WO Teacher Lab

"We learn best from each other!"

WO Teacher Labs -
WO Teacher Labs

Earlier this school year, West Ottawa High School implemented WO Teacher Lab as a new avenue for teachers to learn from each other through observation and conversation. The premise of WO Teacher Lab is that we learn best from each other and by being able to observe each other in action it will promote growth throughout the school. This is only one example of WOHS's commitment to a culture of collaboration.

On September 24, 2014, a small group of English and Social Studies teachers gathered in an effort to gain ideas about using reading strategies. First, the teachers engaged in a thoughtful dialogue about their current awareness and utilization of reading strategies. They shared experiences and ideas while also focusing on what they hoped to take away from the day. Then the group observed two consecutive class periods in which English teachers demonstrated how they use reading strategies in their classroom. Later, the observing and host teachers all met to debrief and reflect. These teachers continue to share and collaborate even weeks later. Here are a few comments shared by the participating teachers on their experience:

To put this experience into a word it would be “amazing.”...I think my biggest takeaway from this experience is how close the ELA department and the SS department are with regards to teaching different skill sets. Whether it be paragraph structure in an essay or the need for students to understand Surface Meaning vs. Deeper Meaning. With just a few small changes in the verbage that is used in both classes we could be using the same terminology with students across the building in all of these classes which would go SUCH a long way in terms of helping students understand what we are teaching and also making the connections between the class.

Overall, I enjoyed being a part of this teacher lab and found it to be really beneficial. I would jump at the chance to be a part of it again...

The conversations shared about the teaching we observed and the students’ responses was invaluable as well. Often times I find myself creating new paths in my instruction rather than borrowing successful strategies from veteran teachers. This experience reminded me of the value of learning from others and I concluded the morning feeling inspired and prepared to adapt these reading strategies to my own lessons.

Similarly, another group of teachers partook in a WO Teacher Lab on the following day. However, this team was comprised of Math and Science teachers who were interested in observing their colleagues exhibit performance task learning and using technology for formative assessments. Once again, the conversation and observation sparked a deep level of collaboration. Teachers shared these thoughts:

Watching my co-workers do what they do best was a truly awesome experience. I work with talented, passionate people, and I can’t wait to learn from more of them. During the lab I was able to observe and steal: little classroom management tips, and formative assessment strategies, and watch them interact with their students, and see how my student interacted in other classes; it was mind-blowing and I want do it again!

The time we (the observers) had beforehand to discuss the observation was valuable and led into discussions about how we need to communicate our strategies across departments (specifically sharing the QPOE process with math and learning about their PRIME/rich task goals)...Overall, I really found this to be a valuable experience and look forward to being a part of it again.

WOHS looks forward to further collaboration among our staff as teachers participate in the WO Teacher Lab experience.