Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Ask the question!

Collaborative teaching can be a scary journey! The deprivatisation might not be your idea of comfortable but it is ever present and places you in a position of constant observation by your peers, at the same time you are privileged to be able to observe them as they go about their teaching. In this environment it becomes easier to be more reflective about your own development and naturally this often takes the form of asking your colleague for their thoughts, observations, opinions and feed forward. Asking questions requires bravery and is relatively easy, being prepared to listen to the answers demands trust and professionalism.

Last week my colleague Lisa and I sat down to discuss how we might proceed with immersion and the next round of projects, we'd just conducted some eAsttle assessment of measurement and geometry and were contemplating whether or not we wanted to run one more week of immersion. I was quite excited about our ability to be innovative with the teaching of measurement but we were mindful that taking another week for immersion most likely would mean a week less for the next immersion/project phase. We both considered the timing and decided that spending a week on some measurement inquiry would benefit our learners as we can excite them about maths again.

Thursday afternoon, I spoke with another colleague, Erin, who teaches in our space 2 days a week to outline some of my ideas: Gardening, Fundraising, Garbage/Recycling and Fitness Activities/Trails. All four could be presented as problem based learning for a mini inquiry throughout the week, in my mind there would be lots of opportunities for us to observe real measurement learning and could lead to lots of responsive workshops for teaching. I got positive feedback and based on this we designed a Reggio-inspired provocation for measurement. I was still slightly concerned that three of these problems did have the potential to become more like a design thinking process though.

Friday morning, actively seeking feedback I went to share my ideas with Lisa. Her response was 'warm but demanding': "I challenge you" to look for something where there will be more DATs / explicit teaching not just an open ended exploration.  For a split second, I did feel personally attacked, but this was my own problem and wasn't in Lisa's tone, delivery or body language. I had gone seeking feedback, not reinforcement and a 'warm but demanding' response had been elicited. Shortly after I was comfortable with the challenge, I don't quite have the answer to Lisa's challenge but am feeling "comfortable with discomfort".  I have spent some time looking for better provocations and activities where there will be explicit teaching, supplementing these will be the observations that will lead to responsive workshops.

My thoughts were leaning towards using some YouTube videos and hands on activities such as building a water clock. But I'm still feeling some dissonance.

As it turned out I wasn't at school Monday ("Man Flu!" You might cry). Lisa had provided work investigating Translation, Transformation, Escher Art, Rotation, mixed with StudyLadder & Khan Academy modules and some teacher led workshops. This was a perfect model of balance for what we were after, exciting our learners about mathematics and providing room for explicit teaching.

Finding that balance can be difficult when planning for learning, sharing a learning space with other colleagues can add further pressure that translates into additional planning time. Its not a competition but it can certainly feel like it. Rather than getting caught up in destructive self-doubt, I believe that careful questioning of my own teaching and planning, should allow for deeper reflection and development. I need to bounce ideas, wonder aloud, share my observations and invite others into my thinking. But if I'm going to ask questions...

I better be ready for the answers!


  1. Thank you so much for your honesty around receiving feedback, and stretching yourself! It is a little-talked about aspect of being dynamic, growing and extending oneself in teaching practise and .. we expect children to take it and keep going, but a taste of it ourselves can remind us of how resilient we need to be and not take it personally. Thanks again for sharing! You have inspired me today.

  2. I have just re-read this post Reid and also appreciate the honesty in your writing. I am collecting blog posts and other 'bits' to share with my colleagues as we move slowly towards new learning spaces at school. I think it is a complete change in mindset in regards to planning/teaching and am not sure how to help prepare our teachers for this - the last thing we want are new spaces with old pedagogy!