Sunday, April 22, 2012

What I Want to Be

I want to be a better teacher.

Charlotte Danielson just may be the closest thing to an educational god. She's a brand, too, I admit. But she's a brand with which I am comfortable because I believe in her product, her framework for teaching. I do not say this lightly; it takes an awful lot for me to sign on to any standardized anything. Danielson's framework, though, doesn't point its finger at me and say, "Do this. Or this." It's not about methodology and rules as much as it is about what good professional practice looks like; it's not about the process of teaching as much as it is about opportunities for engagement and improvement. I like that. 

Our district work around Domain 3, Instruction, and specifically, questioning and discussion techniques, has been a catalyst for more post-PD conversation than I've ever experienced. Colleagues are talking to each other about what we already do, what we could do, what we might try, and, interestingly, how to meet the distinguished levels of performance in this domain. I'm fascinated that we are verbalizing with each other what we each individually know - that we want to be better. We all know it, we all think about it, but now, we are all talking about it. 

Last night at a dinner party, a colleague said, "Don't you think getting students to engage other students in discussion is virtually impossible?" This idea, that students become responsible to each other for ensuring that all (and Danielson means all) voices are heard within the context of rich conversation around a topic, is indeed hard to imagine. But I don't think it's impossible. And I want to prove it. 

I'd like to think I'm already proficient in this component of instruction. I'm really good at using wait time. I vary my questioning techniques so that many voices are heard. I encourage my students to think deeply and to take risks in discussions. I check for understanding, not just for completion of task. Next year, I am going to add a component for classroom discussion to my course expectations. I may create a professional goal around my questioning and discussion techniques. And I've already starting thinking about how to better foster the kind of engagement that Danielson is talking about: less me, more students. After all, I want to be a better teacher. 

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