Thursday, November 20, 2008

Giving Thanks

The week of Thanksgiving is an excellent time to give thanks to teachers.

At Inspired Teaching we see dozens of teachers every day and their work brings us joy, hope, and motivation. Here are a few examples of the amazing things our teachers do...

They are willing to change the way they see the world:
At a recent workshop on Differentiated Instruction one teacher commented, “If I only teach my students the way I myself learn, over the course of the year they either adapt to my method of teaching or fail in trying. But those who adapt are only learning my way. Doesn’t that mean they’ll have a hard time when they go to a new teacher the following year if she doesn’t teach the same way? Maybe this is why I get parents who say, ‘Johnny did fine in Mrs. So-and-so’s classroom last year—I don’t know why he’s struggling with you.’ Perhaps Johnny struggles because we’re not teaching him the way he needs to learn. And he’s spending all his time in school adapting to our styles without really being able to thrive in his own."

They step back so their students can shine:
On a recent visit to an Inspired School, one of our facilitators was pulled into a first grade teacher's class to “see something.” The something turned out to be a book written and illustrated by the entire class. Without direction from the teacher (who was able to take a back seat during the performance) each student read his or her contribution to the book, a written piece and a picture.

They think outside the box:
When asked to teach using a "drill and kill" math curriculum, a second grade Inspired Teacher decided to take the material into her own hands. Instead of asking her students to chant “fifty-two is five tens and two ones” over and over again, she decided to create a lesson that would more fully engage her students in the concept of place value. She found a huge, rug-sized plastic mat and used tape to create ones, tens, and hundreds columns. Children loved this larger-than-life manipulative, and eagerly engaged in modeling addition problems that required regrouping. They even created their own terminology, christening regrouping as “pushing” because they needed to push the items into the next column. Experiences such as these fix basic concepts in children’s minds, and teach additional valuable lessons like: Learning can be fun!

They become change agents in their schools:
After her classes consistently scored the highest in the school on end-of-grade tests, one of our fourth grade Inspired Teachers was asked by her principal to take her strategies to the whole school and step out of the classroom for a year to be a teacher-leader. Now she is visiting all their classrooms teaching them about ways to incorporate more movement into their instruction and to make the material more accessible and relevant to their students' lives. She finds the work challenging because adults don't adapt to change quite as well as children, but she is encouraged by the hope that these "new strategies" will help all the kids in the school, not just the ones in her classroom.

These are profiles of just 4 Inspired Teachers. There are hundreds of them throughout DC's schools. We think that's a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of all the Inspired Teaching staff.

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