Saturday, December 14, 2019

Teachers have to prioritize

For years I advocated for better structure, routines, and programs at school, and now, for the most part, that advocacy has resulted in a better schedule, routine, and program. The changes are not that visible if you're looking in from the outside, but from the inside, the changes translate to a terrific opportunity to serve every child better.

What has happened?

Shared Teaching Model
The change from one-teacher-one-classroom to a shared teaching model has taken the isolation out of teaching and provided a team approach to teaching all children at the grade-level. This team approach has eliminated the competition that would sometimes occur between classrooms and allow all the grade-level teachers to maximize our strengths to build and carry out the best possible teaching/learning program for children.

Interdisciplinary Projects
Since I started teaching 34 years ago, interdisciplinary projects have been a hallmark of the education system I work within. Our team has continued this focus with a number of interdisciplinary teaching efforts that have made learning rich and meaningful.

Positive Schedule
Thanks to the efforts of many and yearly advocacy to review and better the teaching/learning schedule, we have a good weekly routine that allows us to teach children well.

Wonderful Program Elements
Thanks to local and other grant sources, our team has been able to try out many new learning elements, programs, partnerships, and special events. Some of these trials proved to be not as deep and helpful as we wanted and others have now become wonderful additions to the curriculum program. We continually weed, prune, and add to our grade-level teaching garden to make the program as good as possible.

Sufficient Materials
Similar to program elements, we have also worked to collect the materials we need to teach the program well.

Continued Professional Learning
Our team is always learning. We're connected to many wonderful educators via social media, take advantage of system and state-sponsored learning events, read books, belong to professional organizations, and work together to constantly embed new learning into our teaching/learning program.

Communication and Technology
We use technology to effectively and regularly communicate with all members of the learning team including students, educators, family members, and the greater community. We are fortunate to have a Chromebook for every child, a computer for every teacher, iPads, and other wonderful tech devices.

Teacher Planning Time
We have a good amount of planning time each week, and if we reduced our teaching supervisory duties, that would give us even more planning time which would be helpful.

Essentially we have the teaching/learning environment that gives us the opportunity to teach well every day. Of course, there remains areas for improvement. The greatest need right now is more hands-on-deck. A few more skilled teaching assistants at school would make our programs even stronger since current teacher-student ratios make it difficult to get to every student as often as we would like. We also could use more space and more modern spaces to uplift our teaching in some areas. We'll continue to advocate for those changes in the days to come.

Teachers can't be everyperson, instead we have to prioritize. In the teaching/learning environment where I work, we have many of the criteria we need for deep and meaningful service to children. This is positive and means that my priority now is to best utilize the positive structures, routines, program elements, and materials available to teach well while also advocating for more staffing for direct support of children, a bit more teacher autonomy, more and better spaces for teaching/learning, and continued rich, research-based, student-centered program development. Onward.