It is admittedly easy as the one-and- only-lonely person of my own Theater Department, it is certainly easy on teacher institute days to kick back, put my feet up and let others do the work. But this year, I dug in my heels at the opportunity to lead, take initiative and get some work done! Two weeks ago was a scheduled teacher institute week, with two full days of teacher professional development. For myself and other theater teachers in DPS, the first day was off campus with other content-same teachers and the second day was school-based. Instead of hiding behind my laptop and looking busy and focused, I actually designed and led workshops for my peers.
Thursday, I worked alongside my other Regional Team Specialist colleagues, Meghan and Tim, in a half-day long workshop around student learning objectives and how to make sense of linear/traditional student goal-setting, in such a non-traditional content such as drama. We engaged the teachers in more hands-on activities to explore topics such as backwards planning performance-based task, analyzing student work, and collecting a robust body of evidence from students in theater classes. I engaged my peers in a sociometry exercise, that asked participants to answer and respond to statements or questions by placing themselves in specific areas of the space that the facilitator indicates correspond to a certain answer or idea. This exercise then helped us launch into rich discussions around student work samples that we brought in to share with one another and to compare and contrast the level we believe the student is at, based on the ‘readiness’ levels that the district rubrics spell out.
These district-led days are generally very valuable for us non-traditional content teachers. Most of the feedback we receive is positive in that we get to engage with other teachers who face similar challenges and have similar experiences on a day to day basis based on our content. This day specifically comes at a much-needed time of the year, where everyone feels like they need to exhale, process, and reflect on where they are at mid-semester. I was refreshed from the day in the opportunity to lead, but also to engage in other workshops led by theater professionals in Denver.
On Friday, we were back at our schools, and at DCIS all the morning workshops were led by staff members on topics that they specialize in or wanted to engage other staff members in. Normally, this would be a time I’d definitely sit back and let others do the work, but I took the chance and developed a workshop with theater-based lesson plans and activities that other content teachers could use in their classrooms to deepen their students engagement with literacy. I led world language, math, social studies and english teachers through this workshop, and forced these teachers out of their comfort zones (I think and hope!) We were up on our feet moving, playing, discussing and hopefully setting off light bulbs for teachers for new ways to incorporate theater in their non-theater classes.
Teaching teachers can be intimidating, especially when you are fortunate enough to work alongside some real rock stars like I do, but I think it’s always valuable to share what you know. Someone once told me that teaching is full of ‘begging, borrowing, and stealing’ what you can from others, and I still truly believe that and practice that!