Monday, September 26, 2011

Professional Development

What is "Professional Development"? For too many years it was the expert in the room talking at the others in the room who are all comparing themselves to the expert and saying one of two things, " I can do better than that" or " this sounds great but it will not work here". Friday was different. We started our day with a review of our safety procedures, but even that was different. Teams of teachers chosen at random split out into groups and armed with safety binder attacked different senarios. After some sound collaboration they shared out their answers, sometimes with more questions, comments and debate. After the wrap up, we moved on to the 2nd activity of the day. Three different sessions were set up and the faculty split into three groups. Each group was given a breif set of directions and selected their own leaders. The activities included, an article on "Win/Win in schools", a lesson study using Bloom's Taxonomy and a web 2.0 exploration in the computer lab. The afternoon was spent with the Assistant Superintendent leading a session to the entire secondary staff on assessment and continuing to group teachers and trust that given some brief directions great products will follow. Teachers were asked at the end of the day to give me some feedback or formatitive assessment in the "ticket out the door" style. below are some examples:
"I just think the in-service days have become very useful and worthwhile. Both articles we have read stimulated lots of thought and excellent discussion. we are all gaining things from these days"
"I enjoyed the break out sessions. I liked that it was fast paced and we had to keep moving."

"Enjoyed the article but would have liked more time to discuss because I think there were a lot of good points in there that our building needs to focus on."

"Enjoyed how Dr. T actually used activities to teach us what she wanted us to know. It was great to interact with our staff and those at the high school."
"I enjoyed listening to the other teachers are doing in their classrooms and ideas to try with our kids."
"Bloom's Taxonomy- got me thinking about how I assess my students."
"Best inservice in years- 1. Web 2.0 time 2. Article was thought provoking 3. opportunity to become reacquainted with formative assessment."
You know that it was a great day when at the end of the day you trying to summarize the day one of the teachers states that the day was productive, positive and worthwhile. They said it so passionately that all I could do was ask everyone to give me some brief feedback and send them home a little early. On the drive home I reflected on the day's activities and the two most important things that I thought of were consistancy and trust.

Our district and especially my building have been through some transitions lately.  Consistency in my approach to professional development, consistency in the staff in the building and most important consistency in the types of activities and central message by both the Assistant Superintendent and me. Teachers were asking me if the sessions were planned together. I said no, but the mission and vision of the district are aligning in each professional learning opportunity.

Trust- when people know that you trust them, they will do everything to make sure they don't let you down. During the break out sessions I continued my practice of trusting teachers to use the time to grow professionally. Each time I walked into a session I saw engaged professionals learning with and through others. I knew that the "trust" was back in the district when the superintendent walked into the sessions and the teachers continued to discuss the topics and engaged her in conversations. Our superintendent has trusted the building principals to lead building professional development and grow the professional learning community. She is visible, supportive and open in communication with teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Under her leadership I am sure that we will continue to participate in "the best in-service in years".

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What is your favorite thing so far this year?

I am attempting to Blog, at least weekly, but I am sure that no one wants to read my perspective all the time. I called on the students for help and they came through. Below are a few student submissions. Feel free to comment on them or at least let them know you read their thoughts.
"The best thing that will happen so far this year will be the Emergency Response Breakfast on September 11th. This is to thank the Emergency Response workers in our community for being so brave helping out our small community. Faculty came up with the idea to thank them. Then as a group they decided to include students. During the Breakfast some students will be pulled from their classes to read a story or poem they wrote on 9/11 to the workers. Some will be pulled to video tape the event to. This will be a great chance for some students to get to interact with people who are ready to sacrifice their lives to save others. This is a great thing for the school and community to give back to the Emergency Response Workers. This is why I think that this is the best thing that will have happened so far this school year."
~Written by Claire Glackin
"What is your favorite thing so far this year? So far my thing that we have done so far this year is the 9-11 writing piece. I liked how we were able to tie many different things into one assignment; a community service, a history lesson on 9-11and a writing lesson. I also really liked how Mrs. Folmar let us use our own ideas and opinions instead of an average writing prompt. I enjoyed this assignment even more knowing that we would be writing for true American heroes (the emergency responders.) There there have been very few times where we have been able to directly have an impact on a community service."
~Written by Rebecca Dunphy

Friday, September 2, 2011


According to Wikipedia "Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal, but in its negative sense it is working as a traitor." states, the act or process of collaborating or a product resulting from collaboration: This dictionary is a collaboration of many minds.
The word is thrown around a lot. Singers and rappers collaborate on tracks, bosses collaborate with workers and students collaborate with each other when learning. Collaboration, like its definitions can have a positive and negative effect. Working together to achieve a goal is a great idea and anyone who has ever tired to collaborate on anything knows it is not easy, it takes time, effort, patience, leadership, guidance, time, patience, effort and patience. Just putting people in a room and expecting collaboration does not work right away. Everyone needs to feel safe enough to share, and be wrong and confident enough to stand up when they are right. All collaborators need to be able to compromise. This week at East we have started our redesigned team meetings. Teachers have 60 minutes per cycle to collaborate. Team leaders are in charge of planning agendas and that job will not be easy. One team leader stated that focus of this meeting should be, "What can we do in the next 60 minutes to impact students?" Another talked about my idea to break the meeting down into "DIPS" (D-data, I-instruction, P-parents, S-students). If we focus the meeting around those four areas, we must be impacting students. Data can be interpreted in many ways and if you use it to inform you arguments it helps create a safe and professional discussion instead of an "I told you so argument". Instruction should be the focus of teachers. Traditionally the teacher in the classroom by themselves and makes their own additions or deletions to their lesson plans. Using this time to discuss instruction and share with other will help all teachers better their craft. Parents can expect more communication from SEMS-East teachers this year, they can also expect a hopefully regular Blog post from the principal. Students are always our focus and being able to discuss a student with all his core teachers at the table will assist in making the connection and providing the support that all us need. I am excited by the enthusiasm shown by the leaders and teachers. I expect some great things this year but I understand that it will take time, effort, patience, leadership, guidance, time, patience, effort and patience

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