Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

A Day of Open Doors and Building Trust- Teacher Drop in Day

          I've said it again and again- I am blessed to work alongside an inspiring group of teachers and administrators. With their support, on December 10th, Learning Partners brought to fruition what began as a mere glimmer of an idea, to entice Sullivan Heights teachers to continue to move towards adopting a culture of open doors, trust and collaboration. Just one of several initiatives supported by our Learning Partners Department, a district Action Research grant, and a school goal "to develop strategies and opportunities for teachers to have more effective cross curricular and inter departmental collaboration", "Teacher Drop in Day" was conceived as a strategy to allow teachers the rare opportunity to visit their colleagues' classrooms, as a method to discover and share teaching resources and strategies.

"Teacher Drop in Day" Eve- Host posters ready to go up outside classrooms.

          With over 20 teachers volunteering to host and/or visit on December 10th, the concern was that numerous release days would be required to provide TOC coverage for classes. But with most teachers volunteering to visit classes before and after their teaching day began, (Sullivan Heights operates on an extended day) or during their prep periods, ultimately only one TOC was required.
          As with all new initiatives, as the day approached, excitement, and yes, some anxiety began to build. For many experienced teachers, actively welcoming an adult into their classroom while they are teaching is a unique and somewhat daunting experience. As well, for visiting teachers, entering a colleagues' classroom "domain" can be somewhat intimidating. It requires a certain level of trust.
          Having signed up as a "Host" myself for the first period of the day, by 8:45am I had four teachers from various subject areas and my Principal all come to visit my English 8 class. Both my students, and myself were thrilled to have an opportunity to share information about the day's "Musical Poetry" lesson with our visitors as they wandered about the classroom, asking questions and speaking to students about what they were doing.
          Period 2 was my first opportunity to "visit". I began with Geography 12, moved on to Physics 11, French 10, Sociology 12, Math 9 and finally Foods 11/12. Each and every classroom door was wide open, and each and every teacher welcomed me into their classroom, taking the time to provide some context for the various lessons they were engaged in teaching. Many of "my" English students were curious, and pleased to have an opportunity to share their learning from another subject area with me. After bemoaning the fact that they were only in the prepping stages of baking in the Foods 11/12 classroom, one of my students promised that he would bring me some pie to sample the following day. True to his word, he showed up the next day to English 12 with two freshly baked pies. When I emailed the Foods 11/12 teacher to thank her for allowing the student to do so, she remarked that it was entirely his idea and that she considered it a "random act of admiration" on the part of the student. I love my job.

Foods 11/12 Sweet Potato Marshmallow Pie.
Math 9 Learning to calculate scale.

          Period 3 and 4 consisted of me once again hosting fellow teachers in my English 11 and 12 classes. I don't tend to think of myself as an "isolated" teacher, but ultimately, we do spend the majority of our day confined to our classrooms. The opportunity to share with each visiting teacher was an invigorating and inspiring experience. The other interesting dynamic was my students' curiosity about "Teacher Drop in Day". I explained that teachers rarely get the chance to leave their classrooms and observe other teachers teach, and that while we love spending the majority of our time with our students, we also need to continue to grow and learn ourselves.  One of my grade 12 students asked, "So, teachers get lonely?"
          With my teaching day concluded after period 4, I once again had the opportunity to visit during period 5. Trekking out to "Portable Land" I was able to visit a Pre-Calculus 11 and a French 10 classroom. Unfortunately, due to the somewhat "remote" location and inclement weather, these teachers had the fewest visitors. Definitely something that needs to be remedied for our next "Teacher Drop in Day". My final stop for the day was a Social Studies 10 classroom where students were learning about the Canadian Railway system. The teacher had set up various "stations" (pun intended) for the students to move through. Again, each teacher enthusiastically welcomed me into their room, and shared their unique and diverse lessons with me.
An "authentic" train whistle.

          While we are still in the process of collecting specific teacher feedback and data related to Host and Visitor experiences during "Teacher Drop in Day", early indications are that it was a positive and rewarding day for most. Like any new initiative, there are certainly some challenges to overcome, but with the overwhelming majority of respondents indicating that they would like to participate in an additional "Teacher Drop in Day" second semester, our hope is that this is the beginning of a long standing tradition at Sullivan Heights, and that it may perhaps even spread to other schools in the district. Ultimately, our goal is to encourage more and more teachers to "open their doors", creating a climate of collaboration and trust. Perfectly summed up in this teacher's tweet:
           "Had so many wonderful visitors for #TeacherDropinDay. My door is ALWAYS open (even when closed). Every day is a Drop in Day."
Sharing our "Teacher Drop in Day" experiences via Twitter.
More sharing via Twitter.