A New Voice for Our Community of Teachers
Hi all. I am very excited to tell you that we have just about completed our effort to recruit our Exceptional Teacher Advisory Board. While we have another couple of recruiting efforts underway, we now have 172 outstanding teachers signed up from around the country to help us make sure that Teaching Channel is providing you with what you need to learn from each other and to increase student achievement.
Add Your Ingredients to the List
In our recent Tchers’ Voice Survey, you told us you want more, More, MORE, on differentiation. Well, here are my top four ingredients to start differentiating now. Add yours to the list in the comments!
1. Index Cards: By now you’ve surely seen this simple formative assessment tool in action in Leah Alcala’s classroom with “My Favorite No.” But what comes next? You’ve already collected the data; now use it. Keep your No’s in a stack and talk with students one-on-one during a warm-up or other quiet independent activity.
Our First Member Survey Results
I feel as if we’ve added another important cornerstone to the foundation of Teaching Channel this week—because we have the first survey results in our ongoing, direct conversation with you. We’re learning what subjects are important, what video lengths work well for you, and what you might be missing while you’re on our Tch website.
First, thank you to the 380+ educators who took part in our Tchers’ Voice survey.
I’m struck by how thoughtfully you responded to each question. And, who are you? The largest group of respondents is classroom teachers, but we also heard from administrators and many other educational professionals.
Perhaps one of the primary reasons our school community in Johnston, Iowa is healing resides in the thoughtful decision-making and response of our district and building administrative teams who guided us through the crisis of losing two students to suicide in a 36-hour period.
It was their plan, equipped with empathy for all students and adults, ongoing and timely communication with parents, and the quick shouldering of all available resources that helped us walk from one day into the next.
The work of the district resonated as I continued my conversation with adolescent suicidal behavior expert, Dr. James Mazza. In this 12-minute podcast he provides his step-by-step approach to responding to a classroom crisis, what’s known as a “post-vention plan.”
The overwhelming response to my last blog post, Tragedy in the Classroom, has been yet another reminder of the kindness and empathy so many people around the country have extended to our school and community as we work to heal from our recent tragedy. From your responses, all of us at the Teaching Channel realized that it could be helpful to offer resources to teachers who may be facing similar situations in their classrooms.
So, I’m trying my hand at podcasting as a way to quickly get information to you. I had the opportunity this week to talk with one of the leading adolescent suicidal behavior experts in the country, Dr. James Mazza from the University of Washington.
We broke our conversation into two main areas. First, we focused on how we, as teachers, can identify suicidal behavior in students and what to do about it if we see something troubling. The podcast is about 12 minutes long and you can listen right here or download it and take it with you.
I stood there in front of my students, completely inept in this moment as I tried to find the balance between strength and my own human vulnerability. 36 hours. Two young lives, taken by their own hands. First, the news of a ninth grader, Cameron, who was the middle school principal’s son. And then, Spenser, a sophomore, who was in our 4th hour class. I can’t remember a tougher moment in the classroom: seeing their confusion, hearing their sorrow, feeling their questions that won’t have answers. Pushing past the insecurity of doing the wrong thing, I did something.
Making the Implicit, Explicit
Thursday nights bring a common ritual at my house: the weekly spelling list practice session with my second grader, Evan. Usually this is a rather brief and pretty painless exercise. Instead, there was a lesson waiting for me in last Thursday’s sitting. Unlike most of our practices where Evan has been looking at the words all week and has generally committed them to memory, these new words were especially challenging with all kinds of vowels that couldn’t find the right places. We started.
Mom: “Not quite. It’s b-a…”
Evan adamantly interrupts, “No mom. Don’t tell me the right answer, I want to figure it out.”
More Musings on Teacher Isolation
What happens to any of us when we work alone? Because the feedback that many of us get is so infrequent (most teachers are observed a couple of times a year by principals who supervise too many teachers), individual teachers’ ability to grow their skill set is limited by what they know and by what happens in their classrooms.
Don’t misunderstand me: individual experience is incredibly valuable but for too many teachers it becomes the single, most important source of growth. Because others who see your work have different experiences, they open up new possible interpretations and strategies for you to try.