Professional Learning That Works

Stephanie Thompson, BHP Teacher
Idaho, USA

When I learned I would be teaching Big History, I was excited but apprehensive: How would I squeeze such a dense curriculum into one trimester? How would I help my students develop the rigorous level of thinking the course requires? How would I incorporate writing into the science lessons when I already felt so inadequately prepared to teach unfamiliar topics? However, I persisted: I believe hard work pays off (on both the students’ and the teacher’s part), and was motivated by the growth in writing skills BHP classrooms show. What made this persistence easier was participating in the online PD: Teaching Big History.

blog-Thompson1-TBH-sessions

Teaching Big History sessions

The five modules of Teaching Big History (which took me about nine hours to complete) provided a helpful “big picture” view of what I could expect for the year, both in terms of content and structure. So much phenomenal information was packed into the videos and readings! Questions I had previously been thinking through were immediately answered in Session 1.1, “What to Expect.” I especially enjoyed the blog posts on what it’s like to be a first-year Big History teacher: I love Shawn Bean’s statement that “the process becomes more important than the subject,” and found Chloe Simmons’ activity and engagement strategies for specific thresholds particularly helpful.

I also appreciated Rachel Hansen’s candid openness in her blog post about depending on teachers in the Community for support—I actually breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I wasn’t alone! And, indeed, I have taken advantage of the opportunity to engage with the BHP Teacher Community on Yammer. It’s amazing how much useful feedback you get upon posting questions; I am continually inspired by the brilliant ideas and resources from other teachers, new and veteran alike.

BHP’s ongoing research on student writing growth served as my initial inspiration for wanting to teach the course (I know writing proficiently will open so many doors for my students), and has continued to motivate me through this first year of teaching Big History. I was pleased to find that Session 3 of the online PD is entirely devoted to best practices for teaching writing. I’ve referenced this section of the online PD multiple times throughout the year.

I’ve been learning right along with the students throughout this entire school year. And that’s okay!

About the author: Stephanie Thompson is a first-year BHP teacher in Idaho at the Rocky Mountain Middle School. She team-teaches Big History to a class of 32 eighth-grade honors students. Stephanie teaches the science-specific lessons. Her school is on a trimester schedule and has blocked out two 55-minute periods a day for the course.

One thought on “Professional Learning That Works

  1. Stephanie, how wonderful that you are enjoying the course! I would say Big History represents a “threshold” in thinking about education: how content is delivered as well as you going from a teacher to a lead learner. As always, look forward to posted work, new ideas and questions on Yammer.

    Liked by 1 person

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