Reflections on our training – March 16th, 2006

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Several people have sent in comments about our training on March 16th – here are their reflections: 

I went around and visited three departments yesterday: Business, World Languages, & Health/P.E.; I was entirely impressed with the level of professionalism exhibited in all three.  I think the protocol provides a structure that keeps a healthy dialogue going and keeps those uncomfortable periods of silence to a minimum, if at all.  To say the least, I think yesterday’s Literacy work was very productive.

from Cam Neal

At the end of the session, the V&PA Department was very enthusiastic about the process and its value. Many department members were unclear about the tuning protocol process and their responsibilities and options. There were other parts of the Literacy Training that we discussed as well, and every one went away with a much better understanding of what they were "expected" to do.

from Susan Davis

I spent the afternoon with the PE/Health department.  Maryanne Christoffersen and Dennis Sweeney were the presenting teachers.  Maryanne shared a graphic organizer students used to process supplemental reading on aerobic exercise; Dennis shared an organizer and question sheet that students used to process supplemental reading on nutrition.  Although the protocol was unfamiliar and unnatural (at this stage) for both groups, the teachers did their best to honor it and in the process had what I thought was an extremely interesting, professional exchange regarding student work that they all felt was relevant and important.  I thought they got to know each other better as teachers.  They shared with each other how they respond to problems they all face.  They shared their thinking regarding standards & quality of student work.  The assignments themselves were interesting and worth replicating.  The parts of the protocol that were most challenging were the forced silences—when the presenting teacher is supposed to just listen as her colleagues discuss the student work.  That’s hard for everyone.  But I think that’s the step that is likely to lead to real reflection for the presenting teacher—when you can’t control the conversation, when you can’t impose your own understanding on everyone.  That’s when observations and ideas are likely to emerge that might challenge your own beliefs and assumptions. This was a great beginning. 

from Brad Shurmantine

The special ed group had to meet on Tuesday. There was such a nice feeling in the library as the different groups worked together. Ellen and I met with Katie McVicor as we worked on our version of Literacy. I really appreciated having Katy give us feed-back. She used to be a special ed teacher and her input was invaluable. It is often difficult to integrate what we do with the Severely Handicapped students with the High School Literacy. This even, though, worked very well with what we do and can easily be extended into our IEP process.

I sometimes have problems coming up with rubrics because of the huge range of abilities in my class. This particular project was of considerable help in making rubrics do-able. 

Thank you,
Sandy Haroutunian

I went into the English Department session to use the new protocol with some misgivings, I must admit. We had such a tight schedule, due to the need for scheduling a second session of reading the District Writing Assessment. I was concerned that the members of the department would A) not all show up for an optional session during lunch or B) not be able to fit into the short time available anything really meaningful.  Fortunately, both fears were proved unfounded. The tuning protocol is so tightly scheduled that it fit easily into the short time available.  We had a great turnout for the session, so I believe that all the groups were full.  In my group, the presenting teacher, Debbie Bryant, had brought  student work on a graphic organizer and wondered how she might make the organizer clearer, because she noticed that the students had not used it in the manner she had expected and directed. Others of us in the group had had the same experience with graphic organizers, so we definitely recognized Debbie's concern. It was helpful that we had all recently been working with new graphic organizers, so we had all struggled with the same issues one way or another. There were several suggestions, which Debbie appeared to be seriously considering as we wound up the session. As a relatively new teacher, I found the process particularly interesting because my experienced colleagues were grappling with the same issues I was finding a challenge. Working together in this way gave us a chance to compare notes on the very specific matter of how we introduce a graphic organizer, as well as the general questions of how often we would use the same one, how the scaffolding might change over time when we are re-using a specific organizer, and how the graphic organizer fits into the overall skills we're working on with our students. (After all, none of us is trying to teach the use of the organizer itself!)

The protocol was helpful to keep us on track. However, it was a little strange when one of our group interpreted the protocol as saying that "we're not supposed to be talking to Debbie right now; we're talking to each other."  I think that came from the natural temptation of the presenting teacher to respond when directly addressed, and the protocol saying that she is to be silent during the time the other teachers are commenting. Still, we made it through nicely, pretty much following the protocol's guidelines, except on matters of time, when we didn't need quite as much as was allowed.

from JoAnn Augustine

Thank you to everyone for your contributions to the blog!

Don

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