Teachers As Learners...|
by Hal Portner
Need Something? Ask!
Some material for this article is adapted, with permission from the publisher, from Portner, H. (2002) Being Mentored: A Protégé's Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin Press, Inc.
I am an advocate of individualized professional development. I encourage teachers and administrators to supplement the professional development provided by their schools and districts by identifying and addressing their own specific professional growth needs. But individualizing doesn't mean you have to do it all alone. There is a lot of help out there --- if you ask for it!
For example, if you are looking for equitable ways to grade individual students working together on a group project, ask an experienced colleague how she or he does it. Teachers and administrators love to be asked --- and thanked --- for their opinions, suggestions, and advice. Let's look at some ways to help your colleagues help you.
Where to Ask
The most direct way to ask for something is, of course, face-to-face. But there are other ways teachers have found to ask for help. For example, Louise, a teacher in a suburban district in a New England middle school, announced during a faculty meeting that she would very much appreciate from her colleagues any ideas and materials to help her assess student learning styles. Not only did she personally receive some useful information, but as a result of her request, the idea of sharing spread throughout the school so that now, if a teacher hears of new material or effectively uses something new in class, the specifics are automatically shared with the entire staff via a bi-weekly faculty newsletter.
Another teacher posted a 'want ad' on the teacher room's bulletin board. She advertised for information she could use for a unit on agriculture. It turned out that the hobby of a fellow teacher was 'meteorology.' He provided a wealth of information, data, and hands-on equipment that she used to teach her students about the effects of climate on crops.
Of course the chatboards and live meetings provided by Teachers.Net offer the opportunity to ask thousands of fellow educators for help. The responses to many of the questions asked on these postings are often practical and insightful.
You may have heard of or used other ways to ask colleagues for help. If so, I would appreciate hearing about them. You can e-mail me at
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