Thursday, November 4, 2010

On Teachers Teaching Teachers

I had an interesting and somewhat nerve wracking experience yesterday. It was Wednesday, which means teacher professional development day. So, at promptly 2:30 I sat with my assigned small group consisting of 7 third through fifth grade teachers...and me. We have been using something called Authentic Intellectual Work. We read the manual, and learned how to score lessons, have discussions and try to make each other better teachers. You know, the old, "iron sharpens iron" sort of thing.

Well, it's been quite educational and I've learned a lot from my colleagues in a "hmmm, wonder if that would work with my job" way. Then came yesterday. It was my turn to present one of my lessons to my peers. I took chocolate to share. I took a strong cup of coffee. Our usual leader was sick, and we had a real professional looking lady from the AEA sit in our group. Ahhhhh! My pulse is starting to climb, my palms are sweating. I take a deep breath and start.

First, I have to explain what I do. What is a home school assistance program anyhow? What are my responsibilities and what do I teach? Once I got past that, I handed them my lesson to score. We had our meaningful discussion, and guess what? I lived through it! I also learned some important lessons.

A little nervousness never killed anyone. And people generally like chocolate.

Also, iron does sharpen iron. There are a lot of people out there who are very good at what they do, and I can learn a lot from them.

Next, in trying to explain what I do, I was reminded that a huge part of my job is being a resource to YOU. I love to teach children. They are delightful. BUT, in my job, I am not the primary teacher. You are. Everything I do with your children is just icing on the cake. Yet I wonder if there is more I can do for you. How can I sharpen you?

One suggestion that was made during our discussion yesterday was to really look at the questions we ask children. Are we asking them to merely spit back knowledge and reproduce it? Or can we spend more time on the questions that ask that ask them to use higher order thinking?

In the manual we use to score the tasks that we ask children to do, to get the highest score, we need to meet this criteria:

"The task's dominant expectation is for students to organize, interpret, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate information about (subject area) concepts, themes, theories, or issues rather than merely to reproduce information."

Granted, it's impossible for every lesson to be that in depth. Children need to learn basics like phonics and math facts. It's hard to take a lesson on words in the "at" family and go deeper. BUT, there are many days when our discussion and projects can go deeper. One of the things I love about my little small group of teachers is that they have so many ideas. We all get stuck in a rut and the things we do all of the time become brand new for someone else.

So, I have a challenge for you. Find a lesson that you have taught. Something that you'll likely have to teach again. Talk to someone about how you could make it better. How could you take it to a new level. Have a discussion with another home school mom. Bring something in and talk it over with me. Read some home school blogs. Get out of your comfort zone. Get away from the worksheets from time to time. Zone in on those questions in the teacher's manual that are higher order. And please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist you in your teaching. That's what I'm here for :-)

Have a fantastic day!

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