Yesterday we hosted a Professional Development afternoon for our teachers. In addition to receiving very good feedback, I am particularly proud of this event because it is a milestone in the development of our organization’s PD program. Though it sounds obvious, over the past few years we’ve learned from experience that it is really difficult to provide meaningful, relevant, practical staff development to a group of ~200 preK-12 educators. Yesterday’s PD was different in several ways.
1) Choice: We structured the 3-hour event like a mini conference. We had three separate 45-minute sessions bookended by a very brief opening explaining an overview of the day, and a quick closing session. The bulk of the time was spent with teachers in break-out sessions, learning about new programs and practices. We were able to offer over 20 sessions in total, so everyone got to attend three different sessions of their choice. When designing the program, we made sure the sessions had practical applications across all grade levels and disciplines.
2) Delivery: Almost all of the presenters were classroom teachers within our organization. When working with the presenters as they planned out their sessions, we emphasized taking a hands-on approach so that participants got to experience the concept instead of just hear about it. Asking teachers to present was a great way to recognize the best practices and superstars already within our organization. Also, It sends a strong message when teachers see their colleagues delivering the information instead of outside consultants. The practices being presented are seen as attainable, meaningful, and useful right off the bat because it’s coming from someone who teaches the same students, at the same school, with the same resources.
3) Theme: We selected presentations around a central theme: “Promising New Practices”. We looked for sessions that shared practices for integrating technology and the arts within core curriculum; sessions with a cross-curricular focus; sessions that fostered an entrepreneurial approach to fundraising (think Kickstarter & Donorschoose). In short, the 20+ sessions highlighted pockets of cutting edge practices that promise broader organizational movement towards 21st century teaching and learning.
Our awesome sessions included:
- Data Driven Math Interventions
- Kurzweil Literacy Software
- Arts & Athletics: Classroom Integration
- Backwards Planning
- Using iPad Apps to Boost Productivity and Enhance Lessons
- Mindful Teacher; Peaceful Classroom
- Overcoming Art Anxiety
- Khan Academy
- Connecting. Working. Learning.- HS Internship Program
- Accelerated Reader
- Daily Reteach
- First Grade Blended Learning Pilot
- Classroom Screencasting
- Integrating Art Into Project Based Learning
- Reading With Kloe: Benefits of Reading Education Dogs