Sunday, February 09, 2014

Jack of All Trades, Master of None: The Elementary Teacher's Dilemma

Jack of all trades, master of none is the elementary school teacher's dilemma. As generalists, our work touches upon most subject areas and most departments in a school system--we answer to many, and that reality at times can cause confusion, varied paths, and discomfort.

What's an elementary school teacher to do?

The best answer I can think of is to continually prune the plan and set priority with regard to the work you do to personalize each child's path to academic, social, emotional, and physical success--a good start in life.

As I think of this, and prune the plan yet again, I will focus on the following:

Reading Fluency.  Forever the specialists have been knocking on our door to improve this area of children's academic life as fluency connects to comprehension and school success.  Our specialists have been sharing strategies, tools, and efforts with us.  I want to invigorate this part of classroom life.  I'll start with more research (ideas and links welcome), more time in the weekly routine, and more meaningful activities.

Writing Across Genre. Our grade level has put considerable, collective time into this effort this year and we've made great gains.  I'll continue this focus and work with my team.

Deeper Learning with Math. Last year we hit all the standards and built fluency in this area.  I integrated those efforts into this year's curriculum.  Now, I'll work to build greater depth utilizing the SMPs (Standards for Mathematical Practice), curriculum standards, more model making, lots of technology, considerable problem solving, and project base learning.  I plan to revise the fraction units I've been teaching to represent these constructs.

Passion-Driven Project Base Learning and Research: We'll end the year by applying our Deeper Learning MOOC research, students' interests and passions, related standards, and current curriculum into a worthy, updated project base learning endeavor.

The list of possible priorities for elementary school teachers is endless since we're responsible for almost all content, process, and skill areas.  I don't want to give up on this as I think the promise in this huge task is the fact that we can regularly integrate across discipline thus providing students with rich, interdisciplinary learning experiences, the kinds of experiences they will later use in the real world of learning and living.

1/2016 Update: Since writing this post, my school accepted a proposal for the grade five teachers to work as a collaborative team. Together we are creating a model that plays upon our strengths and deals with time and structure in creative, collaborative ways. This has reduced isolation, maximized our impact, and made the job more doable, successful, and satisfying. I recommend.