for next year.

I need to use technology for more than just pushing out information. Yes, it's convenient to give out info using Google Drive (debatable, on the iPad that is), but we are capable of creating so much more. Students blogging is my first step, but I'm itching to do something different, engaging, and creative.

I need to us technology to brag on my kids and let them show their work. I visited one classroom that had a 6ft cable attached to her dongle that allowed her students to show off the artwork that they create and the annotations that they make. Is this virtually impossible as a floater? Yes. But I'm going to figure something out to make this doable. I've been thinking about it so much that it's nonnegotiable.

But there are small things that I need to do better as well. These are the small things that I saw during my Experts Down the Hall experience that made an impact on me,

I need to take notes on the board. I'm a PowerPoint/Google Slides/Prezi fan, but going back to the basics really works.  Students can easily follow, it can be adjusted fir every class, and it creates a collaborative space for students to contribute.

I need to invade some personal space when necessary. One of our principals always reminds us that this is a fantastic classroom management strategy, but I had never tried it or seen it in action until last week. This teacher was quickly and silently able to redirect students just by putting herself into their bubble and creating just enough discomfort.

I need to let the kids have a say in essay writing. As an English teacher, I always write the prompts. My kids always answer the prompts. It's just the way that it goes. However, I observed a teacher who had students create their own research questions based on nonfiction argumentation books. PBL at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. I have never seen something quite like it. I'm toying with an idea similar to this for next year.

In all, I had a wonderful Experts Down the Hall experience. I learned from the masters, and I reflected on my practices. Most importantly, though, I was reminded of how lucky I am to work with such amazing educators.

Thank you, expert teachers, for giving us newbies something to strive for.

Until next time,
Ms. Z

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