What’s a Fellowship?
So, we’re not exactly talking Frodo and Gandalf here, but working together with other teachers to effectively implement standards-based instruction in the classroom is kind of like delivering the “one ring” to the fires of Mordor. Subject-focused fellows across Washington State are doing the work of the work as teacher leaders in order to move standards implementation forward. They are classroom leaders and early adopters who are energized to hone their craft as mentors among their peers.
These fellowships meet anywhere between four and fourteen times per year in order to participate in focused professional development, share strategies, and develop education materials for use in the classroom. Most are organized through Washington State’s educational service districts, but not all. However, all are focused on empowering teacher leadership across the state in new and innovative ways.
ELA, Math, Science, Engineering, and Bears? Oh my!
Okay, so I threw in bears because acting education secretary Betsy Davis apparently thinks that we need to worry about these. But, the right to “bare arms” aside (insert school dress code joke), the rest are real educational fellowships across Washington State.
The ELA and math fellowships were logically and reasonably established first. They are in year four of their implementation now and starting to cycle through their second round of leadership development. They are organized through the educational service districts as is the science fellowship.
The science fellowship is in its second year, and this is where my personal experience comes into play. I’ve been a science fellow since the inception and have really benefited from participating in this program. Regional meetings have been helpful, statewide training through our WA LASER program valuable, and participation in our district science fellows leadership team invaluable.
The engineering fellowship is unique in that it is not organized through the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction or the educational service districts. Washington MESA, Washington STEM, and other partners worked together to propose, design, and create this opportunity. Whereas the other fellowships started big and statewide, this fellowships has started small, targeted, and localized. Both have the same long-term goals relative to overall statewide impact but different approaches for getting there.
When the science fellowship opportunity first arose, I was admittedly skeptical. I don’t like missing instructional days unless the opportunity’s positive impact far outweighs the negative impact. My fellow ELA and math coaches had good things to say, so I went for it. I was not disappointed. The first year was definitely a prototype/pilot year and they were working out the kinks, but the chance to connect with like-minded peers from across the state and engage in science professional development exchanges was worth it. The second year definitely upped the bar as we partnered with WA LASER to do a statewide conference, and my district organized a diverse team representing science stakeholders at the elementary, middle school, high school, and administrative levels. We are definitely effecting positive change in regards standards-based instruction, the Next Generation Science Standards, and student achievement.
I could write an entire post about this amazing experience and hope to do so at some point, but for the sake of time and space I’ll try to contain my enthusiasm right now. As already mentioned, this fellowship is unique. It’s starting out in southern King County and the Yakima valley regions and targeting 5th grade as a starting point. I think the reasons for this are good and while too many to list comprehensively, catching and inspiring students while they’re young before they disengage in the science and engineering is critical.
As a first-year fellow, I definitely feel like we are building the prototype plane as we fly it. We started with an orientation day and then week of training and development during the summer. Our task was to design inexpensive but effective engineering curriculum that any teacher could implement. Think of it as “open sourcing” the engineering components of the Next Generation Science Standards.
We worked in teams and went to work in our schools with the start of the school year. Each team developed three to four engineering projects and committed to implementing at least four projects designed by the group. The results have been both surprising and exciting as students come alive with the meaning and purpose this work gives to their education. We meet monthly to review results, develop ourselves more, and continue implementation of our work.
Whether emphasizing the power that engineering has for leveling the playing field among demographics that are traditionally under-represented in the sciences or the potential in reaching already disenfranchised students, there is no doubt in my mind that this work is invigorating and empowering the teachers as much as the students and their families.
Interested in becoming engaged in a fellowship?
Check out the links below in order to get more information on these awesome opportunities for leadership. Each fellowship group has an application process with various levels of competitiveness and fast-approaching deadlines if you are reaching this post close to it’s original publishing date. If you missed a deadline then don’t fret, because the opportunities are annual and ever-expanding in scope.
Helpful Links and Resources
Engineering Fellowship Application: Click here (URL not shown due to length).
Science Fellowship: http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/Fellows.aspx
Math Fellowship: http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/Fellows.aspx
ELA Fellowship: http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/Fellows.aspx
Washington LASER: https://www.wastatelaser.org
ELA Common Core State Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/
Math Common Core State Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/
Next Generation Science Standards: http://www.nextgenscience.org
Engineering in the Next Generation Science Standards: http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Appendix%20I%20-%20Engineering%20Design%20in%20NGSS%20-%20FINAL_V2.pdf