In early June, Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA) Study Group leaders and members join their coaches and WITS staff to share what they learned and discuss their group projects at the end of the year study group leaders meeting. At the meeting, members discussed how their professional goals shaped their teaching and what they learned during the 2020-2021 school year. RLTA Study Group members work together to set professional goals each year as small professional learning communities. Each group selects a professional text to support their goal and uses strategies from the book in their classrooms. Members said that they looked at students’ engagement differently after a year of online and hybrid learning and the different school year has made them examine student centered learning and ask “what does engagement look like online?”
Participants said they looked forward to monthly study group meetings because the meetings provided a reprieve from the stress of remote and hybrid learning. Also, being in a group was a place where they could be understood because remote teaching was so isolating. When teachers applied for the award in February 2020 before COVID-19 closures, many groups had specific goals in mind. After spending part of the year teaching remotely and uncertain of what the school year would look like in September, they planned for the school year, uncertain of the learning climate. Group members said they were able to make changes to their goals because when they applied for the award, teaching was going to be in person and had specific goals in mind. Many groups shifted their goals to focus on technology and adapted to using technology in not only in the classroom, but as their classrooms.
In addition to discussing their group goals, groups submitted a synopsis of their project, which included a review of their study group text and samples of student work. During the school year, groups meet monthly and recorded their notes about the selected reading from the text and strategies that they used with the students in their virtual and hybrid classrooms. Depending on the nature of the group goal and their audience, groups created ways to share their learning with wider audiences in their school communities. A few of the selected texts used by groups were: “Connecting with Students Online” by Jennifer Serravallo, “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess; “Cultivating Genius by Gholdy Muhammad; and Nonfiction Reading Power.
Both the Sawyer and Bateman Elementary School Groups used “Connecting with Students Online” by Jennifer Serravallo as their professional text. In their synopsis, the Bateman group stated “We recommend this text to educators that are either planning or currently teaching students remotely. This text provides educators with steps on how to set up routines and suggests on how to simplify lessons effectively in grades K-8.” Sawyer’s group noted: “We learned how to manage our time effectively for remote learning and instruction and how to modify for virtual learning needs. We also learned the value of purposeful SEL instruction. We took this opportunity to learn different virtual platforms to increase student engagement.”
Online Learning was also the focus of DuBois, New Field and Wacker groups. The DuBois group selected “The InterACTIVE Class” by Joe and Kristin Merrill as their anchor text and discovered “that our students’ interactions/engagement was directly tied to our practice and NOT the technology. Our pedagogy was changing and the thought we initially had about what students would be able to do had also changed.” Both Wacker and New Field started the year with “The Distance Learning Playbook.
New Field shifted from studying “The Distance Learning Playbook” to “Connecting with Students Online” “as our teaching and student goals evolved across the school year – from supporting student centered learning and independence to promoting student-to-student connection and collaboration.”
The Wacker group stated in their research synopsis: “As our discussions through the year we realized that our goal evolved from simply wanting to teach reading online effectively to becoming proficient with technology to improve our remote reading instruction. This meant going beyond the text for more resources.”
Several groups used outside resources such as Flipgrid and Seesaw to ensure that their students were engaged by using apps and to help meet the needs of their students. To showcase their work, some groups also shared their findings in presentation form via PowerPoint, electronic newsletter, or webpage. We are excited to see the projects that our teachers worked on this year.