I had the opportunity to concentrate on my own learning today and it was fantastic–I am stoked about next year at RCS! Thank you to North Collins Principals Annie Metcalf and John Cataldo and their Curriculum Coordinator Theresa Gray for allowing me to trail around listening, asking questions and learning. A special thank you to the dynamic teachers of North Collins, who graciously welcomed a stranger in and shared their ideas with me—your enthusiasm and excitement about your own learning has me totally committed to move forward with teacher driven professional development at Randolph!
What’s this collegial circle business all about? North Collins teachers had the opportunity to design their own learning this year. They self selected groups based on the topics they wanted to study. I visited with groups who’ve just spent a year learning about something that they chose which would impact their kids in the classroom. What kinds of things did they choose to learn about/collaborate on/ research together? Everything from using IPODs in the classroom, to Creativity, to an Interactive Whiteboard group, to physical education teachers and guidance counselors and primary teachers working in small groups on their own curriculum. These more specific groups developed a district PE plan, a K-12 guidance plan, and analyzed assessment results to benchmarks for their kids. There was a middle level group talking about the Transition years, including motivating students, and a grades 3-5 group who was on fire about integrating technology into their classrooms.
I left feeling confident that we’re headed in the right direction at Randolph. Every teacher we talked to said that they prefer this kind of learning to the “traditional” staff development of ‘sit and get’. Teachers spoke with passion about how much they learned from each other through sharing ideas, how much more meaningful the learning was for their individual and specific needs than ever before, the valuable relationships that they formed and the resources that they learned about during the year. They said that the learning was simply more pertinent to them and they had an invaluable opportunity to work together that they seldom have otherwise.
I also learned much from them about the set-up, specifically about how to set our teachers up for success. For example, groups with a broad topic like creativity said that they will choose a more narrow topic next year. And the size of the groups seemed to be best at 3-6. They were planning today for a learning fair that they’re having in May in which they’ll present what they studied to each other. One teacher said that what they studied is something that they’re excited about and want to share with their kids so the presentation was no big deal. Another teacher was a bit more anxious about the presentation and honestly stated, “If you look like an idiot in front of your peers, there’s nothing worse.” I think the presentation is a good thing primarily because it may spark ideas for next year’s learning and because we don’t talk enough to each other about learning. And isn’t this exactly what we ask kids to do in our classrooms? Take a risk, learn something new, share it with your peers. . . and grow. Together.
Thanks North Collins for reaffirming for me that we’re better together than we are alone. Our kids deserve our A game, every day—how better to improve and bring it to them than by capitalizing on what we know collectively? Randolph teachers are going do amazing things together next year—now if only I could figure out a way for them to collaborate with their colleagues in North Collins who seemed so much like us. . .
A great day away from budgets, contracts, lawyers, and problem solving to remind me what we’re here for—-LEARNING with passion, innovation and leadership!