Every Thursday I rush across town from my Program Building to the High School, keeping an open mind about the PLC format that our faculty meetings are taking. Traditionally, our meetings left me wondering where I fit into this faculty, a group who focuses on AP (advanced placement), ivy league college entrance, standardized test scores, student behavior, attendance and tardiness.
At the beginning of the school year we were divided up into two PLC groups, one with our curricular department and one with grade level groups. We are charged with sharing strategies we are using in the classroom that have been adopted school wide. I was kind of excited! Here it was, an opportunity to connect with a staff I am part of but separated by due to the nature of my off campus program.
Let me put in the disclaimer here—our principal is FANTASTIC, she “gets”it” and there are many faculty members who are awesome teachers in their specialty. This ramble of mine is my feelings about being a nontypical high school teacher who is teaching nontypical students!
Through our weekly PLC meetings, I have become enlightened that my students are equal in the utilization of strategies. They utilize them in different settings or with different materials that are not typical to a high school student in a classroom, but they use them!
An example of my enlightenment came during a PLC sharing of Marking the Text , a strategy that came from the school wide use of AVID. I missed this presentation of the strategy a few years ago, because I was not included in school wide usage of the program, due to the nature of my mobile teaching of young adults with special needs in the workforce. I did not, nor ever will utilize the AVID program. There seemed to be a misconception at the time that “Ruth’s” kids do not need this approach to learning about reading. I too was not paying attention when it was first presented at a two-hour long faculty meeting in lecture format and did not sign up for any of the PD.
In our new PLC format I have come to realize that this strategy CAN and IS being used by my students. AND the kicker is they have been utilizing the strategy in the real world as adults. I realized this as I watched them read the job ads online and in newspapers, highlighting key vocabulary and then discussing it in our daily Job Club session. My students are able to pull up a website for a major employer, using their fingers on a touchscreen device, highlight the important info they need to apply for a job, prepare for an interview and become knowledgable about the employer. We have been utilizing this strategy digitally for quite some time, while the General Education population is still using pencil and paper! The PLC gave me a name for what we were doing, which seems to happen quite a bit, I am practicing effective strategies in my classroom from instinct or common sense and then learn there is a name for it!
I was excited when it was my turn to share with other General Education 12 Grade teachers how we were using the strategy with Ipads, personal phones and other digital media in the mobile world outside the high school walls. The recorder took notes and then we quickly moved on to the next thing on the standardized PLC agenda, leaving me feel a bit empty—I was hoping for more collaboration and real connections with my peers. As these weekly meetings are continuing, I am learning to listen more, share less verbally and the use pictures of my students in the real world to share what I do, which is helping. There has een a small spark–a few of the teachers I have known for many years started asking questions. Like “What is Autism?” “How can I get help with teaching a student with Aspergers?” This spark is growing and one teacher is asking for resources.
Although, this empty feeling keeps coming up in my professional live. When I am with a group of high school teachers and talk about my “kids” or get excited about a new thing like opening doors for them at our local community college, eyes glaze over. If I lived in a larger geographical area (not a 2 by 4 mile island) and closer to a university (not 4 hours away on one road to the nearest Walmart!) I might have more opportunities to collaborate with people who are doing what I do. Colleagues who take Transition seriously, people who know that students with disabilities CAN go to college and are making it happen. Sometimes I feel like I live in the backwoods instead of Paradise!
Therefore I have been reaching out to the wide open space of the digital world and the internet! Strategically trying to build a PLN (Personal Learning Network). My goal is to develop connections and resources that will carry me into retirement from Public School System. I do not want to stop doing what I do, but would like to do it on a wider platform.
So I am learning to Tweet! To dust off this blog and to set up our Program Blog as a class project for my darling young man who wants a job in Technology building websites and games. Learning about Edublogs and moving the Program Blog from WordPress. Learning to manage digital information is a full-time job and I think I am getting the hang of it. Trying not to feel overwhelmed and like I have to take immediate action on everything I discover.
Any tips, tricks and just general comments would be appreciated! I am quite distracted by shiny objects! As one flies across my screen I will follow it to other links and then forget about what I was studying to start with!!!!
Here is a summary of my connections I have been utilizing since I started this PLN project!
www.coolcatteacher— GREAT BLOG!
Hootsuite APP and Desktop Great explanation of how to put all social media together
Blogging through the Fourth Dimension Great BLOG!
Developing a “home” page on my Google Chrome that will follow me on all devices, MAC and PC–this has been fun–I have been gathering RSS feeds and Bookmarks from Safari and my internet explorer on my school computer, finding things that have not been used in a while
Florida Resource that is being dusted off and found to be very useful in helping me fit the round peg in a square hole
And I rediscovered Edutopia! It has been a productive and renewing Christmas Break so far.
Now if only the weather would clear up—-I am ready to go enjoy my last week off of school in Paradise!