One of the great things I get to do is to help teachers plan. I don’t necessarily help them plan individual lessons anymore, as much as I do help them plan long-term routines. I wrote a post three years ago on my own blog that discussed planning for instruction with pre-service teachers. It brought back some great memories. I loved working with the new teachers as they tried to figure out a plan for their classroom. They had no clue what they were doing, but they were going through the process with earnestness. In going through the process they would get better, but it would take time.
Now, as I am working with more experienced teachers and asking them to see beyond the processes they know and understand, I’m reminded of the struggles the pre-service teachers experienced as they tried to plan for something they truly didn’t understand. It is interesting the similarities in developing new instructional routines between a pre-service teacher with little or no experience and a veteran teacher trying to develop new classroom routines.
The great thing about working with veteran teachers is that the conversations are so much deeper. In one project we are really looking at how to help students develop their observation and communication skills when looking at the different forms algebraic statements can take. It is so much fun to talk with a teacher about creating a lesson in which students explore a concept thoroughly using 2 problems as opposed to looking at 15 routine procedural problems. Then helping the teacher work out the different processes they want to incorporate into their instruction to get students to share their observations.
Identifying the key mathematical characteristics to include in the problems, identifying the instructional routines so that students can understand the process and get better at the process as they struggle with new content, determining how to best provide timely feedback, share and post student work are key characteristics of good instructional routines. Working with other teachers to develop these kinds of routines in everyday classroom instruction is a challenge, but fun. It is what makes my job worth doing every day.
I had the opportunity to work with a group of highly engaged literacy team teachers around introducing more technology into their instruction recently. These teachers are not only experienced, but very strong. It was interesting to help them brainstorm how they were going to introduce the technologies and applications they had chosen. I spent most of my time staying out of their way as they planned, but offering a few ideas to make their first experiences in the classroom maximally effective.
The great things about this example are the student products they are now sharing. The products are first time classroom teacher attempts to work with students in a new environment and I’m sure the teachers wish they were “stronger” but that’s the whole point, you have to start somewhere and you have to be willing to start or you’ll never get there! These veteran teachers made a plan, put it into action, and are in the process of identifying and evaluating their successes. They are getting there and in the process bringing me along for a great ride!
When do you take the chance, get off the fence, and get started integrating that instructional change you’ve wanted to make and just haven’t?