Ideas and Innovations

from the DISD Curriculum & Instruction Department, Feb 2017

Our Best Source for Professional Development is Each Other!

This month's C&I Newsletter is devoted to teachers learning from other teachers. There is no need to go far to learn new ways to engage students and increase learning. All we need to do is look next door & down the hall....teachers in your own building can teach us so much! The C&I Department is challenging you this semester to get out and see the awesome teaching and learning that is happening everyday on your own campus, and learn from some of the very best....EACH OTHER!

Where the Magic Really Happens

It has been said that once a teacher closes the door to the classroom and begins teaching, that is when the magic begins to happen. And that is so true! I remember those special days, secure in my classroom, at ease with the group of students sitting with me, when I knew the magic of learning was happening all was tangible! Those days still inspire and motivate me. They also make me wonder...what if we had the opportunity to see ALL of the magic that happens in a school, not just in one classroom?

More than the smoke and mirrors of some magic acts, pulling rabbits out of hats, or confounding card tricks, the magic of teaching and learning is present everyday...right in front of us, or next door, or down the hall! Take advantage of the expertise and skill that is present on your campus. These are just some of the benefits that you can hope for as you take time to see the practices and behaviors of the people you work with on a daily basis.

from "The Best Staff Development is in the School" by Catherine McGuinness:

We learn best when we are teaching, discussing, contributing and building together. It is time, that we as educators build a collaborative environment not only for our students but also for our teachers to communicate both within and outside of the classroom. We need to foster an environment that states that it is ok if I don't have all the answers, but I know where to go to find that information. This will foster greater collaboration and most importantly we will be teaching our students to work collaboratively by modeling this behavior for them.

from "Open Your Door: Why We Need to See Each Other Teach" by Jennifer Gonzalez"

1. Seeing Each Other Succeed

  • Because teaching is such a complex act, the variations in how we do it are endless. It’s highly likely that someone else in your building is better at something than you are. By watching the way our colleagues teach, we pick up tricks and techniques that we can take into our own rooms.
2. Seeing Each Other Fail
  • Failure can lead to constructive criticism, which will help you grow. In our work, we can do [this] for each other .. Gently point out areas for improvement and support each other through the growing pains.
3. The Intangibles
  • Attitudes, pacing, small calibrations that make things work a little better. And it happens especially when you observe people who teach the same students you teach. If you are in elementary, go along with your students to specials every now and then and see how that teacher deals with them. In middle school, arrange to have your class covered on a test day so you can observe someone else on your team. Seeing your students with another person gives you ideas you never would have come up with on your own.
Bonus - A United Front
  • Something powerful happens when students see their teachers together. You become larger than the sum of your parts, stronger not only in number, but because this simple show of cooperation tells them you are united, which is an important message to send to kids.

So, look at your weekly schedule. When can you squeeze into another classroom for 10 or 15 minutes? Your Academic Team could plan to take part of one day's meeting to check out the teaching in another part of the school. Your grade-level team could spend part of the next PLC observing a different grade level. On your own, you could spend a few minutes of your conference or lunch period just checking out what happens in someone else's room.

Time is tight, and teachers are busy...I know. But, believe me, the minutes you spend in another teacher's room may be the best minute per minute professional development you have ever experienced. Try it! I know you'll see and learn something new! And once you've seen the magic'll keep looking for new magicians to observe and new tricks to try!!

Getting Started - simple ways to invite other teachers and professional learning into your classroom

Shanna McCracken, Curriculum Coordinator

Another way to learn from teachers in our district, follow DISD on Twitter @DISDBroncoPride!