Last week I confirmed what I had known (kind of) for almost a month: I am to be the Instructional Coach for PBL at Decker Middle School in Manor TX – GO Ravens!
Decker M.S. will now be associated with the New Tech Network. We will be transitioning at the 6th Grade level. And we will add a grade level each year. Decker M.S. receives students from a few different feeders but our main feeder school, Decker Elementary School, is already doing PBL at the 5th grade level and that means a large number of our students will be familiar with the process of having class in a PBL environment.
So, where do I start with this job? The most wonderful thing about taking this position is the fact that I will have the New Tech Network behind me. It is comforting to know that these incredible people who have all kinds of experience with PBL will be there when I need assistance. And so I contacted the person who oversees the middle school level schools in the nation to say hi and let her know that I will be taking this position. The fact that we know each other and I won’t be reporting to an unknown entity sure helps.
Once I get below the NTN level, I need open communication lines with people in the district who I can contact in a time of need. The main person here is a person I call my friend. She’s someone I have known for about 5 years and she is someone I can count on to not only help me but to also push me to do great things. (She has really evil eyes when you are screwing up and I don’t EVER want to see those things pointing at me!)
I have been able to attend a couple of PD’s with our 6th grade teachers and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is another person in the system that I can count on. She is with the New Tech Network and she is working with the district as we bring PBL to scale. I had met her before and knew her name but during these training sessions I was able to spend some time with her observing PBL classrooms at our feeder elementary school. She is another incredible source.
When you take on a job of this scope it helps to have people in a position of authority on your side. I met with the Superintendent and he is the one that encouraged me to take the job and he encouraged the principal to take a leap of faith and take me on without knowing me. When the principal and I met, finally, we were both pleasantly surprised at how we both could feel that we would be a great pair and were totally focused on making the learning environment for “his babies” the best that we could make it.
The final piece to this puzzle is the teachers who I will be working with. The neat thing about them is that I was able to see them in action as they participated in a 4 day workshop on PBL held at our school the week before I met with my new principal. They were active in the workshop and they stayed late to ask questions. I knew, slightly, a couple of them from previous years and when it became apparent that I was about to join them they made me feel right at home. We are going to be an awesome team!
And so I leave Manor New Technology High School (MNTHS) after 4 years. I taught Geometry by myself, I taught in a co-taught Algebra/Geometry class, and I taught two years of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) classes: Introduction to Engineering Design and Digital Electronics. I learned a ton about Project Based Learning and how to teach in a PBL environment.
I know that MNTHS will be regrouping as they go into their 6th year of existence and I know that they will thrive with a new focus on taking what they are doing to “the next level.” I hope that in three years my students, who have been with Decker M.S., come to MNTHS with such awesome collaboration and work ethic skills that it gives MNTHS another kick forward towards awesomeness. Then I will feel that I have demonstrated to the MNTHS teachers and to myself that I really do know the art of teaching PBL.
Look for posts this summer on how we are creating this PBL middle school from an existing traditional middle school. I’ll talk about what obstacles I faced, how I was able to overcome the obstacles, what training sessions I attended and what training sessions I had our teachers attend, and how we created a school culture worthy of being called a New Tech school.
Congrats on the new job, Chris! That's super news! I'm really excited to see PBL at the middle school level. In my humble opinion, middle school is where PBL is MOST needed, and is currently woefully underserved. Decker is lucky to have you as a coach.
Thank you Geoff. I am really pumped to be getting this school going. And, between Lee Fleming and our own district coaches there are some great people to help us get this right.