Oh hey, it’s Karley, you know…the other teacher who writes this blog? I feel as if I haven’t written a post in for-ages – it’s been all Meaghan keeping up with Tale of Two Teachers lately. Thank you, Meag! My good friend/used-to-be teaching partner, Leah, sent me this link tonight and I suspect my lack of posting here is because of a heavy dose of “teacher-mom-itis”. How do you teacher moms do it!?
I can’t fully blame my teacher-mom-itis though, because another reason I haven’t written a post lately is because so far this year I almost always feel like I have nothing decent to contribute to this blog. All my lessons have been just “okay” these last few weeks
(months?!) I leave school feeling like I wish I had more time in my classroom(s) and that I wish I had prepared better for my students. Granted, I definitely could take and make the time to be better, but I just haven’t been doing that. It is for this reason I am entirely grateful for our district wide curriculum integration day last Monday, which I found to be educational, inspiring and exciting.
With the curriculum changing here in BC, and becoming mandatory September 2016, many teachers are beginning to dig deeper into it, myself included. I have been using the new curriculum since its initial draft form was released several years ago, but I feel like I’m only really starting to understand it now and that has largely to do with the way I am re-learning how to plan lessons and units.
Last Monday I attended a session led by an innovative and inspiring educator in our district. She guided us though the concept of “Understanding by Design” (UbD) and we all began to plan our respective units and lessons accordingly. Note: Read more about UbD on Jay McTighe’s website. I was grateful during this session to have my very good friend, Jess, sitting and working next to me, as well as a colleague from one of my schools. Together, the three of us got messy with my social studies unit at hand: human rights. I should take a moment here to thank Jess and Dawn for sharing their insight with me and helping me sort out my thoughts and ideas, while keeping me on the path of “…but is this directly linked to the curriculum?!” It felt so great to finally be planning with experienced, smart, dedicated educators who really know what they’re talking about when it comes to curriculum and UbD. I finished our collaborative session with a great outline and direction for my socials 7 human rights unit. I also finished our session feeling like a smart teacher for the first time in almost two years.
Perhaps my own issues around self-confidence in my craft are impeding my ability to teach well these days. Perhaps I am being too hard on my self (most likely, actually). Ask me to change a diaper or make dinner with one hand and I can do it! Ask me to plan a unit that is not only differentiated, but also designed in a way that involves deep thinking and inquiry…not so much. It is the truth that I have felt like a bad teacher since returning back to work in November. I think I’d actually go as far as labeling myself as a “surviving teacher”. Planning this human rights unit was a breath of fresh air for me; a reminder that I do indeed know what I am doing.
So today we started the human rights unit and I must admit, I haven’t been this giddy about teaching in a very long time. I spent some time telling my class about how we would start the unit “EdCamp style”. I posted the topics of interest, in our case the 30 human rights, on the board and had my students put a check mark on the topics that interested them the most.
I talked to my class about the essential question I co-created with my two helpful teacher friends. I also shared with my class what our guiding questions would be. I explained that this unit wouldn’t be very “work sheet-y”, but more learner/inquiry based (I got a few slow nods by this point).
After we had discussed EdCamp style topic choosing and essential/guiding questions, we figured out (with the help of our wonderful EA!) which topics were the most popular. I reposted the top 10 topics and students then decided what their three favourites were from the top 10.
Then we were ready to break into our small study groups (2-4 per group) and get to work. I know it seems like a lot of work and prep to set up this initial “learner interest” component of the unit, but it was completely worth it for me today because my students had some choices around what they wanted to study; their attention and interest was captured from the get go.
This is essentially as far as we got today; however, I must admit some of my students asked if they could go home and do some research this weekend on their topic. I definitely did not say no!
Cheers to collaborative planning, to UbD, to our new curriculum, to engaged learners and smart educators, to knowing what’s best practice and what’s best for kids. It feels good to be back in my groove! Stay tuned for the unraveling of our epic human rights study!