Staff Professional Development Update: June 2015

Staff Professional Development Update: June 2015
Posted on 06/08/2015
At the beginning of May, the Peabody School held their first ever professional retreats for classroom teachers and special educators. Our two full-day retreats (JK-2; 3-5) were held at the Museum of Science Lyman Library and Educator Resource Center.

The retreats were planned with purpose and intention. Teachers were asked to challenge themselves and one another as they explored their teaching practice, reflected on the work of the past year, and prepared for the upcoming school year.

To complement our science initiative / goal as outlined on our School Improvement Plan, Lesley Kennedy, manger of Teacher Professional Development at the Museum of Science, introduced the staff to the many resources available to educators at the museum and specifically the educator resource center. On both dates, we went into the museum exhibit halls to explore as learners with a lens on the National Science and Engineering standards and practices. Jk-2 teachers explored the Discovery Center and 3-5 teachers went in search of specific science practices in the different exhibits throughout the museum.

The staff participated in two different protocols meant to facilitate the sharing of ideas and important information. We selected our protocols from the Resource and Protocol Book compiled by School Reform Initiative: A Community of Learners. SRI, in its own words, is a “network of educators, dedicated to creating transformational learning communities fiercely committed to equity and excellence” (Resource and Protocol Book, p. 1). Furthermore, “protocols are tools for building the skills and culture necessary for reflective dialogue and collaboration” (Resource and Protocol Book, p. 1), hence our desire to actively seek out and use protocols specific to our needs. We believe strongly in the power of collaborative dialogue and reflection and we welcome the guidance and support protocols provide. Compass Points opened our day, “helping us understand how preferences affect our group work (Resource and Protocol Book, p. 154) and Connections, a protocol focused on reflection within the context of a group, guided the conclusion of our retreat.

A portion of the day was structured for teachers to collaborate with grade level colleagues for curriculum planning purposes. Teachers were asked to use and complete a planning tool to assist in their planning efforts. Each grade level team worked in different curriculum areas, specific to the goals and needs of their students. The second grade team, along with a special educator, worked on a literacy and social studies unit on geography. An important slice of the day focused on our School Improvement Plan, an active, living document in our community. Ms. Varella and Ms. Vecchiarello provided the teachers with SIP updates in both ELA and Math. Using a feedback and update form, teachers provided their thoughts and ideas for our plan moving forward, based both on the work we’ve done and their vision of where we need to go next. The Instructional Leadership Team will compile and read all of the feedback, and as a community, we will create a revised plan moving forward.

The introduction and overview of the year-long Data Wise process completed by the fifth grade team, along with Ms. Ford, Ms. Varella, and Ms. Vecchiarello, was one highlight of the day’s agenda. The Data Wise Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education is a program intent to “transform mountains of data on student achievement into an action plan that will improve instruction and increase student learning” (Boudett, City, and Murnane. p.1). Mr. Bob Ettinger, the Superintendent’s intern, invited leadership teams to take on this project and we jumped at the opportunity to participate in this exploration and journey. Ms. Ford, Ms. Varella, Ms. Vecchiarello, Ms. Bielecki, Mr. Kelly, and Ms. Serrao dove into this collaboration to improve teaching and learning at the Peabody. The fifth grade team agreed to take on this challenge and our work focused, this time, on mathematics. What we learned was immense and reached far beyond our original expectations. The experience was transformative, leading us to rethink many of our beliefs and ideas about teaching, learning, and making a difference in the lives of all students. Collectively, we own the theory of action set forth in Chapter 10 of Data Wise: (pp.205-218):
–model the Data Wise Improvement Process and Habits of Mind 

–build the knowledge and skill of others 

–think big, focus small 
–act and adjust quickly, based on evidence 

–capture and share learning 

–build collective skill and confidence 

–extend the work of improvement

Following our Connections protocol, participants were invited to share their ideas and thoughts with a written reflection. Teacher responses were honest, deep, and powerful. All in all, the retreat experiences were positive and a phenomenal use of teacher time as they had the rare chance to discuss important issues and collaborate on their practice. We look forward to continuing our teacher retreats, building on the successes of this year’s outings.