Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sharing Our Staff Development – Session 2

Earlier I blogged a description of our first staff development session of the year. Last week we had our second session, so I thought I’d share what we did. First, please note that this time we did not meet as one large group, but rather as three smaller groups. Cohort 1 (16 teachers) met last Tuesday, and Cohort 2 met in two different groups of 15, one in the morning and one in the afternoon last Thursday. This allows for better sharing, for groups to bond together, and – in the case of Cohort 2 – for subs to be shared to cut down on the costs.

The first 90 minutes or so of the session was spent discussing Chapter 4 of the PLC book, focusing on mission and vision, both for our school and specifically for 21c (what we call our staff development effort). That discussion was facilitated by two members in each of those groups who had volunteered ahead of time. All six of them met ahead of time to discuss what they were doing in their three separate groups, but there was no requirement that they do things exactly the same way. We feel it’s important for the staff development to not always be led by me, or by members of my planning team, but that the participants take control of it. We’ve had mixed success with that, as intellectually they mostly agree but when it comes down to actually volunteering to do that they are somewhat reticent. This appears to be mainly for two reasons – being uncomfortable teaching their peers and simply a lack of time to prepare and do it well. We'll continue to work on this.

The mission and vision discussion seemed to go well in Cohort 1, although I missed the two Cohort 2 group discussions because I was chaperoning 41 second graders on a camping trip (I heard the Cohort 2 sessions went well). As most folks do, we struggled a lot with differentiating between mission and vision, but also between mission and values/goals. I certainly am not an expert on this, but it sure appears as though a lot of the ideas included in mission statements are really values or goals, not mission. For the group I was in, I encouraged them to really think about purpose, about why we exist (as a school and as 21c). And I suggested that a short, concise mission was necessary if it was going to be a successful mission statement - a mission statement that helps define who we are. I think we’ll get there with our 21c group, but I’m not so sure as a school.

We will continue to work on mission and vision in our next two sessions, with the next session spent actually writing a mission and vision statement (in our 3 separate groups), and then the following session trying to mesh the three mission/visions together. I worry that we’ll burn people out on this, because many people do not like this kind of activity and think it’s pointless. And, to be fair, it often is. But when done correctly, it helps define everything that comes after, so I hope we’re successful. That’s one of my big concerns with my school’s mission, that we’re not taking adequate time to really work through it and that we’ll end up with something that sounds good, but really won’t help point the way for our school.

We didn’t spend as much time on vision (at least in Cohort 1) because we need to get mission down first, but I think we’ll have some hurdles there as well. The main hurdle is getting folks to toss everything aside and really focus on what our school should like in five to seven years. What should it look like to best meet the needs of our students, without all the “yeah, buts” that typically get brought up. I framed it this way,
Think about what you would want this school to look like if you were designing it from the ground up today, with no limitations. Don’t settle for what you think will be "acceptable" or "uncontroversial" - design a mission and vision that will meet the needs of our students.
I really, truly, passionately feel we need to define what that looks like first, then deal with the obstacles. As opposed to artificially limiting our vision by assuming the obstacles will triumph and compromising our vision. Isn’t that what we should be about, figuring out what's best for our students, and then designing the best possible learning environment and experience to facilitate that vision, and then figuring out a way to make it work? Perhaps I’m tilting at windmills here, but I’m really tired of the “yeah, buts” getting in the way. If we know the right thing to do for our students, and then don’t do it because it might be difficult or controversial or a lot of hard work, then I don’t know why were here anymore.

After the mission/vision discussion, we spent a little bit of time with some “tech tips” that some of us brought back from NECC. These weren’t any great instructional ideas or anything, just some simple programs or keyboard shortcuts that could help out some folks and then they could adapt for their classes. This was inspired by Frank Miracola’s Free is Good session at NECC (I didn’t attend that session, but two others from my planning team did and thought it was great). They focused on a few of the photo applications (pun intended), but you can view all of Frank’s resources (Word doc).

We then closed with providing them time to explore their own personal learning networks. To read each others’ blogs, or blogs from elsewhere, or write in their own blog, or start on their “assignment” for next time. Their assignment was:
  1. By 9-15, watch the David Warlick presentation Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape. Scroll down to 2 pm on Tuesday, June 26th, then click on stream. It’s worth watching the entire thing, but if you don’t want to devote an hour to it, scroll over and start at either the 11 minute mark or the 31 minute mark. Please at least take the 30 minutes necessary to watch from the 31 minute mark to the end. The slides don’t display well on the stream, you can get a better view of his slides here – scroll down to Redefining Literacy 2.0

  2. Then read the Teacher as Network Administrator article.

  3. Your focus for both the Warlick Presentation and the article is: What does it mean to be literate in the 21st Century? How can we help our students – and ourselves - become literate? How do we help our students – and ourselves – develop Personal Learning Networks?

  4. For our next session, think about mission and vision. While our primary focus is a mission and vision for 21c, also think about AHS’s mission and vision as well as your own personal mission and vision. Think about what you would want this school to look like if you were designing it from the ground up today, with no limitations. Don’t settle for what you think will be “acceptable” or “uncontroversial” - design a mission and vision that will meet the needs of our students.

    - From Brian and Jessie [led the Cohort 1 discussion]: For our next session (9-25 or 9-27), blog/reflect on the four questions at the bottom of p. 78 and top of p. 79 [from the PLC book].

    - From Micki and Andrea [led one of the Cohort 2 discussions]: Five years from now – Imagine there are no barriers, in what ways would we be different? Consider the following – practice, procedure, relationships, results, climate…
So, again, I’m not saying this is anything spectacular, but just trying to share out some of the things we are doing in our staff development. I think the mission and vision stuff is important, as are the values and goals that we’ll get to next, but it’s not as interesting to blog about (perhaps) as some of the things we’ve done in the past. But hopefully somebody out there will find it useful or get one good idea they can use.

1 comment:

  1. Karl,
    Thanks for sharing the conversation about PLC process in your school. We are also in the process of developing our MVV and it is nice to connect with how it's going in another school. Very similar....my principal made a great analogy using his 3 kids in the swimming pool. Some are ready to dive in the deep water, some still need floaties but are willing to get in, and some don't want to get their toes wet. I know that in the long term, it will make our school a better place for students and teachers. I hope you continue to share about your process. We have created a blog to use as a reflection tool for our PLC, but have not really rolled that out to the faculty yet...don't want to freak them out. I will send you the link when we get it rolling if you wish.
    Again, thanks for sharing.