The teacher-student relationship is a symbiotic one, each learning from the other. I am privileged to have this relationship with my students. They not only make me excited about teaching, but also motivate me to continue learning. While I go into the classroom with a very clear idea of what I want my students to learn, they, more often than not, teach me something new, whether it is a different way of approaching a problem or a real-world connection that I had not seen previously. I am honored to be able to share this mutual learning experience with them.
As the use of technology in education increases and student outcomes move towards performance assessments, many teachers struggle to make the shift. As we transition, those of us who find success are obligated, and excited, to share strategies with colleagues who may still struggle to adapt. Last year, I took on a supplementary role at my site, Curriculum Specialist. In this role, I had the opportunity to work very closely with my colleagues as we transitioned to the Common Core. I supported new and seasoned teachers through technology integration, as well as assisting in lesson design and assessment creation aligned with the Common Core State Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice. I also collaborated with cohort Curriculum Specialists at sister sites to organize and facilitate inter-site trainings designed to share best practices. We also shared strategies utilized in a exploratory/collaborative learning environment. Additionally, I conducted peer observations and provided constructive feedback tailored to teacher selected growth focus areas. Moreover, I collaborated with other Curriculum Specialists to assess site technology needs and co-facilitate weekly technology workshops.
Mentoring fellow teachers has given me first-hand knowledge of the varying levels of technology and Common Core integration among educators. This is not surprising. While Common Core strategies are new to students and parents, they also represent a paradigm shift for educators. Many educators were considered “good students” throughout their formal education careers because they were able to excel in a traditional direct instruction classroom environment, applying note-taking and studying strategies successfully. They may never have been required to perform in a digital or cooperative learning environment. Now, not only are they being asked to integrate technology into their instruction, but also for many educators, they are being asked to completely overhaul their pedagogy. It is not unexpected that they are reluctant, overwhelmed and unsure how to begin.
Hesitant educators must be embraced in a manner similar to that of struggling students, their individual needs assessed and addressed in a manner that maximizes buy-in and minimizes stress. Progress and performance expectations should be individualized with an emphasis placed on continued growth. It is essential that individuals are encouraged to reflect, self-identifying areas where further development is needed.
In California, in order to receive a Clear Credential, new teachers are required to complete the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) induction program, culminating in the presentation of a portfolio compiled of evidence demonstrating practice of California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP). During the first two years, the new teacher is partnered with a mentor teacher who provides guidance. The portfolio is a venue for the teacher to reflect on the first two years of practice and make plans for growth. Once one clears their credential, teachers are never encouraged to participate in this level of self-reflection again unless they are selected as Teacher of the Year or participate in National Board Certification.
I have found a venue for continued reflection, as have many of you, in blogging. It is has been an opportunity to celebrate successes, examine struggles and plan future professional development. My goal for this year, and my challenge, is to encourage my colleagues to engage in similar reflective practices in whatever form feels comfortable for them. As a means to this end, I had the opportunity to present at our schools Edu-Con. I gave two talks. The first on using Twitter as a professional development tool and the second was an introduction to blogging as a reflective tool. I shared my personal experience with both platforms and helped participants sign up for Blogger and Twitter. They even sent their first tweet. Exciting!! Follow up sessions will occur in October.