Saturday, May 31, 2014

Next steps

So now it's a new year. I've since been promoted to team leader of the year 3/4 team at my school.
I've changed levels, moved classrooms, inherited a whole lot of new responsibilities... and still I need to make this MLE thing a success.
Where to go next?

Luckily, with a supportive principal and Board of Trustees, I've got the freedom to play with some new ideas and develop things further. The first thing we did after I moved classrooms was remove a wall between my room and the room next door to create one big space opening the two classes up to each other. Scary stuff! What about the noise? What about another class moving around our room? How will we cope? Here's what happened:

I started off the year with a normal classroom layout and a desk for every child. I could have started off with the radical classroom environment we'd progressed to last year, but I want the kids to be involved in the process of developing it. Also, It would have been quite a shock to many of the parents. After all, I'm new to this part of the school and they're still getting to know me and the first thing I've done is knock down a wall to the adjoining room. Baby steps!
The goal this year is to move towards team teaching with Amy, the teacher next door (or, rather, down the other end of our huge room!) The purpose of this is to make the most of our strengths - between the two of us we have a much larger range of skills and experience, strengths and weaknesses, and the potential to share and half our workload in certain areas. In such a busy, demanding profession it just makes sense to devote our time and energy to the right places.

We've started this year by each running our own, individual programmes in our own way. We've kept the two classes almost completely separate, apart from meeting together as a large group twice a day. We start each day with 15 minutes of karakia, singing and sign language, which Amy leads us through down her end of the classroom. After lunch, we all meet at my end for a shared story and related discussion. We've kept it like this throughout term one while things settle and this has allowed the children to develop good routines and get to know both teachers as well as students from both classes.
Even though we've kept things fairly separate, there have been times when team teaching has just occurred naturally as we bounce ideas and discussion off each other and the children. So nice to have another adult in the room! It kind of magnifies the teaching, with the two of us enhancing each other's lessons with our comments and input.

This term, we've introduced a maths interchange into the programme. We planned the unit together, mixing all 50 children together according to needs and ability. Amy, with her recent junior school experience, teaches the children working at the lower stages of the curriculum while I, with my senior school experience, work with the higher level students. We set up a task board, which the kids refer to at the beginning of maths time and the routines have fallen into place quite smoothly. It was surprising how readily our wonderful (yet slightly traitorous) students adapted to heading off to work with a different teacher each day.
This is the point where we've had to start compromising! It's not as bad as it sounds. During the planning stage, we've both been able to hang on to the key parts of our maths programmes that are important to us and to pick out the parts of each other's programmes we like to incorporate into our own teaching. Communication and compromise are important.
Luckily we seem to be good at these because we still like each other. So far, so good!

So we're prepared to keep going and looking forward to taking it further...

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