Does “Sharing Publicly” Make You More Accountable?

I was in the middle of writing a blog post last night, when I received an email that changed things for me. This email was a notification that I had a comment on my class blog. How exciting! I opened up the message to view the comment on our Daily Shoot Blog Post and here’s what I saw: 2014-04-26_07-30-18 Cristina Milos is an educator from Rome that is a very important part of my PLN. She always manages to push my thinking and question me to always consider the purpose behind what I do and why I do it. I appreciate this — a lot — and that’s why her comment not only lead to a lengthy reply on my other post, but a blog post of its own here.

All night long, I’ve been thinking about what Cristina wrote. As a teacher that’s started using inquiry so much more in the classroom this year, and really worked on developing critical thinking skills, her comment bothered me. I’m not upset because she questioned me, but I’m upset because I’d hate to think that the projects didn’t “enable deeper thinking.” And this is when my “assessment for learning” became so critical. At around 5:00 this morning, I started going through the photographs, videos, anecdotal notes, and reflections that I’ve collected over the past two weeks as my students have been immersed in this task. Here’s what I found:

  • For the research component of this task, most groups started with a very straight forward research question. My student teacher and I conferenced with the groups of students, and through our questions and their wonders, the students modified their questions to apply what they read and heard and truly make sense of various natural phenomena. Students asked each other questions throughout the process. They challenged each other’s thinking, and they showed their own in their written notes, sketches, and oral and video recordings.
  • For the poem writing component of this task, the students had to apply what they learned about onomatopoeia and personification in the writing of their poems. When conferencing with my student teacher and/or myself, they had to explain how their word choices and ideas connected with their research. They needed to show their understanding of the content as well as their thinking behind this content. Students started to discuss and challenge each other’s thinking in their small groups first: leading to editing their poem throughout the process and generating new ideas that better showcased their natural phenomenon.
  • For the visual arts component of the task, students had to think about how to take their research and showcase their learning through their paintings, drawings, or creations. They needed to consider the elements of design, and explain how they used the various elements and why they chose to use those elements in this particular case. As they spoke to each other in their small groups, and as my student teacher and I conferenced with them, students questioned their choices, reconsidered new ways to showcase their learning, and started to think of ways to use different elements of design that they have not used before.

This bulletin board display also serves another purpose: it provides a reminder, all around the room, of the different natural phenomena and their impact on structures. It helps immerse the students in the content, and provides the visuals and informational reminders that some students need as they continue to apply their learning for the last part of this Science unit. For on Monday, students are going to see my student teacher’s latest provocation: 2014-04-26_08-00-39 Before school begins, she’s going to pour on some water, and then this “little town” will be ready. Students will need to discuss what natural disaster(s) could have resulted in this horrible destruction. They’ll need to use evidence from what they see, as well as from the research around the room, to support their ideas. Students will challenge each other’s thinking through their questions and comments on our Natural Disaster Detective Work Radio Show. Now the students will need to use their thinking from before to think even more as they tackle this new challenge.

And as I sit here, on this early Saturday morning, thinking more about Cristina’s comment, I’m reminded about something important: it’s good to be held accountable for what we do. Cristina made me think even more about the choices I made, what my students did, and most importantly, why my students did this. She reminded me that it’s ALWAYS important to have students think deeply about their learning, and she made me reflect on how much thinking they did. She also made me think about where we’re going next in this Structures/Natural Phenomena Science Unit, and how I’m going to get students to think deeply during our introductory activity, but also later, during our bridge task. Cristina’s getting me to start out by considering the “deep thinking” opportunities I’m giving the students, and how I can get the class to talk and write even more about their thinking. Thanks Cristina!

Does “sharing publicly” make you more accountable, and how do you feel about this? How has “sharing publicly” changed your practices? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


13 thoughts on “Does “Sharing Publicly” Make You More Accountable?

  1. Hello Aviva, your process shows that teachers need to learners of their own teaching. We need to monitor the effect that our teaching has on students. Sharing is the component that leads us to reflect on our process.

    I am sharing some of my learning about my work with teachers to try to model this idea of reflecting. It can only help to improve our practice.

    • Thanks for the comment, Byron! I completely agree. Blogging helps me so much with this, but Cristina’s comment (like others that I’ve received at different times from different educators) helped me reflect even more. As teachers, what we do has such a huge impact on kids. Our reflections, and the changes that we make to our program, benefits students more! This is so important!


  2. You make me think of a few things, Aviva. First, an article my principal gave me during my first contract year of teaching titled, “Reflection is at the Heart of Practice”. That was in 1998. It’s still current, and I’ve passed it along to many educators in my life.
    Second, feedback. My admin learning team has been focusing on this topic – specifically, streamlining office time to get in classrooms and give descriptive feedback that moves learning forward. Sounds simple and effective, but it remains complex for me. In my learning, I’ve been thinking about the many stakeholders in Ed and feedback. You’ve opened my eyes further! Feedback (or questions, in this case) received from our online PLN push us to reflect deeply. So, yes, to answer your question, posting our important and exciting work does make us more accountable. Most importantly, to ourselves (does that make sense?).
    The “work” you share, both instructional and reflective, push many of us educators forward. Thank you so much. We’re so fortunate to be this profession.

    • Thanks for the comment, Terri! I would love to read that article that you pass along. I’m going to Google it and see what I can find.

      It’s funny that you mentioned that this posting of work makes us more accountable to ourselves because this is something that I tweeted to Cristina this morning. I think that “accountability” is seen in such a negative light. I’m not sure why. The truth is that I want to do what’s best for my students — ALWAYS — and I often make mistakes along the way. Reflecting though helps me improve my practices, which doesn’t just benefit me, but ultimately, benefits kids. So I like feeling the accountability that comes along with sharing online because it’s this accountability that helps me improve. And I think that questions help a lot. Both my principal and vice principal ask “hard questions” in a most wonderful way — getting me to do what Cristina helped me do today, and really reflect on what I do and why I do it.

      I absolutely agree with you that, “We’re so fortunate to be in this profession,” and I wouldn’t want to be in any other one! Thanks for being such an important part of my PLN!


  3. Aviva:

    You are a courageous young lady. The majority of teachers I know would be terrified to have their practices discussed in an onlline blog. You have shared in previous blogs that you have had to overcome a fear of being watched while teaching. Yet, observation, reflection and communication are critical to improving as a teacher. It’s too bad that there doesn’t seem to be the resources available for most teachers to view others or be viewed by other teachers. I don’t mind it others watch me teach and I appreciate the feedback and wish there were more teachers who would be willing to so at my school. We could learn so much. I envy the teachers who get to view your work in Ancaster.
    So, even though I haven’t shared my practices online, I have definitely learned from what you have shared in “Living Avivaloca”. I am currently having my Grade 5 students research the issues involving the building of LRT in Waterloo Region. Your government unit projects inspired me to do this. I am often telling collegues about the innovative ideas of this teacher in Ancaster whose blog I read.
    While I don’t share my practices online, I do share with other teachers in our system. I find it very rewarding and fun to do this. Sadly, there are still teachers in the system who hoard resources or ideas so that they can keep them all for themselves. Maybe teachers need to self-evaluate the same learning skills that are on the report cards of their students.
    Keep on sharing Aviva! You are the stone dropped in the center of the pond and we are the ripples effected by the force of your self-reflection. We then go and drop our own stones to effect others.
    On a side note, Cristina Milos’s name makes me think of an Italian popstar.

    • Thank you so much for such a nice comment, Herman! While having others observe in the classroom can sometimes feel overwhelming, I welcome the opportunity to feel uncomfortable. As you said, it’s through these observations that we can reflect, dialogue, and make changes to our own teaching practices. And that’s why I welcome the varied comments that I receive on these blog posts, as it’s through these questions and comments that I learn more (and my students benefit as a result).

      It’s great to hear that you found what I shared helpful, and I love hearing about what you’re doing too. While you may not share online in your own blog, you do through these blog comments, and I really appreciate that. I’m glad that others in your Board get a chance to view your teaching in action and learn from you. I love connecting with you here.


  4. Sometimes I find it hard to explain what I am doing in professional terms until it is finished. I see learning happen that I did not consider or expect. Sharing publicly has a risk, a risk of not everyone understanding all of your thinking. Maybe it makes you think more about what we share and how detailed we share. I wish I did it more

    • Thanks Robert! I tend to agree with you here. I think though that explaining our thinking behind our choices & creating lots of opportunities for student thinking are important. So I’m glad that we can ask each other these “hard questions” here to get each other reflecting and sharing more. I’m happy that I don’t teach in a bubble, and I’m thrilled that I can learn from so many wonderful people both online and offline.

      I hope that you’ll continue to share lots, as you’re definitely a very important part of my PLN!


  5. Pingback: Inquiry: To What End? | A Teacher's Wonderings

  6. Pingback: OTR Links 04/28/2014 | doug --- off the record

  7. I’ve been thinking a lot about this question. I have always been very critical of myself, especially of my work as a teacher. This year, my teaching partner has really inspired my practice. Starting on Twitter, following great educators, and really participating in my own chosen PD has really opened my eyes. I think sharing does make you more accountable and it helps to build our community of online learners. My struggle is that I don’t feel ready to share. While I know there are things that we do in my classroom that demonstrate good learning, and while I know I would benefit from the feedback from others, it is intimidating to enter into the ring with other educators who seem so much further along in their journey. I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and the effect that comparisons have on participants such as myself and my students. I think we need to model a healthy perspective. Perhaps soon I will be brave enough to show the world where I am and where I would like to go next. Until then, I will keep learning.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tiiu! I totally get where you’re coming from because this is how I felt when I started using social media five years ago. The truth is that we all start somewhere, and as we share more, we start to feel a little less intimidated by the sharing process. If you think you can, try starting small, sharing a bit, and seeing how things go from there. I’d love to hear more about what you do in the classroom when you feel like you’re ready to start sharing!


  8. Pingback: Inquiry: To What End? | Inquire Within

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *