Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of these things is not like the others...

When Justine and Beth posted the need for Blog Prompts, I added this question.  Unfortunately, I didn't consider that while I thought it was a great question for me to read on the blogs of others, I really was struggling to be concise on my own blog with my answer.  Because much like the randomness of my Teacher of the Gifted (TOG) position, curricularly, so are the relationships I have with my colleagues.    Being a TOG means that understanding, even superficially, the jobs and capabilities of people in other departments, helps when trying to pull together challenges for gifted kids who are obsessing on a topic which proves to be a total challenge to understand. For when they inevitably come and speak, with great excitement, about something foreign to me, I have the connections for referral.  My colleagues in the other departments have my back, and are (usually) excited to help a passionate student with a seemingly random or challenging project.

Describe a cross-curricular relationship that surprised you and made you a stronger teacher.

One of the disadvantages (or is it an advantage?) of being a Teacher of the Gifted, is that there are fewer like-teachers in my world.  On in-service days, it is not uncommon to see the history folks, science folks, or groups of same-grade level teachers strolling to the parking lot in groups of five or six, after the morning department meetings, to head off to lunch.  Those of us who don't really share our training with others can easily feel left out, searching for somebody to celebrate a luxurious hour-long lunch on in-service days, in a local restaurant, like big people in the business world.

In some respects, this challenge has created a sort of hodgepodge for me.  I have a wide cross-section of colleagues, as I work in three separate buildings in the district.  And while I usually don't feel like "one of the gang," in any one building, I am a sort of "crazy cousin" in all of the buildings that can tag along with almost any group.

Social media, particularly Facebook, has done a lot for me, in terms of making connections with teachers in other departments or schools.  This year, getting to know Seth Dougherty 
a bit better via Facebook posts, and tomfoolery during the infamous A Lunch, has actually lead to a much more concrete collaboration  as we've shared articles, ideas, and students.  On student, in particular, is of a Fixed Mindset when it comes to Chemistry with Seth.  Seth and I have both embraced the research of Carol Dweck, and have shared the concepts with our students.  It's always entertaining when a student stares at me disbelievingly, asking me why my most recent presentation on metacognition mirrors the ideas she heard in CHEMISTRY!   (One student went so far as to accuse the district of having trained us all in some sort of collusion against the students.)  

It's true, though, that when kids can see the interconnectedness of the disciplines, and of the value of reflection, that they will succeed.  Just this week I was peaking to a colleague in the mathematics department.  I'm pretty sure that next month there will be a display of artwork in the math wing -- defining mathematical principles found in art.

For some reason, our learners consider subjects in high school to be self-contained.  They "do math" and then leave the math room.  They learn history, but fail to see its importance when reading a novel.  

They try to figure out how much yardage to put a newly-discovered set of quilt blocks on point, and then suddenly Pythagoras makes sense.  (Oh, wait, that was me.  I wonder how much better I would have done in Geometry in high school if someone had explained its practical application to my future self as a quilter?)

I can't exist in a vacuum in the world of education, living without the connections I've made with colleagues at lunch, on social media, or in professional learning networks.  Expecting our students to assume the interconnectedness of their educational experiences without modeling that for them is doing a disservice to all of us. 

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