Month: August 2015

Five ways Cohort 21 has made me a better teacher

It’s that time of year again: with the start of the new school year around the corner, it’s impossible not to think about the launch of another season of Cohort 21.

As one of the teachers lucky enough to have been part of this professional development experience from the first year, I’ve been fortunate to have “grown up” with Cohort 21 in a way. When I began my Cohort 21 journey, I was in my second year of teaching: I was all bright eyed and bushy tailed, terrified out of my mind, and yet hungry to improve my practice.

Now that I’ve been around the education block a few more times (but still admittedly terrified most of the time), it’s easy to see all the ways that this action-research community has made me the teacher I am today. So here it is:

The Top 5 Ways That Cohort 21 Has Made Me A Better Teacher:

5. Access to an overflowing well of resources

With so many passionate teachers exploring so many different action research projects in their classrooms, I’ve been privy to many exciting possibilities that I will one day want to explore. I’ve been inspired by @lmustard’s exploration of book reviews with Aurasma, @brenthurley and @dganley’s use of Kaizena for student feedback, and @mfarley’s gamified learning. I’ve tried none of these out yet in my own classrooms, but I know that when I am ready to, I can access their blogs, explore their journeys, and learn from their successes.

4. Connecting Meaningfully with Likeminded Teacher Folks

I am one of the lucky ones who gets to work in a school with many inspiring teachers. But there is something very different about being in a room with 30 other keen teachers, ready to push their practices to the next level, all motivated to experiment to try new things in their classrooms. The colleagues I’ve met through Cohort 21 come from schools all over the CIS landscape and give me such a rich perspective into what other schools are doing or how they handle similar challenges I face in my context. I bring back so many ideas, solutions, insights, and understandings about my teaching practice because of these relationships I’ve developed with teachers over the years. And the best part of Cohort 21 is that it doesn’t have to be a single year commitment: many teachers come back year after year (can you blame them?) to keep these connections firing and strong.

3. Practice Being a Teacher-Researcher

Maybe I’m not wearing a lab coat or look like a CSI scientist like this sassy woman, but acting as a researcher in my classroom is not unlike what she appears to be doing: teacher-researchers are taking risks, they are trying out new things, they don’t always know the outcome of their experiments, they report what they discover to their communities, and they are constantly reading about the work of others. Since completing my Masters of Teaching in 2010 and immersing myself in the world of research and teaching, I aspire to this level of awesomeness on a regular basis. But honestly, it’s much harder than it sounds. Cohort 21 gives me the support, structure, and healthy push to keep moving towards what I envision “ideal teacher” to be.

2. Staying On Top of The Latest Edu-Trends

Not everything happening in the world of education is necessary, great or useful, but I know that by being connected to Cohort 21 I’m gaining access to the most interesting, relevant, and thought provoking trends in my field. Justin and Garth do an incredible job staying the know and filtering what they are reading about in the greater educational scene and sharing the best articles, videos, ideas, lenses, or routines with the group.  I know that if something is big and worth exploring, I’ll likely find out about it through the Cohort.

1. A North Star to Guide My Journey

Let’s be honest: teaching a difficult calling. The days are long, students can be difficult, it is a vulnerable profession, and the to-do lists are never complete. But having something like Cohort 21 is a guiding star. It reminds me what is possible, especially in the hardest moments of the year. Connecting with fellow teachers in this PD experience keeps me anchored to something bigger than myself and my petty problems. Every Face to Face session I leave with sparkles inside my heart, fresh with the knowledge of what got me in this profession in the first place.

I realize that different CIS member schools have different ways to choose their Cohort 21 participants each year, but if you have any voice in the matter, ask your admin to send you to the Cohort 21 this year. You will be a better teacher for it!