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What Are “Teaching Boxes?”

A challenge we faced in the first few years of the Beginning Teacher Program was addressing the conflict between the need novices expressed to have “stuff” and the desire mentors had to discuss their ideas about teaching and learning.   Because novices were focused on day-to-day survival in classrooms with few supplies or resources, they wanted mentors to supply them with materials and lessons that they could use immediately.  Mentors, who had just spent the 3-week Leadership Institute sharing their classroom experiences and pedagogical philosophies with their peers, felt the immediate need to pass their knowledge and their “tricks-of-the-trade” to the next generation of science teachers. While sympathetic to the novices, we also wanted to foster more meaningful dialogues between novices and veterans, preferably in the context of the content the novices were actually teaching.  To accomplish this, the Teacher Institute developed a “product” that novices and mentors work on together called the Teaching Box. The concept was born from the realization that most science teachers committed to hands-on, inquiry-based teaching, have storage areas filled with file boxes that each contain materials needed to teach a science unit.  Not only does a file box contain the “stuff” that the novices hunger for (like lesson plans, descriptions of activities, supplies, worksheets), it also externalizes a teacher’s internalized views about pedagogy, learning, and assessment.  By engineering opportunities (during the summer and throughout the school year) for novices and mentors to work together to create these Teaching Boxes, beginning teachers get the “stuff” they desire and are able to reflect on deep issues of teaching and learning with veteran science teachers eager to share their knowledge.

 
 
       
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