Strategies for Shaking Up Your Professional Learning
Posted by Amy Storer on March 3, 2020 at 11:41 AM
Are you and your teachers tired of the same old "sit-and-get" professional learning initiatives? If you said "yes ✋," then it's time to shake things up by adding some fun to the mix. Amy Storer, instructional coach in Texas, shares a few different ways to include fun as part of your upcoming professional learning sessions.
ne of the first things I learned as an instructional coach is that my work isn't about me. It isn't about my favorite tools or my favorite strategies. What it is about is teacher learning and growth. During my second year as a coach, I honored this by creating a professional learning calendar based on what my teachers wanted to learn more about. These sessions were all optional to attend, but each one was full! I think this is because my teachers felt they had a voice and they had a choice.
Building on this success, a goal of mine was to spice up my professional learning sessions in ways that would be fun for the attendees. Much of my inspiration comes from Rich Czyz's book, The Four O’Clock Faculty. (Fun fact: I loved the meaningful and intentional examples that he provides so much that I own not just one copy but two!) Below are a few ways to transform your next professional learning sessions in a fun way for your staff.
1) Remember the snacks
This is nothing new, but fun all the same. During my first year as an instructional coach, my goal was to build relationships with the staff that I was blessed to work alongside. To do this, I worked on creating themed meetings that also included something sweet. I started with "Cookies with Your Coach" and eventually added others, such as: "Popsicles and PD" and "Donuts and Documentation." Over the years, these sweet-fueled meetings have proven very popular!
2) Create a theme
Who doesn't love a good theme? Me and my administration are always coming up with ways to make our professional learning sessions and time together fun through themes. Below are a few examples.
Appy Hours are an idea from Rich Czyz's book mentioned above. The idea behind them is that you create and design a time for teachers to come and choose apps, tools, or strategies to explore. They then mingle from table to table with their peers and enjoy snacks and beverages along the way, very similar to a post-work Happy Hour.
I heard about this idea during a Future Ready Conference in New Orleans and it takes on the theme of the Food Network Show, Chopped. I set my teachers the challenge of planning a lesson to meet a particular content standard, including resources from the "pantry" like library books or a camera. When I first tried out this idea it was around Easter and I decided to have that be the theme of the PD with eggs, baskets, decorations, treats and more. As a bonus, I had two students who won "Instructional Coach for a Day" at our campus fundraiser join and help assist the teachers. I loved this so much and can’t wait to do it again this year!
Tech and Treats!
I love Halloween and use the day to host my own version of Tech or Treat! On this particular day, I decorate my entire room and provide teachers with spooky snacks and treats. I usually share a tech tool or a fun activity while they enjoy the break and food.
Although this day only happens once a year, you can certainly find fun ways to use this idea on other special occasions. When I discovered Meredith Akers' blog post about the #MakeDecemberMagic Twitter Challenge, I knew it could work for us too. I worked alongside my librarian to come up with one for our campus. We called ours "Tech the Halls," and really enjoyed watching it unfold.
Teachers were encouraged and challenged to share all of the awesome things that were taking place in their classrooms.This soon led to us creating another challenge called "Fall in Love with Tech."
3) Go rogue
Who said professional learning had to be "sit-and-get" style? Here are some ways to shake it up, and make it more fun in the process.
This was inspired by all of the #PottyPD and #LearningintheLoo posts that I saw on social media. I brainstormed with a group of friends on a version that didn't have to be hung in a restroom (seriously, LOL!), and we came up with #CopierPD. Each month I put together a quick-read flyer and hang it next to our copy machines in our building for teachers to get some bite-sized PD!
This is another protocol that I learned about at the Future Ready Conference. It's a great way for teachers to put their heads together to brainstorm answers and come up with common themes. I used the Graffiti Gist protocol for the first time when I moved to a new campus to have teachers explore what an instructional coach is together, rather than me just telling them. Fun fact: Graffiti Gist is a wonderful activity to use with students too!
Skip the PD altogether
Sometimes the best PD is no PD at all. It's okay to create times for teachers to socialize and unwind. This school year we had a Friday 13th that also happened to be a full moon, so we planned a themed feast for our teachers that included zero professional learning. Yes, you read that correctly! It was a time for them to come in, grab some snacks, and take care of what they needed to take care of. It was great and the teachers loved it!
Although being an instructional coach is my dream job, my heart is never far from the classroom. It's important that we never forget where we came from and what we did and did not enjoy during our professional learning sessions as teachers. So, before you begin to design your next professional learning for your staff, ask them what they want to learn more about. After all, it is their learning, not ours, and adding a little fun to the mix never hurt anyone!
About our Guest Blogger
Amy Storer is an instructional coach and lead technology integration mentor in Montgomery, TX. She loves her position because of the opportunities it presents to work alongside the wonderful educators of Keenan Elementary School. Amy is a distinguished educator who encourages and motivates others to reach far beyond the classroom walls to make learning more meaningful and inspiring. She has a true passion for working with other educators and students to empower them to make and foster global connections.
Be sure to follow Amy on Twitter @TechAmyS!
Header graphic courtesy of Ouch.pics.