I completely agree with Anna Richert, “Schools are complex, changing places characterized as much by uncertainty as by anything else; there are but a handful of things the teacher can count on with certainty. One of those is that she will face countless dilemmas daily— situations that require her to act while knowing that what is in the best interest of her students is not at all clear.” Since creating my Imagine It this summer, my teaching role has changed and I’m not sure if it will change again throughout the school year. When I first envisioned my Imagine It. I was slated to teach middle school math. Budgetary demands required restructuring our teaching staff. I am now teaching third grade math as well as instructing a Math Lab enrichment class for 4th- 8th grade girls. This change has required that I make minor changes to my Imagine It and use third grade students and content in lieu of middle schoolers.
Another dilemma that I face while implementing my Imagine It project is curriculum. As Richert states in her book, “Curriculum development— deciding what and how to teach— is at the heart of good teaching.” Teaching at a low academically performing school requires the district to micro manage our instruction delivery and curriculum content. I am given a curriculum scope and sequence and am not allowed to deviate from it. Having to follow the curriculum scope and sequence limits what I can teach and when I can teach it. I will have to use the scope and sequence to drive my instruction and my Imagine It project. The good thing is the scope and sequence is aligned with the Common Core Standards.
Richert, Anna Ershler (2012-04-06). What Should I Do? Confronting Dilemmas of Teaching in Urban Schools (Series on School Reform) (p. 15). Teachers College Press. Kindle Edition.
Phase 5 Conferring with Colleagues and Student Focus Feedback
Colleague Feedback Content Dilemmas My colleague suggested I use part of my teacher’s $200 spending allowance to purchase an activity inclusive Problem Based Learning book with a variety of math topics. This will prevent me from using several hours trying to create my own PBL units. Purchasing a PBL activity book would give me ideas that cover a variety of content which I can adapt to the school’s scope and sequence I am required to follow. My colleague also suggested that I implement one practice PBL that focuses on the steps in Problem Based Learning and the Design Process (ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve) before presenting students with a math content Problem Based Learning opportunity. Giving a practice PBL will allow the students to familiarize themselves with working in groups, managing time, meeting deadlines, producing appropriate products, and taking ownership in their learning. This is a good suggestion considering none of my students have ever completed a PBL previously.
Grade Level Dilemma I am teaching a lower grade than expected and they have minimal exposure to using computers. Many of them do not have a personal home computer and they primarily used iPads in second grade. My colleague and I agreed that they will need maximum exposure as possible to computers and computer applications which can be used to create final products for their PBL challenges. I will need to integrate tech tips into my weekly lesson plans giving the students exposure and practice in using different computer applications including Google Drive. If I had middle school students, I wouldn’t have to instruct on computer applications as much. I would have to gradually release them to digital citizenship and utilization to prepare my third graders for success. Therefore, the first marking period should focus on team building, the design process, and technology access. I will adjust my Imagine It from four PBL in one academic school year to three math content PBLs and one PBL focused on the design process and teamwork. I will still implement 4 PBLs, but one will not focus on math content in effort of introducing student to PBL.
Student Feedback I was surprised to learn that although some of my students have worked in groups, they have not worked on long term projects in groups. They have limited knowledge of group roles. The term secretary is foreign to them. The role of a timekeeper is intimidating to them because they aren’t fluent in reading clocks or aware of elapsed timed. Creating appropriate group roles is key to success in Problem Based Learning where everyone plays a part for the greater good. The takeaway from this focus group is the importance of evaluating students readiness and preparing them for success. I will have quarterly small group meetings for each role to review what their job description and provide tips on how to fulfill their job effectively. I am also considering keeping students in the same group twice and keeping the same role for two PBL challenges allowing them to become proficient in their roles.