It's always an interesting exercise to be forced to synthesize one's beliefs in practice. I am reminded of a teacher educator who once challenged us to develop an "elevator speech" about our profession, basically a 30 second response to the "so, what do you do?" question invariably asked at a cocktail party.
Here's my (slightly longer than 150-word) answer:
Program Planning - Philosophy
The whole point of teaching, in my opinion, is to make the world a better place. We do this in part by the way in which we choose to address the needs of the students in our class, and in part by what we incorporate into the “curriculum”. Both of these aspects of teaching are facilitated by practical and effective program planning.
Students come to us with diverse background experiences, and they learn in a variety of ways. I believe we’ll best know what to teach and how to teach it when we conduct informal assessments that allow us to see what students already know, and how they learn best. This helps inform our planning so that we can most effectively meet the learning needs of each student in our classroom.
As teachers, we decide not only what to teach, but through which medium: The ministry curriculum guides our planning; “demonstrate an understanding of multiplication & division” (Grade 3 Number Sense), but will we give students the opportunity to calculate the number of cans a homeless person needs to collect to pay first month’s rent, or will we choose to have them count out shares for yet another meaningless pizza party?! This “hidden curriculum” plays a critical role in shaping the society of the future, and the 21-century-literate teacher is aware of and builds this into her planning and assessment templates.
Using a differentiated approach needs to be manageable for teachers. I believe when we have practical outlines and templates that guide us through our daily, weekly and annual planning and assessment, we can be more effective teachers.
Program Planning - Professional Experiences
I'm a teacher with the Peel District School Board.
In addition to classroom teaching experience K- 8, I have been a planning time (music) and ESL teacher. I have also worked as a program resource consultant and a pres-service instructor at the university level.
Currently I teach in a classroom (Grade 3) and am coordinating a ministry teacher leadership in learning project (TLLP) on the use of IWBs in math programming, with a colleague.
I am kind of obsessed with planning, actually, and enjoy refining and customizing both daily and long range plans. Last year, a colleague and I worked to integrate social justice and critical literacy into our curriculum map (a draft with explanation is here. ETFO's SJBWM resource plays a key role in the design of the year).
An earlier example of my work is here, on my previous website from several years ago (scroll down to "Long-Range Planning/Report Card Template"; it opens in Word). From that example you will see evidence of my assessment-drives-instruction philosophy, which I still hold to today.
Beginning with the end in mind helps us to design a road map of where we're going throughout the year, and although we may take forays along side roads as teachable moments arise throughout the school year, we still know where we hope to end up, based on the curriculum we are legally mandated to teach!
Teachers need job-embedded planning templates to help them navigate towards their reporting obligations at the end of each term. A good Long Range Planner or Curriculum Map can help with this.
To supplement the big picture, teachers need daily plans and templates that help them to integrate assessment with instruction. My previously mentioned obsession with the ideal daily plan is evidenced here. In the more recent versions of my daily plans, you will see that I include space for meeting with groups of students or conferencing with individuals each day. This helps me to plan my week, and record notes for future lessons, based on what I see as I conduct my focused observations. My daily plans also include space for volunteers or in-school support staff, so that I always know when they are coming, and we can plan together how they will best support the needs in my classroom.
With the advent of technology, the way we track and record our assessment and our unit and lesson plans is changing. Teachers need practical tools and resources to help with this.