Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Transparent Classroom for me

I recently read a blog post at Seth's Blog that made me think back to Amy Park's transparent classroom. A transparent classroom relates the idea that what happens in the classroom is accessible information for parents, other teachers, and administrators. More than just leaving the door open, the transparent classroom reaches out to the community and families to involve them in the important task of learning. As a new teacher, I know I will make many mistakes in the course of my career. There will always be things that I could have done better and ways to improve. How could having my classroom transparent help me grow professionally? How can a transparent classroom ultimately enhance student learning?

As a new teacher, I am both excited and scared about getting feedback and advice from colleagues. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for helpful, constructive feedback. In fact, I have often made the case that there is not enough open feedback loops in the professional teaching community. The reason why I'm afraid is because I know that the way I think about teaching and learning is very different from the way it's currently practised in the many classrooms. This whole shift in education is easy to approach in theory but difficult to translate into practice when you often see around you dusty IWBs, punishments and rewards, squashing of ideas (a.k.a. shushing), and worksheet after worksheet after...that's right, worksheet. What are other, experienced, teachers going to think about my smile-and-nod approach to their worksheet sharing meetings? Will I be subliminally coerced into using them? Is it undermining the value of a collaborative network to reject things that the rest of your team use and believe in? How receptive will my colleagues then be of my ideas? (My mind is now racing about creating a "worksheet center" in the classroom that's completely optional for students. I wonder how many of them would go there and how long it would sustain their interest. If you can contextualize them, can worksheets build student understanding?)

This book outlines future classrooms that have auditory, but not visual, barriers making a physically transparent classroom.

On the other hand, one of the major benefits of the transparent classroom is parental involvement. I love parents, even helicopter ones. This is probably related to the fact that I am one...a parent, not a helicopter, but fundamentally because parents are always advocates for what they think is best for their children. I even came across an article discussing how children of helicopter parents are more engaged. After all, they tend to know their children best and to not use their expertise and involve them in their childrens' learning is shameful. They have a right to be involved. By having a transparent classroom that involves parents I benefit from learning more about their children and students benefit, at the very least, from knowing that the school is a community place where they, and their families, belong. Of course, those helicopter types will make sure I'm engaging their children in quality, engaged learning.

Are students just as bothered by them as teachers? (image source)

I really enjoyed the perspective in this article about moving toward a transparent classroom. The full transparency of one of my last courses at university was a simple step toward full engagement by the students, a strong connection with the professor, and the sharing and collaboration of amazing work and ideas. Simply knowing that I could tweet my prof was empowering and broke down barriers so that I could ask questions and share ideas that I never would have shared otherwise. You can see what we did each week and access all of the students' blogs here.

Ultimately, student learning is of the utmost importance and something that leads to better teaching and more engagement is worth investing in. While I have to admit that splashing my pedagogical ideas and choices up in the air for everyone to see is slightly, okay very, intimidating, I know it will make me a better teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! I have a copy of the Third Teacher and it is beautiful! Good luck this year in kindergarten!

    Not sure how many hours of teaching I have under my belt, but I am always learning nontheless! Outliers is also a great read.


    Judi P.