Posts tagged "Professional Development"
March 15, 2013
Usually when I visit the schools, I’m the one asking questions. Today, students at Astor Collegiate Academy in the Bronx interviewed me.
It was Career Day, and in classrooms throughout the high school, fellow visitors and I had to account for what we do and why we do it.
After hearing a bit about how I ended up at GothamSchools and what I do each day, students discussed what makes a good interview question. One student suggested that a good question “makes the person you’re asking explain something,” and her classmate said it also “leads to another question.”
Then students took on the role of interviewers. Here’s a sampling of what they wanted to know about journalism:
Do you get to travel a lot? (more…)
November 6, 2012
Teachers from John Dewey High School reported for duty to Sheepshead Bay High School on Monday with a sinking feeling. Months after narrowly escaping closure, the school had struggled since September to settle on programs for its 1,900 students and, if that were not enough, its Gravesend building had caught on fire during Hurricane Sandy.
Now they thought students and staff would have spread out among three different school buildings, including Sheepshead Bay, for the foreseeable future.
“It could be, without a doubt, another nail in the coffin,” one teacher said about the planned relocation. “It’s a whirlwind to be told to go here or there.”
The school’s staff spent Monday deciding who would report where on Wednesday, and creating new schedules for their students. Then, late Monday evening, teachers got a phone call from the Department of Education with unexpected news: Dewey would be able to reopen right away after all.
Teachers said the phone call came as a welcome surprise, but some said they thought the location was the least of Dewey’s worries.
Last week, Chancellor Dennis Walcott cited Dewey as one of the most severely damaged schools in the wake of the hurricane. And teachers said they had received no hints that the school would be ready to reopen any time soon, even after Principal Kathleen Elvin stopped by the building to assess repair efforts on Monday morning and afternoon. But department officials said the School Construction Authority had been able to install a generator and get Dewey’s boiler to work, making the building safe for students and teachers.
The quick return was exactly what some teachers said they thought the school needed. (more…)
August 23, 2012
For many of the city’s strongest teachers, moving up professionally means moving out of the classroom and on to jobs in school management, consulting, policy, or academia. That was the conclusion of a recent survey from the New Teacher Project on the challenges districts face retaining teachers who have hit their stride.
The Department of Education is in the early stages of several experiments to encourage those teachers to stay in schools, offering higher-level professional development and sometimes higher pay. But some school leaders don’t want to wait to give their teachers opportunities to improve their leadership practices.
Enter the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education, a fledgling training program for teachers who have already demonstrated strength and commitment to the profession, but want to improve even more. For the past two years they have offered teachers around the country an intensive leadership training workshop tailored to the experiences of classroom instructors. This year, six city teachers joined a cohort of 50 in Chicago, for a two week long summer seminar series.
The curriculum is split between teaching skills and leadership skills like public speaking and improvisation, and peppered with business school-style case study reading assignments, according to Deborah Levitsky, the program director. The idea is to help them to think deeper about non-supervisory leadership roles, such as grade-level team leaders and department chairs. The program runs for two years, with a winter weekend-long meetup and at-home reading and writing assignments. (more…)
August 2, 2012
Some teachers use the summer break to unwind from a busy school year, refine their lesson plans for the fall, or take a short-term second job. Others seek out new knowledge in the subjects they teach.
“If you’re teaching science, you should be learning about science,” said Nate Finney, a Manhattan teacher who is spending the summer working in a physics laboratory.
GothamSchools spoke to a handful of city public school teachers who sought out seminars, workshops, and classes to help them learn more about their fields. Today, we’re looking at teachers who decided they wanted to know more about math and science.
Jose Luis Vilson, I.S. 52, Manhattan
In sunny Orlando, Jose Luis Vilson got the chance to live out a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.
Vilson arrived at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in mid-July to take part in a weeklong course created and funded by the GE Foundation. The course focused on integrating math and science instruction and anchoring both in new learning standards that call for more critical thinking.
“They’re working with NASA to try to approach and integrate Common Core standards with current pedagogy,” said Vilson, who teaches eighth-grade math in Washington Heights and maintains a popular blog about teaching. (more…)
July 16, 2012
On most days, Room 404 in Zankel Hall is a laboratory used by graduate students at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
But for the next two weeks, the lab is the temporary headquarters for a group of educators who are rethinking what it means to teach physics to high school students.
The educators are participating in a workshop about a three-decade old teaching strategy called Modeling Instruction in Physics. The strategy shuns the rote memorization of physics formulas and instead applies abstract ideas to real-life situations so that students can observe and understand concepts from “model” experiments.
“This modeling instruction method incorporates the best things that have happened in physics education in the last 50 years, and puts it in a way that is teachable and reproducible to a large extent if the teacher is motivated, interested, and well-educated,” said Fernand Brunschwig.
Brunschwig chairs Physics Teachers NYC, a 100-member group of educators who meet once a month to share ideas and trade instructional methods. The group organized the summer workshop. (more…)
June 27, 2012
Principal Bob Bender wanted to make sure his teachers started planning for September before they left for summer vacation. So P.S. 11 joined more than 600 schools in scrapping classes on Monday and Tuesday in favor of adding prep time for teachers.
Department of Education officials extended the option, which parents were supposed to approve, to all schools late this spring. Many schools took the time to give teachers a crash course in new learning standards known as the Common Core.
The Common Core emphasizes “deeper” thinking and problem-solving skills. Next year’s state tests will be based on the new standards.
P.S. 11 routinely earns A’s on its city progress reports, and Bender said he is not worried about its performance next year because his staff has been thinking hard about the instructional shifts they will have to make.
“It’s not going to be asking ‘What is 8 times 5?’ It’s going to be ‘I have 8 bookshelves, and 40 books, so how many books go on each shelf?’” he said. “We spend a lot of time on problem-solving, giving kids strategies to solve problems.”
This year, the city asked schools to practice with the new standards in one math unit and one literacy unit, and next year, they’ll be expected to roll out two Common Core-aligned units in each subject. But at P.S. 11, Bender asked his teachers to plan their curriculums in teams made up of teachers at each grade level — and align every one of their units to the Common Core. (more…)
February 3, 2012
When Brooklyn Prospect Charter School students next sit down to work on their school newspaper, they shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with stories to cover.
As one of more than 20 speakers at Brooklyn Prospect’s Career Day, I spent the morning talking with eighth-graders about what it’s like to work as a journalist. Newly armed with knowledge about the distinctions among news, features, and opinion writing, the students broke into small groups to brainstorm article ideas about their school.
One big piece of news, the students said, is that Brooklyn Prospect has hired a principal for its high school, which will open in September. A feature story might take an in-depth look at how the school has changed now that it is located inside Bishop Ford High School after leaving the Sunset Park High School building. And opinion columns could make the case for or against the required uniform, a green or white polo shirt with black or khaki pants.
The students pointed to one story that could easily be tackled in any of the categories: a new “no hugging” rule. (more…)
January 31, 2012
Across the city yesterday, high school teachers hunkered down for a day of extra training. Some sat in on sessions at their schools, while others scattered across the city for sessions held in the offices of educational consultants.
I stopped by the Midtown offices of Math for America, a fellowship program for math and science teachers, and saw teachers working on student work to better understand why they thought the way they did. Here’s what some said about some of the topics dominating the policy agenda these days (interviews edited for clarity and brevity):
Bill Lamonte, Millennium High School
Years: 10 (eight in New York City)
How long will you be a teacher for?
I may be a different case because I know I’ll be teaching until I die. But it is hard to see colleagues that start out putting in that time and then get frustrated and end up leaving.
I am challenged professionally, but some people don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy of the system. The DOE is a tough place. It’s very top-down. It’s hard. But if you have a supportive administration and you’re in a school that has ideals that you believe in, it’s easier to stay because you feel you can work with people and that you can actually make a difference.
Would you ever consider a school leadership position?
I know I’ll be teaching, but I steer clear of the administration path just because I see what happens to teachers when they become administrators. They take on another personality, in a way. Again, it’s very top-down, so they have to meet certain requirements themselves. In order to do that you have to put a lot of pressure on your teachers. When you have to have a checklist – are they doing this, this, and this? – I can see how it can become a struggle to balance.
Although I do find that a lot of schools struggle with having good administrators. There are a lot of weak principals out there. I’ve seen it first hand, especially at my old school in the Bronx. Luckily now I do feel that the administration is batter and that does make a huge difference. To feel supported in a school is really what’s going to keep a teacher there. (more…)
January 17, 2012
When principals and coaches at Achievement First charter schools conducted observations this fall, they found that many teachers fell short when using a classroom technique called “checks for understanding.”
The technique, in which teachers ask questions to determine in real time whether students are absorbing lessons, “was the most important thing for improving our students’ achievement,” said Dacia Toll, Achievement First’s founder and co-CEO. Plus, she said, “We’re not asking good questions in the first place.”
So as the charter network’s annual professional development day approached, Toll took it upon herself to lead the checks for understanding session. That session, along with 48 other training workshops, took place Jan. 6 at a Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Conn.
Throughout her 90-minute session, Toll drilled the standing-room-only audience of teachers on how to ask targeted questions to ensure students understand the key points of lessons, and how to apply them. The group went over the basic techniques to ask questions — flash cards, choral responses, hand signals, pepper questions, cold calls, class sweeps, and more — and then debated which ones were better in certain situations. For example, Toll said cold-calling students would not be effective if the goal is to grasp whether an entire class understood a lesson. In that case, she said, “You’re only getting data from one student.”
Teachers said the content of Toll’s session wasn’t earth-shattering – many reported learning some version of Checks for Understanding during their regular certification process — but provided an important refresher. (more…)
December 2, 2011
The Department of Education is looking within itself for help creating instructional materials to go along with new curriculum standards.
The city is hiring 30 to 40 teachers and administrators with experience in curriculum development to devise literacy and math lessons that are aligned with the Common Core, the curriculum standards the state adopted this year. The “Common Core fellows” will serve as “a class of leaders,” evaluating current teaching methods and writing new instructional materials for schools to use, according to DOE spokesman Matthew Mittenthal.
The teachers who are selected will also get authorship credit when they produce new materials and overtime pay for attending workshops twice a month and during school breaks, according to a brochure soliciting applications. The program’s quarter-million-dollar price tag is being footed privately, Mittenthal said.
The department will also invite local and national curriculum experts who devised and studied the Common Core, which begins in preschool, to train the teachers on how to evaluate student work and devise good instructional practices, he said.
“The final product will be a portfolio of resources for all New York City public schools: tasks for students, best teaching practices, guidelines for evaluating a classroom, and sample student work,” Mittenthal said in an email.
Bernard Gassaway, the principal of Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said he is not sure how useful those materials would be for his teachers. The main resource he needs to align instruction to the Common Core, he said, is on-the-ground assistance and time to integrate the standards slowly. (more…)