My Professional Learning Community

It is of utmost importance for teachers to come together and collaborate because we have so much to learn from each other. I make an effort in my school to collaborate with other teachers, the administration and families by building relationships. These relationships exist because I have dedicated time and effort into communication through face to face meetings, phone calls, and emails. My school has also put teachers in collaboration teams that we call PLC (Professional Learning Community) groups where we consistently meet to sharpen each other and grow together as educators. I think that the “Community” aspect of this group is extra important because these relationships also create an open environment for teachers to bring collaboration into the classrooms.

Our last meeting made a big impact on me because we dedicated most of the time to really learn from each other’s experiences, knowledge and unique perspectives. During this meeting, we focused on thinking about what our “Best Practices” are and then shared them with the group.

On the first page of this PLC’s Minutes, the collaboration begins by reviewing the overall goals of our PLC and then the specific goals that we hope to reach in this meeting. I think that this is a very important practice because we place so much weight on having goals for our students to reach while we as teachers also need objectives to follow. Our team then used the majority of the time to discuss our best teaching practices. I quickly noticed how diverse these practices were, which reminded me of how we can use these differences to grow. This group has a wide range of educators who teach art, photography, choir, band, video production, and special learning. Everyone has different styles and practices, and I found that many of these approaches would also work well in my classes. I specifically took to heart what Teacher B said about seeing through the student’s perspectives. I have so far taken this statement to practice by trying to think about what a junior high or high school student goes through on a daily basis to become educated. However, Teacher B was saying that she specifically looks into the student’s social interactions and the emotional roller coaster that students are going through and tries to incorporate that into the learning process. She made an excellent point by explaining that most teenagers are much more concerned with how their peers in the classroom view them than the work itself. If teachers can better understand the high and lows of teenage emotion, then we can better encourage, instruct, and guide students towards learning.

Throughout this collaboration time, I also took away some specific practices that I hope to incorporate in my classroom. Teachers D and F explained how important storytelling is in their junior high and high school classrooms. I found this to be an interesting best practice because I would have expected it in an elementary setting rather than in high school classes. On the contrary, these teachers said that storytelling was one of their main best practices because it causes students to let their guards down and engage with the material. People love hearing stories and students will tune in to listen without realizing that they are also learning at the same time.

Teacher G reminded me of how important it is to make sure that students are actively engaging with the subject matter. This teacher said that he does this by constantly being on his feet and circling the classroom; always creating movement and checking in with students. I have actually sat in this teacher’s classroom and can attest that he does this the entire time and it does have a positive effect on the students. I think that I have grown in this multitasking skill over this year, but I think that there is still more room to grow.

In this collaboration group, we are dedicated to encouraging each other to become better teachers. I choose to make the most from this valuable opportunity and have given this group a fresh perspective on how we can grow together. I have expanded this collaboration beyond this group and into the classroom so that it can even further benefit student learning. It is so important for teachers to use each other as resources because as seen from this PLC, we all bring something different to the table.

Advertisements

Collaboration

It is so important for teachers to come together and collaborate. My school actually has put teachers in collaboration teams and we meet twice a month to sharpen each other and grow together as educators. I think that this relationship also creates an open environment for teachers to also bring collaboration to the classroom. An example of this is when I went on an art graffiti field trip with my mentor teacher’s art dimensions class. I filmed the students spray-painting a community board while my mentor teacher helped to direct students. The trip ended with supportive parents bringing cinnamon rolls for everyone to eat, while we all enjoyed the finished artwork. The collaboration continued because I taught a high level student in my video production class how to edit the footage from the day. This was an event that opened the door to connect two very different classrooms and teachers, and gave students the opportunity to explore their gifts together. It brought together the surrounding community and gave an open invitation for families to be a part of this experience. The student’s finished work can be viewed below and displays the collaboration of teachers, parents, and students.

http://vimeo.com/34145659

Parent-Teacher Conferences

The students had this entire week of school off for Thanksgiving break and we had Parent-Teacher conferences. Our school stretches this time over three days. Throughout these days, all of the teachers camp out at tables around the commons area and parents can simply walk up to whoever is open. This is a very important time to honor the families involvement in their children’s learning. It was exciting to show parents the work that the students have been doing in class. I have continuously told my students to take the time to show their classwork at home, but I find that many do not. Parent-Teacher conferences provide an opportunity to bridge that gap and honor family involvement in the learning process.

Parent-Teacher conferences are also an excellent opportunity to get the parents on board with what we are doing in class. I am able to give parents a heads up about any learning challenges that their child might be having or that I could foresee occurring in the future. This is also a good platform to discuss any behavioral issues and see if parents resound with the same situations existing at home. Through open communication with parents I have found that many fall into the following two categories: The parents agree with the truths about their child’s behavior in my classroom or they are in denial and decide that I am incorrect. Most of the parents that I have communicated with fall into the first category, however, I have still experienced the latter. This is usually a sign of unrest in the household or a child’s behavior being dependent upon which authority is in the room. Either way, I think it is still important to softly explain my experiences with their child and hopefully we can work together to encourage the student to reach his or her full potential. After this week of conferences, I have learned that a humble and soft heart is going to open a lot more doors into the students’ lives. That is the heart I want to have in and outside of the classroom.

Oh The Woes Of Grading

This week I was reminded of a truth that I have known in the past: Art is subjective. The students in my Junior High Technology class turned in their first big project this week, which was the front page of our school’s newspaper created in Office Word. When I made the assignment, I also created the grading rubric and thought that it was brilliant.  However, when I actually sat down and applied the rubric to the student’s projects, I was soon lost. I find that I cannot grade students like a math teacher would because the work is not wrong or right. It is instead complete or not complete. I have some students who gave a 100% effort and were working hard the entire time, but their work cannot compare to the gifted students whose design looked better even though they kept goofing off during class. This bothers me. I want to award students for their hard work, but I also want to teach them what they are doing wrong rather than stamping gold stars on everything.

Where am I at right now with my viewpoint on grading? I tried to collaborate with other teachers at my school about this subject to learn from the wisdom of my peers. The teachers that I talked to said that this is just a hard subject and it should be something that should constantly be assessed and modified. I found that the teachers who had subjects that allowed for concrete answers had an easier time putting together grading rubrics.  With that said, the best advice came from a fellow art teacher who told me to grade for completion of the project, class participation, and the effort that the student put forth in class.

 

Teacher Observation Reflection #1

I observed a High School Junior English class this week and it was refreshing. When I entered the classroom, I immediately noticed all of the personal touches that the teacher had decorated his room with. In one 360, I could see the teacher’s hobbies, passions, and personality traits. He had large model Lego’s that were displaying scenes from Star Wars. In the corner were bookcases filled with books and comfy area to read them in. The teacher also had helpful reminders of what a good class should look like on the board and on the walls.

When the lesson started, I could instantly see that the students were comfortable with their teacher. The students engaged in an open discussion, which did not actually involve the raising of hands in class. At first I was thinking, “Why is the teacher just letting the students talk out of turn?” However, I soon realized that no one was rudely interjecting their comments. The students were engaged enough in the discussion that there was actually no need for students to be called on by the teacher. I think that this approach works better for Junior or Senior classes, and it also requires a foundation laid down by the teacher. This teacher had already shown the students how to respect each other and how to have a good discussion.