, Muskogee, OK

January 29, 2013

ECC educators teach one another

Teachers observe other classes, trade tips

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Marian O’Rourke’s peers watched her every move as she taught her pupils at Muskogee’s Early Childhood Center.

They watched how she had students ring a bell when they recognized a word. They looked for places in her classroom where she could place cards with words the kids could learn. They stood fascinated as kids moved letters and shapes across a lighted table.

That’s just what O’Rourke wanted. Teams of ECC teachers spend time in each other’s classes Monday gathering and sharing ideas to help improve their teaching. They also visit other Muskogee Public Schools sites to share ideas with their teachers.

“It’s strictly non-evaluative,” ECC Principal Malinda Lindsey said. “We’re not there to judge, not there to criticize.”

Teacher teams are there to help and get help, she said. The teachers spend about 15 to 20 minutes observing the classrooms. Lindsey compared the visits to her own classroom observations. The program is called Teachers Engaged As Mentors. Assistants watch over classes when teachers are away monitoring, she said.

O’Rourke said she wanted ideas on orderly ways to move her pre-kindergarten pupils from one learning center to the other. She also wanted ideas on where to put word cards so kids could read and identify things.

Fellow ECC teacher Lorie Alexander shared an idea she found at a Ben Franklin Science Academy pre-kindergarten classroom: The students stand and point to the learning station they’re going to next. Other ideas included placing arrows on the floors or shapes on the ceiling designating where each student team goes.

During Monday’s observation, O’Rourke sat with one group of students to help them recognize words such as “me” or “we.” Students who recognized the word rang a bell. Alexander jotted that down for her own class. She said she liked how O’Rourke interacted with the kids.

“For me, it gave me a better idea of what I can do with the kids,” she said.

Lindsey said she got the teacher mentoring idea during a visit to the K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal. The center, based at the University of Oklahoma, seeks to transform schools into what its website calls “high achieving, interactive learning communities.”

ECC teachers visit other classrooms in the district, including those at BFSA and Irving Elementary. They discussed observing classrooms in Fort Gibson or Wagoner during a professional development day.

Melony Carey, the director of professional development in Muskogee Public Schools, said the ECC mentoring idea can spread to other schools in the district.

After Monday’s session, the teachers gave O’Rourke some ideas.

“They said I already had a lot of words on my wall, so kids can get them and use them in their writing and vocabulary,” she said. “And on the rotation, (from one learning area to the other), I like the idea of ‘freeze and point.’ I’m definitely going to try that tomorrow.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or