Barb Martin, Mentor teacher from Galileo Educational Network
Meaningful work, discovery and understanding take time and purposeful collaborative planning. Creating activities, mini lessons, worksheets, and evaluation for projects that are for a short period of time are where teachers traditionally begin their planning process. This process is often done in isolation without having the opportunity to work collaboratively with teaching partners.
This project took the teachers in a different direction with their professional development as they began to understand that when you take time to plan work that is meaningful it begins to foster a sense of discovery and understanding that becomes very powerful. This direction had many questions, hard work and uncertainties. As a mentor teacher throughout the planning, I continually guided the teachers to reflect upon the following:
We wanted to create a project where the learning came from the students and teachers own discoveries as well as learning through the discovery of others.
Where do you start to work in a different way? We started from the realization that we wanted to do something different - beyond "delivery and coverage" of the curriculum. This was not to say that what we had done before was not okay, it certainly was, but we were ready for a new direction with our own teaching practice. When working with students it is important to:
I started with reflective discussions of what the teachers wanted to learn and upon what discoveries they wanted to embark. This was an uncomfortable process for the teachers because, although they knew that working in this way was powerful, the journey was not familiar. There were no text books to guide us. We had to become learners and discovers. Reflective conversation was a very important component of this journey as we continually needed to clarify our learning by sharing what we had discovered. Our guiding questions were:
Throughout the process the teacher's emotions ranged from excited, scared, confused, energized and exhausted. The teachers often mentioned that this was unfamiliar to them and they had to constantly force themselves to stop reverting to traditional planning where they focused on activities and lesson planning. They both agreed that, as valuable the project was, without the mentoring process they would have reverted to the traditional planning where they were comfortable.
Because this project was dealing with issues that were so complex and in-depth we couldn't find resources that fit comfortably into a package. Too often we rely on materials that we have readily available and stay within the limits of this source. We were insistent that we did not want generalizations or a watered-down view of the people we were studying. The teachers were highly motivated to find sources for our own learning.
We immersed ourselves in reading to understand and come to an appreciation of the Native People. Through our learning we discovered what mattered and what had to uncovered by the students as well as us. The teachers arrived at the statement of "People live in different ways for very important reasons". This is the guiding statement that directed our future work.
Copyright for student work remains with the authors.
All else copyright © 2002 Pam Irving, Lorraine Flavelle and Galileo Educational Network Association