I was so impressed and motivated by the OCBS video – it was incredibly powerful to witness the enormous change that effective professional learning had on that school.
First and foremost, it led off with the fact that the school leaders also participated and MODELED that they are learners as well. That, by far, is one of my biggest frustrations in my current position. There appears to be a “pass” for school administrators because they are just too busy to attend training. I often have to go by and provide one-on-one overview just so they can sign-off that they received the information. Their presence at professional learning – sitting side by side with their staff – working together, brainstorming, encouraging brings so much more value to the time spent together. Not only by modeling behavior and participation, but also showing that they are walking the walk as well, taking the time to be a team player and continue to be a lifelong learner.
The second aspect that really hit me hard was the fact that we – the facilitators – need to continue to listen, listen, listen to our participants, students, peers, community, etc. I am often uncomfortable in those long, drawn out moments of silence when no one wants to speak up. Listening to me also means to quit speaking and filling up the spaces with the sit-and-get but to leave opportunities open for the group to fill in those blanks, bring up connections or questions or frustrations. I think we do a good job feeling out the climate of a campus and building on what type of PL can address and motivate when we are falling short in an area. But it takes every school leader active listening, using prompting questions and not always leading and talking.
Collaboration is not a new concept but reframing collaboration to look more like the OCBS school is a new concept. Our district has often reached across campus lines and pulled together grade levels to introduce or collaborate on a new technology tool or a new adopted instructional resource. The hope was that they would all work together nicely and share thoughts, lesson ideas, student motivation and assessment strategies, differentiation, etc. That is not always the case as it could be that the grade level is made up of several novices that don’t have the experience or confidence to participate or feel of value. More often than not, it is the opposite issue where we have several veteran teachers who just choose to keep the teaching tips to themselves. They too are not leading or collaborating with their peers and the professional development is just time wasted. I love the suggestion to make it known in PD what is the desired learning outcome – we do that for our students every day or week. If we can also offer personalized assistance, customized and specific to the audience, ask questions to guide collaboration and conversation and allow for the freedom to be wrong (no incorrect answers!!), then I believe our teachers will gain the confidence to try and learn from any missteps. This is how they can make connections to the information presented and how it personally impacts them personally or in their learning environment.
It is my hope that we can start making some progress on at least these 3 areas in my school district. Every small step forward is creating positive change…