Prologue: Most of the teachers I work with are downright amazing. Just like in the classroom, however, it's the small minority that requires the most energy and for whom I lose the most sleep. Yes, I lose sleep over teachers now. It's funny how that hasn't really changed. This post is for that small minority...though everyone is welcome to read too.
It seems like such an obvious statement, but it seems to bear repeating. TOSA's are people too. If you say mean things to us or about us, we might cry. (My skin is much thinner than I'd like to admit.) If you poke us, we do bleed. We get fevers and the pukey flu like everyone else. We are bound by the same laws of physics, which means that we can exist in only one place at a time and are still bound by the same 24-hour day as everyone else. Seems obvious, right? I thought so...
One of the perks of this job is that I have the opportunity to work with teachers across the entire grade band (K-8) in our district. One of the challenges of this job is that I have the opportunity to work with teachers across the entire grade band (K-8) in our district.
My background and personal teaching experience is in the middle grades with most of my time spent in seventh- and eighth-grades. I did teach sixth-grade science my very first year of teaching, but that's it! So, truly I have direct teaching experience with three of the nine grade levels in our district. Yikes!
Today I sat on an interview panel for the county science coordinator. I cannot nor would not want to disclose any of the results of the interview. I can say though that it was an incredibly interesting process and it gave me great insight into the position. Perhaps it was most interesting because that could very well have been me on the other side of the table today.
If you know me at all, you know that science is the second love of my life (after my husband). I've been released from the classroom this year to deliver all of the district's Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) professional development to everyone K-8. Again, both daunting and exhilirating, right? So, what are my takeaways from this weekend that I'll consider moving forward? Read on!
CUE provides some of the best professional development around. Hands down! Without a doubt, day 1 of the CUE Rock Star Black Label camp has not disappointed. This camp, in particular, is just for TOSA's, so it makes it extra special. It's always like a reunion at these events because there are so many people that I've met at other conferences and meetings, etc. There was also that awkward bit of people coming up this morning and saying "Hi!" and I had no idea who they were. If I gave you a strange look this morning, I'm sorry!
There's certainly this perception out there that research is not applicable to our current work, or that research is not pragmatic. It's not true! Teachers can learn from researchers and certainly the reverse is true too. Dr. Hattie's work, in particular, shows that 95% of their factors positively influence student achievement. But you can't implement them all...so which ones do you choose to start with? Wouldn't it make sense to start with the things that are likely to give you the highest yield? That's where the Visible Learning books come in handy. By the way, the number one greatest influence on student achievement is...? Self-reported grades! Interesting, huh?
I had an interesting exchange with a wonderful friend and former co-worker. They expressed the hope that I would take care of another teacher with an upcoming concern in the district that will go to committee this fall for brainstorming and recommendation. And as much as I wanted to say, "Of course I will," I knew that I could not make a promise that it would go down as they wished.
Like many educators, I have several professional organizations to whom I pay (or have paid) dues: NSTA, CSTA, ASCD, ISTE, NMLSTA, CUE, ASTE, etc. I've presented at conferences for several of the organizations. But I'll tell you, NSELA is the first one in which I've felt like I have a place to do more than just pay dues. I love ASCD, NSTA, CSTA, ISTE and CUE, but they're all relatively HUGE organizations. NMLSTA and ASTE are tiny and highly specialized. But NSELA? It's like the goldilocks bed that was just right. It's not too big. It's not too small. It's not too broad and not too specialized. It feels just right.
I always loved If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the related titles. The domino effect described in the book can be explored in so many different contexts, including my own teaching practice.
In my last two years in the classroom, my teaching and learning in my classroom shifted dramatically. In fact, the term "shifted" does not seem to accurately reflect the change that occurred in a relatively short period of time. The change was primarily sparked because of the introduction of technology to my classroom and my struggle to make the best use of it that I could manage. If I look at it from a Piagetian viewpoint, the introduction of technology to my classroom disrupted the equilibrium in my teaching practice. And that simply wouldn't do! I struggled to find my new equilibrium and realized that I really needed to shift my conceptual understanding of what teaching and learning could and should look like.
For quite a long time I have heard the term "lifelong learner" and, as a teaching profession, we've talked about the need to encourage kids to become so-called lifelong learners. I also recently heard the term restless learner. For me, the term "restless learner" conjures up a very vivid image in my mind. I connect with being a restless learner in a way that it far more personally meaningful than the term lifelong learner. A restless learner seeks new opportunities for growth and is always seeking the road ahead. That's exactly what I want for my students.
When I decided to become a teacher it was because I desired to share my love of science with others. Great teachers open doors for students and I wanted to be able to open the doors of science to young people, especially girls. It was a lofty ideal, but I don't know that I really understood what I was getting into at the time. No, let me correct that, I had no idea. Now that I've taught for a decade, I understand that teaching is truly a career of service. Teachers, myself included, often remark that it's all about what is "best for the children". Is that really true?
When I was hired in my district in 2005, the district office had these kind, helpful folks called Teachers on Special Assignment, AKA TOSAs. I didn't know what they really did, but they were good people. The TOSA positions were cut during the district's lean years, but reinstituted last year. Fast forward ten years and I'm a TOSA now. Here are the three of the most common questions I get and their answers
Yesterday was the first elementary whole grade level training of the year. It was absolutely AH-MAZE-ING! I'd probably put some 40+ hours into prepping a six-hour workshop, and to have it go so well made all of that time feel well like it was well-spent.