This year I served in a new hybrid role in our district, as a Teacher Talent Developer. This role allowed for a half day release from classroom teaching to help coach teachers and coordinate job-embedded PD. This was rolled out to 58 pilot schools, and I shared the role at my site with another teacher released at the same times as well. Our schedule included all lunch periods off to facilitate “lunch and learn” PD and the last period of the day off to attend department head meetings and work with department heads.
From this perspective, I went in with the mindset that teachers are the experts and have the answers, and that if teachers were to collaborate and to share their expertise, we would become collectively stronger. I was able to present at PD with a budding teacher leader (who would later become our teacher of the year) about this philosophy, framing the role in this growth mindset.
Our PD was designed to embrace the expertise in the room. We flipped the PD so that they watched a five minute video where we highlighted critical elements of either assessment or questioning and discussion, using four other teacher leaders classrooms as demos. In this, we gave background on the rubric and lifted other teachers on campus. They were asked to bring a strategy in one of these four areas and then did rotations to share their strategies. We used different strategies to mix people and give all a chance to share expertise by contributing or facilitating.
For each of these two PDs, they were to choose one followup: one on one coaching, a backward lesson plan, walking through a demo classroom or being a demo classroom. We held a couple of learning walks in the first semester and worked to embed the PD into teachers’ daily work. We renovated our office to make it lamp-lit, cozy with couches, and attractive with candy. Inside, we had a pineapple board, teaching library, and listening ear available for teachers to drop in and chat about their practice.
Our PD structure worked well. However, I offered additonal trainings in other areas of interest, like technology or BreakoutEDU. No one attended these trainings that weren’t mandatory.
In the second semester we started to focus on continuing the job-embedded followup by making Walkthrough Wednesday a regular thing. We asked each department head weekly to let us know which teachers were open. We made open doors an expectation on campus in five months! We also started New Bull Academy, structured support for new teachers.
By differentiating PD for various teachers, I believe we were effective. Our TELL data reflected gains in every area of PD, Instructional Expertise, and Teacher Leadership, and this can be directly connected to our efforts to innovate these areas. We also worked with department heads to better facilitate PLCs. Our FSA scores increased in all areas, except in Algebra 2, a weak PLC. We were also able to address issues of equity within our PD.
As a pilot for this new district program, this falls under teacher as leader. The biggest stretch for me has been being seen as an instructional leader at my own site–I’ve done a lot in my own content area and off campus, but rebuilding relationships in my return and sharing instructional expertise was my biggest stretch. This has expanded the way I influence my school, but also in the district.