We had a... ahem... a rather productive professional development meeting this afternoon.
I know. A shocker.
I had been dreading it all day, the prospect of spending 2 hours after school (on our short day, thank goodness)with my equally cynical, distracted teaching colleagues. Let's face it, with so much planning to finish, so much differentiating of instruction and adapting to meet special needs required, I hate giving up my Monday afternoons to group meetings.
I even considered getting sick and going home to do my planning. Just for a fleeting minute. Really, I'm not a slacker.
But this meeting was different. The goals were directly tied to the areas of instruction we as a school need to focus on (based on last year's state testing scores). We divided into smaller, more workable, intimate groups. Teachers who have the same issues and concerns that we do led the groups (not out-of-touch administrators). We practiced as a group the very planning strategies we are now asked to implement as we remediate our toughest students. All in all, a very good use of my time. In fact, I have already made a change to my daily plan for tomorrow based on the suggestions gleened today.
And the most important aspect of all: as we considered the various activities we can plan in order to meet the state objectives while concentrating on the higher order thinking skills necessary for success on the state test, we challenged ourselves to consider the most unavailable of our students. Ms. Mary the kindergarten teacher played Devil's Advocate and helped us "keep it real". She was quick to point out that we had to keep refocusing on how the hardest to reach can be reached.
Our solution: committ to organizing our classrooms for small group instruction that tailors instructional methods to the strengths and weaknesses of that particular group of kids. Differentiate. Differentiate. Differentiate.
My "take away moment": the various verbs listed under the objectives that remind us to teach kids to analyze...summarize.....classify....design.... create..... explain ... order.... formulate... compose.... modify... substitute... compare...
instead of merely identify and recall. I will be keeping this list of verbs handy to remind myself to reach, reach, reach.