Saturday, April 11, 2009

What did I learn?

In my last post I was just before my visit to Skinner Academy Arts magnet.
So what did I learn? I learned that things are much better than I imagined in many areas but not all the way where we should be in other ways.
What is encouraging? Well all of our teachers are enthusiastic, they are excited to participate and do the cycles and all of that even when the project stops. What they really have said is- these are well designed units and they are part of our teaching now. We like them, the kids like them, they achieve our learning goals and require some energy in maintenance. I think that the project really encouraged this pattern by focusing on providing professional development and supports that lead to independent application. Our teachers do with a lot of support and very little other resources. As a result once practices become entrenched these "scaffolds" can be easily removed and the building still stands. After we will be gone teachers will not miss the resources as much because they have not come to rely on stipends, lavish classroom products etc.
So if it's all so good what is still missing?
The ongoing struggle is define the boundaries between the arts and music specialists and the classroom teachers. We have different ways of negotiating the boundaries in our different schools (this goes well beyond Skinner). The patterns are- disconnect: you do your thing I'll do my thing, Soap box: I am the expert on this (classroom teachers do this too) you must listen to me, Servitude- Tell what you need me to do . These are all paths on the way to true collaborative practice. We are simply not there yet.
Finally, I've seen only some evidence that the practices we encourage are "spilling over" to the general curriculum as an everyday occurrence. But more on that next week...
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