Since it took so long to clear all the roads, many public transportation routes were closed or running on detours and it was pretty unsafe for school busses to travel down smaller roads. School was cancelled for 2 days! It was a nice break and a great time to relax, but for as fun as snow days are, they can be kind of hectic for a teacher. My lesson plans had to be alters- deciding what to keep, what to shorten and what just might not make it into the week plan. When the kids came back, they had been gone for just long enough to forget some basic things, like what language is classroom appropriate and how much work they really are held accountable for in our 90 minute periods. But as a grad school student, it was really nice to have that time to catch up on sleep, relaxation and get ahead on homework.
Speaking of homework, I'm finally starting to dive into my inquiry project, which is essentially my masters thesis. Penn really stresses an inquiry approach to teaching, which means constantly asking yourself questions about your own practice to figure out what works best for you and your students. For our project we answer a question and complete research in our classrooms to help us answer that question. We are also responsible for finding some relevant literature that adds to the discussion around our question.
In the past 2 weeks, I've jumped around from idea to idea and even have a meltdown about this project. I thought about doing something about homogenous vs heterogeneous grouping, especially considering that my classroom adapts a form of rotational blended learning, where my students travel in groups to different stations in the classroom (reading, writing and computers). While I was deeply interested in this, it became a little too overwhelmed with the amount of data I would receive and how to make sense of it all. I was going to end up with a million different answers to my question, but somehow, still not really be able to come to any kind of conclusion. I wasn't sure with all that information and data if it would really inform my teaching. So I started to think about my process while initially planning my research and realized a lot of my thoughts were around what kind of questions I would ask the different groups in discussions and in assessments, as well as what my expectations were of each group. This lead me to ask myself " What happens to student participation when there is high teacher expectations represented by the use higher level questions?"
There's still a lot I'm working out- as I'm hoping to look more into how students display different kind of understandings based on different questions. But I'm actually really excited to see how my students respond to the different kinds of questions I ask them. I'm excited to push them to exceed their own expectations, watch their growth and assess what I can do in my classroom now and what I can do in the future to facilitate learning and engagement.
While the idea of coming up with a single question to research and attempt to answer was extremely overwhelming, I really enjoy adapting an inquiry base to my teaching. It's really important to me to ask myself how I can improve as a teacher, how I can expose as many things as possible to my students, and how I can capture their attention, engage their imagination and help them enjoy learning. I think the constant desire for improvement, both for myself and for my students, is a major focus of Penn's program.
I love having the space to reflect on my teaching, my relationships with students and my own learning.
Hopefully this blog will give you a little look into what that has been like for me thus far!
Stay tuned for the melt downs and break throughs I will experience while working on my inquiry project!