I have, however, started working on a project with my dear friend AJ. AJ and I met rather fortuitously at the orientation day for our kids' high school and then a couple of days later in a classroom on my second day of teaching. She's been around to see me
stumble travel through my first few months of teaching, including six weeks during which she was my friend AND the parent of one of my students. (And she's still my friend!) We discovered that we work well together and our learning styles mesh well. So, we've decided that we should put our combined super-powers (mwa ha ha!) to good use.
Having both experienced firsthand the challenge of parenting gifted children and noting the likelihood of that particular special need being addressed by most schools our initial goal was to look into developing a gifted programme that could be easily implemented. We're not ambitious at all!
We've kept that overriding goal in mind, but our practical efforts have become quite directed at the planning process for developing units of work.
- How do we plan?
- What should a unit plan look like?
- What should a unit plan include?
- How can we make the most of the hard work we - as individual teachers - put into these plans?
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In looking to bring some clarity to our thinking we've both been somewhat captured by the ideas of McTighe & Wiggins in Understanding by Design.
(In a super simplified nutshell: start with the desired understandings and plan your assessment tools first. Plan whatever learning activities you will need in order to help your students reach the understandings you identified at the beginning.)
We're reading quite widely on the planning process and most recently AJ has been looking at the International Baccalaureate process.
Alongside the reading, we're trying to act on our findings. I've put together a unit of work that addresses the Earth & Space Sciences substrand of the Year 5 Australian National Science curriculum, while AJ has worked on one for the Biological Sciences substrand for Year 4. It's fascinating to see the different approaches we've taken considering we're working within essentially the same planning framework.
Working independently but collaboratively; this is how I imagined the profession of teaching to be. I'm so pleased I've found a collaborative teammate and that we live in the time of such wonderful tools as Dropbox, Symbaloo and Blackboard Collaborate (not to mention the considerable communication we engage in over Facebook). I'm also really pleased that we're both working in classrooms again. (AJ has a contract and I'm doing more relieving than I thought likely at this time of year.) Our project may not be the fastest moving creation in the word but it's certainly valuable in helping us develop and maintain our professional practice standards.
I'm curious to hear... How do other teachers plan?