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He Said, She Said...Can We Talk About PD?

It seems everybody is talking about Professional Development (PD), and the conversation isn’t always pretty. Suffice it to say, most people agree that PD could be better.

This blog post is dedicated to teachers and principals who want more from their professional learning. I teamed up with Jessica Cabeen, principal at Woodson Kindergarten Center in Austin, Minnesota, to share how each of our schools approached planning for a single PD day.

We quickly realized from this shared writing endeavor that we can both learn so much from others. In the same spirit of learning, we wanted to share our PD agendas and reflections with you. You’ll hear from Jessica in just a second, but first let me share our school’s approach.

He Said:

“We planned a half day of staff learning that was based on educator choice and research-based best practices. Much of our school’s PD this year has been comprised of shared experiences supporting student learning in mathematics (e.g. new math curriculum), equity, and PLC processes. Our building’s PD Chair and I wanted to inject additional choice into our half day PD planning.

The choices we identified in the flyer above represent topics teachers have expressed interest in. The plan for our PD time is also responsive to feedback we’ve collected. It also builds upon some of our past learning which is important when trying to sustain learning/change.

You may notice that our plan honors the fact that a Physical Education teacher may have different passions or needs than a Social Studies teacher. PD should tackle the real issues and challenges that teachers are grappling with during those fleeing hallway or staff lounge conversations. We also wanted to provide time for teachers to connect and learn from others outside our building.

If we expect our students to experience relevant and connected learning our PD should model it. That’s exactly why we carved out time for every staff member to select a Skype-based session to connect with an author, blogger, or expert in an area of interest. (We shared a two question survey link with staff in advance, and asked which Skype session they planned to attend, and what questions they’d like the author/facilitators to address.)

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then what are two pictures from two different practitioners worth? Check out Jessica’s PD approach below to see for yourself!”

She Said:

“It’s me…Jessica. What if our professional development looked like our best classrooms?

Recently, we invited over 60 teachers from community preschools, Woodson Kindergarten Center, and Neveln Elementary (1st - 4th grade) to a “PD Play-Date.” We wanted to connect staff learning to academic outcomes in a manner that promotes student ownership of learning.

During our half day of PD, teachers rotated through three different stations facilitated by building leadership, instructional coaches, our tech integrationist, and Lana Petersen (University of Minnesota LTMedia Lab). Stations included playful learning activities that supported literacy, computational thinking, and design/engineering concepts. Teachers were introduced to several different ways to incorporate meaningful play into instructional regardless of how old their students are.

I thought feedback from one of our teachers said it best:

Teachers were laughing, tinkering, designing, creating, coding, and taking risks all in the name of the students they serve! Staff was further supported with resources/info to take back into their classrooms. Believe it or not, participants literally moaned when we said our hour rotation was over! (When was the last time you heard staff rebel when PD was over?!)”

Now that you’ve heard what “He Said” and “She Said” we want to know what YOU Say! Leave a comment and link to how you’re personalizing PD and supporting student learning.

Like what you read here? You can follow the co-author of this blog post, Jessica Cabeen, on Twitter @JessicaCabeen. If she doesn’t respond to your tweets right away don’t despair; she’s probably thawing from morning bus duty outside in 20 below zero weather (or trying to master the art of the gym scooter insider with her kindergarten students).



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