Feeling Fulfilled

#teacherleaders, #schooltransformation, #teaching, #leading

The last week of school and all is a juggle between students finishing projects, doing their exams and prepping for graduation; teachers, students and admin are in a crazed, highly amped headspace. Meanwhile I had the pleasure of meeting virtually a teacher team in Abuja, Nigeria who are embarking on a new course for next year.

This amazing team including the science and history teacher plus the school leader jumped on a call between their am and pm graduation ceremonies to discuss and ponder what this new co-teaching/co-learning, multi-level course could look like. I was in such awe with the focus and thoughtfulness that they came to their devices with. It was phenomenal that they were able to block out the present distractions to contemplate what the future may hold.

In our hour long discussion we collectively identified some deeper thinking tasks that they will do over summer to prepare for planning days come August. To help keep everyone sane and literally on the same page I created a shared Google doc to map out the process for how we will co-develop and co-teach and assess this new interdisciplinary, team taught course. The session helped to model the kinds of tasks they may do with their learners come later August while at the same time giving them a safe space to share ideas and considerations. The outcome was terrific.

We first started with what their needs are as individuals coming to the team- what makes them ‘tick’ and what infuriates them when working with others. I shared a few examples of why we need to explicitly communicate these needs at the forefront of this new working arrangement. This task will lead them to creating a ‘team compact’ where they will carve out their agreements and define what these agreements look like and what they don’t look like. In this first meeting we only touched on personal needs to consider.

Next we moved to their subject specialisms. Excitedly each teacher shared their expertise for the content they will be contributing to the new team taught course. The science teacher recounted that for him teaching environmental science will close the loop that the students have been engaging with since 6th grade. Many of the topics included in the course are concepts the students are already aware of and now need to learn the science behind these global challenges such as climate change, population increases, risks of animal extinctions and so forth. The history teacher updated us with respects to the shift from the US History course that she had previously taught to a new comparative government course which specifically looked at 6 different countries: Mexico, UK, Nigeria, Iran, China, and Russia. Personally I was excited to see that the US was not included on this list as it will give students a fresh playing field and give them a chance to learn about other democracies along with socialist world powers. In this part of the conversation I made it clear that we won’t be able to teach everything in depth and will need to prioritize the skills and concepts that are the absolute minimum for students to master.

Hearing this idea of mastery compared to breadth of subject matter seemed to strike a cord while at the same time creating some doubt or concern. For science, the teacher thought he could design projects to allow students to explore subject matter at a deeper level with more critical thought and analysis involved since the students already have a head start in the topic and it is very current in the news. For history, this teacher will have a think about what can be done differently and believes that the joint projects will allow for the subject matter concepts to be explored by students differently than in her past practice.

Within the discussion I briefly mentioned the importance of designing the assessments aligned to clear criteria connected to each of the courses’ learning outcomes. There were head nods demonstrating to me that come August training we will need to dig into this deeper and co-design the first series of assessments.

Finally the teachers were so excited in the discussion that the started thinking about how to tie their three subjects together. They started to ponder running a model UN theme throughout the year with representatives from the six different countries. The Head who was still on the call got excited by this idea and offered to invite country representatives to meet with the students and share first hand information about their country and help prep the students for UN meetings.

The teachers’ and Head’s excitement in our discussion left all of us fulfilled and excited about the upcoming year on the curtails of this last one. I was amazed by their energy, focus and willingness to engage in thinking differently especially at this moment in time. June, end of year is always difficult and this year extremely- they taught the entire year through masks, social distancing measures and COVID 19 protocols mitigating case loads, absences and so forth. They also just went through their accreditation process which required additional attention and energy, in addition to the two interdisciplinary projects that I helped them facilitate and execute.

Kudos to CTL Academy and their successful end of year with vision and hope for the next school year already in play. Working with this team was the best thing about my week and hope that next year I have a few more teams to connect with and support. We will see and do reach out if you or your school team is interested in some transformative coaching. In the meantime I will begin planning my 3-week trip to their school come August so that we can have sessions in person for the first time.

Happy Summer!

Published by marasimmons

A passionate educator turned world traveler embarking on a nomadic lifestyle with my family. Learning to appreciate a life where we have the privilege of choosing our destiny and embracing it.

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