Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Respecting Time: Classroom Interruptions

As a teacher librarian, I interrupt classes all the time. Perhaps I should rephrase that, I have to talk to teachers throughout the day. Often I can't talk during teachers' down times of before school or at break because those are busy library times. That said, I remember when I was a classroom teacher and I greatly disliked all the interruptions during class time.  Indeed, I had a poster on my classroom door that said if the door was closed, the class wasn't to be interrupted.  I would often either take my phone off the hook or turn off the ringer to avoid annoying phone calls during instruction.

It is so important to make sure that I don't bother my colleagues with my constant interruptions. To minimize the impact of my interruptions, I make sure that I very rarely phone a classroom. Over the course of a school day I walk a lot. Actually, that's bit of an understatement. I easily walk my 10,000 steps during the day. I walk to classes because that way I can see where in a lesson a teacher is at. Just walking to the classroom tells me a lot. Door open? Door closed? Lights off? If I can peer in the window, I can see if a teacher is giving instruction or if students are presenting. Walking to classes and chatting with teachers also keeps me connected with staff. I see what's going on in classes and knowing what teachers/students are working on means that I can funnel the right resources to teachers at just the right time.

I think it is imperative for all adults in the school to be respectful of classroom teachers' time. I have to remember that I am not the only person trying to talk to teachers and it simply isn't at all beneficial if my visit creates more harm than good. I have no idea how many interruptions have been before me; I could very well be interruption number seven. By physically going to the classroom, I get an instant vibe. I also get to see what's going on around the school. And I get some exercise.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Reflection: 4th stage of collaboration

One of my areas of focus this year is around reflection.  I believe that as a teacher librarian my main focus is around collaboration and I have come to realize how complex collaboration is.  I also have found that collaboration can be broken down into four parts:

1. co-planning. This stage can be short or long but typically starts with a seed of an idea and blossoms through either informal or formal planning discussions.

2. co-teaching. Here is where the project is launched and the teacher librarian role is two fold.  First, the librarian part of the job takes over and the library skills are taught. The second part is the teacher role of the teacher librarian's job and that's teaching the project. This teaching ranges from introducing the topic to assisting students in various aspects of the project to classroom management.

3. co-assessing. At this point, I've seen many different scenarios take place and really it depends on the teacher and the assignment. I've marked whole projects for all sections, splitting the projects or splitting the marking on each project.

4. co-reflecting. And this is the stage that we usually don't get to. I find that projects can take a long time and once the assessment is done (after chasing all the stragglers), no one really wants to talk about the project or has time to talk about it.

We ask students to reflect on their learning because we see the value in it and we need to reflect on our own practice. It is very difficult to carve out time to reflect but I think it is incredibly important. When I co-reflect, we look at what worked, what didn't and what could we improve on. These are very rich conversations that really bring closure to the entire collaboration process.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Professional Capital Ch5/6/7

I started liking Professional Capital towards the end of the read.  However, I did find it very pretentious in spots and I began tiring of all the references to trendy Finland, especially when the authors themselves warned against trying to implement international systems/programs.

Chapter 5 Professional Capital

This chapter looked at the profession of teaching and a lot of it I agreed with and didn't find too earth shattering.  What I really liked was the section at the end of the chapter called Reflective Practice.  Reflecting on my own practice is something I am really focusing on this year and am having diffulties finding time to reflect during the day.

"Our point is that mindfulness must be cultivated and that the norms and conditions of work must deliberately foster it. So it's important the teaches and leaders also engage in a third kind of reflection,...reflection about action - reflection about the things in their environment that distract them from what's important, that get them so immersed in busy activity there is no time left to think, and that are an endless set of responses and reactions to other people's agendas instead of actions driven by purposes that are the teachers' own" (page 99)

Chapter 6 Professional Culture and Communities

Well, for me this was the best chapter of the three. What resonated with me here was "the four subsets of collaborative cultures
  • Individualism
  • Collaborative cultures
    • Balkanization
    • Contrived collegiality
    • Professional learning communities
    • Clusters, networks, and federations" (page 106)
I have been a part of all four subsets of collaboration. What I have learned is that collaboration cannot be forced, nor should it be but it often is. Collaboration is hard work, very hard work but when done well, it is extremely rewarding.

Chapter 7 Enacting Change

This was a hard chapter to plow through as I felt the second half of the chapter was tacked on for administrators and directors. In the first half though, Hargreaves and Fullan outline the guidelines for Teachers which were 10 different points.  For me, it all comes down to point 2 "Start with yourself: examine your own experience" (page 155). With six months left in the school year, I plan to focus on just that. I am tired of complaining about all the problems with the system and am going to focus on my own professional capital.