Finger poised over the mouse. Breath on hold. Prayer spoken silently. This was the moment I had been both dreading and anticipating. I was about to open the results of the survey I had sent out to all the junior high teachers. Would I be voted off the island, or would I be supported for another year?
My mind flew back to the conversation I had had with my principal eight months ago. We were in his office and I was nervously explaining to him my vision for meaningful collaboration in our junior high team. We would all focus on critical reading and thinking strategies at the same time, for the same length of time, across all subjects. We had tried something similar a few years back and it fizzled. I knew I was stepping out on a limb. I told him I did not have an precise plan laid out, but I knew in what direction I wanted to go. He was very supportive and told me that sometimes we just need to stop doing the ‘ready, set’ routine and just ‘go.’
Next on my nervous-approach list was my junior high team. I explained my vision and rationale (posted previously here) to them. I also told them that while I had a general plan, the specifics would need to be worked out by all of us. Thankfully, they were on board, a little skeptical, but willing to give it a shot. What followed was 8 months of trial and error, successes and set backs, and a lot of collaborative formative assessment marking sessions…
I thought our reading strategies initiative had been very successful for a first draft. I knew there were many things we could do to improve it and was desperately hoping my colleagues would think so too. The moment of truth had arrived. What would the math and science teachers say?
So, taking a deep breath, I opened up the results of the survey and started reading. I was surprised and delighted! All the teachers thought it was very valuable for student learning. But, what really surprised me was that their observations and concerns were very similar to mine and their suggestions for improvement were beyond my expectations. Frankly, they gave me some great ideas for next year.
Some of the comments on what worked well:
– “From this they can employ the same strategies they use in LA in Science.”
– “It identifies why students have a difficult time solving language-based questions”
What was challenging:
– “At times it was a real push to find any meaningful relationship between the strategy and where we were at in math. Some strategies are simply not used very often, or not at all, in Mathematics.”
How teaching practice was affected:
– “It increased awareness of how important these strategies are and taught me new ways to incorporate them throughout my teaching.”
– “Used more think-alouds, modeling, and integration of the reading strategies into the daily to-dos.”
Suggestions for improvement or changes:
– “Spend more time talking and planning about implementing strategies to teach reading strategies, intervention, etc.”
– “Establish goals of what to do with the data, discuss strategies on how to move the struggling students up.”
All in all, I am so pleased with their feedback (and that I didn’t get voted off the island!). I am excited that we will be doing this again next year, but with some experience under our belts and with some new ideas to make it even better.
What are your thoughts on an initiative like this? Any suggestions about how to improve it?
Very exciting feedback, Sherry! Practical research in a team is a daunting undertaking…but it sounds like the things you and your team learned have outweighed the challenges. I don’t think we can ever learn to full potential without taking risks; as a leader, this means putting your own neck out there at times. Sounds like you took the bull by the horns and managed to wrangle some success, perhaps even more than you anticipated. Eager to see what happens next year!
Thank you, Kathleen! It was pretty exciting to read their feedback and even more exciting that they came up with such great ideas.
Sherry Sent from my iPhone
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