July 26, 2007

Clarification and Validation in Austin

In nearly everything related to my teaching career, I've had to learn things by stumbling around and through the trial and error obstacle course. (Is this the path most teachers take?) The last two years, although rather enjoyable, have been no different as I've tried to figure out exactly what teaching in an International Baccalaureate programme means.

The first year I felt like I wasn't really doing anything different. One of the basic things I had to do was label my lessons as one of the areas of interaction, which I kind of understood and without the reference poster in my room I couldn't remember which ones were which. I suspected the students, who had been in the program a few years, understood more than I did. Still, it wasn't really that difficult, and I felt like it was too easy.

It was also important that I collaborate with and do integrated lessons with people on my academic team and incorporate multicultural ideas into my lessons and units. What language arts teachers doesn't deal with multicultural lessons? Collaboration is beat into us (not quite literally) at my school and time is given to do so. Heck, we collaborate on multicultural units. All in all, it seemed like what I was doing was really no different. I feel comfortable with our collaboration, but I think we could do more--but we have to find the logical connections. Sometimes we try to force things and then our lessons seem to be trying to hard. If that makes sense. I do pretty well with mulitcultural ideas, but it seems like there's something lacking--like my ideas are challenging or broad enough.

The one aspect that I have struggled with implementing in my classroom and on my team as a whole is a consistent and useful system of reflection for the students to use. I understand the importance for students to reflect on their learning process, but I am simply inconsistent in doing so in my classroom.

Well, this week I traveled to Texas with four of my colleagues to receive training in what I've been doing for the last two years. (Don't ya love it?) Part of me thought it might be a waste of time, that I have probably gleaned enough about the program to surpass the first level training, yet part of me was quite excited to finally find out what I didn't know. It's true that I was more advanced in my knowledge than many people in my session (which was subject specific, thank goodness) and could have probably learned more in a level two training, but I had many, many, many things clarified.

The good news is that I am on the right track. Because it is more a type of teaching philosophy than a canned program, the fact that I am floundering around trying to find my way works pretty well. It's not one of those programs where you can just do everything all at once. It grows. Because IB is relatively new program at my school, as a school, we are still working on finding our way, too.

Oh! Another aspect I've slowly been incorporating is the use of the program's rubrics, which aren't called rubrics. I still call them rubrics, though. I've been using that term for 15 years, and I don't see the use of renaming it in my brain. Anyway, I adore using rubrics, but like any other assessment tool, it has to be used well to have valid assessments. So, I've been playing around with the rubrics, trying to use them in productive way. Unfortunately, at the conference I found out that my use in them has been good, but my modifications (which are necessary and expected) have not been done correctly. You see? This is the kind of stuff I'd needed to know! And now I do...And now I have some work to do to rework things I thought I had in place!

My approaches to bringing multicultural ideas into my classroom are quite rudimentary, as I have felt they have been, but I more clearly understand the idea behind making "worldly" students and some approaches. (We did spend quite a bit of time sharing and creating ideas that we could use in the classroom throughout the conference.) In my mind it doesn't seem that difficult and it can be done nearly on a daily basis, but I think my own worldly ignorance holds me back. Ouch! That hurts to admit! Smells like some personal goals for HappyChyck, doesn't it?

I have more things bouncing in around in my head, but I'll save that for another day. I usually try to hold off thinking about the upcoming school year until August 1. I'm a little early this year.

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