Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Teach Like Yourself, Part 4

What emotions come to mind when you hear "Teacher PD"? Joy is probably not one of them. We've all sat in a teacher professional development where the presenter is droning on and on. There are always certain required District PDs each year: blood-borne pathogens, chemical safety, child abuse, suicide prevention, epi-pen training. . . the list goes on. I understand the required trainings but just as research has shown that children learn best when they have choice and interest in the topic, so do teachers!
Chapter 5 of of Teach Like Yourself focuses on how to drive your own professional growth. What a concept! My first few years of teaching were so HARD, yet so exciting. I was brand new, just graduated with my BA, and given an emergency teaching credential. (This means my school district was desperate for teachers so they gave an emergency credential to anyone who had their bachelor's degree, with the agreement that we would take night classes to get our credential.) Never having taken an education class(!), I had NO IDEA what I was doing. Thank goodness for my very patient grade level partner & veteran teacher extraordinaire, Elizabeth. She took me under her wing and shared professional journals with me, took me to conferences and workshops. I was thirsty to learn; I couldn't get enough PD! Forward to 30+ years and now I groan when I hear about our weekly PDs. What changed? 
First we need to look at the purpose behind professional development. According to NEA Today, "The purpose of professional development is to improve knowledge and skills in order to facilitate individual, school-wide, and district-wide improvements for the purpose of increasing student achievement." In order to improve knowledge and skills, we need to go back to those core beliefs and examine our own practices. We need to lean into areas for growth, acknowledging what is working and what we don't know how to do. 

One of my most meaningful years of professional development was when my staff formed Professional Learning Communities (PLC), choosing a topic we truly wanted to delve into and learn more about. Our PLC focused on Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI Math). It was so invigorating; not only to read together and observe teachers who were implementing CGI, in the lunchroom and passing in the halls, we would excitedly chat about what we tried and share student samples. Having a small group of colleagues who were willing to take risks and support each other was key to growth!

I love this infographic from John Spencer, who has a multitude of ideas for owning your own professional learning. You can read more HERE
The internet has made it easy to find our tribe. There are so many Facebook groups, Twitter chats, webinars, and even virtual conferences. There are a plethora of podcasts, professional books, online courses! My favorite podcast is We Teach So Hard; check it out HERE if you aren't already a listener! Many of us look for learning partners, coaches, and mentors, but I had never thought of asking student for feedback. Of course this makes sense, especially if the goal is to increase student achievement! Goldberg suggests eliciting student feedback through a formal Google form, having reflective conversations with students and observing student engagement. Last spring during distance learning, I assigned students a quick check-in via Google forms. I asked for their feedback on Zoom meetings, quantity and quality of assignments, what they liked and didn't like. I gave parents a similar form. The results were fascinating and very helpful. I actually made changes to the way I taught for the last few weeks of the year, based on student feedback. That survey also led to my current professional development goal: I want to improve in my "on-the-go" conferring and small group strategy groups. There. I said it. Now you have to hold me accountable to this goal. It will be even more of a challenge since my school district is starting the year remotely, but this actually is motivating to find a way to make this work! 
Another FABULOUS PD opportunity is The Whole Teacher EclecticCon, a virtual 5-day conference. When was the last time your PD acknowledged that teaching the whole-child starts with nourishing the whole-teacher?  I’ve teamed up with an ah-mazing team of presenters to offer you an incredible 60+ training sessions on topics including all academic content areas, culturally responsive teaching, arts integration, social-emotional learning, special education, educational technology, avoiding burnout, tools to help you in the regular classroom and with distance learning, and more! PD in your PJs on your own time; it doesn't get better than this! Check out the sessions HERE.

Yikes! I know this post is LONG! Chapter 6 in Teach Like Yourself is all about taking care of yourself! You can read more about self-care HERE and HERE in the The Well-Balanced Teacher book study.
Don't worry if you've missed the first couple of weeks of this fabulous book! You can catch up here:
Next week we finish the book with Chapter 7 Teach Bravely. I hope you'll join me then!

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