Friday, December 19, 2014

K - 1 Demo Lessons - My Shot of Uncomfortable Part 1

On Sunday December 14, as I was having my first cup of coffee and hanging out on Tweetdeck (my 20+ columns of twitter hashtags and groups), I found this post by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19), Why Teachers Need a Shot of Uncomfortable.  It was one of those serendipitous moments when you receive just what you need to hear or in this case read.

This week I have been doing demo math lessons in Kindergarten and First Grade classes.  In my 23 years as a classroom teacher I taught grades 3 - 8 and all but 4 of the years were 5 - 8.  So, you can say I'm not known for my expertise in the primary grades.  That being said, I also believe that effective educators can teach any grade with the skills/tools they have.  So, in my role as an instructional coach and leader, I know that I have to leave my comfort zone and practice what I preach - taking risks with and for the sake of students actively learning and understanding.  I knew going into the experience that I would be modeling failure which is something I believe makes me a better learner and educator.  I am modeling the lessons for two teachers I am coaching as part of their beginning teacher induction program.  I have been learning a lot about myself as an educator this week and I wanted to share some of the insights.

I purposely chose this week (December 15 - 19), because I knew the teachers would allow me to stray off their "pacing guide" the week before winter break.  I also purposely chose to do this for a week because I knew if I really wanted a glimpse into the lives of these teachers and their students, I would need to be in the classroom for an extended amount of time.

My goals for the week:
  • Model CCSS math lessons - using our new math adoption (which I did not do).
  • Model the "lesson study" process of pre-assessing, providing instruction, post assessing (this process is the focus for their next induction module).
  • Use the "lesson study" process to start a conversation on what standards based learning looks like in each classroom.
  • Use the CCSS math fluency expectations for Kindergarten and First Grade to guide my lessons.(K-fluency with + - up to 5 and 1st - fluency with + - up to 10)

  • To make sure I modeled effective questioning and did not tell students how to do something but question them to guide them.
  • To model engagement strategies as a classroom management tool and to make sure students are actively learning instead of passively complying.
  • Try and model classroom management for the new teachers - (I know, I'm going against Yoda)

FAIL FORWARD - I expect to show failure as a way to learn about myself as an educator and model how failure forces me to make shifts and adjustments.

General reflections and insights from the week:
  • Teaching Kindergarten and First Grade is HARD!  Because I am doing this with teachers who I have a relationship with, I feel comfortable taking risks (watching the students get out of control), and instead of being stressed, I can model calm and problem-solve to recover (Simon Says is a great way to capture kids attention and get them focused on the task)
  • I found some great resources for Formative Assessment Lessons - Thanks Jenny (@jenny4math)!!  K - 5 Formative Assessment Lessons MATH
  • After the first three days I was wondering what I had gotten myself into - I was extremely uncomfortable and wanting to "get sick" or find some other excuse to not finish the week.
  • At the same time, I knew this was exactly what I needed to be doing and this feeling of discomfort is what I need to continue my growth as an instructional leader.
  • Students eat a lot of sugar the week before winter break - it affects their behavior!
  • For myself and the two teachers, watching the students discussing, debating, justifying, and working things out for themselves was magical.  It was also a struggle because it was new to them, they wanted to be told what to do - we just asked questions.
  • My relationship with the teachers has moved to a new level of understanding and empathy which will enable me to better coach.  
  • My observations of their teaching will have a new perspective which can only be gained by having stood in their shoes - something more site leaders need to do (my personal opinion!)

Part 2 of this post will be a reflection of specific learning from each day.  I challenge all who read this post to go out and find your "Shot of Uncomfortable" and make a New Year's resolution to take it on.