Yesterday, we met with our new staff for the second time this year, but really it was the first time to get a hold of them after their first impressions of the classroom have sunken in. And rather than focus solely on what they were experiencing and how they are dealing with it, which is of dire importance, we pushed their buttons a little.
Let me explain: our first year induction program for new teachers was recently revamped to be more of a reflective practice that centers on Dr. Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane Pollock’s book Classroom Instruction that Works. This year we also added the reflective feature of asking them to blog about their practices and its relation to Marzano, et. al’s book, on a blog through 21classes. What this enables them to do is to reflect on their own practice, comment on others, but also archives these reflections for them throughout their first year here.
These are all common practices for those who have been blogging for a while; however, to teachers fresh out of college, or new to our district from another district, it set a fairly high bar in terms of the instructional style that we expect of our staff.
Does this reflect how our veteran staff uses technology or their familiarity with social technology? Not exactly. But this is a great start. The conversations that I was privy to during the day all centered on the focus we are putting on not just technology, but also using it in a way that matters, that is consistent with our curricular goals, and that is nearly transparent.
As the day moved from discussion of their program to the nuts and bolts of class website creation and online gradebook setup, several of them pulled me aside and asked if I could help them set up their blog, their podcast (which is the format that they were asked to submit their reflection in for month two), or asked me if I know about wikis. They were excited though, and I made a great effort to allay any uneasiness that showed up. I used Toeffler’s quote about illiteracy in the 21st Century to end the session and let them know that change will define their teaching career, and embracing it would surely lead to greater success and lifelong learning.
On a side note that is somewhat related, if my schedule is any indication of the direction we are moving in, than this year is going to one of great change and innovation.