Thursday, September 27, 2018

Just an Idea we are going to call "Learning Days"

Over the summer I try to meet with staff a few times in a relaxed workshop setting to generate ideas, discuss visions, and try to create some focuses for the upcoming year.  Over the past 3 years we have done a lot of work with Instructional Rounds (Season 3 linked there for context).  I think we were all feeling like we need to modify and tweak what we were doing.  It was good work, very proud of what we did, and a great learning experience.  I think the sentiment was that we wanted to keep the idea of observing each other, learning together, and growing as a group.

Could we just modify how we did this to give it a new life?


So we began with these question: "How do we best learn?" and "How can we best learn from each other?" or something to that affect, I have since lost the poster that displayed our original questions.  We used a protocol and shared ideas on both these ideas.  Conversation was good, everyone had a voice thanks to our protocol and we paused......

Then we each wrote down some ideas on what this might look like?  We started throwing out ideas based on the following constraints:

  • Because of time and money, I could only give coverage to teachers for 3 half days.
  • There needed to be an "observation" component.
  • There needed to be a debriefing component.
  • We needed to learn from each other.  To respectfully borrow from the clothing line, FUBU mentality.
That was about it, that I can currently remember.  The rest was an open piece of paper or poster to generate ideas.  I heard more than once, "what is your vision Doug, what are you looking for?" More than once I repeated something like, "I don't know, it is a blank piece of paper."  

Truth be told, my staff know me pretty well, and sometimes when I say, "I have no idea," I actually have an idea, I just want input.  Honestly in this scenario, I had no idea, it was a little scary to be honest.  We needed to satisfy the 4 bullets above, but that was about it.

So we created 3 posters of notes and a rough plan.  If at the time, I thought I was going to write this, I would have taken pictures of our posters.  I have to remember to do this in the future.  As a group we have generated some pretty awesome ideas and I need to do a better job documenting them.  I have some pretty talented and creative people!



Pre-Work (graph above shows an even break down of what people want to share. interesting)
  • Fill out “Teacher Best” survey - Doug's job Here is the Form I used.
  • Organize groups - Doug and Michelle's job (Math and literacy coach) - Emphasis on combining similar ideas.
  • Fill out "Teacher Interest" survey - Doug's job - Not created as of this blog post. It will be generated after all the "Teacher Best" survey's are done. This will create the menu to organize people into observation groups.
  • Organize groups - Doug and Michelle's job - Once both survey's are done, the participants (observers) will be matched up with a "Teacher Best" teacher to observe their lesson. Groups of 3-4 teachers. We have approximately 25 teachers total. Substitutes will be utilized for coverages.

Real Work

Day 1 Plan - Observation Day 
  • Observe lesson with concentration on what questions you would ask the teacher being observed. (30 - 45) minute lesson observation. We are only writing questions we need answered. This is not to give the teacher being observed feedback, but to "learn" from what they did, choices they made, etc. 
  • The “observed teacher” joins the group for the debrief (not feedback) to answer questions and provide more context for later planning. (45 min - 1 hour)
  • The “observed teacher” goes back to their classroom.
  • The rest of the group begins planning a lesson/activity based on what they observed. (rest of the day)
  • Role Play/Practice with the group (rest of the day)
Pause - Take a deep breath



Each participant in the observing cohort does this on their own. Recording will be assisted by Doug or Michelle for set-up.

  • After the observation and planning on day 1, the group of teachers record a lesson teaching based on what they observed and were modeled. This recording holds you accountable for trying what you wanted to try after seeing a model lesson.  
    • This should be accomplished within 3 weeks of day 1. As a group we decided there needed to be a quick "jump in" and turn around. We know if you don't practice what you observe or learn quickly, it goes away faster. 
    • The participant or observing group from day 1 selects 5-7 minutes of the video they want to share with their cohort and then get feedback.

Final Meeting Day

  • Day 2 - half a day - Hopefully 4th week, or as soon as we can. The teacher guides us through their video and gets non-inferential feedback.



After all of this we hope to accomplish a few things:(This is the most important part!)
  • Gaining a new perspective on something. A new way to teach, manage, or guide a lesson.
  • Push the idea that we are all continuous learners and we can not stop practicing the skill of learning.
  • Push community by opening up our classrooms and trusting that we will observe and provide feedback to each other that is beneficial in a way that keeps inferences out.
  • Model to students that teachers are learners too.
  • Continue to promote an atmosphere of collaboration and sharing.
  • Maybe have a little fun, we often joke around a bit when we are working together.
I think if I added more to that list above I would be stretching. I also think if we can accomplish all of those things in a day and a half, we would have accomplished a whole heck of a lot!

Disclaimer - I really look forward to these days as they are a true break from "principal things" and allow me to be a learner right along with other educators.


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