#ObserveMe: A Professional Development Opportunity

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With 2 weeks of wonderful experiences to share, I sat down at my computer ready to blog.  However, my mind kept jumping from story to story. I was unable to pick one experience to highlight.  I decided, instead, to discuss the reason why I have so many experiences to share.  The inspiration for this post stems from my journey as a TOA/Coach and Robert Kaplinsky’s Call to Action, #ObserveMe.

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My Journey (Abridged)

2 years ago, I stepped out the classroom to be a middle level math TOA/coach.   The 3 other middle level math coaches and I were sent to a variety of  trainings focusing on 3-Acts (Dan Meyer), Number Talks (Sherry Parrish & Ruth Parker), CMC-South and Mindsets (Jo Boaler).  That first year, our teachers were pulled out of classes for 5 district PD sessions.  The 5th to be lead by the TOA team.

My Dilemma:  As a classroom teacher, I’d already been incorporating Carol Dweck & Jo Boaler’s work on mindsets but I’d never run a 3-Act or a Number Talk.  How can I provide a training session on a strategy I’ve never implemented with students?

Solution:  Get practicing!  First, I practiced with my coaching team.  Second, I asked teacher’s if I could hone my skills with their students. I practiced Number Talks, 3-acts and Desmos based lessons.  Each experience broaden my understanding of teaching.

  • I learned the nuances of Number Talks, 3-Acts and Desmos
  • I learned which questions elicited student conversation and which ones didn’t.
  • I learned how to better facilitate whole group and small group conversations.
  • I learned how to react to a student question or strategy that I didn’t anticipate.
  • I learned how to navigate the unknown with more confidence.

Since I’m a TOA/Coach, I didn’t have the luxury to practice in private. Every misstep was witnessed by a classroom teacher.  Sometimes, I walked away frustrated and embarrassed for the lesson didn’t go as planned.  Other times, the lesson flowed better than expected. In both cases. I gained insight into student learning.

A Year 1 Experience  (We have a rotating schedule)

  • Period 2:  With Mrs. M:  The lesson didn’t meet the discussed expectations. I felt horribly.
  • In between classes:  Explained what happened to Mrs D. Asked if I could borrow her period 4 exploratory students to refine the lesson.  She agreed.
  • Period 3:  Analyzed lesson.  Made changes.
  • Period 4:   Taught the revamped lesson to Mrs. D’s exploratory class.
  • Period 1: Back with Mrs. M. Shared changes. Taught lesson – again.  Everything went as originally intended.

Summer of 2015

  • Attended TMC15.
  • Was introduced to the Desmos Activity Builder feature and the Vertical Classroom Model. 2 more areas that I needed practice implementing.

Year 2

  • I asked teachers if I could test out my Desmos Activity Builders tasks with their students.
  • Teachers understood that it was a learning process for me.  Designing an activity was easy, but I needed student interaction in order to understand it’s effectiveness.
  • While students were working, the teacher and I would reflect on student learning. The Desmos ABs were refined.
  • I valued this collaborative process. It helped me grow as an educator.

Towards the end of the second year

  • I was continually testing out student collaboration and Desmos ideas.
  • Therefore I was constantly being observed.
  • I began analyzing and refining activities with teachers during the lesson.
  • I reached a point where making mistakes in front of teachers wasn’t a concern anymore. The insight gained surpassed any embarrassing moments.

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Year 3 – Transparency

Year 3 kicked off a month ago. Due to 2 years of conversations, demo and co-teaching lessons, planning together and trainings, I believe my teachers understand my teaching philosophy. They’ve watched me…

  • Interact with students.
  • Test out new strategies.
  • Practice strategies
  • Flop
  • Reflect
  • Rebound
  • Succeed
  • Grow

My teaching skills are constantly on display.  There’s no place to hide and it’s liberating. The transparency provides a level of freedom I haven’t felt before as an educator. My wish is for other teachers to experience the same freedom – which brings me back to the Twitter hashtag, #ObserveMe.

Robert Kaplinsky’s  #ObserveMe campaign encourages teachers to embrace collaboration and actively request constructive feedback.  My favorite part – Teacher requests are clear and specific.  As pictured, signs outline the skills each teacher is focusing on.

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Closing Thoughts

The past 2 weeks have been incredible. So wonderful, I couldn’t decide which experience to share first. I attribute this positive dilemma to being observed for 2 straight years – whether I wanted to be or not.

As a result, every teacher knows how I work in a classroom.  They know my strengths and weaknesses. They see my passion – My need to push boundaries and try new strategies. Teachers see my excitement when they discuss wanting to branch out and they know I’ll support their efforts. Mutual trust has been established.  I believe I earned their trust because I allowed myself to be observed regularly.  I’m an open book.

As the school year progresses, find colleagues that will support your efforts.  Ask them to work in your classroom during their prep period.  Ask them to provide feedback on a specific strategy. Reciprocate the favor.  Be transparent in your teaching practices and collaborate.

  • Explore together
  • Practice together
  • Observe together
  • Reflect together
  • Question together
  • Learn together
  • Improve together
  • Grow together
  • Succeed together
  • Celebrate together

 

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About jgvadnais

Math Coach. Desmos Fellow. Google Level 1 Certified. SoCal transplant. New Englander at heart. Lover of yoga, dogs, green smoothies and coffee.
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