An Ode to Colleagues
Many of my colleagues have heard my general philosophy around professional development and teacher collaboration: “When you put teachers together and let them talk about teaching, good things happen.”
Now, I know this isn’t always the case. I’ve been in plenty of lunchroom discussions, or “small groups” for PD that devolved into griping sessions. However, overall, I have benefited far more from discussions with colleagues than from any other form of professional development. These moments where I learn from my colleagues, the people who also live teaching day in and day out like I do, also far outnumber the times that turn into a silly complaining session.
I am very privileged work with some exceptional teachers. The team I primarily work with were able to launch a unit where students learned about the rise of type-2 diabetes and held a “town hall” meeting to discuss and propose solutions to the problems they had read and learned about. A couple of years ago the ninth and tenth grade ELA teachers at our school discussed the format we had been teaching students to use for paragraph writing, and we have adapted it every year since, based on our learning, assessments, and discussions with each other. That might be one of the more exciting things about working with these folks at my school – we are all aware that our we are constantly learning, and we are all striving to improve. Most of the colleagues I spend time with are the least “static” people I know, and they always want to learn more.
I had a new appreciation for this when a few of other ELA teachers and I were able to come together and discuss our grading systems last week. We mostly talked about my portfolio system that I used this year, but the hour-long discussion got me thinking about a number of things, including:
- how to use holistic rubrics more effectively
- how to show students both their progress in learning as well as their progress in “study skills/effort” and how those things were related
- how to show students how their work measures up both within our school, but also in the world outside our school, especially college.
Sure, I’ve been to great PD workshops that shared new ideas. However, working my colleagues not only stimulates me intellectually, but also gives me tangible ideas that I can use in my classroom. Working with colleagues also helps me follow through. Now that I have thought about assessment more and how these ideas might play out in my classroom, I have more questions that I can take to my colleagues, and get more feedback on. And it works both ways – I know they will keep talking to me about what I am doing in my classroom, and what they are doing in theirs, and these discussions will keep us moving forward in our professional development.
So, as I continue to look for was to develop myself professionally, I will continue to use my colleagues as my primary resource. There is truly no greater asset to my professional growth than the awesome group of educators who are just down the hall from me!
Shameless plug: Check out these great videos from one of these amazing colleagues! He teaches AP Language, and his students have made videos about how use and analyze rhetoric. Truly fantastic!
After some messing around with the Blueberry Pancakes from Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites I have come up with a simpler version that doesn’t sacrifice the amazing fluffiness of these “diner” pancakes!
Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes (adapted from Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites)
2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 TB granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup soymilk
3 TB lemon juice
3 TB of nondairy butter, melted (or canola oil)
3/4 cup of frozen blueberries
1) In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the soymilk, lemon juice and vanilla. Stir just a little with a fork and then leave it alone – the milk will start to curdle like buttermilk!
2) In a medium-size bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. Make a well in the middle, and then add the soymilk mixture. Mix just until the batter comes together. Then, mix in the melted butter and fold in the blueberries.
3) Heat a large skillet (we love our cast iron one!) over medium high heat. Spray with a bit of canola oil. Ladle 1/2 cup of batter for each pancake. When the batter begins to bubble, flip and cook on the other side until golden brown.
Enjoy with non-dairy butter and maple syrup!