Another teacher folder–just what I need?

Christine Maefsky

Christine Maefsky, Featured Blogger

By Christine Maefsky, Consultant, Collins Education Associates

Recently I had a revealing conversation with a teacher at a middle school where they’ve been using the Collins Writing Program for the past two years. The gist of the conversation was, “I love Collins Writing; things have been going great; my kids have been writing more and they’ve been writing better. But now, they want me to start using a Teacher’s Implementation Portfolio for one of my classes. Things are going well, so why does my principal want me start using this folder?”

It’s a great question–especially when teachers have plenty on their plate already. The last thing they need is another thing to do that may have limited value to students.

I honestly don’t believe the Teacher’s Implementation Portfolio fits the description of “just one more thing to do.” When the Teacher’s Portfolio was created I, too, was a little skeptical about them, but soon learned that they are invaluable in helping teachers engage in focused and fruitful conversations about what they’re doing with students.

I’ve observed first-hand the folders facilitating very useful “professional conversations” about what and how teachers are teaching. Because we can talk about the specific writing assignments in the folders, with examples of work from kids to discuss, it makes what we say less theoretical (which annoys a number of us) and more concrete. Too often in the past, talk about what we’re doing has been vague, ambiguous, and/or misunderstood.

The biggest problems teachers have with the folders is remembering to record in them and to collect samples of kids’ work. A social studies teacher had a great suggestion about this that turned out to work well. He lets the students do the work! He assigns two students as his “folder monitors.” He keeps his Teacher’s Implementation Portfolio on his desk. The “folder monitors’” job is to put their writing assignments (Type One, Type Two, and Type Three) in his teacher folder when they’re done writing. He does give them some form of extra credit for doing the job.

Once every two weeks or so, he then takes his folder and records the assignments along with his reflections on them. While his thoughts are not as immediate as might be ideal, they nonetheless have worked all right for him. His system gets him student work and a record of the assignments in his folder without his having to be the main one responsible.

His reflections do get done (although maybe not for every single assignment–let’s be realistic!) so he has a record of what worked, what didn’t, and changes he’d make next time with a new batch of kids. He said that while it took some getting adjusted to, he’s really appreciated having those fresh notes when he came to teach the assignments again with another group of students.

Hope this helps you see value in the Teacher’s Implementation Portfolio and why it isn’t just one more thing to do. Good luck!