Teachers

What Does it Mean to Teach in a Personalized Learning Setting?

 

If you haven't already, please read the information on the main page for personalized learning. From there, this page will hopefully answer many of your teacher-specific questions. The most important thing about the teachers' role in our pilot of personalized learning is this:

You get to help us decide how this goes.

We'll talk about how we think things will go, or could go, and even how they should go, but we ultimately want you to help us build the house you live in. Building a house is not actually a part of what we'll be doing; that was just a metaphor. The teachers piloting this program will, however, be building a network of educators, students and parents committed to figuring out the best way to personalize the learning of students enrolled in Preston Mastery Campus. This brings us to the second thing we probably ought to put in bold and on its own line:

We expect to learn a lot along the way.

This isn't going to be an easy process. Yes, there are other schools doing versions of what we're hoping to do. Yes, much of what see them do can help us avoid missteps and mistakes. However, we're not them and that means we're going to make mistakes and change process and protocols and basically just have to be students ourselves. We need you to go into this expecting to learn as much, if not more, than the students you'll work with.


The Physical Layout

 

You will have a major say in how this looks when things are finalized, but we are tentatively planning to place Preston Mastery Campus in the upstairs hallway of the new addition. This setup will allow us to control access (as this will not be an area open to students not enrolled in PMC classes), and gives us more options for how we lay things out than any other location in the school. The most common approach to personalized learning has each teacher in a separate classroom, with a common area and the ability for students to work in whatever area or classroom they feel best suits their current activity. There are other methods, with rooms having more to do with the type of activity than the content area or teacher, but that will be a decision we make as a team.


A Day in the Life of a PMC Teacher

 

To help you get a picture of what you'll be doing as part of Preston Master Campus, it's probably easiest to start with a typical day for you as a teacher. We won't list it chronologically, although aspects of what you'll do are going to be time-bound. Instead, we'll talk about things that you can fit into your day and let you shuffle those things according to taste, personal constraint, and the needs of your students.

Arrival and Departure
We're hoping to offer some flexibility to both students and teachers about when their day starts and ends. This means that you may be able to arrive at 7:00 am instead of 7:30 am, and leave at 4:00 pm. Conversely, you could arrive at 8:30 am and leave at 5:00 pm. Your contract time stays the same, but when that time is used has a bit of flexibility. The goal of this is mainly to allow students a wider window to attend school. If we can stagger the teachers' arrival and departure times, a student could theoretically come any time from 7:00 am until 5:00 pm - as long as they put in the same number of hours per day as a student in the traditional setting.

Teaching
This is where the largest differences will manifest. Your role becomes the facilitator of learning in a much more concrete way than a traditional classroom. You will have developed the digital curriculum that students will work through much of the time before students even arrive, and will spend time during the day largely meeting with students individually, in small and large groups, and occasionally as a majority of a class for topics that are best taught that way. If you are teaching about participles and you know the majority of students are at or near a place where they'll all need help, you can hold a class meeting and go over it much like you would in the traditional classroom. However, much of what you do will be organized instead by larger projects and activities that require students to complete a number of tasks that demonstrate mastery. Again, at times this will mean the entire class (it's hard to hold a debate with one or two students), but a lot of the time will be students working in smaller groups or on their own. Your job will then largely be to set up a curriculum that fits their needs, and then to dip in and out as needed to ensure they understand the concepts and are learning at an appropriate pace.

Mastery Focus (Curriculum Development)
As suggested by the Mastery Campus moniker, everything in your classes should be focused on mastery. This means you will have students in different places at different times, and may even have students working on work at a different grade level. You will be designing assignments and projects that focus on showing you whether or not they have a particular skill or have mastered a particular content. If they can show it, they can move on. Each student's pacing will be based on their performance, and some students will be going slower or faster than their peers. We expect the majority of students to move along at a similar pace to traditional classes, but you will have those that need more support and those that need the next level class.

Prep Time
You'll be developing a curriculum specific to your individual students, so you can expect this to be a bit more work in the beginning as you develop things from the baseline curriculum. To that end, you will still have prep time. The major difference will be that you will have flexibility about when and how you use it. You may allow students in your room during your prep time if that's something you're comfortable with, but the plan is for your to be able to close your classroom door and work without students for the same amount of time you have for prep now. You may choose to do that in the morning one day and in the afternoon the next, but ultimately, we just need to make sure that you coordinate with the other teachers so that teachers are always available to students.

Teaching Outside Classes
We're starting small, and we want to ensure that what we do doesn't negatively impact class sizes in the rest of the school. To that end, it's likely that you'll still teach one or two traditional classes on the traditional schedule the first year. Tentatively, there will be a classroom the four of your share near the mastery campus that will allow this to be a minimal disruption to both your traditional and mastery campus classes.

Mentoring Students
Ensuring that students have someone keeping tabs on their progress and intervening where needed is a key part of personalized learning. Unlike students in the subject area classes that you teach, you will be assigned a smaller (probably between 15 and 30 students) that you will mentor. This means touching base with them regularly, notifying other teachers if they need alternate pacing, are missing school or struggling at home, and generally serving as their mentor. For some students, this will start out with a weekly meeting and move to something less frequent. For others, you may need to touch base daily. In all cases, your job will be to advocate for those students with administration, parents, and other teachers to ensure they have the resources and ability to succeed.

Lunch
We'd be remiss if we didn't offer a reassurance that you will still get lunch, as will your students, in the same manner you do now. If you are a social butterfly and like to eat with your department, you'll still have that option.

Being Part of a Team
One of the best parts of a mastery-based curriculum with a flexible structure like this is that we can much more easily create projects with real-world application that span content areas. Many of the schools we've visited have found ways to naturally join subject areas in projects where teachers develop the project together, grade parts of it separately, and the student gets to show master of multiple content areas in the same project. You'll also be coordinating student progress as mentors, working out prep times and step-out classes, and a myriad of other things that means you're going to be working very closely with your fellow teachers. We'll also want to ensure you remain a part of your department and the school team, and that what you do isn't isolated from the rest of the school. We want to meet the same standards as the traditional classes, and that means being a part of a lot of different teams and committing to communication at a master level.