The Educator's PLN

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I have been absent from the blogging world for far too long.  I have taken a position working with a Turn Around school in Indiana overseeing all the teachers and curriculum.  The year has been crazy and since I have been so busy I have not been as active as I would like.  I have learned a few things so far this year that I wanted to share in regards to new teachers and professional development.

  1. New teachers are eager to learn.
  2. New teachers need to know it is okay to make mistakes
  3. Teachers need an opportunity to practice

During the school year many of my new teachers have felt overwhelmed and I feel it is a fair feeling to have in our high stakes environment.  Our school is expected to make drastic improvements immediately.  Despite this, my teachers have truly enjoyed and used most of the professional development we have given them.  Of course there has been some required professional development that my teachers have not been a fan of, but that is too be expected with all the requirements that are placed on us, who gets excited about blood born disease training anyways?  We spend a far portion of our PD time on culture building.  During this first year we have had to totally rebuild the culture at our school and my first year teachers really need some help in doing this.  We had weekly PD meetings focusing on TLaC strategies and then gave the teachers an opportunity to try in the training before taking it back to the class.  Then when I went around for my weekly observations to check for the use of the strategy and give feedback on what I observed.  My teachers were also willing to listen to and incorporate any feedback that was share.

My new teachers are always nervous to try out new strategies in their classrooms, especially after we finally got the school culture set.  They were afraid of what might happen or worse who might walk into their rooms.  We have state visitors, corporate observation team, an entire leadership team, and most of my teachers have TFA or ITF or Marian University coaches stopping in.  With all the eyes constantly on them they feared trying anything that might not work or that would require them to give control to the students.  I found talking with the teachers and letting them know that I expect some lesson to not go as planned, or for an activity not to work.  These mistakes are part of learning to become a excellent teacher.  I only asked if they made a mistake, that we look at how we could better handle the situation if it were to arise again, Dr. Nettles at ASCD13 conference said, "I would never want a person to see the mistakes I made my first year," and she was right I made mistakes in my first years of teaching and I learned from them.  I have to allow my teachers to do the same.  This trust building is key in helping improve and retaining these new teachers.

Lastly, I have learned that like our students and like athletes our teachers need an opportunity to practice.  When do we learn the most in PD? Well I learn the most when I am doing what I am learning about.  If I am learning about using technology in the classroom, I better be creating a lesson I can teach immediately.  If I am working on classroom management skills, like what do instructions, I better practice giving those directions to a group of people.  This is what we do in most of our PDs.  I give the teachers the content or reading in advance and we practice it in PD.  My teachers have also shared back that this is much more beneficial for them when it comes to using it in the classroom.

So as I wrap this up I am getting ready to do a PD on using Twitter for PLN and getting connected with other educators.  I about to create a video on how to create a twitter account, and then I will send everyone a reading article on the advantages of twitter for professional development.  Then in PD, we will actually get on twitter and get in on some conversations!  Keep an eye out for us!

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