In my last post, I described the work I was doing with high school teachers from the Evergreen and Vancouver districts funded by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region division. I thought the project went great – and so did the teachers. Breeze through a few representative quotes to get a feel for the participants’ enthusiasm:
I learned that the kids are able and willing to think for themselves – that they’re willing to jump in and give it a shot. It’s all about getting kids to think… not just compliance.
We just went through the same inquiry process looking at the student work as [the students] went through with the documents.
This was not like a learning walk. I worked on a lesson related to my work, and I’ll use it. This is the way professional development should be.
It was great to work with other teachers who have such expertise. This shows what teachers from different schools can do with each other to benefit kids.
We’re all after the same thing: Seeing kids being able to connect with the material and make their own meaning is the big payoff.
We lit the fuse, and the kids took care of the rest. The collaboration was valuable… Hearing others’ observations reinforces the idea that I can relinquish some control and that the questions are as important as the answers.
The conversations and questions that we had today make me hold off on retirement.
I wonder: How far can this go?
I think there were several fundamental reasons why the project was so successful:
- The folks from the Library of Congress Western Region office were fantastic. They were able to introduce the Library of Congress archive in a way that both demonstrated its immensity and its usefulness. They emphasized the role primary sources play in catalyzing student inquiry and meaning making. They were flexible in adapting their approach to our needs.
- We used a lesson study approach. This helped teachers explore the immediate application of the approaches in the classroom. It guided collaboration in an authentic and accountable fashion.
- The teachers displayed true professionalism. Throwing a bunch of strangers together, providing them with new resources, and asking them to play with each other required a willingness to be public learners and not let vulnerability shut down the process. They met the challenge head on.
If you’d like to read more about the project, I’ve posted the final report here.
Click here to learn more about the grant program.
In the next several posts, I’ll share the lessons teacher-teams developed through this process. Sharing these does not mean to suggest that any are “Super-Lessons” (if any such thing exists.) I think that they are interesting as artifacts of a powerful professional development process – and they’ll probably get you thinking about great ways to guide student inquiry in your classroom. If the lessons are kept alive by your testing and tweaking, if the comments section is used to share what changes folks made and how their students responded, then the process continues. Here’s hoping!