Every so often I share with parents the weekly correspondence I send to the staff of Northeast Middle School. My reason for doing this is to make you more aware of the different ways in which we are working to achieve mission for every child at Northeast.
This week’s staff letter is about the Collegial Learning Walks we participate in as part of our ongoing Professional Development at Northeast Middle School. If your child happens to mention that a group of teachers visited his/her class and asked questions about what he/she was learning, now you will know why.
As always, thank you for your support!
Here is the staff letter for September 14, 2012:
On the game show, Let’s Make a Deal, contestants buy, sell, or trade items that are worthless (e.g., a box full of trash) or worth a lot (e.g., a box containing tickets for a vacation). At the end of the show, one contestant has the opportunity to risk his/her cash or prizes for a chance at the grand prize.
If the contestant chooses to go for the grand prize, he/she is presented with three doors—labeled #1, #2, and #3. There are no clues as to what is behind any of the doors—just shouts from the audience as to which door they think the contestant should choose.
What knowledge and/or skills are necessary for the contestant to be successful in choosing the door with the grand prize behind it?
We all know there are none. This game show is all about luck.
Some contestants are lucky and others aren’t.
When it comes to our students, though, we can’t let luck be a factor in our classrooms. We want all our students engaged in meaningful learning experiences that will ultimately lead to an independent transfer of understanding to new and unique situations.
But, how do we know? How do we know our students are really engaged in the learning and not simply being compliant? How do we know the task we have asked our students to complete is meaningful—has purpose?
Do we recognize when our students need more support—or when they need less support? Do we do the same for all? Or, do we create learning experiences that account for the varied levels of learners in our classrooms?
Luckily, we aren’t in this alone. Just as the contestants on Let’s Make a Deal have audience members encouraging them, we, too, have people encouraging and supporting us—our colleagues.
When teachers open their classroom doors for their colleagues to visit during our Collegial Learning Walks, so much is revealed. As members of a Collegial Learning Walk team, we are all learners—observing and taking in as much information as we can during our short visit in each classroom.
Our focus for these Learning Walks is on the students and their learning—not the teacher and his/her teaching. By focusing on students and their engagement to the task, and through our follow-up debriefing, we can all take away new learning as to what makes a task engaging—or not so engaging—for students, and we can transfer this new understanding to our own classrooms.
“The process of Collegial Learning Walks begins by helping teachers open their classrooms to replication of best practices.” (Guillott, M. and Parker, G., A Value Added Decision to Support the Delivery of the Common Core Standards, 2012, p. 6)
We don’t want to leave our students’ learning to chance or luck, but the same holds true for our design for their learning. There may not be a need for a particular set of skills or knowledge to choose the right door on Let’s Make a Deal, but as educators we are always learning and we never stop honing our skills—not if we want all our students to achieve our mission.
There shouldn’t be any mystery as to what is behind our classroom doors!
Let’s have another great week of engaging our students in meaningful learning, and, as always, of teaching for understanding!