Tuesday, September 27, 2016

One Great Question for Professional Learning Communities

I'll never forget the first time I heard "PLC" spoken a decade or so ago during a staff meeting.  My principal was talking about starting them, and I was confused.  I thought he was referring to Prairie Learning Center.  Since then, my understanding has grown a bit. I've been fortunate to be part of some really great professional learning  communities, and I've had the opportunity to learn about PLC possibilities through many avenues.

 Recently, Steve Barkley posed a great question that helped me think about PLCs in a more meaningful way. He asked, "What have you learned in your PLC that has impacted your work with students?"  This one question can help us formatively assess our PLC time, and provide focus to ensure that we are indeed learning from our professional learning communities. It can help us prioritize learning and avoid becoming a group dedicated solely to getting our work done.

When I thought about this question, Thursday morning at South Central High School immediately came to mind. The staff there is taking turns bringing something important to the group.  It might be a strategy to share or a problem to solve together. When I was there, I was blessed to get the chance to hear Mr. Sonneman share the way he provides for more student choice in his room by differentiating the products that students create to demonstrate their understanding. The strategy he shared was applicable to all of us seated around the table; we all learned from him that day.

What have you learned recently in your PLC that has impacted your work with students?  Please leave a comment to share your thinking and/or tune in to Twitter Tuesday on October 4th from 8:30-9:00 pm as we continue to discuss a learning focused PLC.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Twitter Tuesdays are back!

We are gearing up for our first Twitter Tuesday of the school year.  Join fellow colleagues as we discuss the "learning" in professional learning communities on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 from 8:30-9:00 pm.  It's a great opportunity to learn and share with your colleagues without having to leave your couch!  Curious about what Twitter Tuesday chats look like?  Check out two years of archived Twitter chats here.  You'll also find the schedule for the chats that are occurring this year.

Remember that you can earn Latte hours (which count for graduate credit) for Twitter Tuesdays.   Sign up in Tracker and participate in both Twitter Sessions within the month listed. 

Follow and tweet to #learnBPS anytime to see what cool things your colleagues are up to, share your own idea, or ask questions of your colleagues. 

Not sure where to start on using Twitter? Go here for some great starter tips: http://goo.gl/LRDJeV  

Still have questions?  Get in touch with mary_mchugh@bismarckschools.org or leave a comment on this blog.  Happy Tweeting!

Would you like to blog?

Do you have something to share with your colleagues?  Maybe you have an inspirational story from your classroom, an exciting teaching strategy, or another success story?  Consider writing about it on this blog!  Contact mary_mchugh@bismarckschools for questions about getting started.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Keep Calm & Call Your Instructional Coach

What a beautiful gift we have at Bismarck Public Schools.  Instructional Coaching.  I am not celebrating me or my job here, I’m celebrating the coaching model.   I’m celebrating coaching cycles and the most valuable resource each teacher has—each other!
Every child deserves a high-quality education and every teacher deserves resources to accomplish that goal.  The challenge is providing continuous opportunities to increase student success and build teacher capacity.  One way teachers receive ongoing support is through instructional coaching.  Instructional coaching increases the achievement and engagement of every student by bringing out the best performances of every teacher.  Coaching supports teachers as they take risks and try new models and instructional strategies. 

As a coach I get the opportunity to learn new strategies that I can bring back to my building.  Coaches use both student-centered and teacher-centered methods to help teachers improve the decisions they make about their instruction.  Many coaches use a coaching cycle with their staff.  Cycles can be designed by the teacher and coach for the specific learning. Since coaching is ongoing and different for every teacher and every building, it is useful to set up a model to keep the communication and cycle going. 

Most coaching cycles are in the following form:
·         Pre-conference
·         Model/Observe/Feedback
·         Debrief/Plan
·         Collaborative teaching/Debrief
·         Observe/Feedback

Many times the gradual release model is used within a coaching cycle.  The excitement is that the cycle is ongoing and is happening with many individual teachers and/or groups of teachers at any given time.  

I am blessed in my position as a coach to celebrate growth on a daily basis.  I am lucky enough to be in a kindergarten room one minute of the day, and a fifth grade room the next.  I get the opportunity to think and reflect with all of the Solheim staff which allows me to learn from so many teachers.  What we are working on is the collective potential within our building.  Every teacher is a coach, with, or without the title of instructional coach.  Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.   Again, what a gift we have here at BPS.  Each other. 

Keep calm and Coach on!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teaching and Learning Academy

Infinity Loop 4The BPS Teaching and Learning Academy is happening this summer, and is truly unlike any PD we have had in our district before.  Teachers from throughout our district have been working together to create a meaningful experience that will help innovate the way we use formative assessments.  

There will be four short workshops delivered throughout the academy, each focusing on a different element of formative assessment.  Feedback is a critical piece of our assessment practice, but does it look the same for each assessment we give?  What can teachers do to enhance student metacognition, and empower kids to take control of their learning?  When are knowledge-level questioning/activities appropriate, and how can teachers structure a rich assessment that allows students to show they are able to apply what they have learned in class and extend those skills to real-world situations? These are just some of the questions we hope to begin answering during the summer academy, and each workshop will challenge participants to reflect on their own practice to identify opportunities for growth.  
http://res.freestockphotos.biz/pictures/17/17116-illustration-of-a-laptop-computer-pv.pngThere are only so many minutes in a classroom/prep period/day that we can use, so our development team thought that teachers could benefit from using their technology to add efficiencies to their daily routines.  Why even have the technology if it isn’t doing anything that couldn’t be done with an overhead projector and some dry erase markers, right?  The goal of our technology tips sprinkled throughout the academy is to give teachers the tools to work smarter, not harder, so that they can maximize their time in class with students.  

Summer can be a busy time for teachers.  Kids, vacations, part-time jobs, and other commitments can make it difficult for teachers to participate in many different professional development opportunities.  This is why the academy has been designed in a way that accommodates busy summer schedules, and each of the required sessions for the academy are offered multiple times throughout an academy window. Teachers can set their own pace for completing the academy by choosing which sessions work best for them.  You can find more information on the academy website:  https://goo.gl/ycrcw9