Transform Your Teaching: Developing a Personalized Professional Learning Plan

Tchers Voice Professional Learning

“To turn off your iPad, you press the button on the side. Let’s practice turning it off and on, and our next steps will be to explore the App Store.”

This professional development on “iPads for Teachers” was genuinely a great recipe for PD:

  • Hands-on teacher involvement
  • Opportunities to put ideas into action
  • Immediate followup in the classroom during the coming weeks

Unfortunately, I found myself bored to tears. The school where I’d previously taught was 1:1 with student iPads and I’d been using them in the classroom for at least three years. What I anticipated as an opportunity to enhance my instruction using digital tools turned into a daydreaming session on all of the work I could’ve been doing in my classroom.

I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there. We’ve all found ourselves in a well-intentioned, yet not relevant, professional development session generalized for a staff of perhaps several hundred teachers. Personalized learning for students and differentiation have been a focus in the world of education for several years and considered a must in the modern classroom. However, this type of thinking around learning has not been universally adopted for teachers as learners. If we’re expected to provide personalized learning for students, what can be done to support teachers in their quest for lifelong learning?

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Five Assessment Myths and Misunderstandings

Tchers' Voice: Great ideas from passionate educators just like you

Walking around the classroom, clipboard in hand, I moved as quickly as possible, diligently checking for homework completion, assigning five points to those who had it done, two-and-a-half to those who had it partially done, and zero to those who didn’t do it. It was super scientific and truly measured learning… (he says sarcastically).

Luckily for my students, since then I’ve grown quite a bit in my understanding of assessment practices, and as I look back at them over the past 14 years, it’s not with disgust (although that would be justified at times), but with hope — and the knowledge that change is possible. I author this piece not to judge current practices, but in the hopes that some of the ideas below might shed new light on ways to take a fresh approach to assessment, and improve learning for all students.

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Glowing and Growing Through Self-Assessment

Fab 5 ELL Squad banner

Forward

by Teaching Channel’s Vice President of Engagement, Paul Teske

Paul TeskeThis summer, I was humbled and energized by the diversity, compassion, and wisdom of the educators that we convened as part of the Fab Five ELL Squad and California District EL Network. The goal in our gathering was to deepen our understanding of how best to serve bi- and multi-literate students. With the generous support of the Helmsley and Stuart Foundations, we came together to share our challenges and collective wisdom.

With the support of Sarah Ottow from Confianza, each member of the ELL Squad had a project with distinct goals for better understanding their puzzles of practice. Our Fab Five ELL Squad will be sharing their useful work in the upcoming months.

Damaris Gutierrez is first up in our Fab Five ELL series of blog posts. Damaris is from Northside ISD in San Antonio, Texas, where she served as the teacher of elementary refugee students in a sheltered instruction environment. In her project, she focused on reading instruction, culturally responsive teaching, and assessment.

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As a newcomer ESL teacher to refugee students in an elementary setting, my classroom was self-contained and I taught language through content in a sheltered instruction environment.

The thought of teaching self-reflection terrified me.

I just didn’t know how to do this with my students.

But self-reflection and assessment is a requirement of the SIOP Model I use with my English Language Learners (ELLs). I remember reading this requirement and thinking — how? How can I get my beginner ELLs, who have limited or no prior schooling experience, to reflect on their language development and content knowledge in English?

Throughout the process of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I’ve had to assess my own teaching practices, plan to improve my instruction and act on those plans, view my own teaching, and reflect on my teacher actions and student learning. But teaching my students to self-assess their own learning really challenged my ideas about what they were capable of doing.

Self-reflection would first challenge me to think beyond my current expectations and then inspire me to explore new teaching practices. Read more

Does the Language You Use Limit Your Learning Environment?

Does the Language You Use Limit Your Learning Environment?

I have long been skeptical of the “One Word” promises made at the turn of the new year.

On one hand, I totally get it; it’s an efficient way to stay focused on personal improvement. And like any goal setting, focus is essential to success; we often try to do too much with our goals — personally and professionally. In that respect, I see the value. However, the scope of one word seems, in some ways, too focused. I’ve struggled to see how a one-word focus would truly help me become a better me, a better teacher. But with this said, I also had no suggestion for a different approach.

So, as 2017 faded into the cold and dreary new year backdrop of 2018, I sat down to do my usual new year reflection and goal setting, resigning myself to this seemingly too-narrow approach for lack of a more effective strategy. It was while I scribbled in my writer’s notebook, jotting down key words and phrases that captured elements of my personal and professional growth that I hope to see improve in 2018, when the music in the background, which is always playing when I write, shuffled to a different song, grabbing my attention in a way it never had before. Having heard this song well over 100 times already, I couldn’t believe the way it was now inspiring my goal setting.

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PodcastPodcastTch Talks 24: Inviting Curiosity and Socratic Questioning Into The Classroom

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What are the questions that your students carry inside of them but rarely ever discuss?

2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples wanted to find out. What started as a small idea or strategy to help students build empathy transformed into nearly 15 years of work helping children — and adults — voice the questions they carry inside them. On this episode of Tch Talks, Shanna talks about why it’s important for both students and teachers to “Think Like Socrates,” to allow students to take ownership of their own learning through authentic questions, and to leverage student questions as learning experiences that develop critical thinking.

For Shanna, curiosity is key, and allowing students to own their learning through creating questions is the most fundamental change a teacher can make in their teaching practice. Listen in to find out more.

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Ensuring Equity for Every Student

Getting Better Together

I had never heard of the “achievement gap” until the summer after my first year of teaching. It was after reading Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap, that I became aware of the gap in educational achievement between white and minority students.

This stubborn gap has persisted throughout my career. I’ve managed to pick off a few percentage points at my different schools, but the gap largely remains the same. And this gap is only one of many gaps. There is the opportunity gap (as it relates to higher level course selection and access), the wealth gap, and more.

It seems that the world of education has somewhat shifted away from the effects (gaps) to the causes (inequity). To that end, the rest of my life in education will be committed to ensuring equity for every student.
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Mid-Year Check-in: Assessing Your Year So Far

mid-year check-in

Congratulations: You made it to January!

For many experienced educators, January can feel like an exciting time to reboot. For new teachers, January can bring back feelings of disillusionment that may have started around November (be sure to read this post on staying energized if you’re in the latter category).

Whether you’re feeling dismayed or excited for the rest of the year, taking just a few minutes to reflect and plan can often make you feel a little bit better.

At the beginning of the school year, Teaching Channel launched our Back to School Starter Packs, a set of checklists and resources organized by grade band to help you start the year off on the right track. Now that we’ve reached the midyear point, we’re offering you a simple review sheet to see how well you’ve done with all of your plans.

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KLEWS: Supporting Claims, Evidence & Reasoning

Supporting Claims, Evidence and Reasoning

What are the KLEWS to real learning in the classroom?

Dora:

In order for the vision of the Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to be successful, science education cannot be something we only tackle in secondary school. In some ways, it’s easier for us to get buy-in from middle school and high school science teachers, who often have a background in science content. The challenge of supporting elementary classroom teachers, who sometimes lack the same confidence when it comes to science, is critical when it comes to NGSS implementation.

In order to meet this challenge, Urban Advantage (UA) has been working on a pilot program with about 40 New York City classroom teachers, from third through fifth grades. This program, a collaboration between education staff from the American Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Queens Botanical Garden, aims to support these teachers by engaging students in authentic science investigations.

The KLEWS strategy has been a key feature of this work.

teacher using KLEWS strategy

A few years ago, I was sharing with Mary Starr, executive director of the Michigan Mathematics and Science Centers Network, the work I’d been doing around scientific explanations for middle school teachers, referring to the book, Supporting Grade 5-8 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science, by Kate McNeill and Joe Krajcik.

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What's Your Evidence book cover

Mary then asked if I was familiar with the book, What’s Your Evidence?, also by Kate McNeill, along with Carla Zembal-Saul and Kimber Hershberger.

That was how I discovered the KLEWS strategy, a powerful tool to support the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning (C-E-R) work we were already doing in our program.

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So how can teachers begin to use the KLEWS chart right now in their science instruction?

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Calling All Bloggers: Submit Your Teacher Retention Ideas

Share your voice. Blog with Tch. Teacher retention

When did you first realize that you were called to be an educator?

As a child, I can recall teaching “classes” full of stuffed animals, dolls, a few live puppies, and even a captive audience of neighborhood children. But it wasn’t until high school that I really knew I wanted to be a teacher. It was an ordinary day during my sophomore year in high school, in the middle of a world history lecture, that I remember thinking to myself — Yes, I want to be a high school history teacher.

I was watching my history teacher, Mr. Sterling, at the time, and I could sense his ease with the content, his passion, and his excitement. When he wasn’t captivating me with his ponderings on the state of Abu Dhabi, he was likely teasing me after catching me waving out the door to my boyfriend for the 100th time that semester, or encouraging me to keep going after I missed that one point I needed to meet the goal I’d set for myself in the class.

I knew he was doing exactly what he was called to do in this world — and I knew I wanted to do that, too.

I loved teaching. And that’s why I know that making the decision to leave the classroom is one of the most difficult decisions an educator will ever make.

Yet, for more than a decade, we’ve been having an ongoing conversation about teacher shortages and the difficulties we now face recruiting and retaining teachers. Notably, the data suggests that retention is no longer an issue that only impacts teachers in their first five years, but that teachers are leaving their classrooms in increasing numbers throughout the trajectory of their careers. This is a problem we must address, and we believe that you can help!

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