This year I am in a hybrid role at my school where I get to teach a few periods of 7th grade English Language Arts and support the professional learning of my colleagues. I am a Peer Collaborative Teacher (PCT) and so far, I’m loving it! After an initial 2-day week, we just completed our first full week so here are a few highlights from my first “week” as a PCT.
Building Relationships with New Teachers
This year I am responsible for helping support four first year English Language Arts teachers at our school. Three of them teach 9th grade students and one of them teaches 6th and 7th grade students. This week I simply wanted to start to build a relationship with each of them so we sat down one-on-one and started that process. I asked them the following questions and it helped me get to know them a bit more. I’m looking forward to getting into their classrooms and starting some of our coaching sessions.
- Why did you become a teacher?
- What was your best experience in school?
- What was your most difficult experience in school?
- How’s your year going?
- What is working for you? What are your strengths?
- What is difficult for you? Where do you want to grow?
- What do you like to do for fun? What are your favorite snacks? :)
Best Practice at BSSWA
I love my school and one thing we can get better at is sharing the good stuff that’s happening in our classrooms and learning spaces. In my role as a PCT I get to visit people’s classrooms more frequently than most so I’m privileged to see some excellent practices. I’ve started taking pictures of the good things I see and sending them out to the staff as a “Best Practice at BSSWA.” I’ve only sent one so far but I’ve asked the staff to snap a pic or take a video of something great happening in their own classrooms or someone else’s to be shared.
Collaborating with other staff members
As a PCT, I’m focused on supporting the professional learning and growth of our staff. This week I had time to sit with our Dean of Students to apply for a grant to support our staff in developing and sustaining culturally responsive practices. In my full-time teacher role all of this work would have had to be done afterschool or during another time-constrained period. In my new role, I could allot a period during the day over the course of a few days to collaborate on the application. Precious time that more teachers need!
Creating the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists’ Center for Teaching and Learning
While my principal and I were discussing my new role over the summer we brainstormed an idea for our school to create a Center for Teaching and Learning where staff could come to share best practices, get advice from colleagues, hear guest speakers, find helpful resources and research, and grow and develop as professional educators.
I presented the concept to our staff at the very beginning of the school year and sent a survey out soon after to hear what types of programming and resources people wanted and what they wanted the space to physically look like. Everyone had wonderful ideas and it’s now our job to make it happen. Some of their survey results are below and they remind me how important it is for educators to have a space where they feel safe to take risks, where they feel connected to others in the work, and where they can learn, reflect, and grow. I’m excited to see how the space manifests and what it will create for our school’s community of teachers and learners.
QUESTION: Are there specific professional resources would you like in The Center? If we don't have them we may be able to order them.
“Any Professional published resources that deal with Urban Education, dealing with African American and Latino Boys (Pedro Noguera, Dr. Steve Perry, etc.), and building self-esteem in girls in Mathematics and Science.”
“Anonymous ways to ask for/give feedback and support.”
“I would like to have more resources around ENL, SPED and literacy in content areas.”
QUESTION: What would you like the space to physically look like or include? What is your dream learning space?
“I think the space should be cozy and bright. Comfortable seating, moveable/stackable tables or trays to maximize the space, maybe some plants, artwork...”
“Comfortable seating, whiteboard wall, PD opps posted, best practice board.”
QUESTION: Is there anything else you want to be considered as we build BSSWA's first Center for Teaching and Learning?
“Let it be a safe space to talk about our struggles and a place to take chances.”
"Our understanding of who was and was not a good student were rooted less in experiences with urban students and more on our perception of them, which were largely based on a flawed narrative." I say all that to say it is gravely important that we approach teaching and learning with the least amount of bias; sometimes it gets in the way of us doing our best job. Training/workshop on this could be helpful! :)
60% of the staff members surveyed said they’d like the Center to host mindfulness sessions for staff to participate in. We have one particular member of our school team who is a mindfulness practitioner and they volunteered to facilitate the session so we started a 10-minute mindfulness sit on Wednesday mornings just before our students enter the building to set the tone for the day. We had our first one last week and it was a peaceful way to start a day of teaching and learning at BSSWA.
I’m grateful for this opportunity to teach and learn in my school building. I'm excited to see how our work progresses and the impact it has on our students, our staff, our families, and our larger community.
Does your school have a PCT or another teacher leader role? If so, what advice do you have for me and my colleagues as we embark on this journey?