Teacher-Led PD

When I look back to when I started at my school in July, a lot of progress has been made. One of the areas we are trying to improve is culture and professional development. Specifically, making professional sharing a normal part of what we do and better utilizing the limited amount of time we get to spend together.

A large amount of the planning credit goes to my superintendent, Jill Dobrowansky, who thankfully understands that we need to improve and differentiate PD, making it more focused on what the teachers actually need.

Before I get into the post, I do not want this to sound like all the things that are going on are attributable to me. Thankfully, I work with a wonderful staff and we have a good culture in the building; those elements are essential to trying the things that we’ve implemented this month.

Flipped Faculty Meeting

This started with our monthly faculty meeting on Feb. 4. We “flipped” the meeting, which I am a much bigger fan of in professional settings than classroom settings because I know all of the teachers have access.  One of our areas of focus as a school is on improving student writing. So, having teachers break into grade level groups, we sent out a few different topics with the expectation that the faculty meeting would be used solely for collaborative planning, playing, and brainstorming. We used Meraki to send out the Story Wheel app to the Pre-K-Grade 2 teachers’ iPads and Toontastic to the Grade 3-4 teachers’ iPads. We sent a short video introducing using Google Docs for writing the Grade 5-8 teachers as we are hoping to go live with the students’ Google Docs (Drive) accounts this month. The hope is that they would try out the apps or watch the video depending on which grade they teach.

This was generally a really positive experience. Jill and I floated between the rooms to help and demo as much as they needed, but each room had at least 1 (usually several) teacher-leaders who really took charge. This is important because just like the students, we have to own our learning. It cannot just be the administration pushing a directive if it is to make lasting change. We are almost definitely going to build off of this for a few reasons:

  1. The feedback from the teachers was overwhelmingly positive.
  2. The collaboration going on was excellent. The teachers were all leaving with concrete, easily actionable plans that they could use in their rooms.
  3. At least some of each group has already integrated the ideas in their teaching, some with me co-teaching and some on their own.
  4. This is not to say that everything went perfectly, but it is easily the best faculty meeting I’ve been a part of.

EdCamp in the Building

Today, we actually tried to implement the EdCamp model in our professional development day. The first half of the day was just alright; we had to spend the morning in Teachscape training on the Danielson evaluation model. It’s an important topic that greatly effects every teacher in the building.

For those of you who are unaware, an EdCamp is a specific type of unconference that is run by teachers. It is free for all to attend. Teachers present on whatever they feel relevant and teachers can choose what they want to learn about. I plugged it several times today and hope to drag some of my colleagues to the next one that comes along (Maybe EdCamp IS on 3/2. Anyone going?).

Due to time constraints, we did not have the spontaneous session board that is typical of EdCamps. We asked for volunteers and, thankfully, several people were willing. We broke into two 1-hour sessions after lunch. In the first session:

  • I led an iPad Bootcamp session. It was a lot of fun experimenting with different apps for different grade levels and content areas from PreK through middle school.
  • Rebekah Triolo led one on a toolkit for common core standards in language arts.
  • Melissa Mattix led a session on QR codes (they’ve been spreading in the building since she started using them).
  • Kathy Yaede led a session on the responsive classroom – if you’ve ever seen her kids working together, you would know that’s definitely a session worth going to. During the second session, Susan

In the second session:

  • Susan Kotch led a session on back channels, which she is pioneering with her eighth graders. They’re now asking their other teachers to use it which is always a good sign.
  • Kathy Yaede and Lisa Chapman led a digital storytelling workshop focusing on Voicethread, Toontastic, Story Wheel, and Puppet Pals. Their students have already produced some outstanding examples.
  • Gina Narozniak and Dave LaVeglio led a workshop on problem-based learning, with examples that their students have done.
  • I led a conversation about Edmodo with a small group and I believe we are going to start piloting it with at least 2 classrooms soon.

Since I was helping in session both time lots, I didn’t get to see the other sessions. Jill went to all the sessions and left impressed. I’ve gotten great feedback from some of my tweeting colleagues. Overall, everyone seemed to be in a great mood and really like the time to share and work together. I need to talk to everyone and unpack everything that happened during the day. It was a very positive experience and I hope to see it expand in the future.

Great things are happening and I can’t wait to see where we go in the years to come.

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