A few things came together to help shape our “Smart Bansho” proposal: Firstly, there was this constant awareness of
Secondly, there was the pressure from various sources to “get with the now” when it came to technology, but the frustration of not having “our own”. Was I really going to wheel the one upstairs hall Smartboard to my room and navigate the desks and chairs in my classroom on any kind of regular basis, to do some half-@$$*! lesson, when I barely knew how to plug the thing in? I knew that if a miracle occurred, and I somehow had my own interactive whiteboard in my classroom, I would be forced to learn how to use it effectively (case in point: Never used the document camera – have on in my classroom now, and use it almost daily!)
For me, there was also a personal motivation, inspired by a recent service trip to Honduras. Like a total hippocrite, I presented several workshops to teachers at a school there, on using manipulatives in one’s math program, and even facilitated a few lessons in a grade 3 classroom at the school (the first time students there had ever seen or used pattern blocks, thanks to a generous donation by Trevor Brown from Tyndale)… and yet, there I was in my own classroom back home, having manipulatives on hand, neatly displayed in my room, but rarely using them effectively to solve mathematical problems. Much as I preach constructivism, in my own classroom, the use of manipulatives is generally limited to “… and use these if you feel they migh be helpful”, while sweeping my hand broadly in the general direction of the colour tiles! If I was serious about constructivism and problem based learning, especially to meet the needs of different learners, then I needed to become more effective in my regular use of mathematical tools in my own practise, both as a mathematician trying to figure things out using diverse approaches, and as a teacher, facilitating different ways of constructing mathematical understanding of a given concept.
Writing a proposal can be a daunting task. As if the day weren’t busy enough, filled with the “rice” of being a classroom teacher, now one is expected to craft something coherent, inspiring and meaningful/professional. With the support of our principal, though, and some contacts I had made at the Board office during my time in Resource (who were willing to look through our rough draft and provide critical feedback), we were were able to put together something that we hoped would meet the needs of our students, and inspire us professionally at this point in our careers.
We hoped for a successful applcation, but knew the reality of many submissions by a variety of diverse committed, experienced colleagues across the province meant that we were unlikely to get our wish. Imagine our surprise, then, when we rec’d an email a few months later indicating that our application had been successful!
It hardly seems possible that this week we are headed to our first TLLP training session in Toronto, with colleagues across the province! We are nervous about some of the new learning, and the pressure to share it in meaningful ways, but we are also excited about the prospect of having the release time to do some professional reading, dialoguing and obvserving of other teachers, and of getting our very own smartboards next year, and especially of the possibility of changing our professional practice in ways that have a profound and postive long-term impact on some of our neediest students.