Being new on the job, each day brings a mini-epiphany in surprising places. One thing I get to do a lot of is talk to teachers. I visit each school at some point throughout the year and speak at a faculty meeting. I’ve already had my mini-epiphany from one of these meetings. I went to Western Oaks Middle School and gave my speech, and then decided to stay a minute and see what the school was all about.
You can learn a lot about the character of the building at a faculty meeting. What I saw these teachers doing made my jaw drop! Now, I was in the classroom for 10 years, so I have been in plenty of faculty meetings, but this kind of work was a brand new experience for me. These teachers were working in their professional learning communities to improve instructional strategy using the Marzano framework. (I’m guessing that sentence is a thinker for those outside of education, which only proves my forthcoming point.) Each one had a three ring binder – just like their students do- chock full of pages dedicated to each skill they intend to teach, with a plan for how they are going to increase the depth of knowledge for each student on that skill. It takes time and thought to get to that final product- and all this comes before they’ve seen one student. I’ve often believed I was a good teacher because I was highly organized, but this structured and painstaking breakdown on each skill reached a new level for me.
It was clear from my observations that the profession itself has changed drastically in just the five year’s I’ve been away from education. We certainly had professional learning communities because Putnam City was one of the first in the state to do so, but post-No Child Left Behind, post- Common Core, post- Teacher Leader Effectiveness, those PLCs are delving into the data in creative and concentrated ways that dynamically inform the next phase of teaching.
I know not every teacher was on board with all these changes, but I also know that most all of them are willing to do the work needed to improve their instruction. The collaborative method can definitely cause some hurt feelings, jealousy, and pride, but if you can get the group past all that and on to student-focus, there is so much learning that can take place.
I now feel fully qualified to say that it has gotten harder- more challenging, more demanding, more costly, and more time-consuming- to be a teacher in just the five years since I was in the classroom. I for one KNOW that the teachers I saw at Western Oaks Middle School deserve to be compensated for that extra effort.