Turning the Tables

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.

meetingsFriday 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. sleeping student 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.

2 thoughts on “Turning the Tables

  1. My daughter, Valerie, is in her first year of teaching. She has geared towards teaching 1st graders since she was in high school. Her first job is with a class of 5th graders. It has been a difficult few weeks for her. The principal is fairly new and there has been an almost complete turnover of teachers due to the fact that they didn’t want to learn new technology. The parents are quite sure that their children can do no wrong. Valerie was in training last week. One substitute ended up pouting and teaching noone because her niece, who was one of my daughter’s students, got in trouble and had to go to the office. The next day, she had a responsible substitute, who wrote to her a small note stating that she felt sorry for her because the class was so disruptive and delinquent…and Valerie has the “good” class.

    All in all, the students are lucky to have both of you. I don’t mind in the least admitting that I’m biased.

  2. Thanks, Vivian. It’s hard to believe Valerie has already joined the ranks of the gainfully employed, but good for her. The first year is usually hard, but I hope she’ll stick with it–it should get better. And hopefully, she’ll get the grade she really wants soon. Wish her my best.

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