I received this message from a teacher at a school I support today and it was definitely my #flyhighfri moment. Teachers at Fairmeadow in PAUSD have the opportunity at each Tuesday's staff meeting to recognize a colleague with a shout out. It meant so much to me to receive this note because the teacher not only thought of me, but she kept it, held onto it, and made sure to give it to me. Today wasn't a work day for me and I was just dropping off things at the school. What a wonderful way to start winter break. I am touched, honored, and humbled for this heartwarming note.
I've had the pleasure of partnering with Diane Darrow, a fifth grade teacher in the Palo Alto Unified School District, throughout this school year so far on math instruction, setting up her math workshop, using Problem of the Month packets for extensions, analyzing formative assessments, and leading the students in number talks. It's been a pleasure getting the opportunity to watch her students learn and grow.
On Tuesday, December 15th, I led the students in a number talk on fractions. Diane and asked me to design a fractions number talk since her students had been working on fractions during their math workshop. I thought of using the easier operation of adding fractions but setting the challenge in the problem with unlike denominators. The denominators I chose could lead to a large common denominator or a smaller one if the students reduced the fractions first.
As our Number Talk progressed, the students shared responses and strategies that Diane and I both anticipated. Many students were able to see the relationship and equivalencies between fractions. Toward the end of the Number Talk, Diane and I were both incredible impressed by the flexible thinking from one of her fifth graders. Instead of trying to find common denominators with 8 and 10, the student thought of a way to make the denominator (8) of the first fraction (6/8) into the value of 10 in order to match the denominator of the second fraction (6/10). As a result he multiplied 8 by 1.25 in order to have common denominators of 10. What was interesting was he also multiplied the numerator by 1.25 to make it an equivalent fraction and got 7.5 as the numerator. That led to a wonderful conversation of whether you can have decimal numbers in a fraction. What do you think?
Professional development is an essential and crucial part of any educator's career. No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn, countless ways to grow, and many opportunities to reflect and revise. Professional development is the way to stay on the cutting edge and to give our students what they deserve - the very best of who we are and who we can be.
Four Types of Teachers
In any professional development session, workshop, or opportunity, there are four categories that all teachers can fall into. This, of course, is just one perspective on this and one analogy for professional development.
Speedboats are the teachers that are also referred to as your "early adopters." They are the ones that hear an idea and run with it. Often the best thing to do is to set them free because their interest, drive, passion will propel them beyond anything you could imagine. Their journey includes creativity, curiosity, and often becomes the basis for further peer-to-peer PD opportunities.
Rowboats are the teachers that may need a bit of support to get started. They are the ones who are interested in the topic but may need the objectives, a structure of their implementation of the PD topic, an example of a final product to work towards as their goal, and/or support to set them on their course. Going with the analogy, this could be simply a push of their rowboat in the right direction.
Rafts are those that require more support. These teachers may be more hesitant to get started, need more support and structure for full implementation, require consistent and effective monitoring, and benefit from follow-up and check-ins. Sometimes, "rafts" need the presence of a coach or peer mentor to guide their journey.
Rocks. Rocks are your resisters. These are the teachers that just sit at professional development workshops and sessions and oppose any direction of initiatives, new or modified. Phrases like, "Why do we need to change?" and "What I'm already doing is good enough." are sometimes heard from teachers in this category. Granted, if teachers sign up for workshops, there is an inherent interest in the topic; teachers who are "rocks" are those that attend required or mandated PD. No matter how much support or guidance you offer, these "rocks" will just sit and stay. The "glass half full" perspective on teachers in this category is that eventually when the pressure of the "water" is great enough they will move. Rocks will eventually move when everyone has moved onto in the river and they start feeling left behind and/or the pressure from their administration or the parents propels them to move.
Speedboats, rowboats, rafts, and rocks. Teachers move in and out, and between these four categories at various points in their careers. As mentioned, when PD sessions and workshops are required, sometimes teachers are rocks. When topics don't interest us, we may not be the "speedboats" we sometimes are. We have been in each of these four categories. The factors that affect where you are in these categories include mindset towards change, prior experience with PD, prior experience with the professional developer, and your professional learning network. What category are you in?
No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn, countless ways to grow, and many opportunities to reflect and revise. Professional development is the way to stay on the cutting edge and to give our students what they deserve - the very best of who we are and who we can be.
One more thing:
I've shared this analogy in a few recent Twitter chats I've participated in and an educator in my professional learning network, Roland Aichele, offered this additional perspective on rocks. Eventually the pressure will smooth rocks out so they row alongside with their colleagues, perhaps behind their colleagues, but still there's movement.
It has been such a great few weeks leading up to this week of Computer Science Education Week and the #HourOfCode. Teachers and students throughout #PAUSD were getting excited about spending an hour engaged in computer science, computer programming, and coding. I had the pleasure of helping a few teachers get set up on code.org, work with their students in going the lessons and modules on code.org and Khan Academy, and had the pleasure of capturing some of the excitement.
Below is a video I put together on my phone of Kindergarten, third grade, and fourth grade students at Fairmeadow. It was such a pleasure of me to share the #HourOfCode with those students and teachers, and to capture their experience for them.
Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA in Palo Alto Unified School District.