Sunday, December 24, 2017

Your Best Self: The Power of a Learning Network

This week I had lunch with a group of teachers from 3 neighboring school districts.  The group is a part of a consortium of educators working in our county to support creativity and innovation in our classrooms.  We had just finished a classroom visit where an eclectic team of teachers planned a lesson together and one implemented it while the co-creators observed.  (Think “lesson study”, but a hacked version that better met the needs of our team.)

The team reflected on the lesson, highlighting the evidence of learning from the students who were engaged in a variety of tasks, all centered on the holidays.  The students collaborated, used technology to research, and discussed their learning.  They persevered through some challenges which resulted in the creation of a cool hands-on project.  Some students succeeded quickly, where others failed and tried again.  Some worked cooperatively, while other worked alone.  Students had voice and choice in where they sat and who they worked with.  It was a very positive visit for all involved, but it was the reflection from the teachers that made it all worth it.  

Over lunch, the team described the way that they worked together as educators.  (This hacked lesson study was a part of a 2 month project with multiple classroom visits.)  They shared how they had texted each other last night with a new twist on the lesson.  They talked about their plans for what they wanted to do next.  They wondered about the possibilities of a classroom swap.  Their enthusiasm was truly infectious!

Keep in mind, these aren’t teachers who knew each other well or were friends outside of this project.  These are teachers from three very different school districts, all teaching completely different subjects and grade levels—elementary, middle school social studies, high school English, and high school biology.  They were assigned to a group to participate in this professional learning endeavor through our consortium, but somehow have come together to become an innovative thinking powerhouse.

The team gushed about the energy they felt during the morning’s lesson.  They marveled over the skills and empowerment that the students demonstrated during the lesson.  They begged (pretty much) to continue working together because they loved the opportunity to visit each other’s classrooms and share insights on how to improve their instruction.  They confessed that they wouldn’t want to work on any other team—that their placement on this team felt so right.  They asked to take on a leadership role within our consortium and were overjoyed at the thought of being able to mentor new teachers coming into the project in the New Year.  They continued to brainstorm ideas and talk about things they wanted to pursue together.  Professional learning is their passion.

As their colleague and “coach”, I am amazed at their drive to become better educators.  I am ecstatic about the possibilities for these teachers to be leaders and learners, but I think one teacher summed it up best when she said:

“When I’m with this team, I’m my best self!”

And that my friends, is the power of a professional learning network.  As you reflect on 2017 and consider what you will accomplish in 2018, I hope that you surround yourself with a team that helps you to become your best self.

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