Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Reflection...

Wow, my first year here at MBHS has come to an end. I have been teaching for a decade. It is hard to believe. I have seen good teachers come and go. I have seen teachers get fired up and get burned out. Through ten years of teaching, I have learned many valuable lessons. Because my house holds two teachers, education and the "business" of the teaching profession are often the topics of conversation. My husband and I have had conversations over dinner that include topics such as: bus/lunch duty, secretary squabbles, roach infestation in a classroom, "Johnny" continues to fail all of my tests, "Suzie" told me today that her mother has cancer, my point guard is not a leader, my head cheerleader has an eating disorder, my principal takes me for granted, transfer of allocation forms, lunch money.... and the list goes on.

I love teaching. Most teachers don't do this job for the money or the respect (because we usually don't get much of either). We do it for the love of our subject, our students, and our desire to make a change. It is a passion that we cannot explain. We are counselors, facilitators, parents, leaders, doctors, advocates, secretaries, custodians, motivators, and experts. The other stuff.... because there is plenty of the other stuff (see list above), is just the layers we have to peel through to get to the real job.

Since summer is here, I would like to open this blog up to teachers (and students if they feel the need) to share their thoughts about teaching, learning, school policies, etc. Ask questions, add your experiences, give advice.

The first question I would like to pose is this- What would you consider a "Professional Learning Community"? Forget the book definition of this and tell your perfect school community. Where does it start? Who is involved? Define roles, explain expectations, give philosophy... I think the only way we can truly see ourselves and our schools as institutions of PROFESSIONALS who promote LEARNING and foster COMMUNITY, we must decide what our own notion of this is.

I know that you don't have much time right now, but imagine this blog being a portal to extended "lunch talks" about stuff you need to talk about. Click comment and write your thoughts. You can post anonymously ... if you choose (which would be best) you can include your first name only at the end of your comment. You don't have to create a Blogger account to comment. Just click comment and type away. This will be open to teachers of schools around the state and the world (world wide web!), so what you say may be exactly what others need to hear.

Reflect... you know you need it. Have a great summer. I will see many of
you soon.


Anonymous said...

Having come from academia as my first career, I am often asked what I miss most about research . As much as I love teaching and as deeply as I feel that it is my true calling, I have to say that I most miss the professional learning community.

By that I mean, in the research community, there is a constant drive to stay abreast of current issues, research and philosophies. I do find that in education but I also find that educators are not given the professional considerations that academicians enjoy. We had regular lunchtime speakers and conferences that were part of our workday. All were expected to attend and by far most were happy to attend. Journal clubs were a scheduled part of the workday as well. Time devoted to research and technology instruction was also common. Professional development was seen as essential and was supported financially as well as logistically within your job.

Mountain Brook does a fantastic job of encouraging continued learning. I realize that we have world class opportunities here in every aspect of teaching. There are far more opportunites for professional development than I have ability to avail myself. However, the everyday demands of the everyday teacher make it difficult most days to fit professional development on my plate or in my addled brain.

I have found in my 6 years in education that teachers are overall wonderful people who would love nothing more than to be able to teach and nurture children to the best of their ability. I can only hope to measure up to the many, many outstanding people I have met through education and I know that I will likely never measure up to some of the yardsticks I work with every day. But until professional learning and continuing education is included as a scheduled and supported part of the work day, most of us will probably still cringe when we see "Focus Group" in the subject line of an email. - Beth

MrsC said...

Good point, Beth. It is refreshing to hear from someone who has done another career and then come into education.

Anonymous said...

A "community of professional learners" may be a perversion of the phrase, but I believe none will find the inversion of nouns and adjectives distorts the meaning as much as clarifies the intent. For, it is my greatest joy in life to continually learn. What better accomplishment than to be considered a professional learner!
From this core interpretation of the phrase in question's definition I begin a description of a more completed community. I believe it is important to state that completion in a misnomer of sorts, in that, we (as professional learners yourselves I am sure will agree) understand nothing is truly complete. Pardon the controversial expression, but I believe we are evolving, or better yet; developing. As professional learners we must accomplish three (at least) crucial facets of our role in the "community:" modelling, facilitating, and reflecting.
If the community is to continue to grow we must lead in learning for others to follow. We must lead both students and our fellow teachers by continually learning - both in subject matter and instruction improvement. Leading is not merely being in front of the pack, satisfying personal gain and success, goal after goal. Instead, leading involves modelling. To actually lead others they must understand how to learn, what steps are involved in the process, and most important the process must have meaning relevant to the lives of those who follow. I believe this kind of modelling is why our school has chosen appropriatley the philosophy of "engaging" work. Challenging and effective work-design engages those in the class. It is in this way we allow the students to see the model of a professional learner which they may follow and surpass. But it also through this modelling that we can help one another and by collaborating become better models. This is why we must group into such a community as the phrase implies.
After modelling for others, how something can be accomplished, we must allow for the facilitation of the new understanding. As we all know learning is process oriented by nature - it needs mental, visual, verbal, and tactile application - and we all understand more deeply when given the opportunity to "apply" the information gained. It can easily be seen how crucial modelling is for a lesson plan to work properly if it is designed with the intent of turning it over to the student to apply his or her learning. Facilitating such an environment for students involves most of the design qualities we all have taped to our desks, or for the over achievers; memorized. Facilitating from a professional learner is likely to be better because the professional understands the delicate balance between learning and environment. Moreover, facilitation is integral for the professinal learner. It is from the administration, board, and parents (even students) that the teacher is given a community in which such a balance as described can be struck. The board and administrators make efforts to model and facilitate a school and indeed system which centers itself around providing for more learning to occur. To clumsily borrow another expression, the community exists as an invisible hand - with self interest. Or to be more clear, learning remains in existance in the community only when it is occuring, and like a spark of flame in an arid forest it begins an unstoppable conflagaration.
The final phase of this, much too long winded blog, is reflecting. This is the most exciting phase for the professinal learner if we are honest. It is through reflecting on the process, the system, and the outcome that we can renew both our drive and hope in the future. Learning means we find out about success and failure, reflecting allows both of those experiences to become a positive result. Without wasting more of your time I will exit with my gratititude for this opportunity to explore my thoughts on the matter which I hope to return to in the future, reflect upon them, see your reflections on said thoughts, and improve the flaws within. In the meantime, please forgive my tendency for the verbose and respond as harshly as you like! - JWR

MrsC said...

I like that you pointed out that for a community to grow, we must lead in learning for others to follow

jonathann6 said...

I liked the part that said, "To actually lead others they must understand how to learn, what steps are involved in the process, and most important the process must have meaning relevant to the lives of those who follow." As a student, I can especially appreciate the "relevant" part. Sometimes (cough cough AP Chemistry cough) I feel like the things that I am being taught won't help my life at all. One of the best things a teacher can do is to reinforce the fact that students aren't at school for the sole reason of learning the material, but also how to learn, how to manage time, how to focus, and to practice these things.

Anonymous said...

I taught for 9 years in three schools in a large school system in which professional development was offered. We were not "pushed" as a faculty nor an individuals to further our learning. There was no focus as to what the school needed to do to improve. Yes, we did have action plans for SACs but did very little with them. This year, the school in I am working in broke away from the large system to form a small system. The superintendent came on board with her eye to the future and an understanding of where to begin to get us on the right path. We too have focused this year on Working On the Work by modeling lessons with teacher reflections. Time has been allotted during each month for luncheons in which the Reading Specialist focused on professional development / reflection in the reading / language curriculum. Many of our teachers have traveled to other schools that are leading the way in reading. We have had book studies throughout the year to get people reading and talking. Our principal has even established duty free lunch 7 out of 8 days where teachers meet for an informal lunch to talk. This year has been overwhelming with all the professional development, but I have realized that this is what a true professional does. There are still many teachers who balk at the professional development that is mandantory and by one's one choice. It will take a few years to get everyone on the same path. Teacher leaders are beginning to stand tall and take the initiative.
April (Fellow)

Vicki A. Davis said...

You have a great blog! I think that the edublogosphere has evolved into a great professional learning and sharing tools. I think it is great that you have a formal mechanism for your teachers at mountain brooke to share their thoughts. I think that formal and informal learning on the edublogosphere is very important. This is a great blog!

MICHELLE! said...

you're the best teacher ever, bee

MICHELLE! said...

you're the best teacher ever, bee