Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teacher Gold

Collaboration: working together in a supportive and mutually beneficial relationship. Friend and Cook

At McGirr Elementary, intermediate and primary teams meet twice a week: once while the principal has an assembly with students, once while students eat their lunch supervised by EAs. The day I went to visit, I got lost in the halls on my way to the meeting, admiring bulletin boards of student work and the Christmas door decorations. When I arrived at the right room, the primary teachers were already gathered with their principal (Jill attends as many of the PLC meetings as she can) and the Assistant Superintendent who had been invited to listen to their reflections on the recent report card implementation. They were well-prepared. They began with what they appreciated about the new report card, followed with what didn't work and why, and concluded with recommendations. Many of their recommendations demanded deeper collaboration across the district, so that we can support each other quickly and share resources (exemplars, comment banks, a quick guide for using the technology), rather than add to our workload by inventing everything in isolation. It struck me that we continually seek answers to our difficult situations "out there," when everything we need is here. We just have to find a way to mine the gold.

And what a gold mine can be found at McGirr! After the team shared their recommendations, we had just enough time to get a run-down on their work. Their team was focussed on increasing student ownership. They talked of the reflection journals they had developed (for thinking about thinking) and the kid-friendly rubrics they designed to allow students to assess their own learning. Their next project is to develop a "writing clothesline," an idea they'd learned about from an Assessment Webcast and had been implemented by colleagues in another school (see the Resource PowerPoint developed by Donna and Tammy). They planned to use the writing tasks from the BC Performance Standards, mark together, choose samples and create a K-3 "clothesline" of samples so that students can self-assess effectively and choose goals based on concrete evidence of "what's next."

It's hard not to simply stare in awe at these women, at their energy and their commitment to work together, to reflect on their practice, to give voice to what matters for teachers and learners, and to learn deeply to improve student learning. As McGirr teacher, Robin, said, "At the end of our PLC meetings, I walk away and say, wow, we're doing good work." Who can ask for anything more?

For more on our PLC series
If it's important
What do we value?

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