Friday, December 30, 2011

Make it Work

This year, I am preparing my portfolio for my National Boards.  Let me preface this by saying that National Board Certification is completely voluntary.  Just like lawyers and doctors have their boards, teachers do as well.  I started this process because, honestly, I wanted that NBCT acronym after my name.  I knew that a National Board Certified teacher is incredibly knowledgeable about teaching and excels at it.  I wanted to be associated with those kind of teachers.

Currently, I am in the middle of assembling my portfolio, which is due March 31st.  The portfolio requires me to submit four entries.  If you want a detailed explanation of the process and another teacher's reasons for seeking certification, click here: Confessions of a New NBCT.

Two of the entries require a video submission.  Watching myself teach is at times excruciating, especially seeing my students when I'm not there.  When I watch their conversations, I often see some misunderstanding I had no idea they had.  I'm also aware of some of the things I do.  For example, in the video I am now considering submitting, I try to give a hint about angles, but it just looks I am doing some wierd dance.   The shapes I am making with my hands look nothing like angles.

I may be expecting too much from myself.  I am on my ninth video attempt for this one entry.  Here are some examples of why I decided to re-film:

My first attempt: Launching marbles in the gym and calculating their speed.  I was nervous and I didn't ask very probing questions.  The acoustics in the gym made it impossible to hear student conversation.

Also loud, the experiment had students standing on chairs to get the appropriate height for their experiment.  Since my camera is fixed, it ended cutting off heads and I wasn't able to get good conversation.   Plus, it looked a little chaotic and that's not what I want the assessors to see as the only example of my classroom.

Better, but this is when I realized that I was "spoon-feeding" my students instead of promoting inquiry. I thought this video was the one until I realized that this wasn't an example of good teaching.  Because of watching myself here, I changed the way I taught during Science. 
I improved my questioning and I am happy with the job I did as a teacher.  In the entry, I need to show two groups that I meaningfully engage in learning.  This is in a video that is 15 minutes maximum.  My first group is meaningfully engaged.  My second group gets a little off-task and starts discussing Smencils (pencils that smell like different flavors).  Honestly, I think I turned the camera on them too-late during the lesson.  They were already done with the inquiry work and I filmed them preparing their graph to show to the class.   Still, I think that my first group has such amazing conversation and I have a lot to talk about my second group's understandings based on what is happening in the video, that I think I can make this recording work.

I came home from my daily Starbucks work session today and told my husband that I wanted to re-film.  He reminded me that I am teaching real people and that I will never get the perfect video, at least to my standards.  I know that what I have now is a very real video of what happens everyday in my class.  My analysis of it will be very candid, identifying issues and reflecting on what I will do differently in the future.  That is the best I can do.  It's time to "make it work."

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