A major strength of a rich and diverse professional education community is the multiple and varied perspectives offered and considered by members and applied to practice because of this “meeting of the minds.” While we have reaped the benefits of this community amongst ourselves as an ED 434 class composed of members from many content fields and walks of life, it is often an outside guest perspective that really pushes us to consider our positions in context and engage with opposing, tangential, or differently-framed points-of-view. This was no more evident than in our most recent class meeting, where we welcomed into our class both an experienced former school administrator as well as a cohort of veteran science educators.
We started by critically considering the question: What problem do you want to solve (in/with your teaching practice)? Sharon offered that she wanted to work on challenging our notions and norms around critical thinking and push towards a more realized and scientific model of this practice in the classroom. Dan Z. shared his carefully considered perspective on student deficit self-thinking, bolstered by his experiences combating the “I’m a bad student” perspective in his practice. Dan D. inspired us with his personal charge: “help students be the best they can be.”
Our first guest, a former English teacher, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent, spoke about the structure of educational organizations and the role of administration and faculty within this structure. These included perspectives on organizations as socially constructed entities that have political, symbolic, and power components. We talked about bureaucracy vs. organization and the connotations and presumptions held by both administrators and teachers about this possible dichotomy. We considered many questions, including:
- How are organizations called schools constructed and how does science fit within this structure?
- What does being an agent of change mean to you?
- Why do you have a halloween parade?
- How do we position ourselves well to work as agents of change?
This included comparing and contrasting the ongoing paradigm shift in teaching and administration:
- Closed Doors
- Private Universe
- Limited Talk about Pedagogy and Practice
- I leave you alone <-> you leave me alone
- Teacher Talk -> students, admin, personal interests
- Student Centered
- Memorization has become conceptual understanding
- cooperative grouping instead of rows
- Professional Learning Communities
- Peer Observation
- Common Curriculum
- Sharing Best Practices
We polled ourselves to find out how pervasive this new paradigm is in schools, and how much work there still might be to make this vision happen. Finally, we considered how we might change our perspective from “I teach science to students” to “I teach students science.”
In the latter half of our class, we were visited by a group of SUNY Master Teachers, led by our very own Dan D., who offered their perspectives on changing and developing “cookie cutter” lab procedures into true inquiry experiences. We divided and conquered by rough content area, and came together as a group at the end to share some brief thoughts on teaching as a whole and the experience of new teachers entering in to real school spaces.
Dan D. valiantly battled technological hurdles in order to share with us this TED talk, so I will make sure we share it here too:
As we move forward in these final weeks, taking time to reflect over this short holiday break, it is my hope that we recognize the gift we have in each other and the talents, skills, and views we each share that have value to us all. From one GRS cohort member to the rest, I thank you all! Until next time…
With much thanks,