Nishimachi International School is not only extremely dedicated to teaching its students, but also teaching its teachers. Every Wednesday, faculty participates in school-wide presentations on diverse teaching methods that they have experimented with in their classrooms. I luckily prac on Wednesdays, so I have been able to observe how teachers from different grade levels and subjects areas can introduce teaching strategies that are universal to education. Teachers usually collaborate in pairs or a team to experiment with strategies in their classroom, and then work together to share their findings via presenting student work and using google slides for showcasing data. At Nishimachi, teachers share their knowledge with each other and thus foster a community of educators who are passionate about trying new things and taking risks.
One presentation I found really enjoyable was on the learning process of typing on a computer. A 5th grade teacher spoke about the new program called TypingClub, which is a website that allows students to practice their typing speed and accuracy skills for free online. Teachers can make class accounts for students and immediately see their progress. The 5th grade teacher uses TypingClub in her class, and pointed out that her students like to compete with each other, as well as herself – making learning all the more fun. Interestingly, the program does not differentiate its typing levels by grade-level, so students can learn at their own paces.
Another presentation I enjoyed was how teachers at Nishimachi implemented creative workshops in their classrooms. The presenters gave us visitors individual ipads to watch a video about the structure of the workshop. The video emphasized the importance of students learning to be curious. That is, students need to develop metacognition skills on not only developing curiosity about a particular research topic, but also learning the steps involved for creating a research project of their choice. Students first must think of a researchable question, then conduct research, create a presentation, and share their research with their classmates. I was even able to see how my SP conducted her creative workshop with the 2nd graders - I viewed the students’ presentations that ranged from samurai and Japanese trains all the way to presentations on architecture, soccer, and horses. While some students made google slides presentations, others made poster boards and games. Overall, students were extremely excited to be “research experts.” The creativity workshop is important because it proves that students can learn, and are willing to learn even more, when they have some choice in the content. I really valued being able to see the workshop firsthand and learn through the faculty presentations.
In some ways, the weekly teacher faculty presentations are creativity workshops in their own right. Teachers get to decide what aspect of student learning they want to research about, and then become experts in technology programs and other student learning strategies (readers’ workshop for instance). It is so crucial for teachers to learn what each other is doing in the classroom, so more schools should host such teacher presentations.