The following is a list of all entries from the Standard 07. Collaboration category.
Exemplify service to the teaching profession. To demonstrate a positive impact on student learning, teacher-candidates…
E2. Exemplify collaboration within the school.
“Two heads are better than one”, so goes the old saying. Sometimes, especially when collaborating with your grade level team, Response to Intervention team or an entire staff, having multiple ideas and perspectives can be greatly beneficial for students and teachers. Part of being a teacher is the ability to collaborate with the adults that are part of your staff and building, and what a great resource to have at your fingertips!
The past few years my school district, along with many others has participated in Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which involves teachers meeting together with a set agenda of improving student learning and outcomes. These meetings can have amazing effects on student education and success; teachers are able to have time set aside to discuss: data, assessments, instructional strategies, standards, aligning the curriculum and supplemental materials to the standards, interventions, set goals, etc. As I progress through my teaching career I’ve found that being able to do all these things with other teachers is greatly beneficial for me and my practice. We’ve also been able to utilize these PLCs for literacy instructional level meetings, where teachers from every grade level, K-5 meet based on their literacy instructional level. For example, all teachers who teach the advanced reading group meet and so on and so forth; there we’re able to discuss what materials and strategies we’re using with our students at each grade level. This allows ideas to be shared as well as knowing what to expect for the following or previous grade level. Due to our recent adoption for a new math curriculum, last year we had Math PLCs based on our grade level that met once a month for an hour and a half. This was very helpful throughout the year because we were all trying to implement a new math program and could share our trials and tribulations or triumphs and successes as well. Aside from the “mandated” and paid collaboration that is expected of me I also collaborate with other co-workers at my building when it comes to certain students. In the past I’ve collaborated with my Arts block teachers to discuss a student’s behavior or lack of participation; this helps show my students and their parents that I keep open lines of communication with all adults who are responsible for my students. I also have utilized the knowledge that our Learning Support teacher has when it comes to students who aren’t quite making the necessary gains and what resources could be used to assist my kiddos.
It’s taken me a few years to really open up to the idea of collaboration, however now I see the great advantage it has for both myself and my students. I know a great deal about my profession but there is so much more for me to know and I plan to keep learning about it through collaboration.
My original definition of teacher leadership was a type of role that teachers were given as an “opportunity” to assist with professional improvement within the building, a role that was given by the principal to the teacher. A little over two months later and my definition has changed about what a teacher leader is and looks like, thanks to the many brilliant discussions and readings provided by this course. According to Katzenmeyer and Moller their definition as described in Eleanor Hilty’s Teacher Leadership: The “New” Foundations of Teacher Education, “Our definition is teacher leaders lead within and beyond the classroom; identify with and contribute to a community of teacher learners and leaders; influence others toward improved educational practice; and accept responsibility for achieving the outcomes of their leadership” (Hilty, pg. 6). Their definition has influenced my definition of a teacher leader as an educator within a school that works towards leading in and outside the classroom; they make intentional influences to the building as a whole. A teacher leader engages in conversations, teams and committees that help to improve student and school achievement. A teacher leader is above all an advocate for students, teachers and learning.
In the past few months my interaction and commitment to my grade level team has improved and bettered since learning more about teacher leaders. Before the year had begun I was approached by one of my team members who mentioned that as part of her professional development for the year, she wanted to observe and collaborate more with me. She based this on her decision that she felt I was a strong teacher and had much to share in and outside the classroom. I was much honored and appreciated the compliment that a co-worker of mine would hold me in regard like that. Since the start of this class I would say that taking part as a teacher leader has begun to emerge but just a little at a time.
Communication and Collaboration in schools has taken a new usage as Professional Learning Communities and is a common term between professionals. PLCs have taken many different forms and definitions within districts and individual schools, how each individual school chooses to utilize this idea is solely up to the admin and faculty. I believe a goal of PLCs is to be utilized as professional development within a building, teacher professional development can help improve student learning. Also making sure the school culture is an agreed upon “norm” and all teachers are activists for this philosophy as well as for the students. Oakes and Lipton suggest, that “Teachers must be able to engage with one another in an ongoing process of inquiry where they examine the assumptions and values that underlie their own practice as well as the school’s” (pg. 379). Professional educators have the capacity to do this and PLCs are the perfect avenue for them to accomplish this ideal. When teachers are learning, communicating and collaborating, students’ learning can be positively affected. I find that with every conversation I have, whether in person, online or over the phone with other educators, I gain more insight and inspiration to help me in my classroom. This in turn will help effectiveness of my teaching and hopefully help my students’ learning.
After reviewing a screen cast provided by Robin Henrikson it was brought to my attention that there’s a very big difference between the definition of collaboration and cooperation. Her screen cast connected the ideas of Collaborative Work and teacher leadership, I found most helpful slide two that defined the key difference between collaboration and cooperation in terms of having meetings as a group of educators, it states, “Only when these types of meetings produce results, such as an improvement in teacher learning is it considered collaboration” (Henrikson, 2011, Module 4 Lecture). Zepdea shares, “Collaboration includes such activities as co-planning and teaching lessons, brainstorming ideas, conducting action research, and inter-classroom observations, and the reflection and dialogue that follows in post-observation conferences” (Zepeda, pg. 85). With this new found knowledge I have begun to go back and reflect on the outcome of my grade level meetings and I asked myself questions such as: Are our meetings inquiry-based and action-oriented? Do we leave with a new understanding of the curriculum, students or standards? Are we utilizing our time well enough to make and meet achievable goals?
Through this course we’ve learned about multiple ways to communicate in a collaborative setting. These outlets for communicating are known as: Critical Friend Groups (CFGs), Teacher Study Groups, Whole-Faculty Study Groups, and Book Studies. Many of the groups described in Zepeda seemed to support the idea of job-embedded learning, which I highly support. The idea behind CFGs would be the most intriguing type group that I could see myself being involved with, Zepeda credits Costa and Kallick (1993) who state that, “a critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend.” Other examples also include teachers participating in a Lesson Study or Learning Circles. A lesson study is essentially job-embedded learning based on collaboration, reflection and a way for teachers to construct new meaning for subject matter content (Zepeda, 2008). Another approach to collaborating communicatively to help impact student learning is Action Research. Zepeda states, “Action research is about change. The process of conducting action research propels change, and the results of action research can support teachers in making informed decisions about changes in practices” (pg. 264). This is the ultimate difference of action research compared to the multiple other formats of professional development as mentioned and described above. A few of my peers in this course, stated nicely that action research differed in that an educator would ask questions about their practice (typically an instructional strategy or possibly student learning), develop a research question and do research on the topic, discuss with a colleague or colleagues about best practice and theory, collect data (through student learning, observations, etc.), analyze data and discuss findings then reflect and make changes to practice. The big piece that Zepeda also touched on in was the importance of reflection. She states, “When teachers write and read their own narrative about an experience in the practice of teaching, the level of understanding and comprehension about what took place increases”(pg. 274). All of these methods are highly supportive of positive communication and collaboration that will surely impact student learning in big ways. In regards to communication Sonia Nieto states that teachers, “must learn to talk with, learn from, and challenge their colleagues in a consistent and constructive manner that reinforces their dual roles as teachers and learners” (pg. 397). While teachers, staff assistants and office staff make up the larger school culture that are involved in a child’s education, there’s room for all to be involved, such as the local community.
I included in my Teacher Leadership Portfolio as an exhibit and as a form of Community Involvement, our Parent Math Night. My team and I organized this event at our school and invited parents to come in and explore the online interactive program. However, as projected our numbers were small in comparison to the number of students in the whole third grade. We made announcements at parent-teacher conferences, sent flyers home with plenty of advanced notice, asked our Principal to include it in the monthly newsletter that goes home and we all discussed it in our classrooms with our students. There’s a great deal to be learned about this attempt made and that’s to take small steps with parents and keep providing opportunities for them to come and participate. A colleague of mine made the suggestion to possibly try and hone in on a large population of the students in our grade level and deliver the math night in a facility that’s available to that population. For example, we might consider contacting the apartment buildings around our school that houses the general population of our student body and then see about reserving a space and then have our parent math night.
This course has helped shaped my outlook on what professional communication and collaboration should be and should look like in the setting of education. My goal for after this course is to take what I’ve learned and attempt to apply it in some ways, large or small, that will help benefit my co-workers, the community and most importantly my students. Influencing positive impact on student achievement goes beyond what happens in the classroom, it’s also about what happens outside the classroom. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed participating in this course and all of the professional discussions had with my peers and colleagues.
Henrikson, R. (2011). Collaborative Work, Module 4 Lecture @ SPU Blackboard.
Hilty, E. (2011). Teacher leadership, the “new” foundations of teacher education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Lipton, M., Oakes, J. (2003). Teaching to change the world. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies
Nieto, S. (2004). Affirming diversity, the sociopolitical context of multicultural education. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional development, what works. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education
Exhibit 1: Third Grade Hot List for increasing and maintaining Benchmark Oral Reading Fluency
Type A: Educator Learning
Context: My building is a Title 1 school with a population just over 700 students and about 61% are on free or reduced lunch. We have 9% of the population in Special Education and nearly 20% are identified as bilingual learners. In 2011, 59% of third graders met (L3) or exceeded (L4) standards on the Reading MSP. This data shares that we as a grade level should be maintaining fluency practice within our Literacy group instruction. Five years ago my building began its three year journey with the Reading First Program; we applied for a special grant to help with the stagnant and/or decreasing scores of our WASL test. The grant included monies to help pay for all staff training, testing materials, instructional materials and guided monthly collaboration from the Reading First staff. It was a huge project and included all teachers and support staff jumping on-board to abide by the Reading First criteria and rules. One such item that was expected to be filled out by every grade level for each trimester was a Hot List. The Hot List included the names of students, who were a few points below or right on the mark for benchmark Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) score. For example, in my grade level beginning year 3rd graders are expected to read with a fluency of 77 words correct per minute (WCPM).
Planning/Engagement: Students who came into the year with 73-77 WCPM were placed on the Hot List and then are monitored throughout the trimester. These students were identified as Strategic, based on the Dynamic Indicator of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). Strategic students are considered “Some Risk”, these students were very close to the benchmark point that with some added teacher observation and increased fluency practice, they could stay or be at the benchmark level throughout the year, they just needed a little extra assistance. The third grade team reviewed and analyzed data from DIBELs reports and decided together which students would be placed on the list. Literacy teachers of these hot list students then reviewed instructional strategies that would best benefit these students and best practices to help increase or maintain the increase in fluency throughout. Ideas shared and agreed upon are: phonics templates, vocabulary practice, phonics instruction on decoding text and one-minute fluency timing passages in all Literacy groups every day. Intensive, Strategic and Low Benchmark classroom teachers will be doing 2-3 fluency timings a day, while High Benchmark and Advanced will be doing fluency timings once a day with a focus on comprehension. After the Hot List has been made and instructional practices are in place we then coordinate with our literacy coach our goals and plans. It’s very beneficial working with our coach on our grade level reading goals not only in fluency but with other instructional activities and concerns. In Zepeda, she cites a source that, “the coach should be fluent about reading and instructional strategies and be able to shift the focus and use of different techniques” (pg. 171). Our coach is aware of every grade level’s goals and coordinates in-building trainings to meet the needs of teachers which will in turn help meet the needs of the students.
Timeline: Homeroom teachers do bi-monthly progress monitoring with students classified as Intensive, Strategic and students on the Hot List. This involves doing a running record on a third grade passage for one minute; students’ errors are marked as well as their accuracy. Teachers are looking for students to not only make an increase in fluency but also to maintain the benchmark accuracy rate of 97% or higher. Teachers use a Faculty shared file for keeping data, including the Artifact 1 I’ve included. This artifact shows sample students of this trimester and their scores for the bi-monthly progress monitoring, as well as their initial ORF score. The principal, counselor, school psychologist, literacy coach and every staff member all have access to this information. At the end of the trimester we look to see what percentage is on track to helping achieve our grade level goal. Our beginning of the year percentage for students at Benchmark in ORF was 64% and our goal by the end of January is 72%, which is an 8% difference. At the end of January we will have another benchmark DIBELs test and that data will tell us if we made our goal. Also, we will be designing a new hot list for students who at the January benchmark test are within 3-5 points. I’ve attached our winter hot list sheet as my Artifact 2.
Impact on Student Learning: Research shows that when students are fluent in their reading their comprehension increases. When students are spending time on decoding words and their meaning, they then lose out on comprehending the entire text. Third grade is a pivotal year for students to catch up to their peers, after third grade the achievement gap widens therefore making it almost impossible for students to catch up. Also, third grade is a transitional year for students to make in their reading and learning, they switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” which will carry them through the rest of their academic career. Hence, having these hot lists will help move those students who are “almost there” to get there and hopefully stay there so they can be successful during this important transition.
Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional development, what works. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education
Exhibit 2: 3rd grade Math Parent Night
Type B: Community Involvement
Context: This year our entire district adopted a new math curriculum program by Pearson Education called EnVision. Teachers have been involved in trainings as well as Math Professional Learning Community (PLCs) to help overcome frustrations, share ideas and learn from one another to help benefit student learning. In 2011, 35% of third graders met (L3) or exceeded (L4) standards on the Math Measurement of Student Progress (MSP). As a grade level this disheartened us slightly, however knowing that we would be participating in a new curriculum it lifted our spirits that improvement was on the horizon. After the first few weeks of instruction we were all at our frustration level and knew that our students were having similar feelings. We anticipated that parents would voice concerns about math homework and new math curriculum and so decided that taking an informal survey of parents interested in a Math parent night to learn more might be beneficial. Following parent teacher conferences, which hosted many concerns as expected, we gathered data that shared that about 60% of parents conferenced with would appreciate a parent math night. It was decided as a grade level that having a parent math night would be valuable, especially since we had just learned that our curriculum hosted a parent-student website that could be used at home.
Planning/Engagement: We collaborated with our principal about our idea of having a Parent Math Night and she was in full support. We made sure to set a date and reserve the building’s media center that had a screen and document camera that could show the online website. It also features a computer lab which we learned parents could access the internet by using their child’s log in information. This would then allow parents, after the information was provided to go on to the website and explore what we would share and ask any questions. Together we designed a flyer to go home with students a week prior to the math night, we also discussed and reminded students daily in our homeroom classes. The flyer is attached as one of my artifacts. The principal also placed the math night in the monthly newsletter that goes home with students and our building secretary added it to the school’s monthly calendar that is shared on the district website. We tried to publicly announce the night as often and frequently as possible. During our PLC time we planned how the night would be structured, the night was to run an hour long with time planned in for questions and parents to go online and explore. We also made a handout that would explain in detail the various assessments students would be taking throughout the year and their timeline; I’ve attached this as another artifact.
The night of the event about 10 parents showed up for the occasion, out of 125 students in the entire third grade. Our expectation was fairly low based on previous parent organized nights. However, the parents that did show up learned a great deal about the online website that they would be able to access with their child at home. Parents who came to the parent night received an electronically devised parent letter from Pearson’s website that gave them log-in directions and information. The following day we sent the letters home with the students whose parents weren’t able to make in hopes that the students would take it upon themselves to go explore at home with their guardians. So far I’ve had a few students tell me that they’ve been able to access the website at home, even though their parents weren’t able to make it.
|Date and Time Needed||Participants||Description|
|3rd grade team||Math PLC: discuss time, date and information to be shared at meeting.|
|3rd grade team||PLC meeting: confirm time, date and information to be shared at meeting. Decide on materials needed for meeting and design flyer.|
|3rd grade team and 3rd grade parents||Parent Math Night|
Impact on Student Learning: Since having our Parent Math Night we’ve noticed as a team that students whose parents did attend now know how to access the website and utilize its tools to help support student learning. Recently I had a student who was sick for multiple days and was going to miss a lot of valuable information and lessons in math, fortunately his parent had come to the Math night and knew how to access the student book, lesson video and tools to help their child complete the missing assignments prior to coming back to school. I’ve also had students mention that they’ve already watched the lesson video for that day and knew what to expect, which is a great pre-teach tool. As time has progressed we’ve been able to make adaptions to our teaching strategies with this curriculum and fine-tune skills. Along with students having access at home to preview and review the math curriculum, test scores have shown that students are in fact learning.
Exhibit 3: How Full Is Your Bucket?
Type A: Educator Learning
Context: Towards the end of last year our Principal brought to one of our staff meetings a book that we were all going to get the opportunity to read over the summer. The book was How Full Is Your Bucket? written by Tom Rath & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. The book was initially for business workplaces and focused on employee and employer relationship, it honed in on the absenteeism of praise and recognition in the workforce. Coincidentally it was adaptable for schools as well with its kid friendly versions. The idea behind bucket filling is that we all have our own invisible buckets that we carry around with us every day. When someone is doing something or says something positive it fills our buckets and we feel happy. When someone does or says something that hurts our feelings or makes us upset, we refer to that as bucket-dipping. The concept has many wonderful angles, such as when we fill someone’s bucket, we also fill our own. Or if we see someone dipping into someone else’s bucket and we don’t do anything to stop it or help, we ourselves are having our bucket dipped and are dipping into someone else’s bucket. It’s very positive way to view how to treat others and give recognition. Our school in the past has had its fair share of students whose behavior is at the Tier two and three level, this program along with our other “Eagle Eye” behavior incentive program would be introduced to bring those numbers down. This new approach to increasing positive behavior is also an attempt at decreasing the number of “bullying” incidents that occur daily all around the school campus.
Planning/Engagement: Most all certified and classified staff was given the book to read over the summer. Prior to school starting in September, at one of our building trainings, we reviewed all materials purchased to help start the program including: student-friendly books, bucket filling bracelets and posters. As a school we agreed how to use the materials and how teachers would teach the Bucket filling concept. Teachers would teach a bucket filling lesson weekly using the materials purchased and it would include: vocabulary, activities and reflection. The principal would put in the weekly bulletin for teachers what lesson they should be teaching in order to keep everyone on track. An artifact I’ve included is a student made bucket filling worksheet that was completed after I read How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, Ph.D. It shares what my student would do to fill a friend’s bucket. After my students finished their “I Am a Bucket Filler” worksheet, I made it into a class book and put it in our class library. Teachers would utilize “bucket filling” slips in their own way with their classroom, my approach is that we have a class bucket and next to it I have bucket filling slips. I’ve included an example of one as an artifact. Students are invited to fill one out for a student who fills their bucket and they’re to list what that student did for them. Every morning I reach into our classroom bucket and pull two slips, I read them aloud and allow the student who received the slip to wear one of my brightly colored bucket filling bracelets for the day. In order to help teach the concept we also have PowerPoints to offer a variety of teaching methods and to engage the students. I’ve provided a PowerPoint as an artifact that highlights lesson 4: Drops. The principal has a similar approach with recognizing our student bucket fillers. She has an office bucket that students are allowed to place their slips into and daily over the announcements in the morning she draws a slip and announces the student’s name. The student then goes down to the office and collects a bucket filling bracelet to keep.
|Date and Time Needed||Participants||Description|
|Classroom teachers and students||Bucket filling lessons that include vocabulary, activities and reflections. Resources used: PowerPoint, books and coinciding worksheets.|
|Daily||Teachers, building staff and students||Bucket filling slips will be awarded by: teacher to student, student to student and newly added teacher to teacher!|
|Daily||Classroom teachers, students and office staff||Recognition of bucket fillers|
Impact on Student Learning: This program has been very successful thus far. The number of student minor reports and major reports has decreased as compared to the number of reports this time last year. With positive student behavior increasing, student learning has been impacted as well. Students are able to work in an environment that is safe and respectful which makes the ability to learn far greater than an environment that isn’t safe. Student relationships are better too therefore peer learning and cooperative groups can exist in a functional setting.
Exhibit 4: Math PLCs
Type A: Educator Learning
Context: This year Vancouver Public School (VPS) District adopted a new math curriculum by Pearson known as EnVision. The curriculum has been sharing great research data on student test scores and a positive impact on student learning in the content area of math. The VPS district for grades 3rd- 10th scored a low to high range of a 39.5% -58.2% on the 2009-2010 Math MSP and between a 50.3% -59.4% on the 2010-2011 Math MSP. The district’s math curriculum, since I’ve been a teacher, has gone through 3 different curriculum changes. From 2006 – 2009 we were using Math Central by Houghton Mifflin as well as supplemental materials to teach math. In 2009 we received Math Guides as well as a Math Coach to “build” our grade level curriculum based on the core (Bridges math or Math Central) and supplemental materials approved by the district to teach the Washington State Math Standards. For many teachers this was a nightmare, however I relished teaching math this way, I had a lot of freedom to add many components that I wouldn’t typically be able to have done in the past. Then this last year we received training on the new math curriculum of EnVision.
Planning/Engagement: There were all-district trainings during the summer and I’ve attached my course details as an artifact of this training. During these trainings employees of Pearson came to our district and introduced the curriculum, walked teachers by grade level through their teacher guides and the online materials. After the trainings we then had a district organized Math PLC with our grade level as well as our district “trainer” or coach that would lead for the rest of the year. We signed up for Math PLC trainings from Oct- June and I’ve attached this course detail registration as another artifact. To date we’ve had two Math PLCs at a building in the district and squeeze into a small classroom with over thirty third grade teachers discussing successes, strategies, problems, etc. The PLCs have proven to be somewhat beneficial in that we’re able to share new found information about the curriculum, how to go about using the math focus wall and other useful tips and tricks. In our building our grade level has done a great job of maintaining and updating current math data via an Excel spreadsheet on the Topic tests that our students take after each topic in the math program. As a grade level we’ve also been able to collaborate on how we utilize calendar placemats or packets as part of the math focus wall that allows us to re-teach, review and pre-teach math material. We also have 4 out of 5 teachers using the same math homework and review guides to support the practice at home; this increase in math homework has really strengthened our students practice with new concepts in math. Each third grade teacher is on pace and on track with where we should be in the topics and lessons that coincide with the curriculum; this will then ensure that our students have been exposed to pertinent math concepts that will be on the Math MSP in May.
Timeline: The Math PLCs will continue throughout the rest of the school year until our last meeting on June 5th. Our grade level also plans to continue to use our PLC time at our building to review math data and discuss important items as a team to solve problems or answer questions we may have as individuals. This will continue throughout the rest of the school year as well.
Impact on Student Learning: It’s difficult to make a comparison between this curriculum and the programs used in the past; it would be like comparing apples to oranges. However, I can share that my students have all made an increase in their score percentages on their topic tests from September to December. The students are well adjusted to the format of our topic tests which coincidentally mirrors the test format of our district’s Math Benchmark Assessment (MBA) as well as the MSP. Having this consistency will help students feel confident with the test question format on our high stakes state and district test. I’ve also noted the difference in competency my students have with the concept and skill of place value this year as compared to previous years. The program utilizes place value blocks to help describe and explore most math concepts and I’ve perceived that my students have a strong notion of place value for exploring these new concepts, which a Constructivist would argue is the learning process at its best. I’ve also observed my students excitement and enthusiasm for math this year as compared to previous years, they almost yelp for joy when it’s math time, definitely a first in my book. My students have also done a great job of adjusting to our use of math journals this year to document their progress with every topic and its lessons. In our math journals we keep track of our learning targets (Core Standards), problem-based interactive solving, guided practice and independent practice. Soon my students will be finished with our first journal and will have a mini-portfolio to take home and share with their families all their hard work for this past trimester. I’m so proud of all their hard effort and work ethic on learning alongside with their teacher this new math curriculum. If there are any people in this world who know that Miss Botz makes mistakes, it would be my third grade babies.
It’s hard to believe that we’re coming to the end of another great quarter, a quarter filled with enlightening conversations, discussions, “ah-ha” moments and discovering more about ourselves as professionals. I was very happy to have the opportunity to revisit previously read chapters with a new perspective and knowledge about teacher leadership. It allowed me to reflect in a new way about how I view the idea of teacher leadership and where my contributions lie on the spectrum of being highly involved to being barely involved.
I found myself identifying with the concept of being a “second-stage teacher” as Johnson and Donaldson describe in chapter 25: Overcoming the Obstacles to Leadership. I feel very confident in my ability as an educator, I find that I have co-workers wanting to collaborate and work with me on projects and curriculum, I’m very enthusiastic about taking on new roles and I enjoy being part of decisions that help advocate change for the entire school. I’ve had opportunities to be part of committees and be a grade level representative, however I don’t think I’m anywhere near being a candidate to hold the title of being a teacher leader. At our building it’s been widely accepted and known that two of our prestigious and professional teachers hold positions that would be close to what is known as a teacher leader title. They go to almost all district meetings that are open to administrators and building reps, they make presentations and provide professional development training during PLC time, they help run the beginning of the school year building training where we identify all building issues and norms. They both have served as union reps, (one actually took over my union rep position after I stepped down to work on my professional certification and start this program!) years of teaching experience in multiple grade levels and both hold masters. These characteristics are what would define them as teacher leaders in the eyes of Meena Wilson who wrote “The Search for Teacher Leaders” in chapter 18 of Hilty, she conducted a search to help define teacher leaders by embarking on a journey that left her with a clearer idea of what attributes make up teacher leaders. “A typical leader is 42 and has taught for 18 years, at the same school for almost 13 years. More than half of them have served as formal leaders, either as department chairs for an average of 11 years and/or as a committed representative of the teachers’ union for at least 3 years. They usually hold a masters degree” (Hilty,pg. 182). I have very high regard for both of these women and have great working relationships with both, they’re great educators both in and outside the classroom.
While I can identify whom who be considered a teacher leader in our building, I would argue that they don’t quite do all that teacher leaders do as far as the arena of improving colleague’s instruction, which would aid with student learning and achievement. I don’t think they have clearly defined expectations from our principal as being leaders that act as coaches or facilitators. I don’t fault my administrator or these two teachers and I don’t think that these teachers or most of the teachers in our building would deny their assistance in helping improve instruction. I don’t believe that it’s been identified that we as a building need teacher leaders for that specific reason, even though our state testing put us in a category of not makin AYP last year. Johnson and Donaldson stated that, “Principals can build support for a teacher leader’s role by explaining its purpose, establishing qualifications and responsibilities” (Hilty, pg. 216). I would greatly appreciate a qualified teacher leader to come into my classroom and help provide me with feedback, constructive criticism, suggestions and advice that would help improve my students’ learning in certain academic areas. I know that I hold the capacity to be better and do more for my students and colleagues, however how do I go about making that suggestion to my administrator? I welcome any and all feedback.
Unfortunately I missed out on this week’s discussion due to my total lack of attention to detail within our discussion thread. However, my peers in my discussion group lead a very powerful and enticing string of threads about our topic, thank you to all those who contributed. Zepeda states, “Action research is about change. The process of conducting action research propels change, and the results of action research can support teachers in making informed decisions about changes in practices” (pg. 264). This is the ultimate difference of action research compared to the multiple other formats of professional development as described in our textbook. A discussion that involved many different people asked what the difference of action research was as compared to the many other practices we’ve learned and discussed thus far. A few of my peers stated nicely that action research differed in that an educator would ask questions about their practice (typically an instructional strategy or possibly student learning), develop a research question and do research on the topic, discuss with a colleague or colleagues about best practice and theory, collect data (through student learning, observations,etc.), analyze data and discuss findings then reflect and make changes to practice. The big piece that Zepeda also touched on in this chapter was the importance of reflection. She states, “when teachers write and read their own narrative about an experience in the practice of teaching, the level of understanding and comprehension about what took place increases”(pg. 274). We know the power of reflection and the effects it can have on us as learners, it’s why we ask our students to learn and practice, we should be partaking in that strategy in the context of our own too.
In reflecting in my own familiarity with action research and the way I’ve conducted this strategy I would have to agree with my colleague Lara, who shared her own experience. She discussed the use of conducting research and collecting data to help inform about student learning rather than answering questions about teaching and learning. In my years of teaching I’ve been able to do some research on best theory and instructional practice, I’ve done data collecting and analyzed it with my co-workers, I’ve asked many, many, many questions in lieu of education, however I have yet to incorporate and use all these together to complete what would be considered action research. This is something for me to consider in the very near future.
This week we had two screencasts as well as the last few chapters in our textbook to help fuel our discussions with enriched materials and resources. I thoroughly enjoyed our screencasts, especially the one titled “Getting beyond the classroom: Involving parents and the community”, it helped to give me more ideas about how to think outside my classroom. Parental and Community Involvement has been an ongoing goal of mine since I started teaching and it includes looking beyond having parent volunteers and field trip chaperones. This year has been a pivotal year for math in my building and district, with the new adoption of Pearson’s EnVision math program, my team and I organized a Parent Math night at our school to invite parents to come in and explore the online interactive program. However, as projected our numbers were small in comparison to the number of students in the whole third grade. We made announcements at parent-teacher conferences, sent flyers home with plenty of advanced notice, asked our Principal to include it in the monthly newsletter that goes home and we all discussed it in our classrooms with our students. It seems that regardless of our efforts and hope for it to be a successful turnout parents couldn’t find an hour of their time to come to school and learn about the program that their children use everyday. Out of 125 students, 10 parents showed up for the night. It seems that many of my peers for this module also have concerns about parent involvement some discussed options of: inviting parents to be involved in Social Studies units, providing literature for parents of ELL students in their native language to foster literacy and leveraging the community experts to come in and speak to high school physics students. All of these, I believe are great places to start thinking outside the classroom and school and start utilizing resources that can fortify student learning.
Thinking about schools as a system was another component of this module and it also raised interesting dialogue between us as professionals and students. Many people enjoyed hearing our professor’s insight about schools as a system, especially the comment about unspoken and spoken hierarchical systems within a school. I think this topic is very important to bring up and take a closer look at as people who work within a very important system. The PDF file that was included with this module took a closer look at how effective teacher leaders comprehend decisions made within the whole system, it was to be utilized as a self-assessment. A tool such as this could be used to help inform teachers their knowledge about working within a system and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
This week’s module focused a great deal on Communication with other professionals and the variety of ways to go about collaborating. I take great pride in the building I work in as well as the staff that makes it up, everyone there seems on board with the common vision and goal that is underlying at the beginning of each school year. The focus is on the students, their learning and how best to support one another so that all students achieve. It can seem very overwhelming, especially at the beginning of the year: prepping students for a new classroom environment, pre-assessments, School Improvement goals for the year, instructional planning, trainings and meetings. Having a supportive Principal, grade level team and staff seems to take the “edge” off during these times. With the ever-rising expectations that seem to always be coming, having an open line of communication and positive interaction is very key, in my opinion.
In our readings this week, our text by Zepeda reviewed: Critical Friend Groups (CFGs), Teacher Study Groups, Whole-Faculty Study Groups and Book Studies. While the readings were helpful in explaining the utilization of these groups, it was difficult for me to make a real connection based on the fact that I’ve not had experience with these and our school is in the middle of a new math curriculum implementation this year. Therefore it was hard for me to really take a stance on these simply because mine, my grade level team as well as my building are focused on our PLCs, AYP and math. Many of the groups described in Zepeda seemed to support the idea of job-embedded learning, which I highly support. The idea behind CFGs would be the most intriguing type group that I took away from this module, Zepeda credits Costa and Kallick (1993) who state that, “a critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend.” While this type of group seems to have beneficial outcomes, I feel that a PLCs’ goals are very closely connected to the goals of CFGs. With that being said I’m curious why there’s the need to have so many different groups that meet together but have similar goals. Many of my peers this discussion seemed to support many of the groups suggested and discussed in chapters 8 and 9 of Zepeda, which suggests to me that many schools are heading in a positive direction for Communication.
This week’s module 4 was titled Collaboration, in the profession of teaching this is a common term and is used daily. However, something new I learned in this module, as I’m sure many of my peers in this course would agree there’s a very big difference between the definition of collaboration and cooperation. Robin Henrikson was a guest this module and guided us through a screen cast that connected the ideas of Collaborative Work and teacher leadership. What I found most helpful was slide two that defined the key difference between collaboration and cooperation in terms of having meetings as a group of educators, it states, “Only when these types of meetings produce results, such as an improvement in teacher learning is it considered collaboration” (Henrikson, 2011, Module 4 Lecture). In our reading for this module, Zepdea shares, “Collaboration includes such activities as co-planning and teaching lessons, brainstorming ideas, conducting action research, and inter-classroom observations, and the reflection and dialogue that follows in post-observation conferences” (Zepeda, pg. 85). With the heavy push for PLCs this year, I found myself going back to the most recent meetings that my third grade team and I participated in and reflected on the outcomes of those meetings. I asked myself questions such as: Are our meetings inquiry-based and action-oriented? Do we leave with a new understanding of the curriculum, students or standards? Are we utilizing our time well enough to make and meet achievable goals? It was during our class discussions on creating a Collaborative Culture that I found many of us are still striving with our building to make these types of meetings occur.
Many of my peers and I found that barriers in trying to creat a collaborative culture included: time, administration support, resources as well as opportunities that are sustained and ongoing. My argument for the question on barriers was the issue of time, I feel that as educators we’re asked and expected to complete so much for so many different outlets that time becomes a problem. We’re such great time managers within the context of our classrooms that I would think that we would be able to carry it over into our meetings as adults, sometimes that’s not always the case. In order to avoid this barrier I’ve decided to start setting up an agenda prior to our PLC or grade level meetings to keep our group focused and on-task. I find that we’re able to meet all items on our agenda with time left over to discuss upcoming activities, assessments, etc. Ideas for teacher leader efforts to support a collaborative culture included: encouraging our peers and staff, providing feedback and constructive criticism, having a common goal and vision as well as designing agendas. Again, this module helped me to truly reflect on the purpose of PLC meetings, the outcome of past meetings and the new approach and vision for future meetings. In order to help make our school’s PLC time to be the most well-used time I’m planning on sharing a diagram used for our screen cast that showed a cycle for Cohesive Instructional Improvement, as well as key ideas and principles of Collaborative meetings, as opposed to Cooperative meetings.
Like students, when adults are acting as learners there is a great need for support to help access reliable and helpful resources to ensure that learning is at its full capacity. This week we had a case study to go along with our regular routine readings, our case study looked at a literacy coach and went nicely with our readings that discussed Coaches in schools. My personal experience with having a coach has been a successful one with having a literacy coach during our first years as a Reading First school and then the last three years we had two different math coaches. My favorite was my math coach from two years ago and she was absolutely wonderful, she was supportive, engaging and very willing to help teachers. She helped me do some research on both active and authentic student engagement, two areas of improvement that I had set for myself. She also helped to support and encourage my team when we took on the challenge of building our own “math books” when our district had a very “open” math curriculum. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts we lost all math coaches and they’re back in the classrooms, however with our new math curriculum we still get the opportunity to collaborate at our monthly math trainings. According to Poe (2000), “Coaches assist with setting goals, encouraging action, acting as a sounding board, and giving feedback,” sounds vaguely familiar to what we do as educators for our students. I feel very privileged to have had the chance to work side-by-side with coaches in my professional community, I hope that some day we may be able to bring them back for the support that adults and teachers need.