As much as I love the summer, the end of the school year has always been tough for me. The classroom can become a family of sorts – complete with all the good times and challenging times that can come with being a family. Although I always looked forward to getting to know a new group of learners, it was important to me to honor our classroom community, and all the memories we had made, at the end of the school year. Here are some of my favorite ideas:
Back in January, right before the second round of those humbling Winter Leads, Sarah Brown Wessling shared a provocative blog and video on the Teaching Channel. Her essential message for those of us looking for ways to improve our practice post-May: “…making mistakes is part of getting better.”
With Ms. Wessling’s advice salving our psychic wounds (voilà! thanks, Sarah), let’s explore effective instruction and collaboration.
I have it on good authority that three weeks ago many residents were asking themselves, what’s May got to do with it? Fair enough, because really, how could a mere 15 days at a turnaround change what we do in our classrooms next year?
Yet, in speaking with them about their experiences, it seemed that many residents who began their visits thinking, I’ve got this, quickly realized, No, I don’t. For one reason or another, residents struggled (see this and this from Fuller & this from Casals) and, in effect, felt compelled to reevaluate their year-one blueprints a bit more closely. So, let’s look at some ways to make that reevaluation most productive.
When I was a first year teacher, a veteran co-worker once told me, “As long as you’re one day ahead of the students, you’ll be fine.” Though there is much debate about whether or not this phrase is true, it has an underlying meaning that I’m sure everyone agrees with – the importance of planning ahead. As a first year mentor, I have seen how important it truly is to plan ahead, not only for your students, but also for your residents as well. Thus, I already know how I am going to plan for my residents next year, and the TchAUSL website is going to play a big part in it. Here are some ways that I plan on using the website to help coach my residents:
1) Help Residents Preview Strategies
I know that when I was a student in college, I always read about math, but I did not fully comprehend it until I actually saw someone do the math in front of me. Likewise, some residents have difficulties grasping the concepts of various Lemov strategies by just reading about them. Imagine trying to have to explain to a new teacher that “Pepper” is not a culinary technique utilized in the classroom, or that the “Hook” is not some archaic way of maintaining discipline.
OK-I confess! I have never liked the month of May. This is the month where our resident teachers leave the comfort of home (their training site) and take up residence in the many of our Turnaround Schools. Intellectually, I know this experience is very important for their growth and development as a teacher. They get to apply what they know with a new group of students and in a new context. They often return to their training site in June inspired by the successes they have had, the challenges they have worked through, and ready to take on the responsibility of being a teacher of record. So, what don’t I like about this experience?
My residents are away from me! In my role as Mentor-Resident Coach, I know daily what they are working on, areas they are excelling in, and how they need support. I can walk from classroom to classroom, not feel intrusive, observe a resident teach, perhaps provide some real-time coaching or debrief with them at the end of the school day. But when residents are at the Turnaround School we lose touch a bit. I am not with them each day and I feel disconnected from what they are experiencing.
One of the greatest strengths of the Chicago Teacher Residency Program is the knowledge our mentor teachers share with their resident teachers. One of the greatest challenges? Not enough time!
A teacher’s to-do list is never-ending. Our mentors carry the entire workload of a teacher with the added responsibilities of mentoring two resident teachers. We are always looking for ways to maximize the time mentors and residents have together to expedite teacher development.
If only we could extend the day by a few extra hours and our residents could continue their rich conversations late into the night, possibly while relaxing on their couch at home. Many resident teachers state that they wish they had more time to receive feedback from their mentors on their teaching, watch their mentors teach, and ask questions about what they see. Thankfully this is possible with TchAUSL! Read more