Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Sense of Belonging

Jennifer Allen makes me want to pack up and move to Maine! I am not a cold weather gal, but her new book A Sense of Belonging, is a new resoucre packed with suggestions for sustaining and retaining new teachers. I would love to live in a state that not only spouts the statistics but actually does something about them. "17% of educators leave teaching after one year, 30% after two years, 40% after three years and hearly half after five years." We know this to be true so Jennifer Allen, Literacy Coach, presents many possibilities for intensive, sustained professional development for the new teachers at her school: observing the coach, teaching how to administer and analyze assessments, offering in-class support, meeting as a group of new teachers, observing peers, using student work to guide instruction, offering on-going professional development on curriculum planning, and study groups. She presents each idea with "tried and true" experience and suggestions. Some of the ideas are not possible in our situation and many we already have embedded in our weekly Teacher Meetings but the validity of each makes me want to figure out a way to make sure each happens in my own school setting.

For instance, she suggests making sure that new teachers are allowed to observe their peers. In her case, the stumbling block early on was teachers opening up their rooms for the observations. In our case, our school is very open. Teachers welcome observers and they have many. We have always allowed new teachers to spend a day observing teachers of their choice. Just last week, new teacher Mary Beth asked to observe four different teachers on her grade level. She wanted to see Carrie's Skills Block, Tenean and Danielle's Readers' Workshop, Laurie's Writers' Workshop and Deb and Michelle's Math Workshop. She was proactive and knew what she wanted to see and who she wanted to watch. She just sent an e-mail after her day observing: "I cannot thank you enough for today. It was a WONDERFUL learning experience. Each teacher was so helpful and professional. Carrie even changed her schedule for me and let me video tape her doing her sound cards. Now I will have time to reflect on all I saw over the long weekend." While that's a good start, one of our frustrations has been that we want teachers to see more demonstration lessons and we'd like for them to have some choice so they can guide their own learning - much like Mary Beth did.

One of the things that Jennifer suggests is that teachers go in a group so that they can debrief with teachers who have seen the same lesson. As I am trying to see how this would look in my school, I am thinking that we could offer once a month demonstration lessons. We would schedule a demonstration lesson. Guided reading comes up every year as something teachers want to know more about, so suppose we schedule a primary observation so a teacher could see three guided reading groups - one in K, one in 1st grade, and one in 2nd, back-to-back. While this is designed for new teachers, any teacher that is interested could sign up for the opportunity to visit. They would have a guiding sheet that would ask them to list things they wondered about and then ways they could use what they see in their own classroom. Their committment would be to meet with the group after school for a half hour and debrief what they had seen or maybe that could even be worked into the half day. To take best advantage of the subs we would have to get, we would offer a similar opportunity in the intermediate school in the afternoon. In this way teachers could choose the topics that they wanted to know more about. Now this has possibilities!

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I absolutely love the monthly demo idea and can't wait to get it started at CCE!