At the beginning of a school year my 8th graders still look like kids. Most of the boys are still shorter than I am. Then one day I will be trying to have an eye to eye conversation with one of them and I have to tilt my head back just to see their face, and I think to myself, when did that happen.
The teaching culture at Rancho Minerva has gone through a similar change; change so slow that it takes looking at it through the eyes of an outsider to see how far we have come. When I started teaching 8th grade, just 5 years ago, tables were in rows and we lived and died by the standardized exams in May. Rote practice was the rule. Teachers lectured and students listened, or at least pretended to. Most classrooms now are set up in table groups or modified rows that allow for students to talk to one another. Teachers still give instruction, but it is not the entire period. Students collaborate on projects that allow them freedom to be creative. We have a growth mindset that gives students permission to fail, and try again and again. We struggle and we persist. This culture shift has extended to technology. When teachers were given their iPad2s 3 years ago there were some rolled eyes. “I just can’t imagine what place an iPad has in a math classroom,” was a comment made to me by a very good math teacher. We have moved past the place where the iPads were a novelty, or a toy, and to a place where they are just a part of the school day. If a lesson requires the use of the iPad the students use it, if not, they don’t. They are sometimes given a choice to use the iPad, for example, for notes, or to use paper. When they are presenting a project, they have a choice of apps. Students are empowered to figure out how their devices work. One teacher told her students, “I don’t care how you get it on Notability, just make it happen.” We are communicating now not just face to face, but by email with our students. A veteran teacher wanted to know how to email her students all at once. All signs of teacher professional growth.
As I watched other teacher walk through my school I realized that, while we are not done growing, we have certainly come a long way in just a few short years, and I am so proud to work with a group of teachers who do not run from, but embrace change.