Monday, November 23, 2015

Give Teachers Options

A few weeks back we had a full day professional day for teachers and staff that was focused on providing a more inclusive school for all students.  The professional day focused on four topics:  Social and Emotional Learning, Student learning about Race, English Language Learners and Supporting Transgender and gender questioning students.   The key questions around these topics were: what is one action that we can take "tomorrow' in response to these issues? and 2. What is a longer term action that we can take as an institution to support students around these issues?

The format of the day was to have a presentation on each topic by a pair of teachers and then provide an opportunity for faculty members to process the information further.  The presenter provided a 40 minute presentation, which included student perspectives on the topic.

Teachers had opportunities to choose their own way to process for a half-hour after each presentation. The options to process included:
1.  Go for a walk and process on you own.
2.  Have informal conversations with colleagues
3.  Participate in a facilitated discussion for people who feel like beginners on this topic
4.  Participate in a facilitated discussion for people who feel like experts on this topic

It was a risk for us to take on four very heavy topics in one day, but I think it worked because we gave so much time to process and various opportunities to process.  Additionally, teachers were very appreciative of the different opportunities.  Having observed the beginner and expert discussions, these discussions helped to further learning for all by scaffolding.  During the beginner session the facilitator answered questions and provided basic steps in creating a safe learning environment.  The advanced sessions allowed veteran teachers to further their understanding on each topic and discuss strategies that can be used to help our school move forward.  During the expert race discussiojn, for example,  teachers discussed strategies to empower students to be leaders in addressing issues of race in our school.  

Allowing teachers different options to process allowed us to scaffold learning and teachers were able to choose the option that worked best for their learning style.  Furthermore, one of the positive bits of feedback for the day was that teachers felt respected in having their own way to process.  Many teachers participated in the different discussions.