Monday, August 24, 2009

Making it count

Today I had the opportunity to attend a professional development day for early childhood educators in my district on the math curriculum that they are rolling out. Just in case anyone in the blogosphere is wondering, I have been teaching math to my students. Math that has been based on the state wide early childhood learning standards, that is developmentally appropriate for my students, challenging enough for those who need a challenge and taught as part of an integrated curriculum.

I was not engaged with the training. None of the ideas seemed new to me. The activities that we had to role play in our workshop were variations of activities I had done in the past. I tried to focus but I kept overhearing bits and pieces of the room next door. I daydreamed about the beach. I listened carefully for new, inspiring nuggets of information. A phrase from that instructor or a question from a colleague that would set off a firestorm of ideas. No such luck.

I think many of my colleagues were similarly disengaged. People were knitting. A few were texting. Many were talking quietly amongst themselves. Some were staring at the ceiling. Part of the time was devoted to clarifying some department specific logistics. Part of the time was spent on an extra long lunch. Part of the time was spent pretending to be children and doing the math activities. Part of the time was spent eavesdropping on the other training. Part of the time was spent making materials that many of us already had made in past school years. The last part of time was spent waiting for the time to be over so we could collect our certificates. Waiting for the time to be over is the worse part.

There has to be a better way to provide professional development for teachers. I want to be engaged. I want to learn. I want my thinking to be challenged and I want to feel like the time I am putting into attending these trainings is valuable and relevant to my teaching. I don't want to attend what feels like a marketing presentation, and I don't want to spend time acting like a 4 year old.

What does effective professional development look like? How do you engage teachers effectively? What factors help teachers retain information and apply it in their classrooms? As a large urban school district, what is the best way for various administrators to communicate with a large group of teachers? How can basic information be shared without taking up time during professional development activities when half of the teachers can not or do not respond to email?

Maybe when I know the answers to some of these questions I will do one of two things: write about it here on this blog, or actually give professional development on how to give effective professional development.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's in the bottom of your bag?

After lugging home most of a classroom in late June and stashing everything in a spare room, I was finally feeling adventurous enough to tackle this situation. Its that time of year when I want to organize everything. ( The problem is not that I CAN'T organize well, it's that I often cannot maintain it.) Usually by February or March, some of the neatness and organization slips a little.

So anyway, I pulled out my school bag, a milk crate, and one small box. Here are some of the interesting and non-relevant things I found:
1 roll of quarters
1 pair of winter gloves
1 winter scarf
100 photocopied outlines of small mittens
3 out of date school supply catalogs
2 quare inches of badly used sand paper
and a whole lot of dust

So I still have a lot of organizing left to do but I started.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


On a recent organizing spree, I found a few notes i jotted down at the end of the year:

  • Working with Ms. S made the year better and more enjoyable. I felt more motivated and the work environment was better
  • Most of the students made measurable progress on the PALS pre-K
  • Many students scored above average on the end of year vocabulary assessment
  • I collaborated more with the speech therapist and reading teacher than in years past
  • Students developed good relationships with each other. They seemed to genuinely care about each other.
  • Using the bucket concept to encourage positive behavior seemed to help them understand what was expected
  • Very few behavior problems this year and I think that is related to several things: 1) a consistent schedule with my prep periods thanks to administrative support 2) a para who was better suited to the job and 3) and my own growth as a teacher and being more proactive earlier on
Ok so I did not think of all of these on the last days of school. Some of them have popped into my brain relatively recently.

  • I need to give feedback to Ms. S so that some of the problems she encountered with students can be avoided ( although I am not sure of the best way to give her feedback or suggestions)
  • I did not stick with the bucket system as well as I would have liked to
  • I would like to work harder on potty training the students
  • I would like to keep better track of the IEPs and possibly actually use the folder system that I started
  • I would like to plan the filed trips with my grade level colleagues at the beginning of the year and then divide up the responsibilities so that I am not doing all of that work all of the time
I am sure I will think of more things later on this month as the start of school gets closer.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Doctorate in Special Education?

I always thought a doctorate in education seemed unnecessary without plans to teach at the college or university level. It certainly would not make me a better teacher in the classroom. Pursuing a doctorate degree needs to be for me, because I want to learn more, because some particular topic has peaked my interest and I need to know more about it. One day last week, Mr. K1 teacher sent email about a talk he had went to at his company. He thought about how that idea could be applied to special education students. I was pretty intrigued. Since then, I have thought about it more and tossed around the idea of a PhD so I could further investigate.

Then I thought of my dear friend Alexandra, who writes the Brainy and Beautiful blog and a recent conversation I had with her. She raised some good questions about higher education and insisted it wasn't the only way to learn something. She pointed out that following some predetermined curriculum didn't necessarily help a person to reach their goals. She questioned the necessity of higher education degrees. I suppose that I could read countless research papers on my interest area and just absorb knowledge. Which sounds doable now, that I am on summer break. Could I keep that up when school starts and responsibilities pick up? If I did a doctorate and did some successful research, would it even make a difference to real students?

I guess for now I will toss my idea around in my head a bit more. Stay tuned!