For me, the last few weeks have been phenomenal with respect to collaboration. I have been privileged to work with passionate educators who push the boundaries and are not satisfied with the status quo. The collaborations bring out my inner creativity and motivation to push my ideas even further.
Currently I am teaching a pilot course at Cameron that combines ENG 3UI and HSP (Introduction to psychology, sociology, and anthropology). I see the same students for two periods a day and the courses are completely integrated. In many cases I use the HSP content to meet English expectations as many of my students are loving studying psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
In teaching the HSP course, I am collaborating daily with Dan Ballantyne at Bluevale and our partnership has really pushed my thinking. Our planning follows the inquiry model as well as encourages student voice and choice. We are lucky in that our classes are at the same time of day as we have been able to host Google Hangouts between our classes as well as share discussions in our combined Google Classroom. I think my students have really benefited from collaborating with his students, but also getting to hear his perspective as compared to mine.
I am also blessed to work in a school where our administration is extremely supportive of professional development and outside the box thinking and was granted permission to visit Dan’s class. In terms of professional development, it was hands down the best professional development I have had in a very long time. I got to observe Dan in his element and interact with his students. He very cleverly included me by asking the students to come up with strong open-ended questions to ask me to serve the purposes of a) introducing me and b) having them practice their question writing skills. We also discussed facilitating conversations and how to deepen thinking. But my favourite aspect of the day was observing how he interacted with his students. His classroom is one of deep reflection and warmth which is a huge reflection on his practice. I feel privileged to have seen him in action as observing each other is not something happens often enough in our profession.
When we initially decided to collaborate, Dan came up with the outstanding idea of having our classes write a textbook for the HSP course. Its target audience will be students taking the HSP course and include video, links to current relevant articles, as well as student writing and reflection. This past week we have embarked upon the initial stages of writing our online textbook. Dan’s class has started a glossary while my students are writing the introductions to each of the three disciplines. It is an ongoing task with multiple opportunities for authentic audience and peer feedback via Google Hangouts and virtual discussions. The students also have accountability as if they don’t complete their responsibilities, they are not only letting their peers in the class down, but also the other class. I am really excited to see the journey our students take in writing this textbook, but also their creative end product.
In considering the past seven weeks of school, I am more passionate than ever about education and improving our current model. I am blessed to have found individuals that push my thinking and support my creativity. I feel like I have grown so much as a learner in the last few weeks and I am thankful to be surrounded by such exemplary colleagues.