In There With the Teachers

13 December 2006

Some current research seems to indicate that if elementary schools can't have science specialists, they can do just as well with promoting student achievement by developing expertise among regular classroom teachers. We're going with this idea and the elementary math specialist and I are training a "math and science cadre" for the district. There are 14 elementaries and each one sends one teacher for every grade level, k-6. We do some intensive professional development together and then the teachers go back to work with peers.

Round One of the cadre meetings was at the end of September and we're kicking off Round Two this week with k, 1, and 6 teachers. It is good for me to be doing this. I haven't had much opportunity to work with groups this year and I do miss being in the classroom. There is such good energy in learning with people---no matter their age or background. I come home exhausted, but feeling satisfied about things.

This time around, my portion of the day is to do some general inservice around differentiation and then start the benchmark process with teachers. It's not quite as glam as the math portion of the day, where the specialist is doing some games with them, but it is responsive to topics that they've been wanting us to explore. There is also an opportunity for the teachers to meet the new science kit coordinator and provide us with some feedback about what is and isn't working. I know that there have been rumblings out and about (kits are new this year), but we're not getting many negative comments yet. My guess is that it's much harder to be ugly in person than it is on paper or in the staff room; however, we do want constructive criticism and to be able to respond to needs. We can't do that unless people tell us what they want.

I hope that we keep the cadre next year, although I don't know that it will survive budget cuts and a survey about teacher needs. Teachers who participate (between 1/3 - 1/2 of our elementary staff) are very positive about the experience and feel like they're learning a lot. It's hard to miss a day with kids, but good for all of us when teachers have the chance to be together.

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