Over the past three years, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the rollout of Teaching Channel’s Teams Platform in Fresno Unified School District (FUSD). Before Teams, I was frustrated that the only way to share ideas digitally with other teachers was through email. When Teams was introduced in 2013, I was an early adopter and made it a normal part of my work day.
Two years later, I became involved in Professional Learning and left the classroom, partly to help Teams grow in Fresno Unified. I have overseen Teams usage over 100 days of Professional Learning, and I lead Professional Development focusing on how to use video for deeper learning. Due to my extensive experience both as a user and administrator of Teams, I was asked by Teaching Channel to participate in the “Hot Seat” Tuning Protocol during TeamsFest, where I presented a problem of practice, as well as what we had done to address this problem.
I have a fascination with lenses. I find telescopes, binoculars, microscopes, and magnifying glasses to be cool — they reveal unseen worlds, sharpen focus, and provide clarity. My dad, who was a jeweler in a small town, wore a magnifying head lamp each day to quickly look inside of watches and see fissures in gems. And I remember when my mom got bifocals after years of bookkeeping. I thought, this isn’t really about growing older, it’s about more “wisdom.” Wisdom is gained with a closer look and inspection. In this same spirit, we introduce our newest Observation Challenge. Let’s see what’s revealed to you!
In Scaffolding for Student Success, you get front row seats to Lindsay Young’s class where students are building literary analysis skills. This challenge departs from the others in the series, since it allows you to see the comments others are making on the video once you enter a response. This feature provides viewers with a way to gauge their responses in relation to their peers — making the analysis seem more like a conversation. So let’s watch and become wiser as we get better together.
Oh the dreaded difficult conversation! The thought of engaging in one makes even the most vocal of coaches cringe. The conversation could be needed because a teacher is not implementing a strategy with fidelity, or lacks enthusiasm and energy for the profession. Perhaps a teacher is not pulling his or her weight at work. Even heavier are situations where students are not being treated fairly, or a teacher’s behavior becomes borderline unethical. It’s easy for coaches to overthink the “what-ifs?” of the difficult conversation. What if the teacher loses trust in me? What if someone reacts angrily towards me? What if this person quits? However, the biggest “what if” with which to contend is this: what if I stand idly by and do nothing while students don’t get what they need?
While we do not necessarily like them, difficult conversations have to happen if we are truly working in the best interests of the students. Change rarely happens without a catalyst, and these conversations can be the igniting factor. The teacher on the other end of the conversation may be unaware of his or her actions until they are brought to light by a trusted colleague. Remaining true to the following three tenets of difficult conversations may elicit a non-threatening and productive experience for both the coach and the teacher.
Antoinette Pippin teaches fifth grade at the Dr. Theodore T. Alexander Jr. Science Center School in Los Angeles. Antoinette’s school is the result of a collaboration between the California Science Center and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Antoinette’s students have the opportunity to dig deep into science, but when we take a look into her classroom, we get to see how using the arts allows students to express and strengthen their science learning in new ways.
In this lesson, Antoinette’s students compare and analyze paintings by evaluating their scientific and artistic qualities. Students begin by discussing paintings as a whole class. After the discussion, they work in small groups to analyze more paintings. Students apply their knowledge of science and art as they fill in T-charts of the scientific and artistic qualities they notice in the paintings. Though they work together to fill out the charts, students are given different color markers. What a great way to monitor their participation!
By looking closely at video together, we can all learn and improve our practices. In this Observation Challenge, we’re focusing on scaffolding as a strategy for moving students toward understanding a complex concept.
We hope this exercise helps you to hone your observation skills, and helps you translate and adapt what you’re learning on Teaching Channel to your own teaching practice.
Over the past four years, Teaching Channel has crisscrossed the United States to film in classrooms. We’ve made it a point to capture great teaching, emerging teaching, tough moments, triumphs, and illustrations of kids caught in the act of learning.
At our recent TeamsFest, an event where districts and professional learning organizations who license our Teaching Channel Teams platform come together to learn, collaborate, and share ideas, we overheard one anecdote that captures the essence of why we built our video library: “I have taught for 17 years. In that time, I have seen ten other teachers teach. Since having Teaching Channel in our district, I have seen 100 teachers teach during the first four months of the year. Unbelievable!” Every day, through video comments, Q&A posts, and emails we hear statements like this, and it drives our work.
For too many years, I used to think my classes would either have good chemistry, or they wouldn’t. Sometimes there was a group of students who just clicked, but more often than not, students don’t know each other when we begin together. And even though my department offers our students many courses to choose from, they are always filling a requirement when they come to one of my English classes. Some bring their natural enthusiasm, others their implicit skepticism, and at least a few always have to be won over. Finally, I decided to get honest with myself, to take a step back and look at why some classes just “had it” and others didn’t. That honest look taught me some careful lessons about class chemistry.
First of all, it wasn’t about chemistry at all; rather it was about culture. And when I realized that difference, I realized why some classes clicked and others didn’t: I was counting on it to just happen, rather than setting out to create it. Over time I learned that culture is something learned, that we have to work at it, that I have to speak it in order to live it. This week we’re highlighting a series of videos that take a look at the lessons I learned.
Teaching Channel is excited to announce the launch of Learning Plans, a new feature within Groups that supports collaborative learning within your team. Designed to reinforce various professional developments models — from coaching, PLCs, mentoring, to our own Theory of Professional Learning — Group Leader(s) select goals for their team, assign learning tasks and due dates for action steps, and engage in rich discussion around the selected topic.
Think of Learning Plans as a one stop shop for all your collaborative professional development needs. Easily import content from Teaching Channel’s Video Library, share resources for collaborative learning, upload video of your teaching in practice, and get more targeted feedback on your learning needs. Ready to jump in?
You’ll notice that text complexity is an important part of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). (You can read more about this in this my previous post.) The “staircase of text complexity” will give students more opportunities to learn from complex texts, and the hope is that by setting a benchmark for students to read grade level complex texts “independently and proficiently” by high school graduation, students will be ready to read college and career level texts.
However, I know from my own time in the classroom that many students struggle with grade level complex texts. Teachers ask me every day about how to help such readers. “I give them complex texts like the standards say, and they can’t do it!” is a common refrain. I always begin by asking them about their approach to planning, because thoughtful planning holds the key to student success with complex texts.
Building classroom culture is something we tend to think a lot about at the beginning of the year, but it’s just as important to maintain and nurture it throughout the year. For this month’s chat, we want to talk about how you set up your classroom culture, how you maintain the things that are working, and how you change the things that don’t.
This #TchLIVE chat will be on Thursday, March 26th at 4pm PDT.