Special EDition: Leading Your Professional Learning

One of my resolutions for 2015 is to continue to improve my professional practice.  As an educator, I know how important it is to stay on top of the latest news, tools, and research related to my field. But I often find myself thinking that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to join a PLC, attend a conference, or read the latest issue of Exceptional Children. So what else can I do?

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Resolution: No More “Drill-and-Kill” Test Prep!

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I know it seems too early to blog about test prep.  But in many low-performing urban schools, January 1st marks the unofficial start of test prep season.  I remember as a 7th grade CPS social studies teacher, I was called to the Principal’s office the week back from winter break and told to stop teaching social studies immediately.   Instead I was to use Test Coach worksheets as my “curriculum” until the test.   I felt nauseous leaving her office.  In my heart I knew these worksheets would not prepare my students with the skills they needed for high school and life.  Luckily I gathered myself and crafted a proposal to demonstrate how I’d teach social studies and prep kids for the assessment, which my principal accepted.  However, the following year social studies was eliminated to emphasize the “testing subjects” (Math and ELA). Read more

Special Education: The September Issue

Welcome back to another exciting school year! Change is in the air. New schools, new students, new colleagues, new standards. Always so much to stay on top of, and this year is no exception.

As you may (or may not) know (i.e. care), Fashion Week is currently underway in NYC and designers are sharing their visions for what’s in and what’s out for the new season (btw – crop tops in, wedges out).  And as educators, we also know how important it is to stay on top of the latest trends.

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Social Media for Summer Learning and Beyond!

Our students’ everyday lives include plenty of opportunities to learn from peers. Group projects, seating arrangements, and class discussions push our students to interact and learn from those around them—like it or not.

But what about teachers? It’s easy for us to become isolated in our classrooms. Many of us engage in professional learning communities to learn from colleagues and push ourselves to improve. But crowded schedules can make it difficult to schedule face-to-face meetings—and sometimes, it’s difficult to find a PLC to meet our goals and current needs.

So what else can a busy teacher do? Build your own professional learning network and/or use virtual tools to facilitate your PLC’s work, of course! This may seem like a daunting task, but fear not. Instead, check out these four free platforms and tools that can help you jumpstart your own professional learning.

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The Power of Reflecting and Celebrating our Work

As the school year comes to a close, teachers create many unique ways to celebrate their students’ learning – from “portfolio parties” to awards assemblies to graduation ceremonies. These opportunities allow our students to reflect on the progress they have made, synthesize new information they have learned, and set goals for their future learning. As teachers, we often forget that this process of reflection and celebration is also crucial to our own professional development.

Reflections

So, how can teachers reflect about their own practice at the end of the school year? Start by setting aside time to work through the questions below.

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