Thursday, February 26, 2009

Professional Development Day

One week ago the Dallas Center-Grimes staff spent a full day in professional development sessions. As we have come to expect the trendy buzz words were easy to reengage with since they were in the session titles, the handouts, the skits, the presenter's verbiage, and, if we were willing, we volleyed them back in our questions and our offerings of answers and insights. So, our sessions included:
  • Iowa Core Curriculum
  • Relationships focused on Positive Interaction
  • Formative Assessment
  • Rigor and Relevance Framework
  • Understanding and Caring about the student
All in all it was a good day. The sessions included good presentations with a variety of ways to interact with the material and those around us. Like usual, I got out of it what I put into it. This is what I took with me:
  1. Concerning the latest trends or buzz words: Once you peel off the buzz word label (formative assessment, rigor and relevance, etc.), if you have been in the classroom for more than 3 years, are still conscience of your surroundings and have lines of communication open with your student, then you are probably already doing these things, but you probably call it "common sense." What I do like is that during days of professional development like this I can spend time thinking about how I could do these things more efficiently, with greater frequency and with an identifiable goal and purpose. If I let it, the desire to teach and make a difference begins to surface. Because, honestly, even though it is common sense, sometime around February I am no longer conscience of my surroundings and I have lost interest in communicating with my students. Point: No matter if it is a trendy buzz word or common sense, sometimes I still have to be refreshed and reminded what my job is.
  2. Iowa Core Curriculum: Because of our school districts desire to constantly be in pursuit of excellence and give attention to detail many of the things we have worked on in professional development over the past 7-8 years are dove-tailing together like a well built stairway that easily leads us into the ICC.
  3. Career Trends: The internet is 5,000 days old! By 2010 there will be more jobs in Iowa than we have qualified workers to fill. Iowa Core Curriculum will focus on: Literacy, Math, Science, Social Studies and Career Skills. Career Skills will develop the students: employment opportunities, financial literacy and technological skills.
  4. Relationships: Any relationship must have some level of mutual respect. This includes between teacher and student. Some see this as some kind of modern approach or cultural deterioration. These are factors affecting education today, but lets go back to common sense. I remember being asked almost twenty years ago why I interacted with students the way I did. Even back then my reply was, "I first have to have some kind of relationship with the kid before I can expect to have him listen to me because of who I am." Sure, you can go through your whole teaching career spouting, "Listen to me because I am the teacher. I am your superior. I have the social right to be respected." True. I teach my kids at home that very thing concerning teachers, police officers and, especially, their Dad! But, it sure is easier to teach and parent when the kid trusts you. Respect makes society function. Trust builds relationships. Obviously we prefer to have both. And, we can.
  5. Formative Assessment: Well, someone figured out that testing and scoring at the end of a chapter does not increase learning. It merely records what learning did or did not happen. If this is "new" information then it appears that for years we have an entire education institution with no common sense. Are we here to grade students or teach students. I remember speaking to a crowd many years ago saying, "Just because you taught it doesn't mean they learned it." I realized I had hit a nerve when I saw every one's head drop and they began to write in their notes the concept that teaching and learning are not a cause and effect duo. In fact, many times in my shop the students are learning, but I am clearly not teaching. So, to many teachers it is a great disappointment to learn that the "teacher" is not a prerequisite for the "learner". But, for an "educator" this information provides a sense of freedom and relief. We set the goal, aim the student and facilitate the natural process of learning. When they reach the goal, we move on. Evaluation or assessment should be taking place along the way to help determine what the student needs to know before they reach the goal. Assessment is more for the teacher than for the student. OK, this can become very idealistic very quickly so I am going to move on.
  6. Quadrants of Rigor and Relevance: This concept for me was academically challenging. It took me a while to even figure out what we were talking about. I still do not understand the vocabulary used to define the four quadrants of Rigor/Relevance. They are Acquisition, Application, Assimilation, Adaption. I really got set back when it was explained to me that my eighth grade end table project was relevant but not rigorous in its current curricular status. In order to make it rigorous the students would have to recognize a mistake, analyze it, correct it and then correctly evaluate it as a success. The actual terms and steps the students would need to undertake to achieve "rigorness" would be: Knowledge/Awareness, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. Point: I really do not understand this and I am probably going to need either more training or need to increase my spin in presenting the middle school curriculum as simply just a basic introductory class designed to prepare students for the "rigorisms and releviances" they will be exposed to in high school. Pass the buck and grab the bail out!
  7. Understanding and Caring: The last session of the day drove home the painful point that we are not working on an assembly line but working with living, breathing, feeling souls of young people. We can never fully understand their situations, their fears, their abilities nor their potential. It was at this point I realize how unworthy I am to be called "teacher".
Mr. Wiemers
http://mrwiemersshop.com

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