Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Birth of a T.E.A.M.

Now that we've started this blogging journey, we should probably back up a little to the "birth" of T.E.A.M. Togetherness.

After 11 years of teaching in one amazing district, I had the tremendous fortune of joining my current district. I have tremendous respect for the new senior leaders and would follow them anywhere. When they took their new positions, I, too, applied, and was accepted.

In January of 2013, our senior leadership developed a new initiative called "The Uncommittee." The purpose was to rethink instructional practices and explore innovation. They invited teachers from throughout the district to be a part of the first cohort. We partnered with the amazing Jim Rickabaugh at The Institute at CESA #1, and visited schools and districts around us that were successfully implementing personalized learning. We observed, learned, and brainstormed our own ideas to bring to our district. In April, we were given the opportunity to write our own proposals for funding.

I approached Kate with my hair-brained idea, and without hesitation, she agreed. She didn't know details. She didn't know the plan. She simply trusted me and agreed. I can never thank her enough for that. From that one encounter, our partnership was born.

Our Plan
We teach in a very traditional district. Change was going to be tough. Sometimes unwelcome. Sometimes viewed by others as "crazy." Knowing that, we decided to go as "crazy" as possible!
1. Knock down a wall between two classrooms to create one shared learning space
2. Share 50+ 4th graders
3. Recreate the space to not include desks or seating for each student. Include unique layouts that provide alternative seating options for students to choose from
4. One-to-one technology via Google Chromebooks
5. Utilize inquiry, project-based learning, collaboration, and student interest to drive instruction
6. Students share and reflect upon learning using digital portfolios and weekly goal setting.
7. and more!
The wall finally came down mid-August 2013
The summer of 2013 was spent planning, stressing, planning some more, meeting with our new 4th grade team, stressing, and finally stressing. Communication with families was critical, but we will save that for a future blog post.

Ultimately, it all came together (by the skin of our teeth) and we met our 50 wonderful darlings at the end of August.

We have so much to share about our first year in T.E.A.M. Togetherness (which, of course, I won't do all in one post!) The ups, the downs, and the in betweens. We are now looping with our kiddos to 5th grade for the 2014-2015 school year. We will be continuing our journey and sharing our work. Thanks for learning along with us.


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