Summer is a time that many teachers choose their own professional development. Many of us take courses, attend conferences and workshops, or read professional books to enhance our teaching. I’ll be doing those things as well, but I’ll be doing it a little different this summer.
For the past couple of years I’ve kept a sketchnote journal for attending conferences and workshops. It has really shaped the way I think about the information being presented as well as my ability to revisit the information and reflect more deeply with what resonated.
This summer I want to apply that way of thinking and responding to my professional reading and my podcast listening as well. As I am reading or listening, I tune in to what information inspires, challenges, or connects with my current thinking. I listen for “ah-ha’s” and visualize how that might look with my own teaching or in my life. Sometimes I sketchnote right then, other times I let things percolate and sketch what ‘sticks’.
I give it a little time and then as I revisit my sketchnotes I add small details and doodles as I meditate on the message-helping to internalize the ideas and epiphanies from the pages. I think I am going to work in black and white this summer, and then add color later to things that I plan to (or have) incorporate into my teaching and coaching. I want these to be interactive and inspirational. There are too many books I’ve read where I have thought, “That’s a great idea!” and then never applied it to my teaching. I’m hopeful that this approach will change that.
So here’s to another summer of personalized PD. May it be enlightening, inspiring, and sketchy!
What’s On My Book Radar?
Initially this book reminded me of some favorites (Maze Runner, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scar Island) but it quickly developed into a thoughtful and poignant tale that embraced and exposed the joys and fears of childhood. “Nine on an island, orphans all, Any more, the sky might fall.” An idyllic island where once a year a boat arrives with a young orphan (a care) and the oldest orphan (elder) must depart the same day. This ‘changing’ brings stability to the island but uncertainty for those coming and going. On the day Jinny’s best friend, Deen, must depart she becomes the elder and must care for the new child, Ess. With new responsibilities and the inevitability of her limited time on the island, Jinny must come of age with no mentor. She discovers choices have consequences that affect others and that growing up reveals the world doesn’t revolve around you. This book is extraordinary-I couldn’t recommend it more. It will leave you thinking and talking about this book with kids and adults for a long time.
A few years ago I approached the administration in our district about bringing an EdCamp model of professional development to our staff. They wanted to give it a try for one of the few workshop days we have. They designed a mini-conference-style day of professional development where teachers were offered a menu of sessions ahead of time that they sign up for sandwiched between keynotes to kick off and wrap up. It has proved to be very popular and meaningful to staff.
Yesterday was one of those workshop days. It was also the first time I didn’t have to present and could just be a participant. I loved it! My choices were quite wide ranging…and probably would not have even been on my radar a few years ago.
We started with a keynote ‘Responding to and Preventing Bullying’ that stressed the importance of intervening-even when we don’t know the ‘right’ thing to say. Speaking up with respectful interventions and breaking the pattern of escalation is essential. The speakers intent was to open our eyes to how students experience coming to school in which hateful language and bias is prevalent and our role to awaken the empathy that allows it to exist.
ACTIVE SHOOTER simulations. This is a PD I hope I’ll never have to use, but was grateful to our local police department for offering it. What would I have done if was at Columbine or Sandy Hook? I don’t know, but I have a better sense of awareness and options to consider, now. We experienced 3 real-life scenarios that happened in schools and then debriefed on what occurred and what we might do in those situations. It’s training teachers should never have to experience, but our world is changing so fast and guns are far too prevalent for us to bury our heads in the sand.
Another way our ‘local world’ is changing is with the influx of more and more immigrants and refugee students. A session on supporting English Language Learners was incredibly enlightening. Understanding why it is important for their entire family to acculturate together, the ‘affect of filter’ on learning, and cultural considerations that can impact our relationships with student were eye opening. I am more in awe of the challenges and courage of these families and I’m more determined than ever to support them.
After a session on Movie Maker (our school took away our Macs and replaced them with PCs so I felt like a novice again!) I think I can once again create teaching videos to share with staff. We then ended with a keynote on Happiness Hacking. By the end of the day on a Friday we were already feeling pretty happy, but any tips for inviting more into my life is always welcome.
If your school district hasn’t tried this format for professional development, I encourage you to look into it and suggest it to the powers that be. We differentiate for our students, why not differentiate for our teachers as well? We are all learners. We all want some choice in what we learn! I’m proud of our district for recognizing and honoring that.
Yesterday sign ups opened for a workshop day next week. I love that our district is adopting an EdCamp-ish model of offering voice and choice in our professional development opportunities. I’ll be presenting at one of the sessions, and so I had two others in which to choose my own PD. As I looked down the list of offerings I was struck by how many were not related to academics at all.
Pain Based Behavior
Schools have clearly had to become more than institutions of learning. We’ve had to become caregivers. That is not to say we hadn’t always been to some degree. Most of us are here to teach the child and not just the curriculum, and so we have always looked for ways to support the needs of our learners; whether they were academic, emotional, social, or physical.
Our schools offer food, clothing, counseling, behavioral support, health care clinics, dental cleanings and screenings, vaccinations, homeless liaisons… Teachers are expected to become highly qualified in our area of instruction and ensure that ALL students become highly proficient in achieving the standards. In essence, we are expected to become everything for everyone. And we try! I don’t know how many conversations I have each week with teachers stressing over their struggle to meet the needs of a child (or children) in their classrooms because their needs are greater than we can address.
And so I applaud our school district for recognizing that teachers need support to help these students, and that these students may have nowhere else to turn for that help. I am proud that our teachers are putting the most basic of our students’ needs first and learning about ways to address them. But I am sad that we don’t have more sessions for sharing amazing book titles, implementing genius hour, sharing successful strategies and practices, etc. I am sad that our students need us to focus our energy and professional development on dealing with societal issues that are causing them such trauma and grief. And I am incredibly sad for so many of our students.
I will balance my day by offering a session on Close Writing to help foster greater purpose and passion for our students in writing, and then taking sessions to help me better understand the non-academic needs of my students. I will focus my professional development on supporting the whole learners…the human beings who are counting on me to make a difference in their lives.
Oh, and our high stakes standardized testing starts the next Monday. ‘Nuff said.
16 Years ago today I began the best professional development of my life. With the arrival of my 9lb 13oz daughter, Bailey, I became a mother and from that day on I was changed for the better. Now I don’t believe being a parent necessarily makes everyone a better teacher. I have many teacher friends who are unbelievably talented educators who are not parents and I have met some less than effective teachers who have begotten children of their own.
It is not the circumstances of our life that is responsible for shaping us, it is our perception, appreciation and responses that fashion the people we become. Having my daughter did not bestow upon me any special teaching expertise. What it did do was offer me the opportunity to experience the world through a child’s eyes again. It constantly reminded me that children are far more than just students, they are human beings with lives outside of those classroom walls and dreams that extend beyond the goals of any curriculum. It allowed me to empathize with the parents of my students in ways I could not have imagined. It helped me to deeply understand the developmental, emotional, cognitive and social needs as my children passed through each stage of childhood.
When my son, Casey, arrived two years later my understanding and empathy for boys became an eye opening experience. It helped me to appreciate children as individuals on a much deeper level-I could no longer think of siblings in schools the same way. I began to look for the ‘specialness’ in each of them, because I knew it was there. I began to challenge prejudices and assumptions based on gender, birth order, family history, etc. I learned to accept my children for who they are and not just for the hopes I had for them as babies. I’ve watched my daughter grow into an amazing dancer and not the tom boy/athlete I was in my youth- and I am in awe of her. They will have lives that I can not even imagine and yet it is my role to prepare them for it. That is the same task we as teachers have for our students.
So I want to thank my children for the professional development you have offered me over the past 16 years. You have challenged my thinking (and my authority!). You have provided me with experiences I would never have chosen. You have taught me patience, stamina and empathy for others on a daily basis. You have compelled me to seek balance in my life as I juggle my needs with yours. You have helped make me the person I am today-not perfect, but perceptive, patient and positive. I can’t wait to see what lessons the next 16 years will offer me.
The best professional development we as educators can have is that which shapes our world view and not just our classroom practice. It helps us to be better people so that we can be better teachers of people. It breeds understanding and empathy and not just pedagogy. We all should look for those opportunities in our lives and embrace them when they come along. What’s the best PD that you have received in your life?
What’s on My Book Radar?
I didn’t want this book to end. I loved Gae’s message of hope and redemption. I cared so much about Francesca and Frankie that I didn’t want to leave them behind when I’d read the last pages. These characters have flaws that we can all identify with and hearts that break and mend and forgive in ways that can help us reflect on our own relationships. I didn’t want to let go of The Summer of Letting Go!