I’m writing this post from my mom’s house in San Diego where I’m soaking up the last of my summer. Last week, Jeff joined me from Florida and it’s been such a treat to sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous weather with him in the evenings. At work, new staff orientation kicked off this week and just like that, it’s time to start a new school year. This week, I begin my 10th year in education, four of them working in Technology and Innovation. Even though the last half of the school year was pretty brutal (for everyone) and nothing much about my situation has changed since then, I’m still excited to start the school year and to welcome a new cohort of teachers to our school community. It’s a big year for so many reasons and I just look forward to having some new challenges to take on. Here’s a look at how I’m preparing for the year that awaits:
Designing Professional Development
One of the many hats I wear in my role is one of a planner and designer of learning experiences. This can be for students, but often this involves organizing and facilitating professional development for teachers. One of my favorite resources to revisit when I’m starting to plan these sessions comes from Jennifer Gonzalez on her blog and podcast, Cult of Pedagogy where she offers a list of alternative methods for traditional sit-and-get PD. When I look back at some of the professional development and training I’ve received throughout the years, the most impactful seemed to have come from watching colleagues do what they do best. When I worked in Beirut, I had my first experience working with a coach who helped us learn from other teachers in our grade-level and divisions. One of my teaching partners and I made it a habit to get into each other’s classes for informal observations a couple times per week. Of course, it helped that she was my best friend and gym buddy for the year too, but this experience helped me grow in so many ways.
At AISG, we organize an annual regional conference, EdTechGZ, which draws large crowds and vendors, but most of the time we are designing smaller campus-wide events where we bring teachers together to learn from each other. We call these Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) and, as the name would suggest, they are opportunities to bring our teachers together to share with and learn from one another. When we’re on campus, we try to make it a fun event with snacks and music, but this year our first TTT session is going virtual. Thankfully, I work with some phenomenal teachers who have offered to help by facilitating a session to share their experiences from the spring. Below is the list of topics that were generated by our group along with how the sign-up system is shaping up for attendees.
The sessions will happen synchronously in 10-15 minute increments and teachers are free to attend the ones of most interest and relevance to them. And because we are all still spread across the globe, some people may not be able to join live, so we will be recording all of them for later viewing. We have decided to leverage our situation and use Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and our school's intranet to support all the work in the first few weeks with new staff. The TTT session recordings, resources, and slide decks will be stored in this Team and will be added to throughout the year. We hope it will provide a good opportunity to build useful skills with Microsoft apps.
For now, we are in the process of filling in the sign-up sheet with session descriptions and links using a simple table in a Word document- nothing fancy needed. Making it cloud-based and live helps everyone keep track of updates until sessions go live.
New Year, New Coaches
I work in a small team within the school alongside our Tech Director, a handful of IT Technicians and two other Innovation Coaches. And even though I'm just starting my second year with the school, I'm now considered the veteran coach and will be helping with the on-boarding of my new Middle School and High School counterparts, so that been keeping me busy as well. Currently, our Tech Director is in China, I'm in California, one new coach is in Michigan and the other in England, so finding opportunities to meet live has been a challenge, but we're getting things moving. in the right direction. Thankfully, there are digital tools like timeanddate.com that help me keep all these time zones straight!
One of my professional learning focuses over the summer was to rethink and strategize the ways I will approach my role as a coach this school year. To do this, I decided to revisit some of the resources I have been collecting and do a self-guided study of Jim Knight's book, The Impact Cycle. I haven't finished all of the chapters yet, but I've already learned so much that I'm excited to apply over the next few weeks when we get the school year off and running. And maybe later in the year, I'm considering taking a more in-depth course for instructional coaches through Eduro Learning or the Instructional Coaching Group. Ideally, I'd like to do some in-person workshops, but that is always tricky from overseas, especially during the current pandemic. Hopefully, later this year things will start to return to 'normal' and I'll be able to make a plan for next spring. Until then, I'll lean into this new group I work with and hope we have make an impact from afar.
Okay people, now it's your turn to share what your school year has in store. What does professional development look like for you? How do you work with coaches in your setting? And what advice can you give about working with a new team when you still feel new yourself?! I'd love to hear your thoughts.