Friday, February 17, 2012

Professional Development


I would have to say that in the course of my teaching career this term has brought groans and cheers from me and I don't think I am alone.

It's such a tricky thing.  We are required to offer professional development - but it's so much more than just a requirement.  Education is constantly changing...all of us know and accept that. But, we have very different views on ways to keep abreast of those changes.  For some reason we seem to forget all we know about teaching and learning when we offer PD.

We know, for example, that our students are the most engaged with practical applications of the information and when we individualize that content as much as possible.  Yet, PD is most often offered in isolated chucks in a sit and get manner with all teachers getting the very same stuff.  No wonder many shut down.  Instead the presenters must offer a varied level of delivery.

While on the topic of is a SCARY thing to stand in front of a room full of your peers. I would take a classroom of students any day.  I know how to attempt to manage a room of students.  When they act up you use proximity, humor, and open commands.  With a room of teachers - those techniques just don't work.

I have watched as teachers check their email, shop online, chat with their friends and nod off in a group.  These same teachers would be appalled and irate if their students treated them with so little respect.  Yet, we seem to forget that when we become the students.  When we teach one another we have to offer the same grace, patience and respect that we would wish to receive and that we expect from our students.

Or...we need to accept the consequences.

There is nothing more demeaning than standing in front of a group of teachers and knowing that noone is listening to a word you are saying.  How do you bring them back to you?  I can't demand their attention like I used to with my 4th graders. I was told them more than once that I was the Queen of the classroom and I expected them to listen to the queen.  A group of my peers means that we are all kings and queens in our own world and we want to continue to play that role in PD sessions.  That just doesn't work.

So, what does?

  • honesty - I think we owe it to one another to be honest. Tell your peers when they are disrespecting you by not listening.  Remind that pair in the corner that they are distracting you and everyone around them when they discuss the weekend rather than listen to the speaker.
  • respect - i know that you might rather be grading papers - but the truth is every person in the classroom would rather be grading papers and might feel that is necessary at that moment.  Just like the kiddo in your math class feels it's more important  to write a note to their friend instead of listening to the lecture.  But - just as you feel that your math lesson is more important - so does the speaker think their info is more important
  • preparation - I have sat through way too many powerpoint presentations where the slides are read from the screen in minuscule print...if we are offering professional development to our peers we must be professional and we must be prepared.  Use the best teaching techniques with adults - pair and share, partner reads, chuck the info. all the things that we do to be good teachers - we owe it to our colleagues as well.
  • content - the biggest failure of PD in my experience was the isolated nature of the info.  Teachers, just like students, need time to process and incorporate new learning into their schemata.  PD fails when too much content is covered with not enough time to apply.  We create assignments for our students - why don't we do that for our PD?  Allow a bit of time for churning and working over the material, give some time to brainstorm and discuss before a product is required to show that the information is being used.
  • fun and life - think of the best teachers you had.  They were able to incorporate fun and reality into their lessons.  Everything seemed to connect and create a story line or a common thread. The same applies for effective PD.  Presenters need to remember that teachers lives are already full and overflowing and the thought of changing and learning one more thing is almost too much.  But, if that one more thing is couched in fun and reality  - then it's not another bothersome task.  Sounds like sound classroom management strategies to me!
This is all especially importnat to me right now - we have a full day of PD tomorrow. The afternoon sessions are being lead by Technology Committee members. I've worked closely with the organization of the afternoon, as well as being one of the facilitators.  I am excited about this new model - but also apprehensive.  You never know exactly what to expect.

We offered 8 workshops to the teachers in the district. They signed up for one workshop that they will stay with for the next three professional development opportunities.
Our workshops are:
  • The Flat Classroom
  • Web 2.0
  • Google everything
  • iPads
  • Smart Boards
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Social Media
  • Independent Projects
Each workshop is facilitated by a teacher who is learning the subject along with the rest of the group.  At the end of the three sessions - each group will have a culminating project of some sort that they will share with others in the district.

It is exciting to be a part of this.  I continue to be SO impressed with the expertise and willingness of our staff to stretch themselves and reach beyond their comfort zone.  Good things are happening at Mid-Priairie!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Google in the classroom

I've had a google kind of week.

First I was privileged to spend 1/2 a day at L & M helping them out with an intro to Google. It was a great and receptive staff. I could see the wheels churning from the front of the room.  I ran into their principal again last evening and he said that he already had 3 requests that day that focused on Google.  That makes me feel good!

Then today I will work with  2 sections of 5th grade helping them create their Iowa County sites.  We have changed the format for the traditional Iowa County projects as part of the Iowa history unit.  In the past each student has researched a county and created a tri-fold display of the county to be shared during the county open house.

This year each student is still researching their county - but instead of posting information on cardboard - they are posting on their own google site.

Today was the day to begin creating the site. Things went well after they all figured out their password...that was a bit of a challenge! :)  But, we got the site named and several pages added.

This all makes me think of the options that google offers and where exactly all this will take us.  I keep wondering if google will continue to be free - or of they are hooking us and then the costs will begin to rise.  I mean what an amazing treasure trove of options for us.  Just watching the collaboration efforts is so  amazing.

Until life changes - we will continue to take advantage of what google is offering...  Does that sound a little too much like how our economy was 2 years ago??? hmmmmm.....