Professional Development Specialist, Discovery Education
Editor's Note: As part of BCPS's partnership with Discovery Education, professional development specialists from Discovery work in Lighthouse Schools several days each month to plan, co-teach, and coach teachers to create learner-centered environments and integrate digital content to enhance instruction. Amy is assigned to work with staff at Fort Garrison and Mays Chapel Elementary Schools.
When I first started to learn about BCPS Lighthouse Schools and attend the Lighthouse meetings, I really had no idea what to expect from the teachers and administration. Within ten minutes of meeting the staff of the Lighthouse Schools I’d be working with I was blown away. Each and every single one was excited for the change and transition in front of them. However, this isn’t what really stood out to me. It was the fact that when I talked to the teachers, principals, STAT teachers, counselors, resource teachers, everyone, they always brought it back to the students. This is, in my opinion, what makes a Lighthouse School.
This enthusiasm and love for students has been infused into the teachers’ transition into the new era of teaching. Now why didn’t I just write one-to-one? Well sure, the technology is a big part of this transition, but by now we all know it is a tool that is part of the transformation. However, without the pedagogy and change in the way we teach, will a true change occur? This is the exact transformation I am witnessing in the lighthouse schools. The teachers way of viewing and building their lessons has gone from the "teacher talks for 45 minutes" into a student-centered world in which the teacher has become the facilitator of rich, deep, and relevant classroom discussions. Leading students to come up with answers on their own through collaboration, small group lessons centered on their individual needs, and independent research in which the student is driving their own learning. What does that mean for the students? Engagement, drive to learn, ownership over their work, confidence, encouragement, enhancement in their overall learning…I could go on and on.
Just yesterday, one of the teachers I've been working with since the end of last school year asked me to help her create three choices for her students to use for an assessment. We created three options that the students could pick from: Wixie, BoardBuilder and the tried and true, paper and pencil. What was the end result of giving students these options? The students were able to pick the option in which they felt the most confident in and could clearly express their knowledge and guess what, each child met standard and had a complete understanding of the objective.
I was working with another teacher on a culminating task he was creating for his students that would take place in November. When we started to discuss the month’s plan, he mentioned that he would be creating a rubric for the students to use as a guide when creating their projects. I asked him why he was creating the rubric and he looked at me like I was crazy. Then I asked it again, “Why are YOU the one who is creating rubric?” This is when the light went on behind his eyes and there it was, the transformation. His reply the second time, “I should have the students help me to create the rubric! This way they will have a better understanding of what the expectations are as well as what they need to do for each category in order to achieve the highest point value.” Bingo!
Transformation doesn’t happen overnight, and at times, it can feel like it’s going at a snail’s pace but these teachers, they are doing it right and at a shockingly fast pace! It is only October! I can only imagine what the future has in store. These students have a bright future in front of them, and as always, the Lighthouse Schools are there helping to light the way.