Monday, February 11, 2008

Duval County Teachers of the Year

I have spent the last few days reading about and interviewing the semi-finalists for the Duval County Teacher of the Year. I think the collective wisdom of these teachers across the county reflect the same trends I see in our teachers at Chets Creek. As I reflect on all that I have heard and learned, several themes have been repeated:

  • Teachers in Duval County are reading professionally! I can remember when we were afraid to ask a question about a teacher's professional reading, because we thought the question might embarass teachers! This group is different and that is a sign that teachers are living their lives as readers! Some of the books that teachers mentioned include The Starbucks Experience,  Fish! Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, No Quick Fix, Professional Learning Communities at Work, Entertaining an Elephant, Whale Done, What Really Matters in Fluency, The Fluent Reader, Still Learning to Read, Helping Teachers Teach , Ban Those Bird Units, Framework for Understanding Poverty, and First Class Teachers!

  • Another thing that came through loud and clear is that relationships are the key to results. Teacher after teacher talked about reaching individual children - especially those hard to reach, challenging students - by getting to know them on a deeper level. Teachers talked about eating lunch with their students to get to know them better, attending soccer games and dance recitals, making home visits, keeping in touch over the summer by dropping books by the home, having after-school clubs such as a Puzzle Clubs to give students a place to come and talk, taking kids to parks and the beach, out to dinner, out for ice cream, shopping, to the movies and to church. All of this, of course, is "over and above" the teaching day but in each case teachers talked about how this extra effort to connect with a child transferred into positive academic results. These "off the clock" experiences made a difference in the lives of children, but as the tears often flowed, you could tell that they also made a difference in the lives of the teachers.

  • Teachers also understand that they are in partnership with parents and many offer activities after hours to pull parents into the education of their children including weekly nights at the public library, parent workshops, "Bring Your Parents to School" days, and giving parents access to personal phone numbers and e-mails so that parents can call and write for "anytime" conversation. They understand that parents are the most important teachers and they are often willing to step into the parental role if that parental influence is missing.
Most of all I realize that we have so many teachers who care so deeply and who are giving so much to making a difference in the lives of our children on the First Coast. The words passion, commitment and dedication came up over and over. I was awed and humbled to listen to their intensity. One semi-finalist called teachers " our heroes." I think she is right!


Anonymous said...

If this is how dedicated the semi finalists are...WOW! I can't wait to here or read what the Finalsists do that go above and beyond. Please, I would love to know...I feel that I'm learning everyday and will embrace anything that will help me grow, especially from the finalists.

dayle said...

Thanks for your comment about the semi-finalists. I have long thought that we have much to learn each year from our Teachers of the Year but have been looking for a way to share that information. This year I am working on two pieces: 1) book recommendations from each of the semi-finalists and 2) I made a list of best practices that I saw in each of the finalists classrooms. Chip Leonard, a former Duval County Teacher of the Year, is going back out to each classroom to take photographs to go with the best practice pieces. I don't have a place to publish them... yet, but will let you know when they are available. Thanks for the comment - my thinking exactly! dayle