Today I am grateful for my grade 8 students. Despite the amount of stress and tears and anxiety they can tend to cause every now and then, I do really love them…especially when we have fun, fantastic days together. Today was one of those fun and fantastic days! Our grade 8 team (75+ students) has been fundraising for a philanthropic initiative (more on that in a few weeks) and let’s just say our fundraising has been…lacking. Last Friday in CAPP (Career and Personal Planning) my students and I threw together the idea to host a bake sale in order to boost our funds. Today was the bake sale and my students raised $193 for our special project in sixty minutes (one recess and one lunch-recess). I had several super “proud teacher” moments today when I witnessed the excitement, joy and dedication my students put into this bake sale. Well done, guys!
Now, for our guest post! Today’s guest post comes to us from my Learning Initiatives (LI) team at my school. Last week we participated in our learning rounds for this term. Before last week I didn’t really know what “learning rounds” were…let me explain. Once every few months the teachers at every school who are involved in LI get together to co-plan and co-teach lessons. We have a few debrief sessions throughout the week (some formal, some informal). The cool part about learning rounds is that often there will be teachers involved who teach different grades, subjects and even different languages. My team has a grade 6 French immersion teacher, a grade 7 teacher, a teacher-librarian and myself; we make for a pretty well rounded group! On our first day of learning rounds last week we spent three hours talking about education, our classrooms and our inquiry statements for this year (we set those at a meeting a month before). We also had time to co-plan a lesson that we would co-teach later that week. I left that three hour session feeling invigorated and smart and good at my job. It was, to say the least, a very empowering experience for me because I’ve been met some particularly difficult struggles in my class lately. Anyhow, later in the week we co-taught our lessons and we observed one another teaching. The co-teaching was an interesting experience, especially because sometimes there were upward of five teachers in a classroom of approximately 25 students (how’s that for ratio!?) At the end of the week we had a debrief session at a cafe near our school. I convinced the teachers on my LI team that writing a reflection about their learning rounds experience would be a really great idea because I could turn it into a guest post on Tale of Two Teachers. Thankfully my team agreed (thanks team!) So here you have it…reflections from a handful of incredible educators from our first learning rounds experience together.
Charlotte: I don’t think my reflection is very deep or meaningful, but what I like about learning rounds is the opportunity to watch my colleagues teach, I learn so much from being in someone else’s classroom and always come away full of new enthusiasm and ideas. I have also really enjoyed the chance to discuss and reflect on teaching strategies and ideas, something we don’t do nearly often enough.
Mary: Last week I had the opportunity to work with yet another group of teachers in SD61 who believe in deliberate, meaningful teacher collaboration. These teachers were willing to analyze their own instructional practice –not an easy task. It surfaces our vulnerabilities and makes them transparent to our colleagues. And yet…each member of the team supported and encouraged each other with give-and-take interactions that will benefit not only each other, but also their students. Questions and ideas sparked deeper conversations resulting in the creation of clear goals and action plans to support their students. Each teacher’s voice was heard and respected. This is teacher learning at its best, thanks for the opportunity.
Rachel: “That’s a lot of mochas” the barista commented, as I, last of our honorable Learning Initiatives Team members, placed my order.
“We’re teachers,” I said, as if that should explain our mocha impulses. I tried again. “It’s Friday. We’re out of the building.” We’re celebrating, I might have said. We’re jazzed on learning, on reading and writing, specifically, on the skills our students mastered (pretty sure), on the ideas we implemented, on this opportunity to talk and share with other teachers who are jazzed on this stuff, too.
This is why we left the building to cram into an awkward corner of Cornerstone Coffee Shop. All week we’ve been trying to step outside of things. We’ve stepped outside of our comfort zones to expose areas of weakness to our group as we test ideas. We’ve stepped outside of our rooms to enter into new learning spaces with new students with new challenges. We’ve stepped outside of our typical teaching plans to pull on new ideas and walk around in them for awhile. We just keep stepping and slowly the lines grow blurry and the space between our teaching and the word becomes fluid, which is what we were hoping for in the first place, because it’s here that the learning happens, in a coffee shop, a yoga studio, a classroom, a library.
And so we celebrated with samples of profound student writing, moments of educational clarity, plenty of deep questions, and few mochas with whipping cream.
Learning Initiatives… no wonder we keep coming back.
Me: This week of learning rounds reminded me of University because of the amount of co-planning, co-teaching and reflecting that occurred amongst my team. I cannot describe how beneficial this LI experience has been for me so far this year. In September I was hesitant to join LI because, even though I knew it would be good for my teaching practice, I wasn’t sure if it was the “right thing” for a brand new teacher to do. I’m glad I took the plunge and registered for this program because now I know it will only strengthen my practice. I have had the opportunity to work directly with some incredible educators this week and once our week was over I realized I have been missing this type of deep interaction with my colleagues. Thanks team for the awesome, insightful week. I appreciate you all!