Professional Learning Challenge

I am creating a Professional Learning plan for our K-5 schools in the district for next year. We are experiencing the frustration of not enough subs (I’m sure that’s happening everywhere) so day long workshops are a problem to schedule, especially when the high schools and middle schools are trying to do the same thing. We have 19 elementary schools in our district, and I’m working on trying to build a PL plan which will reach all sites, all grade levels with minimal time and that doesn’t require me to be at all sites for this. That’s the first challenge. The second is, my plan is to schedule something once a month to create learning that will be consistent, viable and valuable to the teachers.

There are so many things that I am thinking about that are important; support and improve student learning, give teachers something they can use in classrooms and model good teaching. I also want to support good unit planning and classroom activities which allow low entry for all students to engage, yet have extension activities for students who are ready to move more deeply into learning. In addition, I want to create a program which strengthens the learning of our teachers, especially the ones who don’t feel confident in their own math skills.

We may also be piloting new math materials next year, which brings an added challenge to all of this. Teachers could be changing math materials in their classes, working on creating stronger unit plans, incorporating new and stronger activities into their classroom routines and learning more about mathematics and how to teach it? This seems ambitious at best. How do I prioritize the learning for everyone, and improve classroom outcomes for all our students with out overwhelming the teachers? Oh yes, the ELA specialists are also working on the same type of plan. Obviously a priority list is in order.

At the middle and high schools this plan seems to be unfolding well, the fact that teachers at these levels teach one subject area most of the time helps a lot. At the elementary level there is a very important consideration. All teachers facilitate all subjects in their classrooms all the time.

I feel the best way to do this is to model a PLN, and am working on how to make this happen. It will require administrator participation and willing teachers from sites, to take information back to sites and engage teachers at sites in collaborative, working conversations. A very important piece of this will be to model those strong collaborative conversations at a district PLN level, including discussing student work and utilizing these discussions to improve instruction. I’m writing this to help me think it through, as well as gathering suggestions from others who may have gone through something similar and found ways to make it work. I’ve found that when I discuss things with myself and others, things begin to become clear, and ideas form. Once again, I am hoping for this wonderful process to bring something new and important to life.

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