Get on the Bus of Learning! A Creative Approach to Weekly Staff Professional Development

As educators, we know it is imperative that we are always learning. We strive to find the best techniques, the helpful tools, the lesson plan ideas, and the ways in which we can become stronger together. Learning is not just for students, it is for adults too. The adults should always be modeling learning for their students, showing they are the lifelong learners they strive to model for their students.

We would never go to a doctor that used techniques that were old and outdated. I would not want that surgeon! This is the same for educators. Do we want our kids taught with old and outdated techniques and strategies? No! I want my children to be given the skills they need for their futures through techniques and strategies that work for them—and those have changed.

Education has witnessed more change in the last five years than in the last 20 combined. This is exciting! We know more about how kids learn than ever before, and we have amazing tools and more strategies at our fingertips than ever before as well. However, this has posed an issue. With so many amazing ideas out there, along with the knowledge that we need to change our practices, how do we find time and resources to foster the adult learning in our schools to keep this change alive?

Random professional development workshops are great, but these are not enough. Let’s be honest, often times we go to these multi-day workshops and there are so many new ideas shared that we go into “new idea overload”, with none of these great ideas coming to fruition in our classrooms.

So, if education is changing so rapidly, then we need ways that professional development for our schools can change as well. The old model is no longer enough. We need to update our techniques.

Our staff has realized this challenge, and decided to do something about it. The process was fascinating and exciting, and the end result is our new way of thinking about the adult learning at the school.

The Story of Meaningful Monday

During a leadership team meeting, I asked the question, “What professional development opportunities do we need?” This sparked a conversation noting how our current professional development from our technology department has been very beneficial because of the small group approach and meeting current needs. It has been hands on and delivered in a very non-threatening way. And so I asked, “What other professional development opportunities do we need?” The team pondered a bit and began to share a past practice that was quite intriguing.

From many years past with past staff members, a small group of teachers met after school once a week in other teacher’s classrooms to share a great idea or strategy. This was all done voluntarily and sparked within teachers. I loved the idea. It sounded very “EdCamp” style. I wondered why it stopped, and from the sounds of it, it stopped when that teacher left the building to teach in another state.

With my interest peaked, I asked if we might be interested in doing something like this again. What would it look like? How could it be organized? The leadership team started chasing around ideas, as they were excited too. We needed another meeting of the minds to make this happen. So, I told the team that we would get together in the next week to talk about this further.

At our next meeting, the ideas started to flow. How do we build an EdCamp style, weekly professional development that moved throughout the building based on the up and coming needs of the staff? How would we post the ideas and then build a “schedule”? The team went to work. I wish I would have tape-recorded this enlightened discussion, as each team member threw out ideas to the group, going through a stack of paper as the ideas flowed. We taped an idea on the wall, only to come up with a better one and taping that one on top of the previous idea. It was authentic. Passionate about our own learning and sharing. Brainstorming ways that we can build a culture of sharing. The experts are all around us. Let’s tap into that knowledge!

The Plan

The plan took the form of a bus. We really are not sure how that came to be, but the symbolic idea of “getting on the bus of learning” took hold through the conversation. With some butcher paper, die-cut letters, and yarn, the bus took shape. The bus has three main columns, each a step in the process of forming topics and the schedule. Topics that teachers wanted to know or wanted to share would first go up, with the next column being the staff member or team that would facilitate the discussion on the topic. For example, if a teacher wanted to know more about how Nearpod is used in the classroom, he/she would put that post-it up in the “Topics to Learn and Share” column, and someone in the building who is using Nearpod would post their name in the “I Can Share That” column. It could also work in the opposite way. If a teacher wanted to share a cool challenge he/she just did with his/her class in the Makerspace, that teacher would post this under the Topic column as well as post his/her name in the Share column.

From there, teachers around the building would post their name in the “I Want to Go” column, showing their interest in the topic. Once enough interest is posted, that topic goes into scheduling, coordinated with the teacher who is sharing. We post the topic, date, and room number, and from there, that teacher shares and facilitates a discussion on the topic.

Each session is 30 minutes in length within the contracted day. Sessions are voluntary and based on interest and need. We are learning from each other, building a collaborative culture, helping each other do what is best for all of our students.

Every teacher who attends a “Meaningful Monday” session then completes a Google Form at the end. This Google Form is for feedback and takeaways, as well as automatic delivery of a professional growth points certificate. This is something I had heard was possible, and our awesome technology integration coordinator helped me learn Autocrat to create it.

The Meaningful Monday bus is still in its infancy. We rolled it out in March and have had 2 sessions so far. Since the end of the year is near, we know we want to gather feedback and work on any revisions to the process for next school year. But, so far, the conversations have been fantastic and exciting, and I am looking forward to its continued development. I think it would be additionally exciting to include other schools around the nation in this endeavor. We could Skype professional development, sharing ideas with one another.

Together, we are “Building Ultimate Superpowers” as a staff. As the needs of our students and schools change, so must the way we learn as educators. We need to overcome the barriers, finding solutions that will meet everyone’s needs within the timeframe that we are given, only then will we make a lasting impact on each other’s lives and the lives of our students.

 

Feature image courtesy of Unsplash, Matthew Henry.

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