03 August 2011

master teacher summer institute

This week starts a new beginning in my journey. I checked in through Human Resources at the State Department of Education as the new Science Director. As soon as I got done, it was off to the National Center for Employment Development in Norman, OK to begin the Master Teacher Summer Institute.

This program is an exciting one in which teachers work in their content area for part of the time and in their geographical region for the rest of the time. There is a strong focus on building relationships and that is something I appreciate the most. We spent most of yesterday with Tina Boogren from Solution Tree (Richard Marzano's company) working through the book, "The Highly Engaged Classroom". Tina is a fantastic speaker and educator who has something to share with teachers from all content areas and all grade levels. I really enjoyed learning some new strategies on how to "hook" students and then keep them engaged in the learning process.

This morning, several of the other Curriculum Directors presented on the idea of Multiculturalism in Education. They worked through about 3 hours of information, sharing strategies for building community in a diverse classroom throughout. The most interesting to me was Bafa' Bafa', a simulation in which learners engage in role play as people from different countries. This simulation really magnifies the cultural clues and hidden meanings that exist within different cultures. It's quite enlightening and I recommend it highly! (Good Lord! I just realized I've linked to the site for purchasing the program. Expensive, but worth it.)

Finally, this afternoon, we were able to work as content areas and Tiffany Neill brought some great inquiry lessons to us. Not only did we do some inquiry, we spent time taking it to the next level and thinking about what everyone else did with the data we gathered. Everyone collected data (a skill on which every student needs to work) and then we were told to create a representation of the entire class set of data to share. 4 different groups = 4 different representations. We spent time going around looking at what each thing represented (or at least what we thought it represented) and giving a critique, as well.

Here's where things got interesting. Groups went back and read what had been said for a critique and had the chance reflect/modify or to defend what they had done. This part of the process is SO important! We have to work on more opportunities to give students the chance to take a stand and argue their point. It is almost like debate. They present evidence to support their position. This is the next level of learning; it is beyond the content and takes students to a higher level of thinking and a deeper level of understanding. This is where the Common Core will take us: increased rigor at a deeper level. Remember the Sunday School song "Deep and Wide?" That is not the Common Core, its only deep, not wide.

Tomorrow, we will finish up our content time and then work together as groups for Regional Conferences. I'm interested to see exactly what that Regional Conference is going to look like. I'm definitely learning something everyday. I might even be beginning to wrap my brain around bits of this job.