What’s Working? Making Practice Public!

As a response to the MSNBC Teacher Town Hall on September 26, 2010, ACPS teacher Paula White (@paulawhite) suggested that we all go write a blog about what’s working in education, and share our stories with the hashtag #educationnation. Here’s mine:

What’s working right now for me in my practice as an educator is the unprecedented access I have to discuss teaching and learning (within my school division, nationwide, and across the globe), and the growth opportunities that this level of public practice presents to me every day.

I have colleagues that open their classrooms to me in my school.  During lunch, my former teammate and I would talk about our upcoming plans for classes, and would often discuss a new practice we were planning to do with our students.  When I asked if I could watch and see how it worked out in his class, he welcomed me in.  The trust paid off, and I grew as a result – seeing his classroom sparked ideas for me related to the little nuances of our craft…ideas I may never have had without the opportunity to see him practice.  I like to think that he grew as well – in our follow-up conversations, he would talk about his impressions of the class and ask for my thoughts and feedback, which led to adjustments in his future class periods.  If something I said sparked a curiosity in him, he would come by to see my class as well, and the cycle of growth continued.

I have colleagues that open their classrooms to me across my division.  As a group of instructional coaches in our county, we seek to replicate the opportunities for these reflective partnerships that promote professional growth.  Since the beginning of the school year, I have started several new connections with teachers who have e-mailed looking for a reflective partner in practices as diverse as starting experimental design projects, gauging student progress, or planning learning opportunities during a field trip.  With each opportunity, I help the teacher see their practice through a new set of eyes, usually finding ways to connect them with other teachers.  Some of those teachers are wrestling with these same topics, while others have found a way that works for them (but are looking for ideas just as well).  When we make our practice public, we can learn from the connections that follow.

I have colleagues that open their classrooms to me across the world.  Just this week, I have read new blog posts written by educators who are inviting me into their classroom practice.  Their thoughts spark ideas in me, and their questions inspire me to seek new answers. I learned from two teachers in Iowa in Riley Lark’s (@rileylark) practice of standards-based grading, and Shawn Cornally’s (@ThinkThankThunk) continued goal to promote truly student-centered learning.  John Sowash (@jrsowash) pushed my practice from Cincinnati by sharing his lessons learned from “flipping his classroom,” while stories from Kansas’ Jim Knight (@jimknight99) about recognizing the fear inherent to professional growth helped me to recognize how the fear vs growth relationship applies to my own work.  I even had a chance to help, responding to Brooklyn’s Sam Shah (@samjshah) in his desire to find ways to get his kids to think about graphs differently, all because he had both the trust and the desire to tell everyone about it.  By sharing his practice with me, both he and I have grown in our profession.

Like any art, skill or science, I grow when I see and hear about the practice of others.  As I continue to grow as an educator, I will seek out more opportunities to make my practice public, and I hope to inspire others to do the same – that is what is working for me right now!