John Hayes, Eagle River, WI
One of the most exciting ideas behind the CPM curriculum is that it is designed and/or tested by teachers in the classroom. Therefore, the lessons and practices within the curriculum not only actually work, but more importantly they are achievable.
I am very proud to be a member of CPM’s TRC (Teacher Redesign Corp) again this year. This group embodies the “designed and/or tested by teachers” commitment that CPM has made since its inception. The TRC is a think tank for new ideas that might be implemented in a CPM classroom. The group is full of passionate educators, so the discussions are cutting edge, and often require my full concentration to understand. What I love about the group is the collaboration among so many great teaching veterans. Working with this talented group always reinforces how much I have yet to learn about education. Specifically, I reflect often on how much smarter we educators are collaboratively, than by ourselves. Most of the ideas I generate during a TRC meeting are not necessarily wrong, they just need to be improved. That is what this group does best: it takes good ideas and molds them into great ones.
Last year, our TRC 1.0 group focused on questioning in the classroom. Almost immediately when I started collecting data, I realized how low-level the questions were that I was using with my study teams. The study forced me to focus on improving my practice and I like to think that my students benefited directly from the added focus on questioning. In addition, some of my department meetings focused on the TRC 1.0 questioning study, and as a result, other teachers in my department worked on improving their questioning techniques.
This year I am having a similar experience. Our high school is focusing on a standard based learning initiative. Our current TRC 2.0 study has helped me realize what is important in this initiative. While a lot of our school’s discussion has been on rubrics and grade books, what is really important is the feedback that I give students. The current study has helped me take a very good feedback idea, and implement it in not just my classroom, but across many classrooms in our high school and middle school. The tools that our TRC group created in the summer, have helped me to define how standards based learning and growth mindset can impact a student’s understanding of mastery over time. With that said, the TRC group has really opened my eyes to some “What ifs.”
- What if I could get all of my students to value learning?
- What if I could get all of my students to think at a higher level?
- What if all of my students could articulate what we are trying to learn in my classroom?
- What if all of my students cared?
These are the educational questions that I often find myself lamenting with other educators as I stand in the hallway between classes. Sometimes it takes a group of passionate teachers like those you find in the TRC to realize that all of those questions are within the power of the classroom teacher. We just have to know how to change the current culture. There is no question that a commitment to research during the school year is challenging for any classroom teacher. We are all already pulled in a thousand different directions. However, quality research projects can certainly help a classroom teacher focus on the bigger questions in education and they can also keep your classroom from getting stale from year to year.
Note: You can follow John via Twitter: @JTHayesII, or by his blog