Earlier this year Kori, my principal, asked me to move back down to 4th grade. Having taught that grade for ten years, I never would have imagined my hesitation. I have grown to love the 5th grade age (yes, that one year makes a huge difference) and the curriculum. I would never tell my principal no, so I agreed to the move, reiterating that I'd prefer 5th grade if a fifth section was needed for the upcoming school year.
In the midst of all of that emotional drama, Angela, a 2nd grade teacher, confronted me with an incredible opportunity. This is Angela's first year at Swanson (transferred from Waukesha) and I have done my best to develop a relationship with her, even though she's on the opposite side of my teaching world...easier said than done during a busy school day. Angela was a member of the district's "Uncommittee" and she was invited to write a proposal bringing innovation into the learning environment. Being the amazing woman and teacher that she is, Angela had an incredible idea in her mind, but was looking for another teacher to corral on board. Little did I know that she'd come knocking on my classroom door, inviting me to be a part of this amazing opportunity.
With Kori's blessing we were on our way. Angela is extremely knowledgeable, an amazing team player, and I know I'll learn an incredible amount from this opportunity. I didn't really know what I was getting myself in to, still don't to be totally honest, but figured why the hell not. From that moment on things happened very quickly...teacher movements became public knowledge and with that our co-teaching situation. I am sure people have their own thoughts and opinions on the matter, but I'm trying to keep that out of ear shot- unless it's positive, of course. Naturally, in that moment my relationship with Angela's grew even more. As a part of the committee work, Angela did a good portion of the proposal writing, but because of Google Docs and a few prep times we were able to have conversations and I feel my thoughts and opinions were welcomed and included in the draft.
Within our proposal we outlined our future environment:
* We envision a collaborative teaching and learning environment. This would include a shared learning space where the two of us would share approximately 50 students (depending on class sizes for 2013-2014). We would team-teach and plan our lessons together.
* We would have all common planning time to support planning and data analysis that would drive our instruction
* We would solicit the support of any special education/ELL staff that would be interested in joining our collaborative team--even for part of the day. This would allow those students to have their needs met within the classroom, rather than being pulled out
* We would have 1:1 technology use for all students that would enhance learning, rather than replace. Our goal is to incorporate digital tools like Edmodo, Google Drive, and Kidblog and use Google Sites for our classroom page and student portfolios
* We would pre-assess as many units as possible, across, multiple subject areas, to flexibly group and differentiate our instruction. We will monitor our progress using the ASW tool (Analyzing Student Work) multiple times per year
* Students would utilize online learning portfolios aligned to the CCSS, where they can select artifacts and reflect on their own proficiency
* We will incorporate individualized student goal setting
* We would foster an “inquiry-based” learning environment--allowing for student choice and project-based/integrated learning whenever possible
* We will utilize the workshop model of instruction for reading, writing, and math
* Our classroom space would not look like a traditional classroom--different furniture, various forms of tables, chairs, nooks, etc. Actual seating that would support approximately 60% of the students
For those of you not in the field of education, this is quite an undertaking. I have to admit, I am a bit terrified of all that we'll be taking on, but I am in good hands with Angela and I'm confident we're going to do great things. From the get-go her motto has been, We may fail, but we'll fail forward. I believe that truly and look forward to the 2013-2014 school year. Our proposal was due in mid April so it's been a waiting game since. Today Chris Thompson stopped in my room to say hello and after a cordial "How is the family? Any summer plans?" I had to ask him about the proposals. I knew he was a part of the decision making process and knew they were going to be contacting us any day. In his nonchalant kind of way, Chris mentioned that "all was well" and that the proposals were a go. He went on to talk about the email he had drafted, but had not sent. He remained so calm, cool and collected, but my heart was racing and it took everything in me not to jump up and hug the man. I thanked him and immediately flew down the stairs to tell Angela.
By the end of the day, that drafted email made it to our inboxes and the word was out. Our proposal was being funded completely.
Double-doors installed between two classrooms to create one, large learning space...check!
1:1 Technology--Approximately 50 Chromebooks...check!
Work time to collaborate, plan, and develop activities over the summer--Approximate hours--20-30 hours at district rate...check!
Unique furniture/rugs/shelving to create collaborative space...check!
Yup...we got the wall, the technology, the summer work time and the furniture! I can't believe it...I'm on Cloud 9. It's going to be a crazy-good year! Thank you Angela for inviting me to be a part of this amazing adventure!