Education is changing every day. With the onset on the Common Core State Standards and gaps in teaching these standards among curriculum, teachers often look for outside sources for supplementary materials. I, like many teachers head to Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers for fresh ideas. (I will admit, however, that I refuse to pay for materials on TPT and only download free items – I believe that we educators should freely share with one another.) In most cases, I find that there are already materials created for the skill I’m looking to teach that require little to no editing. I also rely on my teaching team and a group of friends who also teach Kindergarten to pass along anything new and innovative that they may have. For innovation in teaching, I follow educational programs such as Edutopia, TED-Ed, The Office of Ed Tech, and We Are Teachers on Twitter. Although I don’t often post to Twitter, I find that it is a great way to aggregate education-based information. Additionally, I belong to a few grants and groups within the State of Oregon that allow me to stay up to date on changing standards and innovations in teaching across our state.
Thankfully, my district does a great job keeping up on educational best practices. In math, we participate in Studio practice, where we delve deeply into a lesson and, using Habits of Mind and Habits of Interaction, make sure that our math instruction is of high cognitive demand. This year, we are working on bleeding those ideas over into ELA instruction. We have School Improvement Wednesday every week which is an early release for kids and 2 hours of professional development for teachers. We also have many opportunities to serve on leadership committees and state/district grants. I’m currently serving on a state grant to refine our ELL instructional practices – our focus is on increasing quality student argumentation.
As I am continuously working towards bettering my practice, I do come across some challenges as I try to implement new ideas and strategies into my classroom. As of late, my biggest challenge is navigating my school’s internet safety filter. At home I find great video clips, songs, and games to use in my classroom, only to find the sites blocked under my school’s safety filter. Even more frustrating is when I test a site in the morning and it works, only to have it then trip the sensor and be blocked when I try to access it in the middle of the lesson. Another problem that I am coming across the finding the balance (and approval) between teaching all CCSS and teaching my district’s curriculum with fidelity. On one hand I hear that I am to teach curriculum with fidelity, but on the other hand I hear that I’m supposed to teach all the CCSS (even those that are not taught in my curriculum.) So which is it? Teach with fidelity or teach all the standards so that kids are ready for 1st grade when they leave my room in June? Interestingly, I’ve had some conversations lately with educational leaders as well as my district union leaders about who owns the intellectual property (supplementary materials) created by teachers and shared amongst colleagues or on Teachers Pay Teachers. If materials are not directly created from a curriculum but instead fill a gap in the grade-level CCSS, do they belong to the curriculum companies, the school district, or the teachers?
I’d love to hear others’ ideas on this subject or if your district has a policy on the ownership of these supplementary materials. Where do you go to find new ideas and materials for your classroom?