Breathing Space

What makes a fire burn

is a space between the logs,

a breathing space…

-Judy Brown

In Teaching with fire: Poetry that sustains the courage to teach

(2003)

A safe environment is necessary where teachers (not only students) feel that they can take risks and breathe while doing so. From what I know about human nature is that we like boundaries; children and adults alike. As adults we often assume that we can carry focused, productive, professional conversations; however, I’m sure all of us can think of at least one person who cannot (perhaps that person is us and we aren’t aware.) Protocols can provide boundaries where risks in providing ideas, sharing thoughts, and discussing teaching methods and student work can occur without feeling like you’re under water.

“If time is going to be spent on reflection, teachers need to be taught to structure their meetings” (Dearman and ALber). The use of protocols, not only in staff or district meetings, but in book studies and grade level teams can create an environment that flourishes, adapts, and builds off of each others’ strengths. Protocols ensure that everyone is heard and time is used efficiently and effectively – focused on student work and improving teaching practices. As one of my colleagues said, “When people break away from the norms of the protocol, the focus and the purpose of the discussion begin to fade away.” All too often I have participated in protocol-ran conversations and the group slowly decides to slip away from the protocol and it only starts bantering and chatting about what a student did at lunch or something funny that happened in class. This type of conversation is essential in building friendships but not for improving teaching practice and student performance.

What is our purpose (our shared purpose) in this meeting… “The purpose…is to learn more about the student and in focusing on the student to learn about one’s own teaching” (http://www.lasw.org/vp.html). If this quote must become a mantra or a huge poster in the front of each meeting place, so be it!

Is culturally relevant professional development necessary for teachers to be the most effective educators for Native American students?

In the following document you will see my research proposal for enhancing Native students’ educational experience through professional development for teachers of Native students.

Native American students have consistently scored lower than their European American peers on the WASL in the areas of reading and math. Teachers that receive professional development centered  around the needs of Native American populations will have a positive impact on the academic success of Native American students as well as provide a more diverse education for non-Native students.

NA research proposal