powerful moments in education
We’ve all been there.
It’s a few days before a school-wide professional day, and the casual discussion begins.
“Do we even know what we are doing that afternoon?”
“Well, I think there is a vertical team meeting for math at the high school, but not sure about elementary or special ed…”
“I heard the unified arts might all be getting together, but no one has really said what we are doing.”
“Well, the elementary wanted to discuss Common Core writing standards, but a few of us will be in IEP meetings.”
It’s not that your school doesn’t value professional time, it’s just that often there is no common model or predictable framework for a professional day. It is as important to create a differentiated day of learning for staff as it is for students, and unless this responsibility belongs to a staff member, it is likely to be a day that serves few. It takes time, thought and collaboration.
Life is busy within school walls and goals are numerous. School goals. District Goals. Personal Goals. SAU goals. Personal/Professional Goals. Team Goals. School Board…Community…Parent…Student…Standardized… Schools have no lack of goal setting, that is for sure! So what type of environment is conducive to getting on “path to the proverbial finish line” (to quote my current principal)? What models can be in place that weave goal progression throughout the year, connect staff and create times of focus on professional days?
“You know, we should try…”
After attending Edcamp Seacoast, a close friend and colleague suggested, “You know, this model would be so great for Early Release days.” We went on to talk about how much could be accomplished and how everyone-yes EVERYONE would actually be involved and included. Paras. Unified Arts. Everyone. I encouraged her to put the idea forward. She sounded passionate about it and I was on a strict diet of learning to encourage and step back.
Unveiling the Edcamp model, the “un-conference” model, for an Early Release day took some careful thought. We had to be prepared for those completely unfamiliar with such a model (productive choice!), create a comfort level for administration and instill in all staff that anyone can facilitate. Anyone! It’s not a presentation- but could be…It’s not meant for you to stand up and be an expert- but could be… It’s meant for us to crowd-source our passions, our questions, our goals. It’s meant for meaningful, professional conversation.
After our first Early Release day in this model, we could feel the success through staff comments and reactions following the day. So, we did it again! A few months later, we did our second Early Release “un-conference” style and it went just as smoothly and was extremely productive, now that everyone had their feet wet. You can glance at our K-8 school’s working schedule from the day by clicking here.
A Productive Friday Afternoon?
In 11 years of teaching, I can say that these afternoons were the most productive, invigorating and inspiring that I have ever attended. And these were Friday afternoons! By comments in the hallway and on Edmodo following the experience, I knew I was not alone. We delved into topics about school safety, parental parameters, Writer’s Workshop, BYOD (bring your own device), Common Core Reading programs, claymation, comprehension, Special Education process….. The framework allowed us to have 3 sessions, giving our K-8 school plenty of room to create time blocks for grade-level, vertical, and various heterogeneous staff groupings. We had time to fit in the “want tos” from staff, as well as the “have tos” or “need tos” on team or administration to-do lists.
As far as I know, our 3rd “Edcamp” style Early Release day will occur next week, making 3 for this year. Not bad for a start. We still have ways to go, but de-isolation is in progress. It is time now for us to explore: How can we continue this into next year? How will we use online platforms/collaborative tools to extend and link the discussions?
The De-Isolation of Teachers: Crowd-Sourcing Passion (Part 1) (Jaclyn Karabinas, soulstrikers.wordpress.com)
The De-Isolation of Teachers: Within School Walls (Part 2) (Jaclyn Karabinas, soulstrikers.wordpress.com)