I attended the Ohio ASCD Conference on Tuesday, January 16th and heard former State Superintendent, Stan Heffner, deliver a compelling keynote presentation. He shared the three main correlates of successful schools: instructional leadership, a positive school climate and culture, and frequent monitoring. An example he gave of effective instructional leadership is when teachers share best practices. He said,
“The best professional development in the world is when teachers can collaborate and share ideas.”
I couldn’t agree more. For example, still to this day, the best professional development I ever experienced was being a facilitator for our school’s Critical Friends Group, which was a group of teachers who were given four periods a month to research curriculum, instruction, and assessment strategies, review lesson plans, and reflect on our daily work. It was energizing, relevant, and job-embedded professional learning. I’ve been able to recapture this through the use of social media, but it’s still not quite the same.
One of my goals as a building principal is to use our staff meetings as learning opportunities because it’s one of the few times we are all together at the same time. Admittedly, I have not been as successful with this as I want to be. However, the other day at our staff meeting, the teachers were engaged in meaningful conversations about their best lesson from first semester. Assistant Principal, Tim Gagliardo (@TimGagliardo1), did an outstanding job facilitating this activity. He used story, imagery, and video to introduce the activity. He shared a powerful scene from Dead Poet’s Society to set the stage.
Following the video and introduction, we divided the staff into groups of 8 and asked the following questions:
What was your best lesson/unit from first semester?
What did you enjoy most about it?
What did the students enjoy most about it?
What did the students learn and why?
Once the groups were created, a scribe was assigned per group, and questions posted, the room was energized by the examples being shared, questions asked, laughter, and positive reinforcement. Some examples shared by the scribes are:
Geometry teacher, Tyler Winner, uses Lesson Summary Sheets to increase students’ meta-cognition skills. These were created because numerous students and parents were unaware of their poor grades 2nd quarter. This Summary Sheet has increased attendance to the Pass Room as students can earn 1% on assessments if they get teacher help outside of class. This is helping students develop good study habits and helping the teacher to keep students more accountable.
A.P. Literature, Chris Wagner, helped students put their egos aside and avoid just looking at their essay grade by having students rank all the essays in class. Essays were listed by ID numbers instead of names to keep anonymity and help students to be more critical. Students were very engaged and paid attention to their peer feedback!
English teacher, Becky Rice, designed a lesson devoted to helping students find independent reading material in Honors English 10, which has led to a Google Doc the class uses to share book recommendations and a blog about favorite reads!
One teacher has implemented “Listening Quizzes” to help students pay attention better in class and not just regurgitate what’s in the book or notes, but participate in class discussions more.
Chinese teacher, Mike Kralovic, does a lesson on bargaining. The classroom is set up with little shops and the students are taught how to bargain for the items they want. This exposes them to the language and culture. While they are doing this they call it “Barguing.”
During the Industrial Revolution unit, American History teachers had students look at an invention and figure out why that invention was needed, how it was inspired, and where will it be in the future.
Choir teacher, Jeremy Lahman, uses SoundCloud to record student performances and then posts it on Twitter. The students can assess themselves and this increases engagement because they have a large authentic audience.
There were many more examples shared and it was exciting to take some time to celebrate what is going on in classrooms every day at Gahanna Lincoln High School.