I spend a lot of time thinking about how I'd like things to be in schools. It's a rare moment when I can successfully get these thoughts from my head into any tangible form. Yesterday I experienced a period of flow in which it occurred to me that the perfect framework for this model in my head is the game Cranium.
I was eventually joined in this moment by our Junior High Principal, Steve Kwikkel. We seized the post-it notes and proceeded to make it impossible for my family to play Cranium in the near future. It's pretty complex, so I won't even bother trying to explain it. Just enjoy the visual. I had to share it.
I spent this morning with pre-service teachers at the University of Northern Iowa in Rick Vanderwall’s English Methods course. I was invited to talk about curriculum matters—Iowa Core, Common Core—you know, the typical things people would think I’d be able to talk about. Of course I did address these things, but I had an alternate, maybe even subversive, agenda. To be certain this message came across clearly, I want to reiterate it to the blogosphere.
Here’s my message:
Students, we’re counting on you. We’re counting on you to be change agents. We’re counting on you to step into our schools, fresh with ideas and full of Pollyanna idealism. We’re counting on you to be stronger than the urge—that can be so overwhelming in that first year—to pick up the textbook or the laminated lesson plans. We’re counting on you to put those theories into action in new and novel ways.
We’re counting on you to be more than islands of excellence. We’re counting on you to leave your door open and model the way. We’re counting on you to believe you are more than the nervous neophyte you may feel you are. We’re counting on you to enter into our collaborative conversations and persistently question. Leadership is about function, not position, and we’re counting on you to be leaders.
This year's professional development schedule is now (tentatively, as always) set. It was approved by the Teacher Quality-Professional Development Team yesterday. We are committed to designing and delivering professional development that:
~ models effective instructional practices
~ meets individuals where they are and provides support to move toward our goals
~ capitalizes on our internal expertise
~ is action-focused and immediately usable to impact student learning
Our professional development activities are based on these commitments and two clear themes that emerged in the time I’ve spent this year in your classrooms and talking to many of you. These themes align with our district goals and represent our collective needs with multiple pathways into and out of the learning to support individual needs.
I heard loud and clear that we need support for meaningful technology integration. This includes opportunities to learn about a variety of tools that can enhance teaching and learning. With this in mind, we will be spending two of our professional development days focused on this using an unconference format.
An unconference is a participant-driven conference centered around a particular topic or purpose. Our topic will be Technology: Ideas Worth Sharing. We will identify WSR teachers who are using technology to enhance (student and adult) learning. We will start with a TED Talk-style, five-minute overview from each presenter. Each presenter will be assigned a room to offer additional coaching for those who would like to learn more. You will all “vote with your feet” and spend the remainder of the time in a small group where you can learn by doing.
Secondly, I heard a distinct call for time and opportunity for teacher collaboration. This includes the need to develop a shared understanding of meaningful collaboration, as well as gather our collective wisdom to inform systemic and structural changes to allow for meaningful collaboration in the future.
In an inquiry-based exploration, we will PLC about PLCs, framing our inquiry around the essential question: What does my PLC look like, sound like, and feel like? Through reading, discussion, and opportunities to interact with members of high-functioning PLCs in other districts, we will seek deep understanding of what a PLC looks like, sounds like, and feels like at WSR, as well as inform structure, tools, and processes for the 2011-2012 school year.
As always, comment, email, call, or swing by. I’d love to hear your thoughts.