This past February, Compass Learning teamed up with WeAreTeachers and launched a nation-wide promotion. The purpose was to award a deserving teacher who faces differentiation challenges in the classroom. The premise was simple – answer these three questions:
- What challenges do you face as you try to differentiate instruction to meet each of your student’s need?
- What solutions would you like to see implemented in your classroom and at your school in order to help you better differentiate instruction?
- What financial barriers do you face in getting the resources you need to effectively differentiate instruction?
The response was overwhelming, but we finally narrowed it down. Judging criteria was based on merit, creativity, and financial need. In the end, we were pleased to award Mrs. Julie Gray from Brown’s Chapel Elementary in Rutherford County, Tennessee with the following:
- $1,500 to use in her classroom
- trial accounts to both CompassLearning products, Odyssey and Renzulli Learning
- and an onsite assessment including valuable tips on how to differentiate learning in the classroom
What won the judging panel over was Mrs. Gray’s touching response: “Teaching first graders involves many daily challenges, and I have found that differentiation is not only important, but necessary for student progress. Finding the time within the day to work with students individually or within a small group is vital. My biggest challenge is balancing instruction with assessment. I spend a great amount of my own time and money creating and making resources to use in small group instruction and assessment. With another adult, so much more is possible when working with struggling students. Another solution that is crucial to my challenges is to find assessment tools that are quick and accurate in identifying student needs and monitoring progress.”
As part of my visit to present the award, I (along with Account Executive David Mickelsen) observed her classroom, shared my observations, and walked her through a brief overview of how CompassLearning Odyssey and the RenzulliLearning Profiler can assist her in differentiating in her classroom. During my visit, I saw students using the computer on their “rotation,” other students worked with the teacher, they worked on flipbooks (focusing on the O R sound), worked on a report for a picture book, and a collaboration activity using Venn diagrams.
The class also worked on the words “infer” and “inference.” Mrs. Gray read a book to the class – Never Take a Shark to the Dentist: (and Other Things Not to Do), by Judi Barrett, asking the students to think first about what the author is inferring in the words shared (then shared the picture). Following the reading, Mrs. Gray had the students write and illustrate what they would “never” do, then share with the class.
Julie Gray is an amazing first grade teacher, there is no question about that. But just like other exceptional educators across the nation, she is experiencing difficulties such as a rigid school day, limited technology, and declined parental involvement. It seems like there just isn’t enough time in the day to give each student the personalized attention he/she needs. Technology in the classroom could alleviate some of these issues and help teachers manage their time more effectively. Putting tools such as Odyssey and the Renzulli Profiler in the hands of exceptional teachers such as Mrs. Gray (and sharing best practices in using them) will leverage the time and technology to reach and teach students skills beyond the standards.
With the significant shift and learning curve caused by Common Core, even the exceptional teachers are looking for assistance in meeting these new expectations. Effective use of the Compass Learning products – and investing in the quality professional development supporting these tools – will enable teachers to meet the expectations communities, parents, and administrators have regarding learning by children.
Thank you to Julie Gray, Principal Goostree, and WeAreTeachers for allowing me to be a part in such an exciting day. Thank you for being willing to learn ways to teach smarter with the Compass Learning family.
Look for details on Compass Learning’s current contest partnering with Orbitz Travel here: http://info.compasslearning.com/teacherappreciation.