Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Professional Development and John Donne's Poetry

Some interesting developments at my school. We have had annual review meetings with the principal as long as I have been there, when we’ve talked about our professional development goals in what she has called “fireside chats”. But that is to be no more. At yesterdays staff meeting we were given the procedures for our new style of ARMs. This year it is to include a “third voice”. It means that we will choose a third voice option: perhaps ask a colleague to come into our class and observe our teaching and share the observations, or plan and teach a topic together and reflect on the outcome, or video a class and reflect, or get feedback from students or parents on our teaching. I was a little apprehensive, but mostly excited, about this data gathering stage. Then we take this data and discuss with the principal or someone in the leadership team. I have already agreed to observe a colleague’s class, and I guess he could do some observation of one of my classes. But I also like the idea of videoing a class. I have learnt a lot from watching Yvonne Hutchinson’s experience of a “class anatomy” which is “a documentation and analysis of one instructional period - juxtaposes video clips with commentary and samples of classroom documents.” To do this kind of reflecting on my practice is something I am very much in favour of – after all, this blog is called the Open Classroom for just this kind of reason. I know we will learn a lot from the experience. I’ll keep you all updated on the process.

And then today in my year 11 Literature class the students worked on a discussion forum for the first time that I had set up about a poem of John Donne’s called "The Anniversary". Of the 21 students 12 participated in the discussion. This is probably not what I will be satisfied with. I would like them all to have something to say in this kind of forum. The students who did participate were those with more confidence in talking about the subject matter, so as we build our knowledge of John Donne the conversations will become more productive too, I think. I was glad about their honesty and it was a good way to gauge their thinking. The vocally quiet students were able to get their thoughts expressed and responded to in a way that might not have been possible in a verbal discussion. I just loved lines like these:

“at least this one made more sense then the flea. still pretty confusing though. does anyone else understand it properly?”
“its about love and that it can last for eternity and that these two people have pledged themselves to each other for a long time for ever even and that even in death their love will go on”
“i like it. I think even though they are talking about him loving her forever it has an undertone to it that is incredibly sad. sometimes his poems are hard to understand though.”
“I find that when I read Donne's poetry I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about but after reading it through and analysing it in class its much easier to understand. I really liked this poem and appreciate it much more, i love how deep his language is.”
“the poem had sweet parts about being together for eternity but the whole coffin idea gave me the creeps if i was his lover i would be out of there talking about death a bit scary.”
It will be good to talk to the students about their experience of this kind of forum and to find out why the non participants didn't get involved.

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