As a district, if you were to survey the satisfaction level of all teachers regarding our 2017-2018 Professional Learning, what types of results would you expect?  How many teachers actually put into practice what we were taught?  How many teachers felt they were inspired?  How many teachers thought most of the sessions were a waste of time?  I fully understand that some of the sessions were mandated and completely necessary.  But, what if these mandated sessions were engaging, fun, beneficial, cost-effective, and thought-provoking?I would like to propose a more refreshing way to make Professional Learning meaningful, beneficial, and efficient.  My plan has many options that will make learning more readily-available to teachers.  There will still be measures to ensure that the module or session was actually attended and understood.  There will be a recordkeeping component, a survey component, and a follow-up component.  The veteran teachers will learn new ways to effectively use technology in a classroom, the new teachers will learn ways to engage special needs students, and the campus will feel like they are making a difference daily as we grow to become one happy family.

I would like to propose a more refreshing way to make Professional Learning meaningful, beneficial, and efficient.  My plan has many options that will make learning more readily-available to teachers.  There will still be measures to ensure that the module or session was actually attended and understood.  There will be a recordkeeping component, a survey component, and a follow-up component.  The veteran teachers will learn new ways to effectively use technology in a classroom, the new teachers will learn ways to engage special needs students, and the campus will feel like they are making a difference daily as we grow to become one happy family.

The students in our district were born in the digital age.  It’s time to make a paradigm shift and teach our students in the way that they know how to learn.  Most veteran teachers that I know use technology as a tool and some are even scared to use technology for fear of failing in front of the students and administrators.  We can make it safe to fail forward without the fear of being embarrassed or ashamed of mistakes.  The students need to learn how to fail forward also.  If we model that behavior, encourage them by letting them know that they aren’t there, YET.  If we want our students to be successful after high school, we must embrace a Growth Mindset (Dweck).  In today’s fast-paced world, our students need to learn the skills and develop a passion for life-long learning.  We must model that we are never too old to learn.  Just think, this could create a new culture of learning in our community.

I encourage my students to watch TED talks, read self-help books, and research various careers.  Here are a few interesting videos that are well worth the time to view.  Please watch them with an open mind and an open heart with our ultimate goal of touching our student’s hearts and minds.

One of my recent readings, The OCSB Case Study, solidifies the changes that have been made throughout my career.  It is very well written and easy to understand.  There are a series of videos of actual teachers being interviewed and sharing their new learning and mindset.  It also encourages me to keep pushing forward with my Innovation Plan to incorporate Blended Learning into my classroom.

Today’s students must be self-directed learners if they want to excel in business, industry, education, and life.  They don’t know how fortunate they are to have all of this digital information at their fingertips.

I think that the COVA (Choice, Ownership, Voice, Authenticity) *cite approach to re-designing our Professional Learning in our district is crucial if we want our teachers to embrace the change.  If teachers are given a CHOICE to participate in Professional Learning that is beneficial, significant, and personal to them, they will more likely learn something from the session and actually put it into practice in their classrooms.

By having OWNERSHIP in Professional Learning, teachers will want to participate and share their knowledge with the students.  The PL won’t just be another check box, attendance list, and sit and get session.  Teachers will learn their WHY when they take ownership in a new concept or idea to use in the classroom.

VOICE has to be the best component for most teachers that I know.  I often hear weekly that we should be able to decide what we want to do in our classrooms, what we want to teach in our classrooms, and what we want to learn during those long hard days of PL.

The final component that ties the COVA approach in a nice little bow is AUTHENTICITY.  All learners will be more engaged in learning when the information being delivered is authentic to each person.  If you truly believe in something, you are committed, you arrive at higher-level thinking, and are more inspired to create a significant learning environment every single day.

My original Professional Learning Outline can be found here.  I am extremely excited that the ball is rolling even though the whirlwind of life is full speed ahead.  Due to technical issues, lab scheduling conflicts, and the every day bumps in the road of education, I learned something very valuable this week.  One of my co-workers was in desperate need of a computer lab or at least twenty laptops that could access our servers and wifi.  Of course, there were conflicts, so I offered my computer lab for her to use during my conference period.  I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable so I stayed out of my room most of the time running errands.  When I did sit in my classroom while she was teaching, I sat back and learned!  She’s not a computer teacher, but I learned new computer skills from her.  I watched as she assisted the students and gave instructions.  Her method of recordkeeping is amazing, her energy is awesome, her encouragement to the students just floored me.  Then I walked around the room and saw the students helping each other with directions, shortcuts, new ideas, and suggestions.  In my Professional Learning Outline, I suggested that we take a few days each year and collaborate and observe other teachers.  See one lesson, do one lesson.  A very low-cost Professional Learning and a community bonding factor to boot!

I have done some research to back up my ideas and plans.  I have read so many wonderful books that I share with my co-workers.  As I am working through my Master’s Degree program at Lamar University, I created a blog that sums up a significant learning plan for one of my Graphic Design classes.  We were taught how to start with the end in mind and we read about embracing change.  I know that most veteran teachers do not like change, but sometimes we all need a change.  A change in eating habits, a change in sleep patterns, a change of scenery, a change in the way we view the world, and a change of heart.  Isn’t that what we in education are all about?  Changing the hearts and lives of our students one day at a time, one student at a time, one teacher at a time?

Presenting an idea that has a story, a life, a heart is the most effective way for my audience to remember what was presented, to actively think about what was presented, and to retain the information that was presented.  Explain the idea, make it interesting, thought-provoking, and relevant to your audience.

When answering student’s or teacher’s question, I always try to tell the story behind the story.  Some of my friends actually tell me that I am giving them more information than is needed when I’m telling a story.  But, I like to provide the background so that my listeners will better understand the meaning of my story.

Not only do I provide the reason for the story, but I provide examples that will help the students to connect to the story.  Just this week I taught budgeting money.  I asked the class how much money do they spend on useless things each week such as fast food vs. eating at home or renting a movie vs. going to a theater.  Then I have them add up how much money they spend in a month on take-out food.  Every single class is surprised at how much money they spend.  I then ask them how many hours did they have to work to earn the money that they spent on “junk” in one month.  Was it worth it to spend that much money or would the money be best invested in their savings account?  So instead of just lecturing about a budget and throwing out the information, I try to relate a real-life experience to the students so they will actually remember the lesson and apply it to their own lives.

My audience needs to be valued.  My story does not need to be a waste of the audiences time.  I want my audience to remember what I presented and adopt my idea.  I have to connect with the audience by presenting my idea so that they will want to adopt my idea and move forward.  We, as teachers, want to participate actively in our Professional Learning.

By adding references to music, movies, books, people, and events I will keep my audience engaged and motivated to adopt my new idea.  Modeling the idea is the key.  If I just stand in front of the room and read a PowerPoint presentation to my audience, they will not remember what I said the next day or possibly by the end of the day.  Did the teachers actually learn something that can be used in the classroom to promote student learning?  What kind of feedback did the teachers provide?  Was it useful?  Was the PD actually worth the money spent?  Hopefully, these thought-provoking questions will deter the roadblocks and objections from my administration.

Did our teachers actually learn something that can be used in the classroom to promote student learning?  What kind of feedback did the teachers provide?  Was it useful?  Was the Professional Learning actually worth the money spent?  Hopefully, these thought-provoking questions will deter the roadblocks and objections from our community.

Imagine if test scores went up because of a great Professional Learning activity that was actually incorporated into the classroom.  Imagine if teacher absences declined this year because they are excited to teach a new lesson because they felt support from administration and had ownership in their own learning.   How did it affect student learning and teacher satisfaction?  We want our veteran teachers to be able to connect with today’s learners.  Invest the money in giving teachers time to talk, analyze, discuss, and collaborate with each other to learn new methods to teach.  When teachers get burned out, they tend to miss school more frequently, disengage student learning, and have more discipline issues because the students aren’t engaged.

When I learned about Freytag’s dramatic story structure, I immediately recalled one of my most favorite movies Notting Hill.  No matter how many times I watch the movie, I still get so excited with the ending.  I remember the introduction of the movie, how key parts of the movie connected with my life, how the character’s relationship applies to my life, and how I can relate to the ending.  All five parts of the story structure tugged at my heart, made me laugh, and made me cry.  But, the story structure worked.  I can remember it and I will always want to see it again and again.  Hopefully, my story will work and my administrators will want to hear it again and again.

A great example of making a change in Professional Learning presented by OCSB in their Innovation That Sticks Study is well worth the viewing time.  There are many TED Talks that are not only educational and support my research, but also help me to weave the bits of knowledge into my personal life as well.  The Empowering The Teacher Technophobe Ted Talk by Kristin Daniels is inspiring.  Finally, a video that is inspirational by Dr. Adolf Brown.  Not only does he inspire, but he is the epitomy of modeling effective Professional Learning.  I had the honor of listening to him address our high school campus this week.

To tie everything up in a nice little ribbon, I’ll refer you to Gulamhussein’s 5 Principles of Effective Professional Development (2013):

  1. The duration of professional learning must be significant and ongoing to allow time for teachers to learn a new strategy and grapple with the implementation problem. Ongoing support.  (Important for teachers to receive support throughout the year and not just bombarded at the beginning of the school year.)

  2. There must be support for a teacher during the implementation stage that addresses the specific challenges of changing classroom practice.  (Support like collaborating with same subject teachers with time being given during the school day.  Provide a substitute once per six weeks for teachers to meet collectively.)

  3. Teachers’ initial exposure to a concept should not be passive, but rather should engage teachers through varied approaches so they can participate actively in making sense of a new practice.  (The famous walk/talk, or movement, and creating new lesson plans together.)

  4. Modelling has been found to be highly effective in helping teachers understand a new practice.  (Give us presenters that will model the behaviors that are needed for teachers.)

  5. The content presented to teachers shouldn’t be generic, but instead specific to the discipline (for middle school and high school teachers) or grade-level (for elementary school teachers).

Here is a great resource and plan to follow for Professional Learning from Calcasieu Parish School Board in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  I worked for this school system for many years back in my early career.  The Professional Learning is funded through grants.

I hope that you will welcome my plan and let us grow our professional learning and influence others in the district to embrace change.  My Innovation Plan for Blended Learning will not only benefit my students, but will benefit the entire campus.  If we can use Blackboard in the classroom, we will have more time for face-to-face higher-level question and answer sessions.  We will have more time to focus on creating significant learning experiences for faculty and students.  My blog, Influencers, has additional information to support my plan.  Take a look at this slidedeck, I think you will see that collaborative, fun, exciting professional learning DID, in fact, take place this year.  I look forward to being such a small part of this initiative and I want to encourage each of our administrators to take an active role in embracing our need for change.  Thank you for providing us the opportunity to bond as a faculty.  And a huge thank you for introducing Dr. Adolf Brown to our world.

Here is a great starting point and working document example for our district to incorporate: (retrieved from http://www.svsd410.org/cms/lib05/WA01919490/Centricity/…/PLC%20Worksheet.docx).  It is called the Learning Communities Worksheet. (PLC—Professional Learning Community). 

 

References

CASE STUDY REPORT Ottawa Catholic School Board Leading and learning for innovation: A Framework for District-Wide Change http://reports.cea-ace.ca/ocsbcasestudy

Daniels, K. (2013, November 06). Empowering the teacher technophobe: Kristin Daniels at TEDxBurnsvilleED. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/puiNcIFJTCU

Dweck, C (2015). Revisits the “Growth Mindset”. Retrieved on October 28, 2017 from https://www.mindsetworks.com/science.

Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teachers Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Teaching-the-Teachers-Effective-Professional-Development-in-an-Era-of-High-Stakes-Accountability/Teaching-the-Teachers-Full-Report.pdf

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. John Wiley & Sons.

Harapnuik, D. (2016, September 29). COVA Model [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?s=cova

(2016, May 19). Innovation that sticks case study.  Retrieved October 6, 2017, from https://youtu.be/iUusuw-xdr4