As I said in my last blog, I am currently acquiring my masters degree in Education. After teaching for seven years, I have begun to get a little burnt out with the profession, so all the research I am looking at in my quest for my masters has proven to be unbelievably helpful.
This week we are focusing on professional learning communities while referencing our previous studies of reflection, commitment to students, life-long learning, and challenges we face in the classroom. According to Lieberman, Hammond, and Fullan (Laureate Education, 2009a), there are ten qualities that characterize effective professional development: Good time, variety of structures and activities, opportunity for application of the professional development strategies, and collaboration are crucial to success. It is easy to play the blame game in the teaching field because of the importance scaffolding plays in the curriculum, but in order to be an effective teacher, you have to make an impact and not play the victim (Laureate Education, 2009b). When given "good time" to work with other professionals, utilize it in order to benefit student learning and grow as an educator. Steal ideas from other teachers and offer up those that are successful in your own classroom. Speak to administrators and curriculum directors to help plan the professional development so that it is not just a filler for the in-service day of the moment, but rather an ongoing process that can grow and prosper when given the opportunity to reflect and rethink.
As teachers, we need to ensure we do not allow ourselves to become isolated. When working in a true professional learning community, teachers are able to determine discrepancies in what should be mastered and what is being mastered, and create strategies to fill the gaps in student achievement (DuFour, 2004). Left alone, a teacher may be more inclined to blame the student for the separation between "what is known" and "what should be known" instead of creating ideas to help the pupil. Using immediate, required intervention for any students experiencing difficulty is a way to ensure student learning (DuFour, 2004). When working with a group of individuals, many ideas can be offered to intervene with the student to ensure success.
DuFour's second idea focuses on collaborative learning (2004), while the third big idea looks at results. Without a solid unit of professionals working toward an improved end product, teaching is pointless. If the saying "you are only as strong as your weakest link" is true, teachers can surrender to defeat against the battle of student learning unless they are willing to commit to learning as a community of professionals. Additionally, using reflection to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each classroom will directly benefit students and allow both the student and teacher to grow (Nieto, 2003).
Given the importance of technology in the world today, one way to become part of an effective learning community is through the use of blogging. Open anytime, the Internet is a connection to teachers from all over the world with many different backgrounds and classroom settings, creating an invaluable resource for learning. For those that are unable to expose their shortcomings to the peers they interact with daily, blogging offers an opportunity to anonymously present questions and concerns to others in the field of teaching (Nieto, 2003).
I have never blogged before this assignment, so it was challenging for me to figure out how the entire process worked. (To be honest, I'm not really sure I did a very good job.) I found a great book review that matched perfectly with the reflection piece I wrote last week on student motivation, so I submitted a comment that explained my research and am waiting for it to post and receive a comment back from the author. The blog can be found at: http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/tln_teacher_voices/2010/08/setting-young-brains-on-fire.html
Two additional comments, a little less research based, were posted here: http://firesinthemind.org/2010/07/07/doing-the-math/comment-page-1/#comment-130
And finally, when I wasn't feeling satisfied with the way things were going, I decided to post my own blog. (You happen to be reading the second one.) They can be found at: http://middlemath-marlareynolds.blogspot.com/
DuFour, R. (2004). Schools as learning communities. Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6–11. Retrieved from http://pdonline.ascd.org/pd_online/secondary_reading/el200405_dufour.html
Laureate Education, Inc. (2009a). Characteristics of Effective Professional Development [Webcast]. Baltimore : Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009b). Introduction to professional learning communities [Webcast]. Teacher as Professional. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Nieto, S. (2003). What keeps teachers going? New York: Teachers College Press.