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Teaching strategies trump togas at Share My Lesson party

The Perth Amboy (N.J.) Federation/AFT substituted lessons for libations on March 9, and turned the BYOB party into a BYOL (Bring Your Own Lesson) event. The after-school social at union headquarters was an opportunity for teachers across the system to socialize, and the price of admission was simply one of their own home-brewed lesson plans to upload to Share My Lesson—making them available to colleagues across their district and throughout the country.

Perth Amboy SML Party

Share My Lesson was developed by AFT and TES Connect, the largest network of teachers in the world. It launched last year as a free online platform that puts high-quality teaching resources into the hands of teachers and other educators across the nation, not to mention an opportunity to collaborate with and draw inspiration from some pretty sharp minds in teaching. The site has exploded since its 2012 launch (more than 250,000 resources are banked so far, with many providing valuable help for educators navigating the tricky waters of the new Common Core State Standards), and the number keeps growing thanks to fun and innovative outreach like Perth Amboy's BYOL social event.

At the party, the AFT local made a special effort to roll out the welcome mat for two categories of teachers: early childhood and upper-grade educators in disciplines like music, art and social studies. It's important for teachers from all walks to feel included in Share My Lesson if the project is to be fully realized, explains Donna Chiera, president of the local and vice chair of the AFT Teachers program and policy council (shown below).

Perth Amboy SML Party

"Teachers just do what they do every day. They get so focused and don't take a lot of time to think 'Wow, this is great. It's something that is really worth sharing,' " Chiera observes. "Sometimes they need a little push" to remove that bushel covering the light they shine daily in their classrooms. Preschool is a real case in point, and the AFT leader said the BYOL event made a special effort "because we really want our preschool teachers to buy into Share My Lesson as full partners."

That was just fine with Carol Graff (shown at left in the top photo), one of the Perth Amboy early childhood teachers rubbing shoulders with other teachers at BYOL.

"So many great ideas come from colleagues, so why reinvent the wheel?" asks Graff, who teaches 4-year-olds at Ignacio Cruz Early Childhood Center in the school district. She attended the BYOL function and kept a sharp eye on the monitors, looking for ideas that could enrich her lessons introducing young learners to the five senses. The things that work, the early childhood educator says, open the entire toolbox. They use "song, vocabulary, rhythm, all developmentally appropriate and academically sound," adds Graff. "It's a lot of work for teachers. In some places, you pay for great ideas, so why not look for the same quality at Share My Lesson, where it's free and you use your own teachers as resources?" [Mike Rose/photos by Bruce Gilbert]
 

March 11, 2013