Collaborative Teaching

Goochland County Public Schools

Category: Steeley (page 1 of 2)

Dear Class: Why I’m Sad After You ROCKED Your Reading SOL

Dear Class,

Yesterday, all of you who completed your Reading SOL did an incredible job.  And yet, I went home feeling agitated, and while I have slept well this entire school year, I am up at 2 AM unable to go back to sleep. I think that I am sad and I am trying to figure out why. This afternoon, when I told my husband the news of your testing success, he was surprised that I didn’t share it with more excitement in my voice. “Aren’t you happy?” he wanted to know. “It sounds like they did great!” I assured him of my joy, but my actions didn’t match my words.

Right now, I am reading a book that one of you recommended to me. It’s The Cay, by Theodore Taylor. It’s the story of a young boy who is shipwrecked during war when trying to leave his home in the Caribbean Islands. Due to a blow to the head, he finds himself blind and trying to survive on an island with an old man and a cat. These three characters come from three different worlds, but their happenstance meeting changes their lives and perception of the world. I am on chapter fifteen – a hurricane is coming to the island and the young boy fears losing either of his new best friends…

Class, I think I know why I am sad. I am sad because that test, the one you did so well on, marks a closure to our time reading together. Do you know how much I have grown because of you all this year? I have read more books in the past 9 months than I have ever read in such a short period of time in my life. Before we all began reading together, I loved to read, but I had a problem – the books I chose were emotionally draining. They were novels where the main character had to overcome intense hardship. I’m all for character development, but the books I was reading were bringing me down! You all taught me that you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy juvenile fiction. Now I retreat to my books for a well-loved treat.

When I think back on this year, the simplest memory stands out; it is something we did every day: Some of you are sitting at the tables, others on the floor, a few on the couch, two huddled in the easy chair; Mr. Beasley is sitting at a table with a group of you, and I am sitting on the carpet in the front of the room. In my memory, we are all reading. It is silent, and the energy in the room is filled with excitement. We all feel like we are getting away with something! When we are supposed to be at school, learning, we are secretly taking time to read for 40 minutes! The energy in the room dances, and 20 minutes in we all stop to share what is going on in our books, then retreat back to our stories until time is up and a unanimous groan of disappointment washes over the room.

You know what else I loved? I loved how you all would come in in the morning asking us if you could tell us what was going on in your books. Without this little trick, I would have never read The Land of Stories, The Lost Track of Time, The War That Saved My Life or so many other goodies! You all have been like my personal book recommendation force!

But you know what is so crazy? Even though we were sneaky and read whatever we wanted to all year, every one of you still did amazing on the Reading SOL. Am I glad you rocked it? Sure I’m glad! But taking tests is not how I got to know you, how I saw you grow, how I grew myself, or what I will remember from this year. Instead, I will remember being a member of a very elite reading community and what a gift that time in my life was.

In writing this letter, I feel a little better, because even though you all will go off to change the world and I won’t see your smiling faces every day, I will always think of you when I open a new book, wondering if you’ve read it too and what you would think of it. Thank you for growing my mind and soul.

Love,

Mrs. Steeley

If you want to learn more about developing a culture of reading in your classroom, we highly recommend Reading in the Wild, by Donalyn Miller.

 

Benefits of Collaborative Teaching

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

The movement toward fully inclusive education is gaining momentum. Part of the reason for this goes beyond parental and administrative requests: teachers and students are enjoying its benefits. If you know me, you know that I am loving my first year in the collaborative classroom. But my fulfillment is supported by research, too.

Zou, Kim and Kerekes (2011) explored the benefits of collaborative teaching at the college level specifically for pre-service teachers. Imagine, exposing pre-service teachers to collaborative practices as students before they become collaborative teachers themselves. This makes so much sense, and yet, it was neither my experience nor that of anyone else I know.

The article itself, Collaborative Teaching in an Integrated Methods Course, concluded that currently there is just not enough research to support greater benefits with this model of preparing pre-service teachers, but just like the growth of collaborative teaching in K-12 education, I’m sure further research may increase this practice, as well.

What I did takeaway from this article were the several benefits of collaborative teaching cited by its authors for both students and instructors.

Benefits of Collaborative Teaching

Benefits to Students

  • Interest and enthusiasm
  • Improved achievement
  • Enhanced ability to work in teams
  • Increased interdisciplinary learning

Benefits to Teachers:

  • Increased growth from professional discussions
  • Increased learning from one another’s experiences
  • Increased learning from one another’s teaching styles
  • Increased opportunity for curriculum integration/real world experiences

The authors also cited Hinton & Downing (1998) when explaining “collaborative teaching is most beneficial when it promotes diversity by including teaching members from different disciplinary areas in addition to different ethnic and cultural backgrounds”. I could not agree with this more. Any time we can use our collaborative teaching practice to model treating each other with humanity, everyone wins. In my own practice, I believe that the simple juxtaposition of Mr. Beasley and I (male and female) in addition to being SPED and general education counter-parts, is valuable: We just bring different things to the table.

In future posts we can address challenges, but today’s focus highlighted benefits. Do you teach collaboratively? What do you consider the greatest benefits to your students and team?

 

References

Hinton, S. & Downing, J.E. (1998). Team teaching a college core foundation course; Instructors’ and students’ assessments. Richmond, KY: Eastern Kentucky  University. ERIC Document No. ED 429469.

Kerekes, J., Jinyoung, K., & Zhou, G. (2011). Collaborative teaching of an integrated   methods course.     International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education. 3(2). 123-138.

While You Were Out: A Letter to My Co-Teacher

Dear Joe,

While you were out, the kids were great. They shook my hand and said good morning, they offered creative ideas, and they helped one another when faced with challenges.

But I wasn’t great.

I know you always tell me to believe in myself, and I do! That’s why I thought I would be great…

I thought that without you there, I would take everything you’ve taught me about relationships, engaging instruction, technology, and that I would ‘wow’ the students with my Teacher Power. (I may have even told them I was going to teach like Lady Gaga…to the response of a few concerned head tilts.)

But the truth is, I wasn’t great because I couldn’t be both of us.

When you’re here, the pacing is like that of competitive runner – deliberate, strong, confident. My pacing feels more like being caught in a snow storm, trudging desperately through deep snow to return home safely.

Also, when you’re not here, I don’t get to play ‘good cop’. Selfishly, I missed that! Our discipline styles complement each other so well. Together, we use positive reinforcement paired with high expectations. While I believe in high expectations, I am quite frankly better at providing positive reinforcement.

While you were out, one student cried because she failed her math exam. At the same time, 3 students argued about the way their group work was progressing, and another student stopped talking to his friends to their concern. I couldn’t help them all and keep the pacing. As a result, they didn’t get the attention I would have liked to have given them.

Oh yeah, and I had an IEP meeting.

I leave you this note to say thank you. Every day that we teach together, I learn from you. But it’s more than that. Every day that we teach together, you respect and let me shine in my own role and talents. Working with you is synergy at its finest.

Can you tell the other general education teachers how much I appreciate them, too? The vast majority of teachers don’t have what we have: two teachers in one room. The vast majority of teachers come in every day, hoping to do their best, but even with the best class in the world, having little confirmation that they have succeeded. We have the privilege of supporting each other every day.

I hope you are feeling better, and please never feel guilty about being out, but please also know how I blessed I feel to be a part of this team.

Best,

Amanda

 

Top 10 Teaching Moments of 2016

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

Over the past semester, we have experienced so much learning. While on the one hand, I want this school year to slow down because I can not imagine a better group of students, parents, or colleagues, I am also already excited for next fall. The framework for collaboratively teaching with Joe has been created: We know what we want to do better when we revisit this past semester’s lessons in the future, and we also recognize the exponential potential for differentiation when a general education teacher and special education teacher truly collaborate. It is beyond your average ‘win-win’.

So as a joyful celebration of 2016, these are my top 10 collaborative teaching moments of 2016:

1. “I like reading now.” Joe and I shared a special moment with a student who had done particularly well on a reading assessment. We wanted him to know how proud we were of the efforts he was making, because it truly reflected in his understanding. He had made unbelievable growth in reading and were so proud of him. He told us with tears in his eyes that he didn’t like to read before this year. He has had wonderful teachers, so I know they all contributed to him getting to this point, but I will forever be inspired by that moment

2. Mural! This past year we met with an incredible artist, Shaylen Brougton, and asked her what it would take to have a mural painted on our classroom wall. She contacted Altria and found a way for the mural to be donated at zero cost to the school. We cannot wait for March when she will breathe new life into our classroom!

3. Into the Woods Thanks to a grant from the Goochland Education Foundation, we were able to take our students on two trips to Powhatan State Park this past fall. Students with diverse needs all paddled down the James River in canoes. We experienced geocaching and reading in the wild. I will always treasure the organic beauty of these experiences and hope our students will, as well.

4. Debates Everyone knows that politics were fierce in 2016. The election was possibly one of the most controversial,to date, with strong opinions on both sides. Our students raised questions, stood to speak to one another, and debated on both sides of the political spectrum to gain a better understanding of different opinions. The dignity with which they treated one another  was beyond that which we saw in the media.

5. If you can’t, we can! On a whim, we decided to enter the Michael & Sons Jingle Contest. The students created a video and the winner was chosen based on the greatest number of votes. Although our students represented the county with the smallest population, their dedication to getting people to vote allowed us to finish in the number one spot, earning $5000 for Goochland Elementary School.

6. MUSIC I grew up in a home where my dad was a musician; I made it to high school on time because I wanted to be there for show choir practice; In college, I sang in the shows at Kings Dominion for work. And yet, I did not truly understand the value of music in education until spending a semester teaching with Joe Beasley. Kids need movement, visuals, passion… all the things that I need to get me motivated! This deserves a post in and of itself, but in the mean time, click here to go to Joe’s TeachersPayTeachers site and download/use all of his songs in your classroom.

7. Morning Handshakes Every classroom should do this. A handshake, paired with eye contact and “Good morning, Mrs. Steeley” really sets the tone for the day. It’s a great way to show mutual respect between student and teacher, and it is an invaluable life skill. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to this practice. (As a special education teacher, I know that this might ‘look’ different for different students, and that’s ok, too; it’s starting the day with a greeting that I think is of great value.)

8. Football at Recess Yes, I now know what the ‘no fly zone’ is and how to catch a football. Boy have I missed these games over winter break!

9. Language Arts Block Joe and I have worked on our language arts block like sculptors chiseling rock. It was only with the support of outside resources, including our reading specialists Mrs. Case and Mrs. Dickerson, and consistently revisiting the ‘drawing board’ that we came up with a language arts block that we believe to be best for our students. I’m sure it will all change again, but in the mean time, it’s exciting to have found our rhythm in this subject area.

10. Building Relationships with Families Joe and I are teachers because we love building relationships. We both recognize the correlation between relationships and student growth, and we are both enhanced as educators by these relationships. We have been committed to communication with families this year and we look forward to doing more in 2017.

What were your best teaching moments of 2016? We would love for you to share them here!

Pre-MAP Jitters: Are we setting them up for success?

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

I have the privilege of teaching in a collaborative classroom where Mr. Beasley (the general education teacher) and I seek to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. Mr. Beasley and I often look to each other and ask, Are we setting these kids up for success? This is my first year spending all day in a general education classroom; as such, it is my first year that the question of student success is sprinkled with SOL dust. While we know it’s “just a test”, we want them to pass! We want our students to be proud of themselves, and we want them to feel successful, by whatever measure presented.

But I know we should consider other forms of data. Not all data is a plus or minus sign: right or wrong. Data can also take the form of anecdotal notes, like the ones we’re receiving from parents that say their kids are reading more this year than they’ve ever seen them read before. That’s right, at home, they are picking up books and reading like they never have before. Talk about the greatest gift a teacher can receive. Some might say that a test will prove whether or not this is true, and I could see their side of the argument: Is the child comprehending? Is the reading level increasing? But at the end of the day, what does a “successful” adult reader look like…?

Do confidence and manners count toward measuring success? As a parent, my gut instinct is that they count even more than test scores. If we’re looking at success as living the life of your choosing, you first need confidence to pursue your dreams, and you need manners to prove – in an interview and while networking – that you are the best person for the job. I do have anecdotal data to prove that a few students in our class who were not independently contributing to classroom debates are doing so today. It’s a little harder to measure the increase in the number of times we hear ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, simply because I have not recorded it with a pencil, but with daily reminders that we should all be asking, How can I help you?  we must be on the right track…right?

Last night, we watched our 5th graders in the winter performance. Maybe I’m biased, but the majority of the speaking roles seemed to have been distributed amongst members of our class. I could be wrong about this – it may have just been the proud mother in me that saw my students shine above the rest on stage – but either way, in my eyes, it was success.

Group work, independent thought, problem solving, self-respect, respect for others, initiative… All of these are at the crux of what we value and expect in our classroom. But I guess at the end of the day, while we take pride in the developing character of our students, our fear is whether or not we are delivering the content-rich curriculum that will create the academic skillset for success…

Please don’t get me wrong in this post. All of our lessons are developed to align with the pacing and curricular framework that state and local educators have worked diligently to establish. But as we prepare for our first measurement of growth (winter MAP testing), as responsible practitioners we must reflectively ask ourselves, Are we setting our students up for success? I sure hope so, but I also know that just as they are growing, so too are we.  And if those scores don’t show us what we want to see, we will make it better. We will learn what we need to. And I hope and pray that we will set them up for success.

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