Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Talkin' bout a Revolution...

It starts with a whisper. A mere suggestion of a question, asked frankly, yet in an open space for plenty of discussion if need be.

Today I posed the question to three of my colleagues. At different times and in slightly differing ways according to the person.

My aim: to create a self-sourcing professional learning network among our staff.

As a newbie teacher I know full well how difficult it is to find relevant pd that answers the questions I want to know... that relates to my individual style of teaching, my way of thinking and more than that..  that inspires me to keep being a better teacher. School PD is great... when its relevant, thought engaging and directly impacts the way I think, teach and engage with my students.

So far at my school I've been lucky. Mainly because the last pd that I'd started at my last school continued into my current school: PB4L. Positive Behaviour for Learning.

I adore it. Absolutely. Completely.

Last Friday on Teachers Only Day was the best... and I'm not sure it can ever be topped... Professional Development session Ive ever been to. It was run by two guys from ChCh and watched by the Ministry officials for ERO... or perhaps they were the developers of the programme in NZ. Either way... there has never been a bigger buy in from the staff on an idea than there was then.

Part of how they delivered it was a definite reason. They way they delivered..  and their own anecdotal proof that it works... and the way they created different activities to help get us talking to new people... not just the same old ones we're used to. That was absolutely brilliant. Loads of activities we could do with our students. Two sets of chairs from the hall and one table between each group. No need for individualised desks or group settings.  We changed our seating round heaps so we could talk to one another properly.

It was the inclusivity of G's te reo Maori in his korero. It wasn't forced or power words he'd been told to use... they were already in everyday use for him. I respected that immensely. I shouldn't because we should all do that in NZ regardless... if we made Te Reo Maori as important as English in our curriculum and in our society.

It was the engaging PowerPoint that he didn't speak to... he spoke as he went and some magical way the ppt complemented what he was saying. As good ppt presentations should.

There were engaging videos where we were allowed to laugh. And above all else, our laughter and chatter was not told off nor were we given...the look. Because it wasn't off task... we were engaged. And there's a huge difference.

We were asked to talk about our positive experiences of a teacher. I thought of Mrs D. The way she awhi'd me.. how she fed us brain food and how although she had high expectations of us five year olds... they were high enough that we could still achieve them without too much risk of failure... and above all else... she had our whole class in the Kapa Haka roopu. Hugely important to someone like me.

We were asked to roleplay a restorative chat with a student and its been a week and people are still discussing it!

They opened up communication lines I never knew existed.

Whats even more exciting was that it was the third pd Id had in 24 hours that finished the 'mind blown' effect off completely. So happy. Because it was engaging, thought provoking and impacted on the way I think, teach and engage with my students.

As I said earlier... people are still talking about it. Its awesome. Every PD should be like that. And to be totally honest... they're often not.

You all know what that's like... disengaged staff, plainly sitting there watching the second hand of the nearest clock drag by, not listening, txting, not focussed at all and bored. Utterly bored.

I'm lucky at my current school because we've really only had the PB4L pd as far as I can remember..  again that may be because I didn't engage with other pd?

Whereas at my old school other than the PB4L pd, we'd had multitudes of terrible, ineffective, uninteresting pd. That left me brain dead..  not mind blown. Both have negative connotations I know but you get what I mean. And as a 1st year teacher... tired, stressed out... that inspiring PD just never found me.

I asked for more but my HOD at the time said I didn't need anymore... I just needed to use what I already knew and work on that to improve my teaching. She gave me a few books that I never bothered to look through past the blurb, cover and third page.

The fact that I was naive and trusted what she was saying because she was my mentor and could do no wrong... is the reason I never sought it out. I began to ask questions though. And the first good pd we had was to create PLC's... Professional Learning Communities at school.

They were relevant to what I wanted to know and what I wanted to find out. No longer had to sit through pd on how to use word and kamar... well I did have to but then I had my PLC.

It was run by a mate in our dept and she continues to inspire me now. Our PLC was centred around creating a more inviting environment in our classrooms, that had student ownership and ultimately we wanted to see the correlation between a student focussed room and how it would relate to student achievement. We thought that a more engaged student would directly be benefiting from a more relaxed, student focussed room. And we were right. I still do that in my own classroom now... though exams make it difficult... see previous post on Interlead.

So with all this in mind. I want to continue this thought provoking PD... because since leaving my last school, becoming stressed again and confused and a little lost, I found Twitter. And my PLN and VLN began.

I want the rest of my staff to find relevant PD for themselves too. And maybe twitter isn't for them.. and that's okay.. but there definitely is something for everyone because everyone should want to learn something new to improve their teaching and learning.

And so it begins..the beginning of Le Revolution...