Collaborative Teaching

Goochland County Public Schools

Category: Steeley (page 2 of 4)

What’s Your Classroom Mission Statement?

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher

Classrooms As Businesses

One of the most important considerations when developing a co-teaching relationship is a shared purpose, or goal. What is your mission? And if it sounds like I’m talking about a business, then great.

Maybe we should think of classrooms as non-profit business organizations that rejoice in the attainment of goals for the betterment of the public.

Conduct a S.W.O.T. Analysis

Businesses complete S.W.O.T. analyses of their companies to enhance their rate of success. During this process, they analyze the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to the success of the organization.

Why not use this same model in our classrooms? With co-teaching, this is realistic: you are not an island reflecting on your practice; you have someone else there to reflect with and to determine whether or not your actions are supporting your mission and vision.

If you have administrative support, like Joe and I have in both our principal and central office staff, then your chance of success is that much greater.

20% Brain, 80% Heart

When Joe and I first started working together, a three-by-four-foot laminated poster hung on the wall that he created with his wife, Lea, when he began teaching: 20% Brain, 80% Heart. As a teacher, and a mother, I think this is a great a message to kids. Growth mindset needs to be taught to all levels of learners.

The Problem with “Smart Kids”

When I was in elementary school, I remember being pulled back or sent to a different room to work with the other “smart kids” on math problems. By the time I was in the 7th and 8th grade, my math grades drastically dropped and honestly never recovered. I knew why – in my eyes, I wasn’t “smart” anymore, or my teachers had identified me incorrectly.

To an extent, this was true! When I was in elementary school, my skill set was strong relative to my same-age peers. As a result, I thought math just came easily to me. When it wasn’t easy anymore, I figured I wasn’t “smart” anymore. Had I learned early on that education was 20% Brain, 80% Heart, perhaps I would have been more tenacious when faced with challenges.

Attainable Goals Promote Intrinsic Motivation

Teaching 20% Brain, 80% Heart applies to our below-level learners, as well. This year, Joe and I taught several readers performing multiple grade levels below their peers. With the help of our reading specialist, we assessed their skill level at the beginning of the year and introduced these students to individualized weekly fluency passages.

The ‘go-getters’ in in our fluency group quickly became evident. By creating an attainable goal with a route to success – If I practice my fluency passage daily, then my reading level with increase – some students aggressively attacked reading, and their fluency improved. (Mind you, we didn’t just say that fluency passages were going to improve reading ability, we also developed a classroom culture that included a love of reading, but more on that later.)

But the shared mission of 20% Brain, 80% Heart reverberated beyond fluency passages: The same students who attacked their fluency passages were also asking questions in science and seeking to internalize patterns in math. They wanted it.

Our Classroom Mission Statement

For me and Joe, 20% Brain, 80% Heart, is a relatable and attainable mission. We are teachers because we love learning, sharing, and creating, and we want the same for all individuals, regardless of innate ability level. We want students to recognize their own Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and to develop their own roadmap to success, and we want to support them in this process.

Yes, as teachers, we want (and need) to give students the tools to understand learning objectives, but in a world where Siri is accessible to a large part of the population, we want to create problem solvers. For some, this may mean recognizing the importance of engaging in repeated trials to acquire a skill; for others, this may mean asking and seeking answers to one’s own challenging questions.

How do you promote growth mindset in your classroom? Do you have a classroom mission statement? We love growing our practice by learning from our peers and we can’t wait to hear what other teachers are up to!

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

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher @AmandaSteeley

Dear Class,

Yesterday, all of you who completed your statewide reading test 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 statewide reading test. 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.

 

SMILE BIGGER

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher (also, mom) @AmandaSteeley

This morning was no different than any other hurried school day morning: My husband, two daughters, and I raced around the house tripping over each other to get ready and get out the door. Our four-year-old was particularly demanding, I couldn’t find my keys, and our six-year-old wanted so badly to wear her favorite dress that desperately needed to be ironed.

By 6:50 AM we had all made it to the driveway and my husband pulled out in his car with our youngest daughter. I blew them a kiss, smiled, and waved as they drove away.

And then I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in my car window. Oh my! I did not look happy. Even though I felt like I was smiling and waving at them as they drove off, my reflection spoke otherwise.

I tell my students that if they smile when working on a challenging problem, it will be easier. I learned this when I was in high school, going to week-long summer dance camps where I had to learn multiple routines in a short period of time. Smile, our coaches advised. You’ll learn more. 

There are so  many reasons to smile bigger.  Whether you want to appear more approachable, show someone you care, or simply allow yourself the grace of learning more, I urge you to smile bigger today…. (even if it feels a little awkward at first.)

 

 

 

Benefits of Collaborative Teaching

Amanda Steeley, Special Education Teacher @AmandaSteeley

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

@AmandaSteeley, Special Education 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

 

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