Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome Back!

For those of you visiting this blog for the first time, WELCOME!

This space is used for Galesburg CUSD #205 and KWSED teachers who are new to their respective assignments. This is an area where we can:
  • Celebrate your accomplishments in the art and science of educating our children,
  • Share suggestions, advice and concerns, (remember: this is a public forum!)
  • Catch up on events from recent meetings of the New Teacher Learning Team
New Teacher Learning Team
Our first meeting of this year was held Wednesday, August 31. This was the end of a hot day, and the A/C in the meeting room seemed to be appreciated by all. We were joined by Diane VanHootegem, Director for Human Services, and Joel Estes, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction. A few concerns were expressed and addressed:
  • National Common Core State Standards: Don't feel bad if you're freaking-out - this can freak-out even the most experienced teachers! NCCSS will become "the law of the land" in 2014-15, regardless of whether teachers are ready for it or not. Galesburg is probably ahead of most Districts as far as raising awareness of this change and helping teachers get prepared for it. However, there will still be growing pains among both new and experienced teachers alike. The professional development activities that District #205 has planned over the next few months and years are designed to help ease this transition as much as possible.
  • Mentoring Plan: We have a State-approved Mentoring Plan on file with the Illinois State Board of Education. Participating in this plan is (1) a contractual requirement during your first two years of employment, and (2) the quickest way for new teachers to earn their Standard Certificate. Here's how to participate:
    • Meetings: Meet with your Mentor regularly (guideline: around 35 hours during your first year, around 15 hours during your second year - most of you will log more hours than this, though - and that's okay!),
    • Observations: Your Mentor should observe you in your classroom duties to help you improve on whatever areas you (or your principal) think would be best to help kids. There should be specific Planning and Reflecting Conferences held before and after each Observation, respectively.
    • Logs: Note the date, duration, and topic(-s) discussed at each meeting with your Mentor. You can also use this as a diary or journal to reflect on your activities and growth as a professional educator if you wish, but the brass-tacks of logging the meetings is required to show your participation in the Mentoring Plan.
      • Also record the dates & durations of the Observations by your Mentor!
    • See Other Teachers In Action: You also have the opportunity to observe other District teachers during a class period up to once each semester.
    • New Teacher Learning Team: While these meetings are an optional part of the Mentoring Plan, those who participate report that it is very valuable to their first year or two in the District. We will reimburse you for your time in these meetings (at regular committee stipend rate in December and in May), but the value in sharing and learning during these meetings is immeasurable! 
  • Know Your Students: We also discussed some ways to creatively deal with student behaviors - or lack thereof - during the hot days of August (and September... and sometimes October... etc...). The conversations sort of revolved around the importance of getting to know your students and considering all the other factors that might be at work that have very little to do with your work with curriculum and instruction - but are vitally important to the kids and their success. Building appropriate student/teacher relationships, taking into account the myriad personal issues kids bring with them every day, and working together to help everyone adapt to "the way school is done" is just as important as doing the job itself. That's true in school as well as life!
After this discussion we watched the first video in Dr. Harry Wong's series, entitled "The Effective Educator." We will discuss this and many other things at our next meeting, September 14 @ GHS. Hope to see you all there!

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