Kudos to our professional development committee for planning collaborative round table discussions for our PD day today. I got to facilitate one on the topic of differentiated instruction: 16 teachers, mostly veterans, many of us having taught together for years, sitting around a cluster of desks discussing a topic that none of us are experts in, but all of us want to know more about. I presented what I do, other's shared what they did, and we all asked questions of each other, not always agreeing, but hopefully all coming away with something.
I did, anyway. Here are my top five takeaways:
5) A new idea: differentiated semester and final exams. (Hey, if we should be
differentiating assignments, why not summative assessments?)
4) A challenge. By presenting my own strategies, I was forced to question them. they didn't sound quite so watertight as they normally do in my head or on paper. And that's good. I need to be always challenging my own ideas and exposing them to others. That's the only way I'll improve them.
3) New knowledge. I feel like I know my colleagues a little better--got a peak inside their classrooms and their heads and hearts.
2) Encouragement. I came away refreshed by the honest dialogue and encouraged by the
obvious passion of my colleagues for improving their practice and
helping students succeed. (My favorite part was a spontaneous discussion of risk-taking.) And encouraged the camaraderie of colleagues engaged in a common struggle.
1) Confirmation. Our time together was further confirmation of
the power of the collaborative approach to PD. My colleagues a source of tons of ideas, insight and experience, and we are literally all part of the same team, working toward the same goal, and it's only going to be through this kind of honest discussion that the whole school will improve. This is where the real fears, difficulties, and visions emerge, get ironed out, refined, hashed out, and grow.
Teamwork. Synergy. Collaboration. Whatever you want to call it. It's how humans work best.