Friday, June 24, 2011

On Being a Multi-Faceted Educator

I've noticed that as time passes at the Klingenstein Summer Institute, each day I more fully develop a sense of how much I suck as a teacher.

Fortunately, unlike the grad classes I took before which pointed out some gaps in our teaching practice but did not offer any solutions, at KSI we actually spend a significant amount of time brainstorming small things we can do to address various learning and diversity issues in our classroom and at the school.

One thing I think I can immediately implement at my new school is to initiate a professional development community consisting of teachers who are seeking to actively examine their own teaching practice. I've been talking with other teachers here who have reading groups at their schools, where teachers read and discuss educational articles. In KSI, we've also been practicing a lesson study protocol for allowing teachers to voluntarily share the weaknesses in their teaching, in order to ask for feedback and advice. I think that sounds wonderful, and it is something that is very manageable that I believe I can tackle. (I know that there are teachers who do some of this on Twitter, but I'm more motivated by local communities.)

I've also gone to some great tech sessions that discussed various uses of technology inside/outside the classroom. I don't know if all of those things will be available, or if the use of some of them (such as Edmodo, a social networking site) will fit with the school's technology philosophy. But, I feel like the least I can do is to really investigate those options and to talk to the right people when I arrive at the new school in July. If I can integrate some new modes of tech use into my class, they could enrich my teaching style greatly without being too much additional work for me or the kids and (for these particular methods I am thinking about) without distracting from the content.

Teaching about diversity and bringing about positive changes to the school culture is the hardest piece of all of the Klingenstein lessons to implement. I think that is because as educators, we cannot all necessarily agree that teaching about those topics is 1. pertinent and necessary, 2. feasible given the community culture that surrounds the school. (I personally believe those discussions are necessary, but I believe it would be difficult to convince others on my staff of the same.) I am going to start by doing things like putting up pink triangles around the perimeter of my classroom, to signify to GLBT kids that it is a safe space if they need an adult to talk to. And then, once I build some rapport with the administrators and gain their confidence, I can try to tackle bigger tasks. But, that'd have to wait until I get over the hump of being a brand new, young-looking teacher at the school.

Aiyayay. Teaching is hard, and it seems to get harder by the day.

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