Friday, September 25, 2009

Finding Best Practice in Teaching

Friday night, I'm in my jammies, and I'm about to watch the season premier of Ghost Whisper...a teacher's wet dream after the first three weeks of school. OK...maybe just this teacher's web dream.

We are now into the first week of "real work". I'll put grades in my grade book this week and I'll start sending home student work in Tuesday Folders....this means I've been grading papers...the one job I avoid as a teacher.

My learning curve at this new school is in overdrive. I'm learning to hold my tongue. I think that is the key to all the life of smiling, nodding, and keeping my mouth shut. I think this is the safest place to be for an elementary school teacher.

In a way is excellent that the administration just stays away. When I think about it, everyone just stays away. There's no connection between anyone in that school not between the teachers on my team, nor with the teachers in special education or ESL. We all share students, but no one shares what they do in their is a little weird and creepy.

But like I said the administration just stays away, they just trust that we are doing the right thing in our classrooms....this could be a very good thing...however, I sorta wish they paid more attention. Because there is so much disconnect between teacher and specialist in that school. Plus the students are pulled so many different directions...I question if this is the "best practice" for teaching.

Many teachers talk of "best practice". While there are many different ways to define this, I find that for the students I teach "best practice" is for students to have as much uninterrupted instructional time in the general education classroom. While every teacher today has students who receive services through special education or ESL, I've found that having those specialists "push-in" the classroom is the best way. That is, I believe students should be completely included in the classroom.

This way of thinking is not the practice at my new school. Instructional time is constantly interrupted by various numbers of students going to band, strings, or chorus. The rule is that I am supposed to stop teaching when students are pulled for these classes. How does one do this and teach everything that is in the curriculum?

I fear that my students who receive special education and ESL services are losing out. Are they really learning how to read and comprehend? Are they really learning math concepts or being forced to memorize a bunch of rules that mean nothing to them?

Instead of complaining or fighting a battle I will surely lose, I'm rethinking my approach to teaching. I am desperately trying to find ways to integrate reading and problem solving in everything I do with my students...this would mean when I teach content subjects like social studies and science.

I am not saying that my "best practice" is the only way, and I'm not saying that the special education and ESL teachers are not doing their job. However, there is little communication and these teachers do not really seem interested in talking about how to combine our efforts. I understand this because for many teachers this "practice" takes more work and effort and a new way of thinking when it comes to educating children...again a battle I will not I do what I can when I can, and not rock the boat or ruffle the sensitive feathers of my co-workers.

Maybe that is my lesson in all this....

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