Teaching is perhaps the most complex profession on the planet. If you don’t think so, then watch this short video of a first year teacher as she struggles to differentiate instruction in her science class https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/differentiating-instruction
Think about how much time it would take for her to engage in this same work for every lesson that she teaches. Notice the time of day that she arrives at school and the time of night that she continues to work on her lessons… it is a 24/7 job.
The Dobbs Ferry School District is full of teachers who rise to the same challenges and aim for this same high bar for their students. With our inclusive program for all students, Dobbs Ferry, more than most schools, is especially charged with meeting the needs of very diverse learners.
In an effort to support this philosophy and what we value, those early dismissal days play an increasingly important role. Here are some of the things that routinely happen in our School District when students have a half day….
· Teachers meet in grade level teams to look at student performance data and talk together about instructional changes designed to meet individual student needs.
· Teachers gather in collaborative groups where they “step up” to share what they have learned with other faculty and administrators about using technology integration in their classrooms.
· Administrators “turn-key” the use of technologies that they are personally using and work with teachers to explore connections to the classroom.
· Teachers work within and across grade level teams to engage in curriculum design and work to “map” the curriculum to ensure continuity from Grades K-12.
· Teachers come together, in response to APPR initiatives, to develop student-learning objectives (SLO’s) and design pre-assessments that set the baseline for student achievement in individual courses.
· Teachers and administrators engage with professional consultants in the areas of curriculum and instruction to align curriculum to the new Common Core Standards.
Here is what teachers do when they are not involved with “official” professional development time.
· Spend hours designing engaging lessons that focus instruction on student learning targets.
· Review and provide feedback on student work.
· Participate in webinars with other teachers around the nation and the world on topics of interest to their craft.
· Join social network discussions with other teachers at their same grade level or content area who are conversing about innovative curriculum and instruction.
· Share Twitter exchanges with over 300 school administrators around the nation to highlight and debate key educational issues of importance to all schools.
· Engage with students via Twitter and video-conferencing to connect with other students and schools around the country to discuss curriculum-relevant current events.
· Connect with students to model the creation of personal learning networks so that they can learn how to use technology as a “learning tool” instead of a “social tool.”
Teachers in the United States are often compared to their colleagues in Finland and Japan. In both of those countries however, teachers spend almost half of their time engaged in professional development processes like lesson study and inter-classroom visitations. The “value” of teacher-time is not only measured in the “quantity” of time that they spend working with students, but in the “quality” of their instructional practice in the classroom. This assessment of “quality” is determined by continual professional growth and honing their craft as educators.
Teaching and learning needs to undergo a seismic shift in order to meet the needs of 21st Century students. Teachers need time and exposure to expertise both from within schools and from the larger world around us. Half days, early dismissals and other professional development time and dollars are not simply a luxury. They are critical components to instructional excellence and student success.
Teaching is complex hard work that is nurtured in an environment that encourages and promotes reflection, creative thinking and innovation.