OK…I know you are already humming along with Madonna after reading that post title so here is the song in all its glory – turn it up and belt it out! You know you want to!
It has been a while since I was in the blogging groove and it will be a while still before I am back in the teaching groove. Lots of reasons for the hiatus but this is the biggest one:
We welcomed a sweet baby boy (Harrison Jaap terBorg) into our family on May 2. I am on maternity leave (and loving it) but I am still working on my masters (I use the word ‘working’ VERY loosely at present!) and keeping an eye on what is going at school when I am not up to my armpits in art projects, trips to the sandpit, coffee with other mama’s, and cuddles and snuggles galore.
One of my last posts was about what we believe in and how this impacts our classroom practice. A first grade colleague, Teri Lynn Biedenbach, was looking for new insights into creating Essential Agreements with her team this year and I shared this post with her. I had lunch with Betsy Riley, the third grade team leader, and shared the same concept with her. I was curious to see how both women would use these ideas within their own teams.
Teri Lynn expedited the process by starting with a number of words on post-it notes: Cooperation, Trust, Innovation, Inquiry, Play, Respect, Creativity. She goes on to explain the steps she and her team went through:
We brainstormed based beliefs connected to the words I listed. Everyone wrote their own ideas on sticky notes and stuck them around the connected word. We then looked for commonalities and created two simple yet meaningful belief statements.
Because we believe cooperation, trust and respect are important within a team environment, we will listen actively, and be open-minded to the ideas of others. Whenever possible we will plan collaboratively.
Because we believe innovation, inquiry and creativity are important when planning and teaching, we will create hands-on experiences, guide students to draw their own conclusions, use visible thinking strategies, and be open to trying something new.
We focused more on us as a team working together. Not sure if I approached it right, but my team seemed to enjoy the activity and feel that what we came up with is meaningful so I guess it’s a good start.
Grade three began with a group brainstorm of ideas. Everything kept revolving around the idea that in all things, the team would model the same behaviors expected of their students. Betsy asked for my help in turning their ideas into “something pretty” to refer back to over the coming weeks. I created the following visual which not only documented “what” they believe in, but left room for each teacher to articulate how this would look, specifically, in their own classrooms. I chose to do it this way in order to acknowledge the collaborative component of their team thinking AND allow each teacher to reflect on this and their own practice.
Both teachers have gone on to use a similar process with their students in creating shared beliefs about learning for their classrooms.
Here’s what I love:
- Both teachers were seeking ways to change how things had been done in the past, not for the sake of change, but in order to build a better learning environment within their teams and for their students.
- Both teachers thought about their team members and the time allocated to this process and modified it in ways that were meaningful to their teams.
- Reflection occurred throughout the whole process including scrapping ideas, seeking new ideas, building on input from other team members and continuing to think about how they would do this again differently next time.
- The process was different but each team came up with strongly worded beliefs about their teaching and co-teaching.
This is what we should be building room for in our classrooms. The ball got rolling in Bangkok with Nicky and Beth. Let’s consider them our ‘experts’. Information was shared about their teaching practice and modified by other teachers to suit their needs. Hopefully someone will read about their work and be challenged to re-address their own beliefs about teaching. Nicky and Beth established their co-teaching beliefs after much reflection and work together. I am interested to see how the beliefs of these teams will change over time and be revisited throughout the year.