As many educators know, a professional learning day in September is a gift! Historically we would lament about having professional learning days in the spring, reflecting that by that time in the year, we’ve lost the opportunity to make a difference for this year’s cohort of learners (both staff and students).
This school year, we’ve been fortunate to have not one, but two professional learning days in the month of September.
Our most recent PD Day was scheduled for this past Friday. As has been the trend recently, the focus of our school-based learning day is determined at a Ministry level, developed at the system level with the intention of delivery at the school level. Although I understand and appreciate the hierarchy of this method, the instructional leader in me laments the days of autonomy where we could gather school-based evidence and then determine how best to support our school communities on these rare and precious full days of learning.
Kudos to the TVDSB system level teams who worked tirelessly to create informative slides and activities based on the Ministry mandates which, due to current COVID protocols, were to be presented virtually via TEAMS.
This year, as a result of our student population growth and the uniqueness of our school site, we’ve welcomed another administrator to our team. Each our Vice Principals were excited to take the lead on this day of learning, to strengthen their facilitation skills and connect more deeply with staff. Especially with the topic of Anti-Racism and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, creating a safe and trusting environment is paramount to going beyond the words and having staff reflect on their biases, their assumptions and subsequently their practice.
Throughout the week, as a team we discussed their presentations, they gathered their resources, created breakout groups, and were set for Friday morning.
As Friday started, text messages about WIFI started to circulate. There had been an accident at our Central office on Thursday, which had impacted our main server. There was a back up plan to use the Guest WIFI, but as we drew closer to 8:30 am, we received the message that WIFI was not yet stable enough to have the entire system using it.
We quickly came together as a team to pivot and to create a different day of learning. Serendipitously earlier in the week we had received a wonderful gift from our Safe Schools and Equity team ~ a staff set of Zaretta Hammond’s book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain.” As the boxes caught my eye, we wondered, “What would it look like if started our book study today?”. Our original plan was to use the book throughout the year, at staff meetings, as time would permit ~ knowing full well that engaging in this type of heavy/emotional/vulnerable thinking after a full day of teaching would be a stretch.
We knew we had to follow the COVID protocols of no more than 5 educators in a small space and no more than 10 in a larger space.
Without internet or the ability for consistent messaging as a preamble, we knew that we had to select chapters that staff could dive into without having the opportunity for any formal introduction from us.
By 9:00 am, with a copy of the text and some pre-packaged snacks, small teams were dispersed throughout the school. We provided them with 1 hour to read the chapter and then to create a visual representation of their thinking. As an admin team we flowed from room to room to engage in conversations which ranged from, “We do this really well” to “Ah, I’m going to incorporate that into my daily routines” to “That makes so much more sense now”.
When the hour was up, staff (in their small groups) rotated from location to location to see what their colleagues had completed and to engage in even deeper conversations. As I’ve shared on multiple times, this staff continues to raise the bar on their own level of professionalism and each time a challenge is provided, they exceed our expectations. This activity was no exception. From personal connections to detailed explanations to actual visual representations, we were so thrilled with how they embraced both the creation and the subsequent dialogue component of this activity.
As the day continued and inconsistent WIFI extended, the theme of Know Your Learner was now embedded in our work from the morning as we transitioned into the afternoon. Staff continued to work in their grade level teams discussing assessments, planning, and most importantly specific students.
Staff were excited to share their own personal resources on the topic and throughout the day,
there was a resounding thankfulness for the opportunity to talk, face to face with
colleagues about a topic that is relevant, important, and so meaningful.
This past year there’s been lots of memes and disparaging comments about “pivoting” in education. I even had a community member comment on social media, wondering if my middle name was Pivot…LOL.
But as an admin team, when we finally had a change to connect at the end of the day on Friday, we unanimously agreed that this pivot was priceless!
In the past year have you had any pivots that you’d deem as priceless?
Come write with me…