We met with our CTT mentor on Thursday. She asked us to share successes from our first month doing collaborative team teaching. It was a good strategy because it’s easy to focus on what’s NOT going well and forget the things that are improving. And there are many. We’ve experimented with different models of team teaching. A couple of us had success with parallel teaching, where each of the two teachers does the same lesson but with only half the students. It seems to calm them down and allows us to achieve more focus. It’s hard in science because as smart and capable as my partner is, the science content is new to her, but with a little lead time and my notes about the key points of the lesson, she can prepare and teach it. We’re planning further experiments with grouping arrangements in the coming weeks, and for her to take the lead in a lesson at some point while I drift and help students. I find it challenging to let go, partly because this curriculum is new to me, too, partly because I’m a control freak, partly because it’s just a new role and new roles always take time to get used to. To her credit, my partner’s perspective is that the different teaming strategies should be used if and only if they are better for the particular lesson than some other strategy. At the moment, if I can explain the science better, then I should take the lead at the front of the room. But there are lessons when smaller groups work better. So we will continue to experiment.
Another success is that at least one student is beginning to come out of her shell, volunteer to answer questions, and even when she doesn’t volunteer, she at least doesn’t look terrified when called on. She no longer freezes, but tries to answer the question. That’s the first step down a long, long path to better socialization and increased access to the curriculum. On the other hand, we’re desperately seeking strategies for helping this student access information that’s stored in her head, but that she can’t seem to recall. We know it’s in there, but her ability to access it is very, very weak. Special ed experts, can you help?
When I gave back the disastrous quizzes, we set a class goal: to average 75% on the next quiz. And each child set an individual goal, 10-15 points higher than what they got on this quiz (the math doesn’t actually work out for them to achieve their class goal by achieving their individual goals, but, whatever). It put a positive spin on what would otherwise have been a tough period.
This group really doesn’t deal with assessment well. They moan, groan, pound on things, attempt to sink through the floor (I’m serious, there’s no other way to describe the way they slump over their desks). It’s kind of stressful to be in the room with all this going on! Kind of makes me want to groan, too.
Anyway, after setting a goal, we talked about obstacles, things that hold us back. Distractions, the kids said. Bingo! At least now when distractions occur, I can use language of community, of working together to achieve our goal, rather than just getting irritated with them.
And Friday’s lesson, sixth period, an hour before we send them home for the weekend, in my hot, hot, smelly classroom, went reasonably well. Some sort of miracle occurred and I finished the FOSS lesson in exactly the amount of time FOSS suggests – with ALL my classes. The CTT class didn’t miss anything – we did the whole thing. I praised them every five minutes: best Friday ever! But there will be even better Fridays. There have to be.