In my last BLOG post, I discussed some of the amazing opportunities that I have to support the K-8 teachers at my three school sites. Read all about that HERE. In this post, I am focusing on our new Science and Engineering curriculum, Project Lead the Way, and the way that I am supporting our teachers with implementing it. Our three schools purchased this curriculum with our DoDEA grant funds, which also pay for a full-time TOSA (that's me).
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a hands-on, inquiry-based science/engineering program that includes modules filled with tons of amazing activities and curriculum. Our K-5 teachers had the option to attend a 2 day PLTW training over the summer, while our Middle School science teachers were able to attend a week of training. I attended the summer training with the K-5 teachers, for the Launch PLTW curriculum.
Once the school year began, my role was to support teachers in implementing the PLTW Modules for their grade level. That support looks very different, depending on the teacher and grade level. Because this is our first year implementing PLTW, teachers are encouraged to go at their own pace with the modules. I provide support for teachers by co-teaching modules, meeting with grade levels during PLCs, and organizing meetings to unpack the modules and look at the activities, projects, and problem-based work together.
Now that this school year is beginning to come to a close, I'm starting to consider my PLTW plans for next school year. I would love to see all teachers at my three sites implementing PLTW with their students. I would also like to have more opportunities for teacher professional learning and PD focusing on science, engineering, and PLTW.
I have been an "Ed Tech TOSA" for the last two years, and it has been an incredible experience thus far. For those who are unfamiliar with the term TOSA, it stands for "Teacher On Special Assignment." So, basically I am a credentialed teacher, working for a school district; but, I do not have my own class full of students. The position is super flexible and really allows me to research and try new, innovative things, and encourage (and support) my fellow teachers to do the same.
The TOSA job description can vary greatly from district to district, and even from school to school. In my particular position, I work at three K-8 schools, all located on a military base. My position is funded through a grant from the Department of Defense, which is why I work at those specific schools. That same grant has been used at the three schools to purchase technology, STEM-related materials, and a brand new engineering curriculum. So, I get to provide support to teachers with implementing all of those resources in their classrooms.
I absolutely love this position because of the flexibility and opportunity for growth that it provides. I get to create my own schedule (to an extent), attend (and lead) amazing professional development opportunities, and collaborate with teachers in multiple grade levels and multiple school sites.
Although there are certain meetings and events that I must attend, I get to choose the school that I will be at each day and coordinate classroom visits as needed. Visiting a variety of classrooms and working with a range of teachers has been a valuable experience and has really fueled my love of teaching. Also, focusing on what the classroom teacher wants to learn or do in the classroom has pushed me to find creative solutions or tools to meet a variety of needs.
The professional development opportunities are another reason that I love being a TOSA. Not only do I get to attend amazing PDs, I also get to lead them. Prior to becoming a TOSA, I did not realize how much I would enjoy leading professional development for teachers. My biggest focus with leading PD, is to share something that will benefit teachers and improve their job in a positive way. Teachers have a lot on their plate (understatement) and adding "one more thing" to that plate is something that I never want to do. I'm always attempting to introduce a tool, technique, etc. that will support teachers in the work they are already doing.
A third reason that I am enjoying this position is the opportunity to collaborate with teachers in multiple grave levels and multiple school sites. When you are a classroom teacher, you spend the majority of your day in your own classroom with the same group of students, day in and day out. You do get to collaborate with your grade level team and attend staff meetings once or twice a month, but that is it! As a TOSA, I get to experience what is happening in so many classrooms and so many grade levels. It's awesome! I feel like these experiences have given me a better understanding of the learning progression from kindergarten through 8th grade. When I eventually move back in to a classroom teacher role, this will only help me deliver instruction to my class.
As an Ed Tech TOSA, I am gaining valuable experience and growing as an educator in ways that I never knew were possible. Yes, I will eventually go back into the classroom, but for now, I will be enjoying this role as a Teacher On Special Assignment.