Sunday, July 19, 2015

Special PD Sessions in July

You may have read my previous post about our teacher-led summer PD we have been doing at our school this summer. We've had sessions each week that are led by teachers and a few led by administrators (and, in my opinion, we're ALL teachers.) During June, we had a lot of technology sessions since we're making a school-wide switch from iPads to Chromebooks. Our teachers have been learning about Google, Hapara, Chrome extensions, and their Chromebooks. The teachers leading these sessions have done a phenomenal job of giving classroom examples and doing what they do best... teaching others.

But July. How I love July. The sessions in July have been about teaching & learning. On July 8, the 2015-16 Alabama Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Brown, and her colleague Marla Hines came to HHS and led a session on Instructional Rounds.

Jennifer and Marla started Instructional Rounds at their school, and they changed the teacher culture to one of collaboration an trust among the faculty. Jennifer shared stories of teachers taking risks since they had observed a colleague's classroom and saw different instructional strategies being used. It was a fun morning and the participants were fired up about Instructional Rounds at our school. 

To kick off the next week, our PD session was listening to student voice and learning from students. We had a panel of students who had just graduated who agreed to come and participate, and they shared with us (teachers and administrators) what we're doing right at Hoover High and areas where we can grow. 

The students were very open and honest and gave us great feedback and ideas. Because we are a large school, we work really hard to make the school "feel small" in two ways. We encourage positive relationships between teachers and students and emphasize that we want each student to have one "go-to" adult in the building. We also encourage students to get involved and provide a lot of opportunities for them to do so. As one of the students on the panel stated, "Hoover gets small when you find your group."

Last week, we had three sessions, two of which were led by administrators. John Montgomery, one of our assistant principals, led a session called Classroom Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Students. His first tip: Always find something positive about the student. He shared experiences from situations that he has dealt with as a grade-level administrator in charge of discipline, as well as situations he faced as a teacher and coach. 

On the same day, Carrie Busby and I led a session called Communication Skills and Strategies. I think our profession does very little of this kind of training, and Carrie and I shared positive and negative examples of communication home to parents.

Here's one example we shared:

We role-played a phone call home, and we asked the participants to do it, too. They worked with a partner, both taking turns acting as a teacher and as a parent. Carrie and I were ninjas - we walked around and listened to the role play and more insightful, the conversation the partners had after the call! We shared out as a group, and teachers all agreed that they needed to have a script on hand as they made their phone calls.

We shared strategies for diffusing angry parents as well as ideas for positive communication. At the end of the session, one of the participants said, "Y'all need to do this for the entire faculty!" Carrie and I felt really good about the session and the feedback form the participants. It was a good refresher for teachers who had been in the profession for a while, and it was terrific insight and training for our newer teachers.

Last Thursday, Lesa Gibson and Susan Norris led a session called Motivating Reluctant Learners. They are both excellent teachers who create a safe environment for students. Students work hard for them because they like them, respect them, and feel respected in their presence.

Lesa, and English teacher, said that on the first day of school she has two sentences written on her board and asks students which one is correct:

"I want to teach English to you" 
"I want to teach you English"

She goes on to tell the students that while both are grammatically correct, her philosophy is the second one. I love that she is so explicit and open with her students on the importance of teaching them!

Their presentation was interactive and based on this article from How to Reach Reluctant Learners.

All in all, the sessions were terrific reminders of why we do what we do. Relationships matter!

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