Professional Learning…What Can It Look Like In Schools?
When you hear professional development or professional learning, what comes to mind? Perhaps you have memories of cringe worthy, boring, long-winded, cookie cutter experiences that come to mind. Did you ever leave any of those professional development sessions feeling empowered to try new things in your classroom or did you leave thinking, I just lost an hour of my time I will never get back? Professional learning does not have to look or feel like torture.
As a school leader, I am committed to ensuring that our teachers are able to participate in meaningful, differentiated, personalized, choice-based professional learning experiences that will allow them to enter the classroom the next day to implement their new learning. Professional learning should empower our teachers to take risks, try something new, and ignite creativity in their learners. In turn, this will build student agency and capacity.
At California Avenue School, a PK-5 grade elementary school located in Uniondale, New York, professional learning is fun, exciting, engaging, and differentiated to meet the needs of our educators. The administrative team collaborates regularly to review assessment data, observations, and teacher feedback to develop unique professional learning opportunities that will impact teacher practices and by extension, impact student achievement.
Our school community is comprised of linguistically diverse learners from several Spanish-speaking countries. In order for our teachers to communicate effectively with our Spanish-speaking students and their families, it was important for our teachers to learn Spanish. This is when a group of students decided to begin our Language Improvement Program for teachers. Each week, our first grade bilingual students used Clips to record short videos on basic conversational phrases and words in Spanish. Students collaborated with peers to determine the vocabulary to teacher their teachers weekly, record and edit their videos, and share them with our staff. Our teachers appreciated this new approach to professional learning, a deviation from the norm, allowing our students to assume the role of the teacher and the teacher to be the learner. It was amazing to see how many teachers were taking risks, attempting to speak Spanish, and witnessing our students shine. Professional learning was tailored to meet the needs of our teachers and, by extension, bridged barriers in communication with students and their families.
Teacher Tip Tuesdays:
Our leadership team uses creative and innovative ways to share best practices with our teachers. Given the proliferation of instructional technology tools available to educators, we have leveraged the power of Clips to support our teachers. We launched Teacher Tip Tuesdays initiative. It is an opportunity for our leadership team to record short (under 5 minute) videos around a specific instructional tip that we share with our teachers weekly.
First, the leadership team determines the instructional areas teachers may need more support or a refresher to help them deliver high quality instruction to our students. After, we begin recording our teacher tip using Clips. We model and explain for teachers the specific pedagogical approach they should utilize during instruction. Once we have recorded the video in Clips, we export the video and upload it to another platform (i.e., YouTube). Then, we generate a QR code that links to our video and place them on stickers. Every Tuesday, we place a large envelope in each teacher’s mailbox. The exterior of the envelope provides teachers with directions requiring them to scan the QR code and watch the Teacher Tip video. Once teachers open the envelopes, they find materials needed to execute the teacher tip for the week. Teachers appreciate the ability to watch these short professional learning videos on- the-go or when it works best for them.
Our Teacher Tip Tuesday videos allow our teachers to watch their school administrators take risks, celebrate failure, be creative, and redefine what teaching and learning could look like in the classroom. It is our hope that our teachers will take the tools, tips, and tricks we share and use them in their learning laboratories.
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Posted on August 30, 2022
What a creative and engaging approach to professional learning! It’s fun, individualized and targeted to needs. Also a wonderful model of administrators using technology. Thanks for the details and video!