This is post #3 for the 9x9x25 Challenge!
I read about this phenomenal idea called the Pineapple Chart on Cult of Pedagogy’s blog. Follow Jennifer here on Twitter, too! In a nutshell, the Pineapple Chart has five columns along the top labeled Monday to Friday. The rows are labelled down the side into half hour sections, periods or chunks of the day. Teachers can write their name and the topic of any lessons that week that they are open to other teachers coming in to observe. This is a completely informal sharing of teaching practice.
The pineapple has long been a symbol of hospitality; it’s used in the chart in the spirit of welcoming one another into our school “homes.” -Jennifer Gonzalez
I love watching other teachers teach. I love seeing how they build rapport with their students, how they manage their classroom, how they open their lessons, how they deliver their lessons, how they close their classes, and how they structure their classes. I have learned so much from watching other teachers teach and having colleagues watch me and give feedback.
After reading Jennifer’s post, I wondered how I could adapt this idea for my college. With the help of a couple colleagues, we put together this kitschy video that explained the Pineapple Project (as we dubbed it). It has been viewed 177 times; however, the project never took off!
We had about five faculty who were willing to open their doors – we even had one faculty member who offered to leave his door open ALL SEMESTER for anyone who wanted to drop in! The issue was that we couldn’t get anyone to go into those open door classrooms.
Feedback from faculty:
- Fear – fear of having a colleague watch them and fear of going into another faculty members class; fear of administrators
- Time – faculty felt they didn’t have time during the semester to take time to go into another faculty member’s class to view them teaching a lesson
- Criticism – some people thought this was a crazy idea; why would they ever want to watch someone else teach? Or share how they teach?
We included information about the project being informal to alleviate fears of administrative repercussions and to give it a more casual vibe. We wanted people open to sharing their best practices.
When I first heard feedback about faculty not having time to go into someone else’s class, I was frustrated. I felt that people make time for things they think are important, and because people wouldn’t make time, I felt that they didn’t value the teaching practices of their colleagues. However, I know that faculty have a great deal of respect for each other and their peers’ teaching practices. I have conversations with faculty all the time about the great things they are doing in their classrooms and want to be able to share that with others because I know other faculty would benefit from the knowledge; I have to figure out another way to share this amazing stuff!
I spoke with our video guy, Jeff, about recording faculty doing the cool things I know they are doing in the classroom (or at least filming them talking about the cool things they are doing in the classroom). He was totally on board. I approached a number of faculty and all of them told me the same thing; they aren’t comfortable being on camera. Ugh — another road block.
Why are we so scared to share the things we are doing? Are we afraid of criticism? Are we afraid of people stealing our ideas? Are we afraid of students knowing the types of things being done in our classes?
One faculty member told me:
What I do in the classroom isn’t special! It isn’t something worth sharing. -Anonymous
What?! I can assure you what they were doing in the classroom was amazingly relevant, engaging and fun! Perhaps we just think that what we are doing isn’t that amazing when in reality others would think that it is!
Our amazing instructional designer, Sarah, created a blog within our Teaching and Learning Hub website where faculty are free to share their best practices; perhaps I can encourage people to share there! This semester, Amy, created the Level Up challenge; which requires faculty who wish to receive a Level Up pin to share on our blog one small change they’ve made to their course or program that makes more of an impact for students. The Pineapple Project isn’t necessarily dead, but has been modified a bit.
I think it is just as important to reflect on our failures (or challenges) as it is to reflect on our successes. This wasn’t my first failure and it won’t be my last!