Sunday, May 19, 2013

"You Shoot Me Down, But I Won't Fall, I Am Titanium"

Coaching (not athletic coaches!) has been on my mind a lot recently; I've been ruminating on this, trying to outline all the things that I can do myself and what I have control over.  I am nearing the close of my 5th year of teaching, my 3rd year of teaching middle school.  I still consider myself to be a beginning teacher, and it is my goal and every wish to be better than I was the day before and the year before.

During my methods courses, our main instructor very much encouraged being a reflective practitioner.  He video-taped most of our sessions and he encouraged us to as well.  We used a coding system called SATIC (I'll try to scan it in at some point) that focused on questioning style, wait time, responses to students, verbal fillers, etc.  I have found this to be very helpful, but I haven't used it consistently and definitely not enough since I been teaching full-time. 

Another resource I was introduced to this year was Video Paper Builder.  I think this has potential to share lessons with colleagues and others to get feedback from others, as well as share lesson ideas.  Last year, our middle school team had a focus of peer observations, looking for evidence of HOTS in our lessons.  We found that with the size of our team (basically 6) it is difficult to have subs or float and have us observe others.  We found value in it, but we definitely want to look more into how we could structure it more effectively.  This year, peer observations have been tabled, although with changes in education legislation I believe this will be something that will be present in the coming school year.  How this will play out, I don't yet know.

The two above methods have great potential for self-reflection and some peer review.  However, I am in desperate want of having somebody I feel can be a coach.  I know there are things that I want and need to work on, but I am frustrated by the lack of feedback from others.  I want to make clear that I am not pointing blame toward anyone, only to outline my concerns and needs as an educator.  In my teaching career, I have received three pieces of walk-through feedback.  One was from my cooperating teacher's principal.  Of course I've had evaluations, but I don't find that to be too helpful in that you have basically two shots to show competence on all eight standards and 42 criteria.  It is basically a summative assessment.  I am hungry for the formative assessments!!!!  I want another set of feedback to recap what they observed.  What does one think went well, not so well, and what are some ways to make those improvements?  This is what we are charged with providing for our students, so it makes sense to me to provide this for our educators as well.

I want to feel like when someone has been in my room, he or she truly has been there enough times to be an accurate gauge on what is effective.  I want to feel like this observer actually knows what kind of learning is going on in my room and knows what we are learning and why.  I want to feel like the observer understands why I have things arranged in the manner I do and that I'm not just making knee-jerk decisions. I want to feel valued.

Again, I have to remind myself of what I can control, which to be honest, I don't think I can control any of the previous paragraph. So what can I do?  I am strongly thinking about arranging some visits with some science colleagues at other schools and see if I can visit their classrooms a few times and have them do the same for me.  I'm not going to give up on this quest of improvement even if it is such a challenge.

What strategies have any of you used for reflection and how have you been able to get constructive feedback from others to improve your practice?

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