By Tanesha Dixon January 8th, 2014 11:00 AM
Many, many…many moons ago I completed the often-dreaded pre-service teacher right of passage: student teaching. I was actually looking forward to the experience. It was a chance to leave the safe confines of the college classroom and finally put theory into practice. Unlike my colleagues, I didn’t compete for the coveted Honors, AP or IB placements. Instead, I requested a general education classroom on the “other side of town.” I was a product of inner-city public schools and knew the importance of having not only an effective teacher, but one who was passionate about the learning and lives of her students. But passion will only take one’s teaching practice so far. I still had to produce results supported by achievement data. With so many of my students performing well below grade level, there was no time to waste. Every student needed to make gains and do so before the standardized state test at the end of the school year. Enter the teacher’s dilemma: how to balance creating rigorous and engaging lessons, giving timely feedback, and personalizing learning so every student moved towards mastery.
It was not until I became a DCPS educator that there was an explicit and earnest attempt to address and solve the teacher’s dilemma. At my school, I’m currently collaborating with teachers on ways to integrate technology and blended learning into the classroom. We have been critical thought partners for each other and have a Professional Learning Community that not only provides camaraderie but tangible ways to positively impact student engagement and achievement. On the district’s professional development days, I have authentic opportunities to learn and connect with colleagues teaching the same subject area. Working in grade level cohorts, we share teaching materials and resources, learn new teaching strategies from a content specialist, and receive training from educational networks and organizations such as DiscoveryEducation, NBC Learn and the District of Columbia Geographic Alliance. What is more, there are an abundance of learning opportunities in and around the city, from the much anticipated Smithsonian museum nights and workshops to the FREE university courses and seminars. However, the pièce de résistance has been my time as an Education Innovation Fellow. For the past year, I (along with eleven other DC teachers) have been introduced to the most promising innovations in blended learning and offered opportunities to pilot blended models in our schools. While I was intimidated about the tremendous amount of work and responsibility ahead of me, I knew this would be yet another golden opportunity to contribute to DCPS becoming the quintessential model of urban education.
Being a DCPS educator gives me tremendous pride because I know the work we are doing is geared towards developing teachers to be and do their best, producing children who will lead and compete in a global marketplace, and engaging families and communities to support and advocate for their children. “We are DCPS” is not just a catchy hashtag or marketing ploy, it is our call and (in many ways) our response to action. I answered the call four years ago and it has changed my magnificent intentions of personalizing the learning experience for every student in my classroom into action.
Are you struggling with a teacher’s dilemma? Click here to see how I let my cat out of the bag.
Tanesha Dixon is a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher and technology integration coach at Wheatley Education Campus.