19 January 2011

Proposition 5

Proposition 5: Teachers are Members of Learning Communities.

I have to say this particular proposition is the easiest for me to relate to my teaching, at least in general terms. I feel like I've gone overboard on getting involved with my own learning through professional development; although, in reality, I probably am simply doing what every other teacher ought to be doing. It just seems like school and learning is all I do these days. Additionally, as a part of my contract at Putnam City Schools, we have built in PLC time every Friday. I really doubt that was the intent when this proposition was written; but, I think I am following the spirit of the proposition.

As I read the bullet points below, there are several in which I fall short. I guess admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

  • NBCTs collaborate with others to improve student learning.

I read this as "collaborate with other teachers." I recognize that as a teacher I do not have all of the answers on what to do for every student in every lesson. I have learned to get over my pride and be willing to ask others for help. Contrary to what human nature would tell us, asking for help does not show a sign of weakness. It shows you I am willing to do whatever it takes to help each of my students to learn. I gladly ask others for help and engage in some informal dialogue with my department at lunch for help with students who are disengaged or during those times I need help on pedagogical practice.

By nature I am a problem solver. There are few things I enjoy more than helping someone integrate a piece of technology to engage students in a new way. Last week, the Junior English teachers stopped me in the hall to discuss some ideas on how they could integrate some remediation practices and record the students' scores. They wanted this all to be done online and make it asynchronous for the students. I immediately thought of GoogleForms as a way for them to embed a "test-type artifact" on their classroom websites. Students would be able to go to the site, read a short passage, and answer some multiple choice interpretative questions. I only bring this up because it is a recent example of collaboration that allows teachers to move toward improved student learning.

  • They are leaders and actively know how to seek and build partnerships with community groups and businesses.

This area is one in which I am sorely deficient. I have some great ideas on doing this, but it always seems to stay an idea. I have trouble bringing my ideas to fruition.

Since I teach physics, I thought it would be a good idea to get students interested in some practical application of the topic, especially the more abstract parts, like particle physics. The LHC has been a big part of the news over the last couple of years and I really enjoy talking with students about the topic. However, it is very abstract and the results of the experiments are not directly observable. What I mean is you cannot "see" a proton when it is accelerated. It's presence is inferred based on conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. One of the practical applications of this technology is proton therapy and someone recently built a new hospital near our school. This hospital specializes in radiation therapy for cancer patients, specifically proton therapy. I have considered trying to contact someone there to build some kind of partnership with them. I thought maybe we could work something on a grant to buy equipment to do momentum and energy experiments in our classroom. We could also plan some field trips for students to see the technical side of what they "do" with protons. I would like to have one of the doctors come in and talk about how important particle physics is to his profession. I have had these ideas for two years. Maybe this year I will put it into practice.

  • They work with other professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and staff development.

Collaboration between teachers is crucial to student success. I spent some time last year helping change our curriculum to fit into a 7 period-day instead of a 4-period block. This was an informative time for me; plus, I was able to help make students more successful in our district. Collaboration between other teachers has a more broad effect than just inside "my" classroom. When teachers collaborate, it affects students throughout the district. I see it as dropping a rock into a pond. You affect all of the water in the pond, not just the part the rock touches.

  • They can evaluate school progress and the allocation of resources in order to meet state and local education objectives.

I use a pre-test and a post-test to see my students' progress and evaluate whether remediation is needed at the end of a unit. It is easy to see whether students have learned by comparing numbers between the pre-test and post-test. As an added benefit, if students show mastery on the pre-test, we can move on to another topic and not even cover the material. I have never seen this happen before, but in theory it seems it would work.

  • They know how to work collaboratively with parents to engage them productively in the work of the school.

This part is another of this proposition in which I am lacking skill. I do not do a good job of actively engaging parents to help their students be successful. If parents contact me, I can work with them. However, being proactive on this section is a struggle.