Enabling Science and Math

01 October 2006

The elementary math specialist and I have been working together a lot recently for our "cadre" meetings: there is one per grade level, with a teacher from each of the 14 elementaries in attendance. The goal is to build a series of math and science grade level experts. Some teachers have chosen to participate because they have a passion for either math or science...others are less secure in their knowledge of these content areas and want the professional development...and a few are the only teacher at their grade level for the entire school---this is one of their few chances to talk and plan with others.

These teachers want to be enabled, much to my delight. What a nice change from secondary to have teachers who want whatever tools you can offer and are interested in giving new things a try...as long as you put all of the information into their hands. The math specialist wasn't entirely convinced that enabling is a good thing (although she does it, too). I'm likely naive, but I figure that it can't hurt. Whatever supports more math and science instruction is fine with me. And if it means that I make the copies...or cut the file folders to make sentence strips...or go out and coach a lesson, then so be it.

This enabling doesn't just stop with lesson materials---teachers want all of the assessments and alignments, too. The previous elementary math specialist had a hard time with the idea of writing all of the assessments. Her view was that we shouldn't be doing all of the "fishing" for teachers---instead, we should teach them to fish for themselves. I definitely understand that view, but I also think that elementary teachers have a lot on their plates. Every teacher is charged with teaching (nearly) every subject area and s/he can't help but have more expertise in some than others. Instead of teaching them to build the assessment tool, perhaps it would be a better use of time to help teachers learn how to interpret the results of an assessment...especially since they're moving over to a standards-based reporting system.

Right or wrong, it looks like the math specialist and I will continue to foster a sense of co-dependency within the district. Elementary teachers are enthusiastic about this sort of relationship: "I want to let you know how much I enjoyed our meeting on Wednesday. I felt that it was a really productive day. It was great to meet with other 3rd grade teaches and hear their ideas and to learn about our new science curriculum." Who am I to quarrel?

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