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professional development for educators ’ Category
You can read these words because someone taught you how to read.
You can do your job because over the years, everyone from your kindergarten teacher to your college professor to your mentor taught you how.
We become the people we are, as Mr. Rogers said, because of the people who loved us into being. In schools—big and small, city and rural—across Oregon, the love and dedication of thousands of teachers help millions of students become the people they will be. Scientists. Mechanics. Engineers. Doctors. Farmers. Inventors. And yes, teachers.
Take a moment and think about one teacher who helped you become who you are.
Not to brag, but our new video predicts the future, and we’re pretty proud of it. Check it out below.
Portions of the following essay were printed in “The Oregon Science Teacher” in their pre-conference edition in September, 2010. The theme of the conference was “The Pursuit of Excellence in Science Teaching.” Allan Bruner was the Conference Chair and Past-President of the OSTA when this essay was initially written. He currently serves this chapter affiliate of the National Science Teachers Association as the Comptroller.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “excellence” as:
The quality of being excellent; state of possessing good qualities in an eminent degree; exalted merit; superiority in virtue.
When we think about our roles in the science classroom, is this our perspective? What is it that we are doing and thinking about as we prepare our lesson plans, as we consider how best to differentiate our instruction to meet the needs of all learners, irrespective of learning styles, and as we think about assessment methods? Are we pursuing “excellence” in our professional lives, striving to be the best science teachers we can be? (more…)
Teachers know. They know who the best teachers are. As a teacher I watch an interesting phenomenon every spring. All of my teacher friends scramble to make sure their own children are placed in classes with the best teachers for the next year. They make the rounds to counselors’ and principals’ offices double-checking their child’s schedule. Ask any teacher, and they can tell you who the quality teachers are. It is common teacher talk. Recently, an elementary teacher in my district left the classroom for another educational position. As a teacher told me about the move, she said, “A lot of parents are going to be upset that she is no longer teaching. She is a dynamite teacher.” All students need the assurance they are going have a dynamite quality teacher next year.
Why is it important to have a dynamite teacher in every classroom?
In my last blog, I wrote about the “magic formula” for success with struggling learners and high achieving students alike. The largest component in that formula is to have a quality teacher in the classroom. Robert Marzano (2003) analyzed considerable research on what works in classrooms. All the research he studied concluded that the impact of the classroom teacher is far greater than any other factor in the child’s learning and achievement. The research is astounding. If a child begins school as average in math achievement—at the 50th percentile—and she has an average teacher for two years, she will remain at the 50th percentile. If she is in a classroom in a less effective school, and she also has a low-quality teacher, she actually drops to the 3rd percentile in math achievement. On the other hand, even if she is in a less effective school, but she has a high-quality teacher, two years later she leaves class in the 63rd percentile. She makes a 13 percent gain just by having a highly effective teacher. Quality teachers exert more influence on student learning than both socio economic status and family background. (more…)
Julie Smith has spent the past decade in various educational leadership roles helping to raise student achievement in her schools through the support of teaching and learning. She began as a teacher leader and instructional coach moving to an administrative role as a Professional Development Specialist with the Evergreen School District. Julie is currently a Chalkboard CLASS coach and was appointed in August to the Quality Education Commission.
As an educator it was often hard to find time to have collegial conversations with teammates about improving teaching and learning in our classrooms. There were always too many other topics to discuss like: “Who is going to get next week’s homework packet done?” “How are we going to organize next months thematic unit to cover all of the standards?” Or, “Help me fill out a survey from last weeks staff meeting.” Don’t get me wrong, these conversations are essential in order to keep the workload manageable and support a school’s daily rhythm. (more…)
Sharon Baum spent thirty-three years in public education as a physical and health education teacher, a school counselor, an assistant principal and principal. She has worked in several districts in Oregon and taught high school in Winterhaven, California. She retired in 2010, and finished her career with the North Marion School District as the principal at North Marion Middle School from 2000-2010.
Alex Haley said that folks like to hear a story over hearing a lecture. He shares that you should start out by saying “I have a story to tell.” People like stories. I would like to tell my story.
I was a middle school administrator for 16 years. Two of those years were as an assistant principal, and the remaining 14 years as a principal. Prior to that, I had been a teacher and a counselor. I went into administration because I wanted to be a teacher of teachers, and I felt that the time I spent as a counselor helping teachers with students and observations would benefit me as an administrator. I felt I had a good foundation in observational skills and I loved to observe teachers teaching, and help out where I could in improving the delivery of curriculum. I kept abreast of all the teaching strategies through professional development activities, workshops and books, and felt I had a good handle on how to help others be the best they could be. I also loved having conversations with students about the importance of learning and finding their niche to embrace their own style of learning.
Carol S. Witherell began her career in education teaching primary grades in the Fountain Valley Public Schools in California in the 1970s. She earned her M.A. degree in social ecology and human development from the University of California-Irvine and her Ph.D. degree in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota. She retired from the Graduate School Education Faculty of Lewis & Clark College in 2005, where she chaired the teacher education program for 8 years. Today she is an avid supporter of the arts and a volunteer with the City Club of Portland.
A Series of Four Film-Dialogue Evenings sponsored by City Club of Portland’s Agora Programs Education Committee
This series aims to activate a deeper, sustained educator-student-citizen dialogue about what a good education for the 21st century looks like. The series includes portraits of highly successful schools and classrooms, both in our region and around the world, followed by presentations by a panel of educators, students, and community leaders and dialogue between audience participants and our panelists. Portraits like these can inspire ongoing civic dialogues on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as educators and citizens alike rethink and transform our educational system so that all students can enjoy excellence, engagement, and equity in our schools.
The other day I was talking to a colleague when he referenced how a teacher he supervises had been in a conundrum. Wanting to be innovative, that teacher had assigned a film project but did not have enough cameras for her students. My colleague had walked in and seen her angst, but then suggested that she ask if any students had a smartphone. Surprised that he would suggest this, she asked her class and several students raised their hands. My colleague then told her, “problem solved.”
I wish that more administrators were like my colleague. While I have been fortunate to work with schools that have been taking strides to update their technological infrastructure, my experience walking through many schools is unsettling. In an age where technological expertise is a select ticket to rapid employment and economic opportunity, our schools are rarely beacons of progress. As tech geeks like myself eagerly await the promise of the next round of iPads, schools are still hampered by draconian rules that ban smartphones and a teaching community that crawls rather than bounds toward technological integration.
I recently toured a nonprofit in Medford called Kids Unlimited. KU identifies traditionally disadvantaged students at an early age and provides them with extra-curricular activities, academic support and mentorship in hope that they will stay in school and earn diplomas. Of the first 18 students who entered the KU program ten years ago, 12 of them graduated from high school, and KU’s success has only grown since then. It took me two minutes with the KU founder, Tom Cole, to recognize that he is a gem of a leader – visionary, committed, charismatic, and no-nonsense. I asked him what he thinks is the key to KU’s success. He gave a one word response – relationships.
I’ve been thinking about that word a lot lately. I’ve shared this story with others. When I got to “relationships” in the story one colleague responded, “You can’t teach that.”
I had lunch recently with an American friend working in Singapore. I explained to him how I conduct an international trade simulation with my economics students, and in the simulation, Singapore is one of the economic powerhouses. I asked him about the Singapore government, and whether it helps or hinders economic growth in that city-state.
He replied that government is one of Singapore’s strengths. How do they do it, I asked, when in much of the world government is viewed, at worst, as helplessly corrupt, and at best, inept.
It’s simple, he said. The Singapore government pulls the best and brightest from their high schools, sends them all over the world for top-notch higher education, then obligates them to serve in the government in exchange for the education, albeit with handsome salaries and benefits. The education, he explained, is to keep candidates beholden to the state, while the salaries are to keep them content and above reproach. The result, he suggested, is one of the most efficient and effective governments in the world.
Interesting model. Why not apply it to education?
Why can’t we fix the teacher evaluation system? Maybe our newest tool, the 2010 Model Core Teaching Standards from the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Committee (InTASC) will be the fix. These standards, adopted as the evaluation tool for graduates of Oregon Colleges of Education and the proposed basis for teacher evaluation in all Oregon school districts, may help. The process, though, can have both positive and negative consequences.
First, the positive. A set of “professional practice standards, setting one standard for performance that will look differently at different developmental stages of the teacher’s career” (Council of Chief State Officers, Model Core Teaching Standards, p.1) can develop a common language for K-12 educators and teacher preparation programs. Such a common language would be helpful to the many mentor teachers who so carefully guide our novice teachers through their first student teaching experiences. Right now we in the Colleges of Education have forms that reflect TSPC (Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, the licensing agency) requirements with descriptors that often do not parallel those used in the daily practice of classrooms. How much better it would be to have the new teacher, the veteran teacher, and the university supervisor speaking the same language.
The standards for judgment also could become clearer if those standards reflected “stages of development.” Instead of the student teacher equating the evaluation scale with a grade (“I want a 6 because that means an A”), the scale could reflect teachers’ growth process as an educator. Too many people assume that, because both the new and the veteran teacher have job descriptions that are exactly alike, all teachers at initial licensure will perform exactly like a more veteran teacher. While more years of service do not guarantee greater proficiency, allowing for well-described and well-understood standards of development should open doors to better evaluation and enhanced professional development. Just as state standards for curriculum have allowed for a more common understanding among teachers of what an average third grader or tenth grader should know, the application of these standards can allow better conversation about teachers’ work.
Now, the negative.