Rethinking the Role of Teacher: 3 Practices to Elevate Student Engagement

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I’d be very surprised to find a teacher that has fallen asleep at night thinking, “In what ways can I bore my students tomorrow?” However, school is changing — and with it, so are the roles of teachers and students.

Rows of individual student desks with a teacher in the front of the room are becoming a thing of the past. Collaborative and flexible workspaces with multiple teachers and support educators are the new norm.

The way we consume information has also changed, and teachers are no longer the sole sources of information with a duty to impart knowledge to our students. Students are consuming media and information every day — from the time they wake up until the time they fall asleep. They ask Google a question to be met with an instant response.

How might we adapt our roles as educators to facilitate learning and thinking in an impactful, purposeful way in this new learning environment?

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Tch Tips: Five Strategies to Assess Young Students’ Learning

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When we think of assessment, we often think about tests. But good assessment is much more than tests — it’s a chance to discover what our students understand so that we can help them learn and grow.

Just like with everything else, assessment looks a little different for young students. Our squirrelliest little ones are not likely to sit down for many formal assessments, so the majority of them may be informal. Most of the time, students’ learning can be assessed without them even realizing it. But getting students engaged in the assessment process can be powerful as well.

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Project Based Learning: Assessment and Other Dirty Words

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Assessment. Accountability. Benchmarks. Pacing.

These words all carry such negative connotations, yet they’re a driving force in the world we must exist in as educators today. As teachers, we must toe the line every day between progressive ideas tugging at our hearts and external standards with accompanying responsibilities.

Is it possible to move beyond this “either-or” paradigm?

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Five Strategies to Add to Your Coaching Toolbox

Tch Deep Dives: Coaching

Whether you’re teaching or coaching, it’s easy to get into a rut. But these five videos are here to help! Clocking in at just five minutes each, these videos will expand your ideas about what coaching can be and push you to try new strategies.

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Collaborative Coaching: Teacher-Centered Practices in Action

Tch Video Lounge 2.0 Blog

From the first all staff in-service at the conclusion of summer, to the end of the year checklist session, teachers are inundated with meetings. More specifically, teachers are overloaded with meetings that see them as actors and doers rather than collaborators.

The teacher-centered pre-observation conference shifts this narrative. This approach to the pre-observation meeting is more collaborative and less intimidating and in order to call attention to the nuances of this process, I created two interactive videos for Tch Video Lounge to help you notice how I approach coaching with the teacher taking the lead.

In The Teacher-Centered Pre-Observation Meeting, I model what this may look like with a second-year teacher, Marquis Colquitt. What I hope you glean from our interaction is that the meeting is collaborative, learning-focused, and practice-centered. Additionally, I hope you can clearly observe the principles that guide an effective pre-observation meeting.

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High-Tech, Low-Tech: Two Time-Saving Tools for Science Teachers

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I’m a big fan of science notebooks for students. My students use notebooks to develop Cornell Notes from content material, record and analyze lab data, and create “interactive notebook” elements like foldables, flashcards, and puzzles.

I’m NOT a big fan of the lengthy process that ensues when attempting to assess student notebooks. What I find most frustrating is collecting notebooks to see what students are thinking. As a high school teacher with multiple sections of students, trying to carry home hundreds of notebooks isn’t only logistically difficult, it’s time-consuming and inefficient.

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Growth Through Feedback

Getting Better Together

One of my favorite parts of being an educator is learning. It may sound strange, but I love learning new things and getting better at what I do. It recharges my batteries.

Every school year, I begin the year excited to apply something new that I’ve learned. I reflect critically about the things that were successful with my last cohort of students, and which areas left room for growth. I intentionally seek learning opportunities that will support my professional growth in the areas that present a challenge. This is how I model growth mindset.

Growth mindset has been the center of my Getting Better Together project with Teaching Channel. Over the past year, I wrote about my journey related to instilling a growth mindset in my students. This video playlist is a window into our work.

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A Climate for Great Practice: Collaborating for Student Success

Getting Better Together

The climate, or culture, of a school is one of the most important factors in its success. In fact, you can almost feel the climate of a school within seconds of ringing the buzzer for entry. A culture of collaboration and excellence provides the climate for consistent success for students and increased job satisfaction for teachers. Working towards creating this generative environment is a worthy, yet difficult goal.

Whenever you invite humans into the process of any complex work, there’s the inevitability of error, miscalculation, or failure. What’s also possible in this space, and I think what makes this process so messy and beautiful, is the potential for teachers to change, grow, and create transformative teaching experiences.

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Supporting Great Teaching: A Tangible Vision of Excellence

Getting Better Together
My first example of love was from my parents, which is probably true for most people. Their care and attention to my moral, spiritual, and physical development provided the template for what I hope to achieve with Laila and Joshua, my two children. In the space between the example that I saw and the habits I hope to repeat, learning took place. This relationship is essential to creating an infrastructure that allows great teaching to flow.

You must set a vision of excellence that is visible, practical, and impactful. For many, this vision requires an intentional shift. Throughout my work at Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, it has become clear that there are three high-leverage actions that begin to facilitate this change: establishing common language and expectations, building a standards-based foundation, and maintaining a tight feedback loop. Here are some dos and don’ts to consider when engaging with each action:

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Supporting Great Teaching: Creating Systems for Development

Getting Better Together

Great teaching is special. There might be comprehensive rubrics to measure it and best-selling books to define it; but there is something intangible yet deeply felt when you see the eyes of students in the middle of a powerful lesson, delivered by a powerful teacher.

Students’ eyes are on the teacher, on the work, and looking to each other. Students quickly and intentionally discuss and debate the learning of the day. At the conclusion of such a lesson, the bell seems like a surprise and an interruption all at once. This type of environment is special to witness and shouldn’t be a unique experience. We want all students to experience this, every day. This year, through my work as an instructional coach, I am more convinced than ever that the best teachers grow out of rich and empowering systems.

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