Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Taking Charge of our Learning

Our profession is evolving; there is no doubt about it.  Everyday, we must ask ourselves if we are ready for the challenges that await us when we walk through our school’s doors.  Technology, the economy, changing demographics and diversity, politics, and increased demand for accountability make our jobs high stake every day.   Ultimately,  we have two choices.  We can sit back and talk about the “good old days,” or we can march forward and model learning for the sake of the young people in our charge and our own sanity.  
Tom Whitby says that to be better teachers, we must be better learners.  Like the students we teach, we seek to be actively engaged in our learning to make it meaningful and authentic.  Also like our students, we come from different backgrounds, fields of thought, and experiences.  For this reason, the days of staff development, or “sit and get” are numbered.  
Today, I heard a potential teacher candidate say he “craved innovative learning experiences” for himself.  If that isn’t powerful testimony to the importance of personalized professional learning, I don’t know what is!  As administrators and coaches, we must provide a diverse menu of opportunities for our staff.  These opportunities should be job-embedded to be immediately meaningful and applicable.   At the same time, as educators, we must take responsibility for our learning.   As lead learners, our time is too valuable to wait until the next staff development day to be told what we are to learn. By consciously reflecting on our practices, we are better able to create purposeful learning goals for ourselves. We must actively seek learning opportunities in the form of workshops, learning walks, books, blogs, coaching conversations, and Twitter Chats which can all serve to expand our Professional Learning Networks.  
Two teams use peer coaching strategies to review lesson outcomes.
One strategy we have been implementing at Horizon is peer coaching.  With the help of Steve Barkley, our Instructional Leadership Team has been trained in strategies for peer coaching. They have been modeling the process by inviting colleagues into their classrooms to observe.  Prior to the observation, they meet and have a conversation to plan for what specific feedback the teacher might want from the observer.  Following the observation, a second conversation takes place to reflect and plan next steps.  It has been a slow, but exciting process watching literal doors open as teachers become more comfortable with vulnerability.   An added bonus is that feedback from those involved in peer coaching has allowed us to plan for workshops and book studies to differentiate for our more introverted crowd. Most importantly, this is teacher-lead and teacher-driven learning. Now, isn’t that what we want to be modeling for our students?

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