Friday, October 07, 2011

What's Your Teaching Perspective?

What is your teaching perspective?  What are the central questions, beliefs and understanding that underly your practice each year?  What do you think is most important? How do you prioritize?

As I think deeply about school culture and my own beliefs, I realize that questions and discussions about our individual and shared perspectives are critical to shifting culture and creating vision.

Before you are able to share your perspective, you have to understand how you approach the job and the central questions, beliefs and ideas that energize and guide your work.  Then you'll be ready to engage in discussions with colleagues--discussions that compare, develop and combine perspectives.

Student Perspective
When I look into my students' eyes, I see the potential for a better world.  They come to school with terrific energy, optimism and open minds.  Each child enters the room with a unique story, set of skills, interests, preferred learning style, challenges and perspective.  I don't expect my students to be the same or learn in the same ways.  Instead, I think of myself as a coach, mentor and guide whose job is to develop each child's self-concept and foundation of concept, knowledge and skill so he or she can move forward in life with confidence, purpose, self-understanding and a strong academic foundation.

What is your student perspective?

Curriculum Perspective
Our grade-level curriculum is mainly guided by the Massachusetts State Frameworks which are currently evolving to the Common Core.  At fourth grade, these guiding standards are essential basic skills, concepts and knowledge points that provide a strong foundation for future learning and growth. The way we teach the standards is left up to school systems, schools and individual educators.

My general teaching perspective is that you determine what's essential and you teach it in targeted, motivating, meaningful ways.  In my classroom, you will see many different teaching strategies and methods in place including single skill practice games and activities to project base learning.  I try to offer students a varied menu that exposes children to a myriad of learning strategies and methods while providing students with the chance to choose methods that best meet their personal styles, interests and abilities.

What is your curriculum perspective?

Scheduling Perspective
I craft my schedule each week to maximize teaching opportunities. If I know that teaching assistants or specialists are joining us, I'll target that time for one-to-one or small group instruction in areas that are most challenging where students can profit from that small group, individualized attention.  I plan the most challenging lessons and activities for optimal energy times of the day, and quieter, more procedural events for times with less energy.  We use a Learning Action Table to guide our classroom focus and goals thus allowing student/parent voice and perspective when it comes to the classroom program.

Scheduling for the whole school should prioritize direct service to students and optimal planning time for every professional to provide that direct service.  At times, it can be the case that some professionals in the building have extensive direct service responsibilities while others have very little--children profit from direct service, but it's necessary to give professionals adequate planning time to ensure optimal teaching. That's a tricky area of school scheduling, but an essential area to review.

What is your scheduling perspective?

Collaborative Perspective
Our grade level team meets regularly.  We share the perspective that we want to create an engaging, targeted learning program that is varied and responsive.  We bring many view points, skills and styles to
our discussions which broadens our ability to teach children well.  While our overall curriculum program and targets remain the same, we may teach our classes a bit differently dependent on the needs and styles our students.

What is your perspective related to collaboration?

Professional Development and Growth Perspective
I believe that academic programs should match and model the learning and activity in society because that allows students to easily transfer and extend school learning and activities to their broader world.  I also have my eye on the future since creating a better world is one reason I became a teacher. I want my students to be aware, in developmentally appropriate ways, of the world at large and the skill set they will need to navigate that world with confidence and voice.  Hence, my curriculum program is always evolving.  Each year, I reteach skills, activities and concepts that remain meaningful and beneficial to students, but I let go of practices that are out of date.

That can present problems because sometimes I'm able to move more quickly in my classroom than State or Federal school programs.  For example, my class is mainly writing with computers.  We're doing this because I know that computers allow students to better express themselves with greater clarity and ease, and that their expressions can be shared with many near and far thus creating an audience and a greater sense of purpose.  State standardized tests still require students to handwrite a lengthy draft and final story in one day--few adults would engage in that task today given the ease of computers with ready thesauri, dictionaries, spelling and grammar checks, image inserts, font choices and more.  This present-future tension will always exist as education evolves.

What is your perspective about professional development and growth?

Role Perspective
As education changes, roles will change to?  What is your perspective about your current role?  I see myself as a child advocate first. As a child advocate, it's my job to best teach each child in affirming, responsive ways.  Also advocating often means speaking up when a child is not receiving optimal services, or a school system is not embracing new systems, techniques and technologies that could better serve children.  Secondly, I see myself as a collaborative member of the school community with a collective mission of serving children well--in that role, I feel it's important to ask critical questions and share important knowledge that impacts learning for all members of the community.  In return, I look forward to engaging in colleagues' questions and knowledge to better our collective approach.  I believe in respectful, thoughtful dialogue, but recognize that this can be hampered without shared protocols, time and optimal communication systems.

What is your perspective regarding your role in the school community?

Schools have changed a lot and will continue to evolve. Perspectives will change too. Understanding each others' perspectives will better develop collaborative school communities which in turn, will better serve children.

Does your perspective differ from mine?  If so, how?  What areas of school life did I miss where perspectives may differ greatly?  What is the best way to foster a discussion about perspectives?  Do you think this is a necessary and important point to consider?  I welcome your comments and thoughts.