As well as maintaining our website, which we hope reaches many educators around Ontario and beyond, we have also developed a 3-part “Lunch and Learn” series to share a little more about the project with our colleagues at school.
Anyone who signed up for the Lunch and Learn series was strongly encouraged to observe a “Smart Bansho” lesson in action before the series. Release time was arranged with the support of our Program Resource Consultant, who spent time doing literacy in classrooms while the homeroom teacher visited us, or with the help of each teacher’s Spec Ed/ESL support person, who worked with the class they normally supported, while the classroom teacher came to watch a lesson. Teachers were asked complete a focussed observation guide while they were in our classrooms, to document their reflections during the visit.
In addition to arranging support coverage for teachers to visit our classrooms, our principal also supported this venture by providing lunch for any and all who wanted to come to the Lunch and Learn series.
12 teachers attended the first of the three sessions. Considering the small size of our teaching staff, and given the current political climate in Ontario public schools, this was quite a turn-out!
(As an interesting aside, a Ministry Education Officer also happened to be visiting our school the date of the first Lunch and Learn, and after check out a math lesson in both of our classrooms, she joined us for the first part of the series at lunch! Thankfully, she was very pleasant and positive, and not at all intimidating; when I told my partner later that night that a ”Ministry” person had been in to watch me teach, one of my kids overheard me, and piped up, “Someone from the Ministry of Magic came to your classroom, Mommy?!”)
Co-presenting with my colleague, Dale, was a very positive experience; as we have worked so much together this year and last, we both seem to pick up seamlessly where the other leaves off, and neither one is offended when the other jumps in to add a point or clarify. Whereas I have facilitated numerous workshops and sessions for teachers over the years, this is a fairly new area of professional growth for Dale, and I must say, he seems to be a natural – one of our colleagues even came up to me later that day and said that he seems like he would make a great administrator!
One theme that emerged from the Lunch and Learn was that even the sceptics seem keen to try out this “new” way of doing math, but that a key roadblock is time.
Both Dale and I have realised this year how much we didn’t know when it came to math (not just teaching math, but math itself), and the gift of time has been one of the greatest assets of this project. The reason a lesson seems to flow so well is that I have co-planned it with a colleague, after hours of deliberation about how best to arrange it in the sequence of a unit of lessons. Because I have read chapter after chapter of Small, Van deWalle, Ministry monographs, etc., etc. Because I have spent a full day reading, thinking about and creating templates to support effective questioning in the math classroom while the lesson is unfolding. Because… etc., etc., etc.
And the truth is, our non-TLLP colleagues do not have the same luxury.
Imagine, then, what capacity one could build with just a few days of release time for each teacher on staff who is interested in genuinely going deeper with this material. Not PD days that are programmed to the second, but rather, PD days where 2-3 teachers sit together, without the pressure of running at the sound of the bell, leisurely reading just a few articles or chapters together, discussing said chapters in detail, and beginning to make lists of possible math problems, followed by more release days where the same teachers could turn their lists into a few 3-part lessons to actually try out in their classrooms, followed by yet another release day during which teachers could debrief the successes and failures of said lessons, and try again, fine tuning, and creating more lessons to try with their specific group of students.
After such extensive, job-embedded PD, I would bet that a considerable percentage of the teachers would continue on their own to further explore the math and technology they had begun learning deeply about!