One of the reasons I decided to become a teacher, even later in my career, is because lifelong learning has always been one of my deepest values and greatest joys. That passion for learning is being tested this week.
Friday was a professional day for our district, which was spent in meetings and technology training sessions. Faculty spent a few hours in our morning session going through our students one by one. “How is she doing first hour? Have you seen any progress with her completing her math assignments? What strategies are working to help her reading skills? Are there any behavior concerns?” It was really a useful exercise and one advantage of our small campus that we could deal with students as idividuals.
All teachers have nearly all of the students, so we know them well and can view them from different perspectives. I was reassured that one student I’m concerned about is expressing healthy behaviors and choices in another class. During our discussion of another student, it occurred to me that her obvious creative talent could be employed in composing poetry or stories for publication on one of several online teen e-magazines. She is badly in need of a confidence boost, and I’ll be excited to encourage her toward this goal.
Probably the highlight of the day for staff was the opportunity to take a long lunch break off campus. Our 30-minute lunches in the teacher’s lounge is enough to refuel for an afternoon, but it doesn’t go far to promote bonding between us—an important element in our high-stress environment. Afternoon technology training was useful, although we had some annoying technology hardware problems to work around. All in all, it was a good day of learning, but tiring nonetheless.
Monday, I’ll be in the classroom again, training on a system of PRTI (Pyramid Response to Intervention) for use at our site. Our district has invested heavily in the Professional Learning Community concept, and as the PLC coordinator and PRTI lead, I’ll pick up some strategies to use with our struggling students. I can’t say I’m eager to attend this session, but I know what I’ll learn will be extremely useful in helping our students succeed.
I’m saving the best for last. Wednesday I’ll be returning to the Eighth Floor technology consortium for an all-day workshop with Jamie McKenzie, author of The Next Big Thing and editor of the online technology journal From Now On.
Wednesday’s workshop is called “Questioning 101” and will help me develop my strategy this year of planning course units around big ideas and big questions. Enrollment was limited to 35, so participants should have plenty of opportunities for interaction with Mr. McKenzie and to get our own questions answered. While planning lessons for the next couple of weeks, I’m aware that I may throw everything out and start over with new insight into asking good questions. But if that process better drives student learning, it will be well worthwhile.
I sometimes get annoyed with students who zone out or who fidget throughout a class session. In what could be regarded as poetic justice, the tables are turned this week, and now I’m the student. I can’t guarantee I won’t fidget or zone out, but I hope to gain some valuable new insights and a smidgeon more tolerance for my students’ daily experience.