Teachers as Risk-Takers

I love the teachers I work with. They are passionate, professional, open-minded, reflective… and my absolute favourite thing about them … they are risk-takers!

As this year wraps up we’ve been taking lots of professional development time to reflect, rethink and refine our PYP practices. We’ve reflected on the transdisciplinarity of our programme. We’ve reflected on the way we collaboratively plan for inquiry. We’ve reflected on our PYP learning environments. We’ve reflected on how our own thinking about teaching and learning has changed. As a result of these reflections, I’ve had some inspiring conversations with passionate teachers who are interested in trying something new next year.

Here are a few of those ideas:

Math and Literacy Integration

One of our seasoned Grade 4 teachers came into my office after our PD on transdisciplinarity. The teams had just finished identifying the Common Core literacy and math standards that were either essential to a Unit of Inquiry, could enhance a Unit of Inquiry or could be taught through the context of a Unit of Inquiy. Then they built Scope and Sequence documents through this transdisciplinary lens.

Grade 4 Math Scope and Sequence

This Grade 4 teacher shared his wondering with me, “I wonder how much literacy and math would be integrated accidentally… authentically… if we allowed students to inquire into each Unit and then took notes of what reading, writing and mathematical skills popped up, out of the necessity of their inquiries?”

Brilliant! If literacy and math – as disciplines – are just ways for learning about and communicating about life then surely if students were truly learning about life (Units of Inquiry) literacy and math skills would be necessary! So we’ve hatched a scheme which will start in September. We are going to let the students inquire into the Unit of Inquiry and retroactively see which Common Core literacy and math standards came up accidentally…authentically. Instead of using the pre-planned Scope and Sequence, at the end of each week we are going to look at the raw Common Core documents and highlight the concepts and skills that were needed for students’ inquiries. At the end of the 6 week unit we will reflect and see if a sufficient amount of literacy and math standards came up. From here we decide whether or not this model is beneficial to continue with during Unit 2.


One of our new and enthusiastic Grade 1 teachers scheduled a meeting with me to reflect on her year and receive feedback about how to grow for next year. Through our conversation we stumbled on the topic of Student-Led Conferences and the current procedures for student portfolios at our school. Throughout the year, teachers collect a variety of work samples, then they have their students reflect on them and finally place them in a construction paper folder to share with parents.


This Grade 1 teacher said it would be great to try building ongoing e-portfolios throughout the year. Brilliant! Let’s give it a try! So we’ve decided that she will be the e-portfolio pioneer and try it out with her class next year. She is currently inquiring into different formats and thinking about the procedures that will be needed to make this new system a success. Throughout the year we will meet to discuss the successes, challenges and discoveries along the way.

Inquiry Based Scheduling

Usually, homeroom teachers at our school chunk their classroom time into three categories. Unit of Inquiry, math and literacy.

PYP Schedule

Upon wrapping up this school year and beginning to think about next year, a different enthusiastic Grade 1 teacher (we have many enthusiastic Grade 1 teachers!) wanted to stretch herself and knock down the boundaries between UOI, math and literacy. She wants to create a more open class schedule that allows her to plan her time in response to students’ questions and inquiries. Brilliant! She is going to give it a try and then together we can reflect and discuss the benefits and limitations of this type of schedule!

I’m optimistic about all three initiatives and so honoured to be working with such visionaries who are comfortable taking risks and veering off the beaten path. If all goes well and these initiatives prove beneficial to student learning, we will share our discoveries with the larger staff in hopes of inspiring these changes on a larger scale… and maybe even inspiring more risk-takers!


2 thoughts on “Teachers as Risk-Takers

  1. michaelbondclegg June 13, 2015 / 9:48 am

    I love initiative #1 and think this teacher will be surprised about how many of the CCSS expectations come about authentically during the course of a unit. I am wondering, are you going to take a look at only 4th grade CCSS expectations for the “pilot UOI”, or would you be willing to look at grades below and above, as I am sure students will naturally differentiate during open tasks – might be good information to have at the beginning of the year in terms of noting the level students are choosing to work at and the reasons why they feel comfortable working at this level.


    • tbondclegg June 13, 2015 / 10:52 am

      We hadn’t thought of that. Thanks for the great idea!


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