Monday, October 01, 2007

Sharing Our Staff Development – Session 3

Last week both cohorts met for their third session of the year. Our goals for the session were:

  1. Write a 21C mission (worked on by all 3 groups)

  2. Start working on a 21C Vision.

  3. Learn from their colleagues by observing their classes and then debriefing.

  4. PLN Time: Read. Think. Write. Reflect. Repeat.

Here is the mission statement they came up with:

The 21C Collaborative Learning Community exists to model continuous learning and to encourage innovative use of technology by using constructivist teaching techniques.

Note that this is a mission statement for our staff development group, not for our school as a whole. It focused on why our 21C staff development group exists. Also, please note that I am very carefully using the term “they” – this is their mission statement, not mine. And I don’t mean that in a negative way.

When we started this two years ago, our group was driven somewhat by my vision (along with my planning team’s vision). That was somewhat by necessity and somewhat by design. We made the decision as a planning team not to have the whole mission/vision/values/goals discussion at the start of our staff development, but to go ahead and jump in with readings/discussions/arguments/technology. We felt we really needed to get into all this, the theory and the practice, the technology and the “shifts,” the reflecting and the soul-searching. I don’t know if that was the right decision or not, but it certainly seemed to work out okay. The first year for both cohorts seemed to follow the same pattern. A lot of excitement, then a fair amount of push back, frustration, and even anger, then the groups came together and – while we certainly don’t all agree about everything – there seems to be a general consensus on many things.

Now comes the problem. Now we need to define where we want to go from here. I am really trying to step back and turn control over to the participants in the staff development – that’s why it’s “their” mission statement, not mine. I’ve probably been a little bit too controlling up to this point, wanting to share so many different ideas and resources, and wanting to make sure they find each three-hour session worth their time. It’s tough for me to step back because I think I’m genetically programmed to open my mouth and voice my opinion on just about every topic conceivable, but I think I’ve done a reasonably good job the last few sessions of not doing that (21C folks, you’re welcome to disabuse me of that notion in the comments). But I think we’ve struggled a little bit with this (certainly the second year for Cohort 1 was not as “productive” as the first). We still have a limited amount of time (and energy) to do this and – just like it is for our students – it’s easier if someone is telling you what to do (even if you sometimes think that someone is a little bit nuts). That’s why I think this mission/vision/values/goals discussion is so critical for us right now, because it’s going to determine whether we (as a 21C group) continue to act as a force to improve the teaching and learning at our school, or not. As I try to remove myself more from the process I wonder a lot what my role should be.

Anyway, back to the session description. We also took time during the session to observe one of our colleagues. Since we have three separate sessions (cohort 1 on one day, cohort 2 split into a morning and afternoon group on another day), each group got the opportunity to observe a different teacher for an entire period. This is something that we are always encouraged to do in our school, but it’s hard to find time for. Our focus was on observing different approaches/methods relating to constructivist teaching and/or the use of technology in their classrooms. Technology use was not a requirement, although all three did use some technology in their lessons. We then debriefed immediately following the class with the teacher that was observed present and participating in the debrief. We used a protocol based on Diane Sweeney’s work to guide our debrief. This is not an area that I have any particular expertise in, but it seemed to work fairly well. The feedback on both the usefulness and the process was positive, so we’ll be doing this again in the future.

Finally, we had some Personal Learning Network time – time for folks to read, think, write, reflect and repeat. As usual, we didn’t have enough time to do this well in two of the three sessions, so that’s something we still need to work on.

Their “homework” for next time includes watching the Creativity Panel Presentation (Elizabeth Streb, Michael McCauley, Mary Cullinane, and Francesco Pedro - moderated by Andrew Zolli) from NECC, and doing some more thinking about the vision statement for 21C.


  1. Your mother and I take exception to your statement that you're genetically programmed to voice your opinion on any subject... programmed, maybe, but not genetically so!


  2. Perhaps "genetically" was not the appropriate word choice. Then again, you were compelled to comment . . .