Cascades Academy Independent School PK-12
Being a "Teacher Researcher" in the Pre-Kindergarten Classroom

Two weeks ago, Ms. Emily and I had the pleasure to take part in a professional development opportunity put on by the Opal School in Portland. This training was focused on the central theme of "courageous, collaborative communities", which allowed for educators and administrators alike to reflect on how we can help build and create these types of positive communities in our school facilities. Through classroom observations at the Opal School, discussions with a variety of educators, and team building exercises, we spent time thinking about the power of community development and the outcomes they yield.

In our pre-kindergarten classroom, Ms. Emily and I utilize classroom observations as a way to learn more about our students and to reflect on their behaviors. One way in which we use these observations is to gain more insight on how students may be naturally developing these positive communities through they way they play with one another. We take on the role of becoming a "teacher researcher" in these experiences, gaining new information and perspectives from our students. By spending time watching individuals or groups of students, we wonder what children can reveal to us about courageous, collaborative communities through the way they already engage with one another. Instead of diving deep into a myriad of educational articles on how to bring opportunities for community development in our classroom, what can we learn from what our students are already doing in their play?

While we provide activities in the classroom that may be inviting for students to work collaboratively, the way in which they experience the activity with one another is something we can never determine. In being a teacher researcher, we can observe their behaviors and consider how may the way they be interacting tap into certain hallmarks of collaboration and community, such as communication, empathy, adaptability, and more.

As you watch this video from my observation of a group of three to four friends, consider the following questions that Emily and I wonder when reflecting on our students' experiences:

  • How do our students communicate with one another when problem solving?
  • What questions are they posing to one another?
  • In what ways do they support one another when enduring a challenge?
  • How can other students learn about being courageous, collaborative, and a community member from the way their peers already interact?
  • What can we glean from the ways in which they interact with one another in our own personal collaborative endeavors?

We hope that you enjoy these experiences and learn from them just as we did!

-Ms. Colette, Pre-K Teacher

The Win-Win of Late Starts
The Win-Win of Late Starts

If you could have been at our all-school assembly on Halloween and heard the gregarious applause when Julie reminded the students of our late start on November 1st, you would have unanimously joined in!! Not only are these late start days a benefit for students (and parents, too), they are equally beneficial for us teachers. As we like to say, it's a Win-Win!!

This past Wednesday, the LS classroom teachers put together an informative, passionate and fun in-house professional development for our LS specialist teachers on Responsive Classroom. When professional development can be provided by a school's own faculty (teachers teaching teachers), the implementation of newly learned concepts and skills becomes more effective and applicable. As "side-by-side" colleagues, we have trusting collegial relationships and participating in this type of professional development opens the space to ask the tougher questions teachers don't normally encounter in larger off-campus PD. Even better, if there are follow up questions or teachers would like to observe and learn more about a program, we are only right next door!

The time to collaborate and learn with and from our peers is truly valuable. The LS classroom teachers truly did an exceptional job engaging and educating their peers in Responsive Classroom techniques and strategies and the LS specialists are especially grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from their peers. Plus, your kids got to sleep in a little bit after Halloween. Win-Win!

-Natalie Wilhelm, LS Head

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