Returning the Favor

Over a year ago, I wrote about a unit I designed at the first public school I worked at.  It was a unit on Burma and the struggle for democracy being led by Aung San Suu Kyi.  The post was originally aimed at recognizing a call to the blogosphere to write about Burma on a particular day.  What ended up coming through was the lessons  I learned while planning it.

I was a second year teacher in an assignment that had me teaching several different subjects in several different grade levels.  Our building principal had this informal practice he like to employ with his second year teachers, a year he viewed as pivotal in a teachers development within a school.  He picked one each year to work with on creating a unit of study for whatever curriculum they were teaching.  For me, it was social studies, world geography most specifically.  He spent the better part of two weeks with me in class and out of class designing and helping me carry out the implementation.  I learned about essential questions, timing of resources within a unit, and, my favorite, cognitive dissonance.  Being a new teacher, I had little understanding of what running a building entailed, I just thought he had time on his hands because he was shirking some of his discipline responsibilities off to his VP.  It turns out that he was staying until all hours to complete his normal duties so that he could work with me.

To make a long story much shorter than it could be, I’ve taken that example and decided to pass it on to the teachers I work with.  The experience of having someone give you feedback continuously while you plan and implement a lesson truly changed how I looked at my students needs and my ability as a teacher.  It did matter when and where resources were delivered, and it did matter that they left my class wondering what was going to happen tomorrow.  I met with a teacher in one of our buildings last week and asked if he’d be interested in a similar project.  He agreed to give it a go.  It’s a non-evaluative situation, and we’ve already been bouncing ideas off of each other.

What am I hoping for out of this?  I hope that this becomes a tradition for me as well.  I gained so much from an experienced educator taking an interest in my career and my craft that to be able to even provide some modest feedback to a teacher who is still finding their way would be rewarding enough for me.  I’ll let you know.

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5 thoughts on “Returning the Favor

  1. Thanks, Steve. It was a little dicey as a proposition, to be honest. You never know how people are going to take that type of proposition, but fortunately, it has worked out so far. It’s completely non-evaluative from my end, and it gives me reason to be back with students again.

  2. Our CTs wanted to do something similar. Come in and observe teaching styles, collab with the teacher about expectations for class, etc. Then work with the teacher to develop a unit incorporating technology. My CT discussed this plan with me, I commented at the time that I thought it would feel very invasive to experienced teachers, coming into their room to observe. They would inherently feel they were being evaluated. Currently, with NCLB there is too much stress, creating a line between administer and teacher.

    My suggestion, start with new teachers. Make it part of the routine new teacher orientation, collabing with the CTs on a regular basis.

  3. Exactly right. Doing this with a veteran teacher might be awkward. As unfortunate as that sounds, it is a reality here too. We have been looking for something to do with our second year teachers, and this might fit that bill. Our induction program, as we talked about over the summer, is rich enough, but we tend to just drop off after that.

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