Sunday, August 29, 2010
Associated with my new gig at SBCS is a new pedagogical methodology with its own mysterious jargon. I'd heard terms like "Catch and Release," "Workshop Cycle," "6+1 Traits," "Choice Theory," "Expedtionary Learning" dozens of times before I really knew what they meant.
Fortunately at SBCS the administration is dedicated, articulate, invested in student AND faculty success--they are nurturers and they have no interest in setting up teachers to fail. So my boss lent me a stack of books a few weeks back which she thought would help. That simple step is already much more support than any other administrator has given me in 3 years at BCPSS.
That Workshop Book is really exceptional. It's set up around visits to classrooms. The lessons, the unit contexts, and the teacher's background thinking are provided. The class scripts and student products with comments and interactions all lend themselves to someone like me, who can learn steps and ideas well from texts, but who likes to see processes and procedures in action as well. We watch students grappling with complex issues in governance and current events, and thinking independently and richly. The teachers in the book have the students engage in producing products for "authentic audiences": one teacher in Colorodo has his students designing memorial ideas for local 19th-century massacres of Native Americans by US soldiers, and a revenge sally by the Dog Soldiers. They study Maya Lin and her proposal essay and work on their own designs and proposals, which they eventually submit through official channels. I love this stuff!
The question in my mind after seeing the examples here is no longer HOW to teach in an Expeditionary Learning school. The question is how well I'll be able to juggle all this stuff and hit the ground running, coming from the environments to which I'm accustomed. I'll have to re-charge some long-decayed batteries, and get back to where I was as a teacher at Towson U many moons ago. That's the last time I had such freedom to instruct as I saw fit.