More brains, more ideas and best practices.

“Do you think we could have a sheet with all the definitions explained?”

My internal demons attempted to take control of my thoughts “Oh but that’s so much more work for me!...and I haven’t needed it in years past!" But, she was right. This year’s class is, shall we say, very “neuro-diverse”! And, her suggestion was, in the end, simply a “best practice” that would benefit the entire class. So, heeding her advice and attempting to incorporate the ideas of a brainstorming session she, another colleague, and I had,  I spent an evening preparing some new resources for this lesson.

First came the vocabulary cards. Following the cards was a diagram with application of all the usages of the vocabulary words. Finally a “vocabulary in action” activity culminated the process. It flowed. Excitement welled within as I anticipated success with this new plan of action.

The students were grouped according to strengths then they were turned loose to work through each activity at their own pace, with the option to move ahead of their partner or to remain at an activity while the partner moved on. To my surprise several students chose to stay behind on an activity while the partner moved on and it was a relief to realize that students did not feel pressure by what their partners were doing. As the lesson progressed new partnerships were formed. There was intense silence interspersed with discussion. It was a new kind of energy. As students progressed they still referred back to work they had previously completed. It was thrilling to see how they deemed each resource useful in subsequent activities.

Because everyone was moving at different speeds, I was able to, at several points during the lesson, meet individually with each student and assess their progress. Immediate feedback followed by corrections followed by more feedback followed by additional correction on the “vocabulary in action” activity left every student with a mastered piece of work that will be a valuable resource as we continue with the content.

With ten minutes left of the class students were asked to put everything away and think about what they had learned. Names were randomly drawn from the deck of cards we created on the first day and students were required to say one thing they learned. No repeats were allowed and names were returned to the pile so no one could sit back and relax after being called on. Next, two names would be drawn. One person had to think of a question from the day’s work and the second student was expected to answer the question. Oh were they attentive and planning and thinking with each draw of a card. It was so fun!

I’m so glad the Learning Support teacher made the suggestion for her student. Of course the entire class benefitted and we will probably move forward more quickly as a result. Though this class has a lot of need, we’re fortunate to have two learning support representatives to assist. They have amazing ideas and are constantly reviewing my lessons, plans and assessments through a different lens. They are an incredible resource for me.

What was the result of heeding the advice of my colleague? A fully differentiated lesson interspersed with formative assessment. A great lesson closure. Most importantly, student engagement and student learning. And the benefit for me? Just plain FUN and being able to experience teaching at its best.

Two heads are always better than one! Look around. Who can you work with to become even more successful at what you do? Find people to bounce ideas off of and to collaborate with. Remember, a good practice can always get better. Don't be afraid of trying something new or adding a new idea. Collaboration and new ideas will yield increased achievement and happiness for all involved so just go for it!



What makes a great colleague?

“I do not have the button that you have to add another page!” 

Panic is settling in as I look at the Adobe reader pdf document before me.  It is the PSOW (What does that even stand for?---OK, I just googled it: Practical Scheme of Work) form.  I am required to record every lab I have done in the two-year IB Biology course including the date conducted, the hours required, the topic associated, and the criteria assessed.  An old PSOW form has been diligently attended to over the years, labs being recorded as we completed them.  However, there is a new form and I can’t just simply cut and paste.  Oh no.  I have to download the form from the IB site, using Safari (I’m a Chrome user), open it with Adobe Reader and then cut and paste each cell (date, titled of lab, topic, hours, etc.) separately – no, it’s not possible to cut and paste the entire line.  Cell by cell I must work.  Now I’m trying to figure out how to add an additional page to record all the labs we’ve done.  An all-nighter is surely before me. 

Lilting laughter soothes me, “Everything will be fine”.  My colleague patiently describes where the magic "add-a-page" box is and waits for me to attempt locating it.  I position my mobile phone between my shoulder and ear and with tilted head, scroll down to the location she is referring to in the document.  Sure enough, there it is, plain as day.  How did I miss that?  My heart rate slows again.  Maybe I won’t need all night after all.  My colleague assures me it’ll be OK and shares a couple more pointers that she struggled with but figured out, hoping to save me some time.

I end up calling her two more times.  Each time she alleviates my frustration and aids me in quickly interpreting the form.

Right now I’m genuinely grateful for my valuable comrade who is actually an ideal individual with which to work.  Then, in my imagination, I walk down the hallway at the school (my room is at the end) and I realize that exceptional colleagues surround me.  I am considering what identifies someone as a superb co-worker.

Here is my list of 10 Great Qualities in a Colleague:

1)   Collaborative in getting things done and sharing ideas

2)   Hard-working, carries own weight

3)   Trustworthy

4)   Intelligent

5)   Helpful

6)   Embracing of differences

7)   Open to new ideas

8)   Caring

9)   Enjoyable to have a chat with

Will you help me complete the list?   What should be #10?  Please share in the comment box below!