Wednesday, April 10, 2013


There are many consultants available to me at an arm's reach to help me plan, assess my work and give me advice as to how to teach my 25 fourth graders well.

I read a lot; I try new ideas, and I creatively think plan the curriculum in targeted and personalized ways that are informed by assessments, observations and student/family discussion.

What I really need is more hands on deck--I need some professional, experienced support to further lift the work I'm doing with students.  For example, one consultant wants to help me better differentiate so I can meet the needs of all ability levels well.  I keep my classroom humming--everyone is busy with tailored work, but there are some students who need that one-to-one and small group help to meet the targets.  They are students who present in such a way that I know from my twenty-seven years of teaching that no matter how you restructure the class activity with 25 students, these students still need that teacher next to them coaching and helping, and often these students need that teacher in a separate setting--not a setting surrounded by 24 others. These students require skilled professionals too as their learning needs are complex. I know how to teach these students well, but I simply don't have enough time in the day to pull these students aside in this kind of caring, targeted setting.

Hence, I'd love to have the consultants come in, take a group and work their magic on the students. Then I could learn from seeing their work in action and the smiles on children's faces as they reach results in areas where they struggle. These consultants could email me about their approach, send me articles and tell me about their plan. Also while they work with one group,  I could work with others.

I'm the first one who will seek out professional advice and coaching via the Internet or in person when I have a teaching problem to solve. For example right now I'm trying to lift fluency scores for a select group of students.  I have the time; the students are willing, and I've tried a number of approaches. The students made good gains in the fall and now they've plateaued. I consulted with a specialist that works with children. She gave me great advice via email and will soon meet with our entire PLC to discuss that issue. After that I'll redesign the intervention and effort. I have time and space to do that since that specialist/consultant meets with our students regularly giving us the chance to serve fewer numbers and target our efforts with greater effect.

Hence, getting back to my original idea, consultants can be very helpful, but what some teachers need most is extra hands, people willing to come in, roll up their sleeves and work with students along the side of teachers. That approach creates a teaching team or community rather than the boss-worker relationship where a consultant comes in, watches, advises, but never really gets in there and makes a difference.

Thanks for listening, and know that I'm open to listening to other points of view as well.