Monday, April 13, 2015

Week 30: Trying New Things in #flipclass

This weeks #FlashBlog for #flipclass is about innovation. We are supposed to share something new that we are trying that might be helpful for others in their classroom.

One thing that I am trying to be more mindful of is the use of conversation in class to help students process and talk through any confusion. There is a big push for numeracy in Ontario these days and one thing we have introduce (or really, reminded people of) at our school is Accountable Talk.

So I have been trying to create more opportunity for communication as a way to help kids work through their thinking and model for others. I cannot say I have gotten to the point where I am using these specific conversation prompts, but my plan for next year is to start the semesters off with them written on tent cards at each group so that we can create norms and start off on a good foot.

One thing I have been doing that has been pretty effective is recycling some work I did a couple of years ago and re-purposing it to create conversation. I used to hold twitterchats with my Physics class. usually about 3 per unit and I would use them to get students to give concise answers and to get them to focus on the concepts (the tendency is for them to focus on problem solving too much - I have blogged about this and will add the link to this later).

In the last couple of weeks I have been opening up the files that have my questions/prompts in them and using them to start class each day. I highlight 2-5 questions for them to discuss in their groups and then walk around to eavesdrop. It has been a great way to get them talking about the material and identifying points of confusion early on. And I will eventually make use of this to take conversation notes of what specific students understand to use for assessment practices (one day).

I don't necessarily look at this practice as being all that innovative, but it is a new thing for me - and so far I am finding it very useful.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Week 17: I Was Tapped on the Shoulder This Week

In my board the department headships (positions of responsibility, or PORs) are 5 year terms. This means that every 5 years they are posted internally for anyone eligible to apply to. I have been told for a long time that I have some natural leadership qualities which has lead to many people in my life asking me if I have plans to be a principal/department head/etc. I have always found this a difficult question and the short answer is usually "I love my classroom right now".

I do sometimes think about a POR, and have explored a bit about what it would mean, etc. In our board it has been defined as leadership in three areas: curriculum, administrative, and school. The administrative portion is often what we see as the headship - the budgeting, ordering materials, making decisions, doing the timetabling - and as much as I enjoy logistics this is the part of the job that does not interest me. I don't want those concerns to take away from what I do in the classroom and the difference I am trying to make in various areas of the school. The school leadership part seems like a bit of a given to me. Attending and helping with Grade 8 parents night, in school leadership, etc. The curriculum leadership is the part that I am passionate about. I love learning and working on my teaching practices (especially as they relate to assessment and evaluation), but it is also the part that I find I can do as a teacher. Being a teacher-leader has been a pretty satisfying piece of my job in recent years.

With the PORs posted this winter it was indicated to me by various people that I should consider applying. I was, of course, flattered by the suggestion and have taken their opinions into consideration. It would be neat to work with a team of people at the school to work on improving the learning and working environment (although we already have a pretty good one), but when it comes down to it, I felt good about what I was accomplishing in my current position. I have always felt supported by my admin, and I already feel that I am able to make a positive impact on my peers. There were, of course, other concerns that I had as well, as it can be difficult to change roles within the same group of peers, and I did not feel ready to think about applying to another school's POR at this stage.

There are many pros and cons to consider overall, but in the end I think that I am going to decide to stick with the current challenges I am taking on, as I do not feel the desire to take on a new one (a big one, at that). Maybe sometime down the road I will change my mind, but for now my decision is to see what happens at my current school (as I am sure there will be some changes) and make decisions from there.