Experiencing the pendulum swings in education could make a roller coaster fan dizzy. Over the course of my 27 years in education, I have experienced the wild ride as trends zip in & out of fashion.
Along the way, I have lived through both the horrifying (replacing arts education with test prep) and the terrifying (eliminating play in kindergarten).
Those who are making the decisions do not have our children’s best interests at heart or in mind.
Teachers roll their eyes & shake their heads as new programs are rolled out each year.
One big loss in this massive trainwreck is that teachers rarely get the opportunity for personal professional development that is tailored to their needs. Professional development time usually takes the form of watching our colleagues’ heads bounce up and down as we attend useless PD (professional development) meetings. The irrelevant sessions lull us to sleep. We do the chicken as our eyes close, heads drift downwards and then jerk up as we try so hard to stay awake. It’s a dreaded and most boring time.
Our professional development should not feature a dull guest speaker and irrelevant, forgettable power points. We must have guidance as we develop our skills.
In a conversation with a middle school principal this month, I spoke about professional development ideas. He told me about Trios, an innovative and smart approach to professional development that has the potential to improve teaching.
Teachers from different departments or grade levels work in teams of three. Initially, teachers make a list of five teachers that they wish to work with as they are assured that they will be matched with at least one of those teachers.
The three meet and brainstorm different skills they would like to develop as they prepare for a lesson study. Over the course of the year, they videotape themselves teaching at least three lessons. The teachers edit the videos down to ten or fifteen minutes in length. The teachers in the Trio watch and critique certain chosen aspects of their instruction. In other words, not everything is up for examination. Too often, teachers feel threatened by observations. When teachers choose what specific skills will be examined, they are more open to the critique.
The teacher and her partners choose different areas that they wish to improve. Teacher do not grade or evaluate each other. The aim is to offer support and tips to each other that are directly applicable to improving their teaching. The teachers develop their skills and integrate new ideas from the ground up rather than the more typical, let’s invite a guest speaker who never met you to tell you how to teach better.
Teachers also visit each other’s classrooms to learn from each other.
Before implementing Trios, teachers should spend time journaling about their own experiences working on teams, their expectations, fears and hopes for their teaching and the Trio. Another helpful practice is to have an open discussion about the characteristics of a supportive team. Teacher could also practice how to present ideas to each other so they communicate rather than alienate.
Teachers teaching teachers is a great way to build community and improve instruction.