Posts Tagged ‘professional development’

So, I’ve been thinking about professional development lately. In addition to being part of the administration at my school, I am also part of the high school STEAM and English departments, and our division head decided to support each department in a professional development adventure this school year.

This afternoon, the STEAM department had our professional development outing. We went to Philadelphia Woodworks to learn wood turning. In our group of five, two of us (neither of them me) had used a lathe before. The nice folks at the Woodworks had the lathes all set up with blocks of wood. We had two teachers for our group who demonstrated each step and helped us along the way.

It turns out, that you can’t do wood turning left handed. I am left handed. So, here I go turning wood right handed. I am so used to reversing demos in my head that I had a hard time just straight up copying the way to hold the tools etc.

 

After a few hours of work, I am far from being an expert. However, it’s always instructive to be a total beginner again and think about how much information you can take in at once, how frequently you need to check in with the teacher, how hard it can be to turn even clear directions into action, how tiring it can be to concentrate really hard for a long time.

It was also a great group activity.We each left our class with a bowl we had made and headed off to the weekend.

Also, who knew I could get woodchips in all my clothes so quickly and effectively? (Imagine what happens to sand at the beach. That’s pretty much what I managed to do.)

Here we all are with our completed bowls.

img_6711

So, I’ve been thinking about when the right time for professional development is. Is there even an answer for this?

In an ideal world, professional development would happen just-in-time. The practicalities of this approach are a challenge. It’s hard to plan to attend conferences if one waits for just the right time and certainly hard to get a good airfare or hotel rate. Online, asynchronous professional development to the rescue! I’ve participated in and continue to participate in plenty of that type of learning. It’s a great option that is weather resistant and family friendly. On an individual level, I can do a lot on the spur of the moment.

CCO Public domain image by Antanias on Pixabay

CCO Public domain image by Antanias on Pixabay

However, there are some events worth the effort of planning ahead. Bigger events, national organization events, for example, do take time to plan and don’t change dates because I have had a tiring week. Whenever I plan and attend conferences, whether they are informal EdCamps, conversation driven EduCon, or conferences with big presentations like Project Zero or ISTE, I come away tired and glad to have attended. I am wondering if I can train myself to be ready for learning at a particular time of year or at a particular location. I am not being silly here. Habits are powerful. For example, I have trained myself to sit silently in a room with other people for an hour and not find it strange. For me, this habit is inextricably linked to the time and place. Another example–when I was younger I was lucky enough that my family went to a very simple house in the Poconos regularly. We didn’t have any TV or cable or anything there (it was the dark ages, there was no internet); I got used to and came to appreciate that time there was different, and more importantly for this discussion, I got in the habit of changing my mindset upon turning in the driveway. Conditioned response anyone? It is clear to me that I can and have done this on a small scale for myself. How can some of those habits of mind, attitudes, conditioned responses be applied to professional learning?

An entire faculty is never going to be in the zone at the same time. (And, if everyone were in the zone at once, wouldn’t that be some kind of foul anyway?) Maybe it is more realistic to think about the routines we can develop to do some of the get-in-the-zone work for us. How can I/we engineer that turn-up-the-driveway response when there is a schoolwide initiative that requires professional development?

 

So, I’ve been thinking about professional development. My partner in tech coaching crime, @TeacherDebra, and I have been on the look out for some new opportunities. (I wrote about our desire to “Escape our Bubble”.)

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-5-11-18-pmWell, I did it. I attended the Project Zero: Learning Together, Leading Together conference in Washington, DC last weekend. It made for a jam-packed weekend since the conference started bright and early on Friday and went through Sunday mid day. I will write about some of the specific sessions later in the month.

The two key things for me were going with colleagues (some different colleagues than I have attended workshops with before) and going to a conference that had a different focus and therefore different attendees (I don’t think I saw anyone of my ‘usual suspects’ from conferences.)

Attending conferences with conferences as a team is totally worth the multiple registration costs, in my opinion. (see here) All those new ideas at conferences are great, but it’s helpful to have a home team person to help filter the ideas. Amy Poehler has written about the way women can make each other feel bad about motherhood stuff, and her advice is this: “Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.” I think this is a great mantra in so many areas of life. It’s great to hear about some amazing thing another school is doing, but it may not be right for my school. However, with the help of my trusty colleagues, I can think about how just about every session or workshop can offer up some nugget of wisdom. In fact one of the last speakers, Project Zero researcher Tina Blythe, mentioned just this idea when she suggested that we each needed to find our own “drift wood” to take home from the conference. Tina Blythe encouraged us to take this drift wood home, combine it with the other ideas at our own schools, and make something new. My traveling colleagues and I are planning a debriefing session or two over snacks–another thing I love.

I also loved having an entirely new group of people and ideas to think about. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing my regular PLN people at conferences and catching up with them in real life. But, it was exciting to find all sorts of new people to learn from. Of course, as an introvert, I didn’t meet a lot of them, but I made a few connections, and I’ve been adding people to my twitter lists. So, I’ll be getting to know them slowly and virtually. Plus,  finding this other community is awesome. The group was much more international than a lot of the events I attend and, given the topics, that fact added so much to the experience for me. Between the global piece and the thinking routines piece, there was so much to take away. Luck for me my Evernote notebook can accommodate a lot of drift wood.

On the ride home, I talked with one colleague. We were energized by our experience, even though it was a full weekend, and we were headed to school the next day for a day long professional development day on another topic. We were wondering why everyone doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to do this kind of thing. Our school is very generous in funding professional development both during the school year and in the summer.

I am excited to become a part of this new-to-me community, to debrief over snacks, and to make good use of my drift wood.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about team building activities. Into everyone’s professional life a little team building must fall. The question is will it just happen to you or will it be useful? I have certainly been a part of both sorts of team building. Really, anyone who had been employed for more than a nanosecond could probably say the same thing.

public domain image

public domain image

I thought I would chat a bit about  a recent exercise I participated in that I thought was likely to be useful.

I am part of lots of groups and committees. One of them had a team building type session the other day. We realized a little while back that while we knew in general what each of us did, we had some gaps, some gaps that were not helping us work well together. After batting around a number of ways for us to get to know each other across subgroups, we landed on a session organized by a consultant we work with frequently. We met in pairs to have a short conversation, the goal of which was to get “behind our walls”. The walls we were to get behind were walls that separated our position and responsibilities from those of others, nothing personal. There were a set of questions for the interviewer to ask the interviewee. Many of them were what you might expect.

However, there was one question that really hit me:

What can I start doing, stop doing, or do differently to support your leadership?

There are so many things that I love about this question.

  • It asks me to take some responsibility for the success of the other person as a leader and vice versa.
  • It is not about taking part of my colleague’s job responsibilities, but rather about potentially small changes in what I do and say to more clearly support my colleague.
  • It puts me in partnership with my colleague and he or she with me in terms of leadership not just being generally nice at lunch and chatting at events.

Of course, I already knew we are all in it together. This was not news to me. Still, this interview made me more aware of my role as leader who actively supports other leaders and who can and should expect this in return. And it made me wonder how can I help others support me?

This particular group is full of leaders who have different, sometimes very different, areas of expertise. So, in order to help others help me lead, I have decided that I will be more aware of when I might need to do some education in conjunction with presentation when I am engaging with the group.  Might I need to give some pedagogical background or explain in more than passing summary a particular teaching strategy? Would it be worth sharing a particularly helpful article or video? I don’t want to overwhelm people, but I do want to build our shared knowledge base.

I am reminded again, that I am a teacher, no matter what title I might have.

Public domain image from pixabay.com

Public domain image from pixabay.com

So, I’ve been thinking about change. Over this past school year, I’ve been part of our strategic planning committee and am now leading a task force to investigate our interdisciplinary program. And last week, I participated in the week-long Penn Summer Leadership Institute course organized by University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and ADVIS (Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools).

Our first session on Thursday was led by Cathy Hall. She spoke about the shifting ideas in technology in schools over the past 25 years or so. After some discussion, she asked the group to think about $5 million dollars and what it could be used for in the name of innovation at our schools. What would we do if we had that amount of money to spend over the course of 3 years, what  would we spend the money on? What would we definitely keep? What would we change? I thought this was a really interesting idea to consider.

Here’s what I came up with (remember the assignment was to consider using this money is support of innovation) in 7 minutes.

  • I would rewrite teacher contracts to include 2 weeks of professional learning each summer and a pay increase to cover this time.
  • Then, I would have significant professional learning for everyone around project based learning and interdisciplinary work. Buck Institute and High Tech High would be up on my list of options there.
  • Finally, I would give grants to grade level teams as they developed particular projects that required either professional development, resources, books, visits etc.

 

Then, as I was describing this to my husband, I realized that an interesting next step would be to consider how far you could go without $5 million. How important is that money to the process? Once you have your plan, is that more important than the money? Does the idea of the money get you thinking outside of the box, but turn out not to be critical in the implementation?

So, what if I did not have all that money? What could I still plan?

  • Serious summer work: maybe this gets spread across several years with smaller groups attending each year. With paying for training and a smaller group make this financially very reasonable?
  • And, could we go with more of a train the trainer model so that in the following years, we would be able to provide the relevant training in-house?
  • Team projects could also be scaled down in terms of money. Yes, to all the online research and talking to others people can do. Maybe less travel that involves flying.

Either way, what a great catalyst for thinking. I may give it a try with the task force in the fall.

 

CLMOOC postcard from Karen

CLMOOC postcard from Karen

So, I’ve been thinking about the new summer of CLMOOC.

I signed up for the postcard swap and got my postcard in the mail the other day. I a few photos and am ready to make some postcard too. I know I’m a little late on the postcards, but I’m going to combine the postcard making with my taxonomy project (where I make sets of things). I’ve got some ideas to combine my images with some blackout poetry perhaps. Lots of ideas swirling around in my head during a week where I have a and a week-long, all-day class, so it’s weekend making for me.

Anyway, I’m excited for the rest of CLMOOC to start on July 10th. (The FAQs page gives some good background on the experience, which I find a little hard to explain.) The emphasis on making and connecting that with really abstract ideas about place and community really spoke to me. I spent hours both thinking about the ideas and making things that related. Not all of the things I made were successful in terms of projects, but spending time thinking about making something to speak to these larger ideas was a great exercise. It made my brain hurt, in a good way.

Reflecting back on it, I think that the work I did on CLMOOC put me in a different mindset when the school year began. It meant that I had been thinking, making, and writing about some big issues over the summer. It was like cross training. I came back to my usual topics in technology with renewed energy, excited, and ready to think differently.

Win, win, win!

Public domain image from Pixabay.com

Public domain image from Pixabay.com

So, I’ve been thinking about going to some new conferences.

@TeacherDebra and I were talking about this the other day. I am a regular attender at some solid events. I’ve been a regular EdCamper for years and attended the very first one in Philadelphia. EduCon and I are well acquainted. I’m not a stranger to ISTE. We go to various local events through ADVIS or other organizations. You get the idea.

Anyway we were talking about how we need to get out of our bubble. We love the events we attend, share what we learn, and present at times. We also see a lot of the same people and sessions at the events. And, while these are topics we love and people we are always happy to see and talk to, we are looking to break out. We are wondering what we are not hearing about? Who we are not meeting (I’m not great at that part)? What we are missing?

Then the other evening, I was making a cake and my husband was reading to me from a NYTimes article by Frank Bruni while I mixed ingredients (a slight variation on this grapefruit cake from Saveur). So nice, right? He was reading about how Facebook, or whatever other boogyman we might accuse, is not to blame for the various bubbles we put ourselves in, but rather we are the makers of our own bubbles.

We’re the real culprits. When it comes to elevating one perspective above all others and herding people into culturally and ideologically inflexible tribes, nothing that Facebook does to us comes close to what we do to ourselves.

No one is keeping this ‘other’ information from us, we are not seeking it out, or not seeking it out forcefully enough.

This is what Debra and I are going to do–intentionally go outside our self created bubble. No unseen force signs us up for conferences against our will. We sign ourselves up, we make the choice to look, or not look, for new options. Well, next year, we are busting out.

Any recommendations for us?