Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Long Time, No Post...Great News.

Whole Brain Teaching continues to work wonders for me in the classroom and in my decision to further my professional career towards administration.

First of all, I have been selected as Lead Teacher of a new extended learning program headed by Catapult Learning.  My school district is utilizing this program to help struggling second and third graders reach their literacy potential.  I will lead a group of teachers and students in the program which will be held on Saturdays from 8 A.M. to 12 P.M.  At this time, we are headed towards fifteen weeks of Saturday instruction.  Not only will this program allow for me to show that I am capable of leading others, I feel this is an opportunity for those outside of the school district to take notice that I am serious about my profession.

I am excited about sharing my WBT techniques with the teachers I will lead in this program.  I feel that if all teachers will be open to the techniques and maybe watch the techniques in action with a trusted colleague, more teachers will be open to trying the WBT techniques. 

In other great news, our district is instituting a new teacher evaluation system with Cambridge which requires principals to become certified in the system before evaluating teachers.  My principal asked if I would be interested in having a visiting principal and representative from Cambridge observe my teaching abilities for a forty-five minute period.  Of course, I said yes!  I met the visiting principal and representative for a fifteen minute preobservation conference to discuss what the lesson would deliver to students.  When I returned to my class, Mrs. Green, one of our school's WONDERFUL para educators, remarked that my students were absolutely fabulous.  She said that everyone followed expectations and that is was a joy to be in my classroom.  Mrs. Green has been a para educator at OJP since I was a first grader there!  To hear those words from a trusted and beloved friend and colleague made me one proud teacher!

At 9:30, my guests arrived and began observing my classroom.  My students and I were wrapping up a "Rules of Divisibility" flip book that they can glue into their math journal for use throughout the year.  Any teacher can tell you that remembering all of the rules of divisibility is difficult for adults let alone fourth graders.  Although my lesson was heavy on lecture, I was able to employ the WBT techniques to provide an effective lesson delivery.  After each rule (divisible by 6, 7, etc.), we would "Teach! Okay!".  I used the Kagan strategy "Mix-Pair-Share" to get students moving to keep the oxygen flowing.  I also used gestures to help students remain positive during the lesson.  My students love the gestures - partly because their teacher looks goofy and because they can be just as goofy while still learning!

Later that day, Mrs. Green returned to provide coverage so that I could attend my post-observation conference.  The visiting principal stated that she really enjoyed the WBT techniques I utilize in the classroom.  Under our new evaluation system, teacher are rated from highly effective to effective and so on.  I have been told that it is very difficult to earn "highly effective" marks, and that you pretty much have to be "super teacher" to earn those marks.  We discussed three domains that appaer on the new evaluation system.  I would have received two highly effectives - one area being classroom management!  I owe this all to WBT and my students' response to the program.  In the area of lesson delivery, I would have received "effective" as we both noted that my lesson was heavy on lecture.  We discussed techniques to possibly break up the lesson and provide for more student interaction.  However, she did make it a point to tell me that she understood why there was so much lecture and that she enjoyed the divisibility flip book we created.  All students were "engaged" which, to the teacher, is like winning the lottery!  Engagement is KEY!

In WBT news, I have implemented the practice cards as the next step in my classroom management strategy.  For the first few days, I feel I focused more on the practice cards and less on the scoreboard.  Trust me, my students noticed they had not earned as many points as in the past.  In my use of the practice cards, I have also begun documenting the date I have students pull cards when expectations are not met.  This allows me to use the cards not only with my students but with parents in conferences.  I have always felt that the "personal development" portion of our district's report cards has been 100% subjective.  The practice cards are now the only method that I use to grade students in personal development.  There is no argument with the data in front of students and/or parents.  I am not the "bad cop" writing the ticket.  I am the teacher providing raw data to prove a point.  Students pulled cards quite frequently at the beginning, but as we move into the fourth week of using practice cards, the cards are rarely pulled and the scoreboard has reemerged as the key to our behavior success!

The teacher I mentored in September keeps in touch from her new school.  She e-mailed last week to tell me that her students AND administrators love the WBT techniques she learned and uses in her classroom.  Her second grade students especially love the "Oh yeah!" technique.  I think all children love making noise in the classroom, and with "Oh yeah!" the noise is welcomed by the teacher as well!