By Elizabeth Magill
This summer I, along with many teacher colleagues from the Capital District have been a part of the Capital District Writing Project [CDWP]. This experience includes many opportunities for reading, writing and reflection but the part I have enjoyed immensely is our Inquiry Group. This group consists of four members of the larger CDPW group who have chosen to research a common topic. As a member of this group we decided to research Teaching as Professional Practice. Our group was cohesive from day one and we continue to explore this subject through our reading and discussion. The best part of the inquiry group is the collaboration and professional conversation that by day’s end cause my brain to hurt yet stimulates me in ways that do not occur during the course of a school year. The intellectual stimulation comes from a combination of reading, discussion, complaining, note taking and writing. Part of the process in the collaborative adventure was building a trust between our group members. We did this by respecting others opinions and speaking freely. It all seemed so natural. Strangers trusting each other as professionals and agreeing to disagree or agree vehemently yet for all different reasons is a wonderful thing.
This all seemed natural and foreign at the same time. As professionals we should be engaging in this type of collaboration often because this heightens our awareness of topics we are researching while allowing us to discuss the impact on us as professionals. As our research continues the ideas forming in our minds is that this is a model for good professional development was supported by many professionals both here and abroad. In the article “Teacher Professional Development: It’s not an Event, It’s a Process.” The author states that good professional development for teachers is long-term, rigorous, and relevant, takes 25% of each day which may include collaboratively planning lessons and sharing lessons, and should be based on the collaboration model where teachers teach teachers. If professional development is consistent with the needs of and the context, then it will be successful in creating long-term changes. As a result, student achievement will increase.” Could this be the “Silver bullet” everyone is seeking? Could it be that simple that if we give teachers time and allow them to research and discuss topics of their choice that they will be better teachers for it?
This summer has made me realize that teachers working collaboratively with a common goal can do great things. I’m sure I am not the first participant to feel this way about CDWP or the inquiry group concept however I am now convinced that I must pursue this with my colleagues in my district this year. My district has suggested something new for this year. A plan to have some committees or groups of people work together to explore some ideas about teaching was suggested. This will be one way to meet our districts requirements for APPR and for me this would be the perfect storm, do something valid and score points, could that be a positive aspect for APPR as well? The collaboration this would entail would be beneficial to all.
We have considered how to present to our colleagues in other inquiry groups our findings so that they too will be both intellectually stimulated and simultaneously sparked to find out more by reading the articles on our annotated bibliography. This part of the process has also been collaborative and we find ourselves giddy with anticipation of our presentation. So this is summer school with a twist!