Hello from Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma. My name is Cindy Castell, and I have been at Whittier for the past 25 years. I am currently in a brand new position, I Tech Coach (Instructional Technology Integration Coach). I will explain more about this on day 3. I have also served the past four years as our school’s Gifted Resource Coordinator, where I served over 500 students in our GT program by providing enrichment opportunities and supporting teachers in developing differentiated instruction. Before that, I was a seventh-grade language arts teacher for 21 years.
In a quote about lifelong learning, Brian Tracy said, “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” As with many of you, my career in education has been defined by finding what works best for students. I want them to walk away from my class, or the classes I support, with the ability to continue to grow and learn. To me, that is what education is all about.
My initial Guided Inquiry training was in December 2015. I was in the second group of many who have been trained in our district. Norman Public Schools strongly supports Guided Inquiry in all classrooms K-12. It has been so exciting watching it grow and hearing all of the success stories with students of all ages. I was just looking back at my reflection journal from my initial training, and this is what I wrote:
I am super excited about this approach. For the past few years, it has become apparent that teaching facts and even basic skills are not preparing our students for the future. Our kids need to be able to move on and learn without us, but they need to have guidance on how to be good consumers of knowledge that is out there. I have been reading, subscribing to groups like MindShift, Edutopia, etc., and just trying to find everything available on how we move from standards-based to inquiry-based. I believe the skills will come as we have meaningful learning happening as I see this will be the case using Guided Inquiry as a structure.
In my career, we have been through “the cycles” that we often talk about in education. The cycle of drilling and testing has been a time of great conflict for me as a teacher. I know students have to have connection and meaning to truly learn. Guided Inquiry met my philosophy of teaching along with the structure to guide students to be well-trained consumers of the vast amount of information they have access to as well as developing the skills they need to be educated, contributing members of society. It is the structure I didn’t realize I was missing when I had students researching topics. I was hooked when I realized this Inquiry-Based learning model provided the structure that all of us really use or truly need to be consumers of information.
Over this week, I am excited to share with you a unique experience of being one of the first Guided Inquiry Trainers. With building capacity in our district, Dr. Leslie Maniotes agreed to train 4 Elementary librarians and teachers and 4 Secondary. I am thrilled to share with you the journey that led to being a Guided Inquiry Trainer and what we have learned through the process. We are positive that we will be training teachers to cultivate the “Movers and Shakers” of the future.