Personalized Learning for Teachers? A Hybrid Model of Professional Development
We’ve all been subject to those Professional Development opportunities that didn’t quite deliver what they promised. Disappointing? You bet. If our goal in education is to meet students where they are and develop lessons that will allow them to grow and challenge them, why is it that we don’t provide that same model for our teachers? Some of the teachers at the D.C. Everest School District felt that the old tried and true Professional Development model wasn’t always meeting their needs. They wanted some voice and choice, something different, something radical, something that allowed our ‘crazy’ teachers to connect, collaborate and celebrate with other fellow crazies. From that, #DCECrazyOnes was born, presenting another option in earning those required professional development hours. We had 5 basic principles that we believed could make this dream a reality for our district. The 5 C’s to bringing a breath of fresh air to our PD.
1. Cool Club
Our ‘founders’ were selected on the basis of their classroom crazy. They were noted for taking risks, trying something different, wanting to push the envelope on learning. We purposely kicked it off under the radar. We wanted to start a buzz about this group of teachers that were meeting off campus monthly and getting rewarded for it. They then each found another ‘crazy’ within their building to invite to the #DCECrazyOnes. From there we had brochures that our newest members passed on to other staff members and this new Cool Club took flight.
Having 11 schools sprawled out over 6 different communities can make it difficult to communicate and cultivate a district-wide community. We wanted to create a vibe that though we are all coming from different levels, specialties, buildings, that together we are all vested in the education of “our” students. If you’re a Physical Education teacher and want to learn more about how using a tool like Seesaw can help document evidence of growth, feel free to sit down at the table with a media specialist, a first-grade teacher and a high school English teacher. More than anything, we wanted this group to feel comfortable. That you could freely share your ideas, as well as feel safe to ask questions.
Comfort was a big priority! We purposely wanted to find a space that was centrally located, off-campus and that could support our technology needs. It had to have a relaxation vibe! We settled on a local cafe that has a super funky back room, equipped with a giant flat screen, an Apple TV, and some big comfy couches and tables ideal for collaboration. Currently, the space can accommodate about 40-50 people, so it is quite possible we will be hunting for a new space by the end of the school year.
We encourage disorganization. There is no agenda, no schedule, no plan. We might highlight a tool or have a topic starter in the first 15 minutes of our meeting, but then it is completely teacher-driven. Remembered that Joe talked about podcasting in the classroom last week and you need a little help getting that started, find a comfy spot to sit down and work out a plan for implementing that idea in your classroom. Want to start a conversation about the best assessment tools, give a shout out and point to the corner you are meeting in. We advertise our monthly meetings as one-hour sessions, but space is reserved for two hours, and beyond that, teachers are invited to move their conversations into the Cafe.
5. Celebrate Crazy
Just for attending a monthly meeting, teachers are given an hour of professional development. What if they just sit and get? That’s ok because we know that if they found any value in it whatsoever, they are likely to return. Isn’t the true goal of any professional development implementation? Taking what you learned and applying it? To encourage #DCECrazyOnes to take their new learning back to the classroom, we offer additional professional development hours. All we require is that they come back and share what they implemented and what impact it had on their classroom and student learning.
Apple Distinguished Educator
Technology Integration Specialist
D.C. Everest Area Public Schools