Grateful. Celebrating the awesomeness all around us.

I fell off the blogging wagon. Again. Sigh. Back on — here we go…

On this Thanksgiving we often reflect on our blessings we have in our lives. I have so many — a loving family, two of the most amazing parents who have instilled so much in me, connections within education policy and the local and state political world who continue to make me better all-around and build capacity, a circle of friends from all walks of life who share a tight bond with me, the list goes on.

I’m focusing today on the school community. 2019 alone. Nearly halfway through the school year and things have already shaped up to be an amazing school year. I’m so blessed to work with one, if not the best, administrative teams in our school district. I learn so much from my three administrative colleagues daily — we truly make each other better daily.

As their grade level administrator, I expect a lot from the teachers I lead. They know I’m right there with them every step of the way — expecting them to go above and beyond while taking risks throughout. I model by example often with the latter. They all rise to the occasion day in day out which is why I truly celebrate them so often in a variety of methods — notes, Twitter shouts, verbal praises in public spaces, etc. Be intentional — and always authentic.

IMG_2131

I’m grateful. Grateful to not only work along such phenomenal school leaders but also so many teacher leaders willing and often requesting to go well above and beyond the call of duty. My kind of people. Positivity. Grit. #TeamKidsFirst . They all go such a long way. Celebrate ongoing and as always in an authentic manner.

IMG_1969

IMG_1990-1

Celebrate successes. Faculty and students alike. Positive praise, ongoing communication in a variety of methods to parents, faculty and students are powerful. Be intentional, reflective and authentic. Celebrate success. Ongoing.

I have much to be grateful for. Legit. I’m lucky. Even luckier to work with so many truly amazing people who push me to #BecomeBetter and #StriveForGreatness daily. Blessed.

Authentic education advocacy. Take the risk.

In this blog space I post about three things with a fair amount of consistency – authenticity, taking risks along with the ongoing importance of adding value to ourselves and others.

I also post about the importance of educators advocating. In North Carolina, where the vast majority of funding for public education comes from the state level, I would argue, is even more important than many states in the nation due to our funding structure. Below is a link from the local NPR affiliate that takes a deep dive into public education funding in North Carolina.

https://www.wunc.org/post/10-questions-understand-school-funding-nc

Living in the Triangle, we are blessed with having fairly easy and ongoing access to our state legislature (North Carolina General Assembly), ongoing news coverage specific to state government and the ability to have discussions with house and senate members.

The past two years, educators from around the state have gathered in Raleigh to rally for increased per pupil spending, pay increases to our classroom teachers, school administrators, support personnel, etc. as well as more overall support and genuine respect for public education in general from our state legislature. These events have been very well attended and covered both at the local and national level.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229849024.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/01/us/south-carolina-teachers-protest-may-1/index.html

IMG_1517

 

While the majority of those that attended the May 1 event (and similarly last year) teachers made up the lion’s shared of those “in red.” As a school administrator, I proudly stood by the teachers I support in and around the school on a daily basis who were downtown doing their part. I did this last year and I did it again this year as well. Never a bit of hesitation. https://brendanfetters.com/2018/05/19/20000-nc-educators-marched-now-what/

While I was so pleased with strong turnouts, a well organized event by NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators — National Education Association affiliate) both years I was very disappointed with the lack of educators wanting to go inside and have meetings with members. It is not a secret that I spend a few hours, afternoons and even days sometimes at the legislative building downtown lobbying members of both parties for increased education spending, support in the form of the annual budget, bond proposals for new school construction, etc. I know my way around Jones Street and the halls of both the NCGA and legislative office building pretty well at this point after several years of education policy involvement.

 

A lot of educators are fearful of going inside the legislative building. Fearful of having discussions with members about their profession. This is an unspoken level of discomfort that goes beyond just education – to the general public as well.

I recently had coffee with my state representative one Saturday morning. She asked how the ‘Day of Action’ went. I articulated my concern that so many of my brothers and sisters in education had little to no desire to join me in post-rally meetings even though I had done the legwork of setting up several meetings with key house and senate meetings after the event. Rep. Adcock made it very clear the importance that constituents realize that members are not experts in all walks of life.

Who knows what’s best for the needs and concerns of a family farm in eastern Wake County the best? A farmer who is working ground in that specific region. Who knows what’s best for a hospital in rural western North Carolina? A nurse or doctor in a hospital. rural western North Carolina. Who best knows the needs of K-12 education in their specific area of the state? A teacher or school administrator in that member’s specific area of the state.

Our voice is powerful. Our opinions matter. Do not assume that we are insignificant in the decisions going forward. As I’ve blogged about it the past we have power at our fingertips – utilize these resources and run with them.

https://brendanfetters.com/2017/12/17/get-informed-leave-the-sideline-take-a-seat-at-the-table/

Rallies can be powerful – authentic conversations with people making policy decisions directly effecting our profession are even more. Take a risk. Add value to you, your colleagues and the profession. Advocate.

 

 

Being genuine in all walks professionally and personally – wrapping up 2018-19

I haven’t blogged much this school year. 4 times to be exact. I’ve fallen off the blogging “wagon” – I’ll own it. No excuses. My last post was New Year’s Day.

The 2018-19 school year has been very rewarding. Plenty of challenges, growth opportunities and inspirational moments galore mixed in. I’ve also backed off on my tweeting lately devoting more time to diving deeper with supporting students,  teachers, support personnel, school community  while advocating at the state and local level for public education at an increased level.

I’m back. Back to blogging. Back to picking up the “twitter game.” On Twitter there is often a lot of talk. Many educators are strong at sounding fantastic behind their keyboard or phone. A lot is sincere but also all too often superficial. Self promotion masked as “best for kids” and “best for education.”

079BCF57-F112-43F0-9CD2-2F58F6731776

IMG_1517

Allow me to catch up. As articulated in an earlier blog this school year it is vital that we lead intentionally by showing genuine gratitude for those we supervise daily. For me this year it included a group outing over the Holiday season to a hockey game, joining up at the ‘Day of Action’ education rally downtown Raleigh with teachers (see above), showing authentic appreciation beyond Teacher Appreciation week gifts (below), etc. The list goes on.

IMG_1571

IMG_1286

For me, I have been determined daily to be present. Rarely in my office. Intentional at being present in the hallways and in classrooms. Daily. Students are never saying “Mr. Fetters is here…” or teachers asking “Do you need something?” My presence is part of the daily flow for the teachers I serve. This is true no matter how stressful or busy the day is – you make time. My presence in classrooms should never be anywhere near limited to teacher observations. Ever.

IMG_1440

IMG_1113

Being visible and getting to know the staff you directly oversee is vital. Everyone has a story. Get to know the gist. This includes students just as much.

 

Be yourself. Be authentic. Build capacity in others. Work smarter. Share your space. #BecomeBetter together.

IMG_1663

IMG_0456IMG_0240

Be yourself. Be honest. Be true. Be genuine. Authentic.

IMG_1648

School administrators – work with your team to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone to be the best leader you can be. For the sake of the students, staff and school community. #StriveForGreatness. 2018-19 was a fantastic ride and sure am looking forward to what 2019-20 brings.

IMG_0125

#OneWord2019: Inspire

The holiday season is behind us. A new year has started. As I relax watching the annual NHL Winter Classic following a productive walk around the North Carolina Museum of Art trail earlier today, I’m pondering the year ahead.

img_0919

In life both personal and career there are always goals. Goals within leadership, health, prosperity, family, friends, etc. I want to increase capacity within others. I want to continue to lead with passion to strengthen others in significant ways. I want to inspire. Far beyond my infamous #SundayInspiration quote tweets.

IMG_0918

The framework has been set: https://brendanfetters.com/2018/02/17/relationships-relationships-relationships-the-foundation-for-all-aspects-of-education/

The results of that capacity evident: https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/1075524399716069376

https://brendanfetters.com/2018/12/23/shifting-from-thanks-for-all-you-do-to-genuine-gratitude/

https://brendanfetters.com/2018/12/02/adding-and-receiving-value-from-those-around-us/

New year. New challenges. New Word. Inspire. Push those directly and indirectly to be the best that they truly can.

The music and lyrics of the legendary country singer and songwriter David Lee Murphy perhaps put it best in his 2004 song, Inspiration. Something we all should aspire to do: inspire others.

 

Shifting from “thanks for all you do” to genuine gratitude

“Thanks for all you do.” This has to be one of the most over-used and superficial phrases of “gratitude” uttered in our society today. Personally, I’ve long despised this phrase – with a passion. Why? For starters this is so ridiculously vague. It’s not personal, specific or even meaningful.

The Holiday season is upon us. A time for showing gratitude. How do we show those that we serve, work with, co-exist in this space that we genuinely care?

At my school, our administrative team is divided by grade levels. This school year, I knew very early on in the year I was blessed with an extremely special group of educators. Often and ongoing I let them know I cared deeply in a genuine way for each of them. Daily rounds, often leaving notes, sending a tweet or a quick “hey, I really liked —- within your lesson today,” etc.

I truly went above and beyond for them daily the entire first semester. My office was rarely occupied most days because of my strong presence around the building – especially within learning spaces.

As Thanksgiving came and went I was determined to do something special for this far beyond “thanks for all you do – happy holidays” type lines, candy, cards, etc. Purchase Starbucks? Nah, already did that last year. Dinner? Nah, not unique enough. Then an advertisement came on our local NBC affiliate in the Raleigh-Durham, NC market for the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team. Bingo. That was it.

Immediately I made up my mind. I was going to call the Hurricanes organization in the morning and inquire about group tickets. No backing down. After discussing this with my boss and thinking on it a week after getting a price quote from the ‘Canes sales rep. I made it happen.

48394531_10156468912480804_3966053782734766080_n

Last weekend, over 15 educators and some of their spouses enjoyed fellowship, laughs and most of all staff bonding over the world’s greatest sport (in my humble opinion) it was simply magnificent. Yes this was a huge investment both time wise and fiscally but it backed up so much of what I constantly say and do over and over. The teachers I serve truly matter greatly and I was determined to demonstrate this. Truly priceless.

48365917_10156468912450804_7240116054079307776_n

When you tell someone “you’re significant” and “you matter” are you being genuine? Is there authentic meaning behind this or are you giving more of a “thanks for all you do” answer. Words matter. Actions are greater.

48369466_10156468912565804_5142080471932338176_n

This holiday season and ongoing strive to always demonstrate authentic gratitude in your actions no matter the situations life throws our way.

48385341_10156468912685804_6884507811535912960_n

Receiving a holiday card like the one at the bottom of this post with such genuine words on it from the above referenced people makes it all worthwhile after all.

48407451_10156474916965804_3274560195493101568_n

Adding and receiving value from those around us

The 2018-19 school year has been a sprint. Nonstop. So much learning and growing with a workflow that that can often be intense. Blogging has fallen off my radar these past few months. I’ll admit it. I’ve articulated such many times over the course of the past weeks especially.

However, today something powerful happened. No not me jumping back on the blogging horse – beyond that. A group of three district peers and friends Michael Parker West, Erica Everett, Terrance Hinnat and I met for a few hours to discuss school community and how it connects to the powerful EdNC article from our fellow district colleague Christina Spears (who unfortunately was unable to attend)

https://www.ednc.org/2018/05/31/building-community-beyond-the-classroom-walls/

This professional development session while small was powerful. Three school administrators and one aspiring administrator gathering on a Sunday afternoon at Panera over warm beverages and side items to dive deep into successes, similarities we’ve seen, are aiming to achieve, etc. in alignment with Mrs. Spears’ article.

This all came to be a few weeks ago with Erica reaching out to around 20 district peers via email. The collective group had a choice of meeting dates/times to choose from with today being the eventual winner.

During the course of our meeting we all realized that each of us had connected directly or indirectly from Twitter over the course of the last 2-3 years. We have become so close as district peers that each of us had lost sight of that. What a strong connection tool Twitter is. It has enhanced all of our personal learning but also school community bonding through hashtags. #WendellHowlout and #WeAreCarroll are significant school community connection drivers for Mr. West and myself at our respective schools for sure.

While district and school learning is always strong, sometimes the learning and personal connections we choose are the most powerful. Who knew a colleague-initiated two hour meeting on a fall Sunday afternoon in Raleigh with 4 district colleagues would be so powerful? It was.

Value added. Value received.

Add-Value-Time-Nadazone-1024x410

Unplug, unwind, relax and recharge

No matter your role in education there is one constant – the work is tough. Consuming, involved, detailed and challenging are all words that could easily describe the overarching work we collectively do on a daily basis. Rewarding, inspirational, exciting and engaging are all words that could describe the work as well.

No matter your aspect in this work whether an elementary classroom teacher, central office administrator, high school counselor or middle school assistant principal, you’re constantly on – pedal to the metal from August to June when the school year ends.

As connected educators sometimes we never slow down. Even those of us working all or part of the summer sometimes don’t take time to slow down, cut off and self-care. We’re always learning, growing, reading, blogging, PDing, etc. on top of other professional obligations. I know this because I’m often guilty of such as well year after year.

This year I put a stop to that. The month of July — I all but cut off. Very little tweeting, no blogging, no professional reading, a month related to self-care. Why? I knew when August 1 came it was going to be pedal to the metal. Nonstop until the end of the school year. The blogging would come (here it is!) the professional literature, books, resources, tweeting, Twitter chats, vlogs, etc. would all be there to enhance the work.

The value of self-care is well documented by a wide variety of extremely reputable resources:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/self-care-living-life-according-to-your-values/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/payout/2017/09/19/practicing-self-care-is-important-10-easy-habits-to-get-you-started/

 

IMG_0039

Spending several days on my family’s farm in Ohio away from the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced world of the city and our profession personifies being cut-off. Peaceful. Calm. The above photo captures the essence of that. The learning, growing and work will be there. At the end of the day when we have time to invest in ourselves we need to do such. I’m grateful I have and encourage my brothers and sisters in education to do more of this. I’m all for professional growth, but I’m also for the value of self-care as well. Sometimes we fail as the later. Its vital we invest in that too.

We live in a fast paced world and work in a profession that is rapid as well. This requires us to be on – ongoing. Cutting off, resting and relaxing for a full month has been incredible. I’ve continued being on during my time off many times before. This go around I’m so thankfully for cutting off because I’m completely refreshed and recharged. Ready to take on the 2018-19 academic year like none other!

The power of Twitter, being a connected educator and the PLN on my career

Blogger’s note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in May 2016. 

twitter-app

Introduction 

As a 4th grade teacher in urban Raleigh, NC going into the 2011-12 school year my forward-thinking principal came up with an iniative that was, at the time, very progressive within public education. The summer leading up to the new school year, he was reading up more and more about the power Twitter had on education if utilized effectively by key stakeholders within the building. Despite being around, 4-5 years at this time, Twitter wasn’t really utilzed by anyone in education and was seen globally as a way for folks to put their opinions out there and “connect” with their favorite celebrites. Thankfully for me, this former boss of mine opened my eyes to this groundbreaking technology that has truly revolutionalized my career on many levels.

How it started

In those inservice days ahead of the 2011-12 school year officially starting, my former principal introduced our staff to Twitter. As a seasoned educator who was always forward thinking, I immediately saw the potential benefits.

To maximize the effects of Twitter, my former boss had every certified faculty member on staff from classroom teachers, intervention coaches, specialists, counselor, etc. create a Twitter account. It was then expected that every certified staff member sent out three tweets per week. This gained traction as the year rolled along with the message being engrained within the school culture. Every “school messenger” phone call that went to home to parents included mention of Twitter, being sure to follow your child’s teacher on Twitter and basics of Twitter/sign up information on the website and many letters going home from the school of with students. The PTA was on board, classroom teachers and as the year progressed, more and more parents.

As a classroom teacher that year I started to really cherish the social media platform. After the first quarter I found myself tweeting more and more and ecliplsing the “minimum requirement” for tweets. I continued to promote the platform with parents and by the middle of the school year over half of the parents in my classroom followed me on Twitter. As my following increased so did my tweets. I was now not just tweeting but adding photos of student work, promoting upcoming classroom projects, and dabbling with school-wide function promotions. By the end of the 2011-12 school year I was sold. Twitter for educational purposes was the real deal. What an effective way to reach out to parents when you promote it and stand by it.

The 2011-12 school year was a gamechanger for my career. After that school year I started to branch out more and more with the usage, classroom promotion spawned into school wide promotion, then district promotion. Photos, videos, and my network started to grow.

Beginnings of the PLN

Network? Yes, the Professional Learning Network (PLN) It started out as connectivity with educators I knew from around my district getting ideas for curriculum, school promotion, PBIS implementation, etc. Then I began reaching out to educators outside of the district from around our state…folks I never even met in person but came highly recommended from others. Then this spawned to nationally and even internationally. Before long, a few years after this whole classroom Twitter started I had a strong PLN of connected educators from literally all over the nation and beyond.

Through the usage of Twitter, I became more connected with educators from North Carolina through #NCed bi-weekly chats, EdCamps throughout our state and school visits of connected educators throughout my PLN. EdCamps, while powerful face to face conversations about various areas of importance within education also serve as a great connectivity/tweetup tool as well as a fantastic way to grow your PLN.

In my current position as an elementary curriculum coach, I utilize Twitter for two key reasons: school promotion and academic resources from my PLN. I’m in classrooms K-5 daily and if something amazing is going on (which is often) at our school I’m taking a photo of it and Tweeting it out utilizing our school-wide hashtag. Teachers come to me all the time for advice about curriculum and content that goes beyond our pacing guides and curriculum mapping provided by the district. I get a lot of my answers along with great articles from my PLN via Twitter. By the same token, I’m able to contribute a lot of my knowledge with other educators through my PLN. It’s truly a win-win.

Next steps

Beyond Twitter and EdCamps, I also utilize the Voxer app, mainly with a group of connected educators from around our state, which adds text, voice (walkie-talkie style) and photo as another layer of connectivity. Voxer is actually how I helped get assistance/advice when coming up with a hashtag to utilize at my current school. I wanted something simple, short, yet effective. I posed the question via voice with Voxer and within a few hours had feedback from 10-15 leading educators from around North Carolina to assist in hashtag ideas based on the information I’d given (school initials, PBIS theme, mascot, etc) now we have a great one that accomplished all the goals I had lined up.

Today, Twitter/Tweetdeck as a resource and connectivity tool are as much a part of my day as email, face to face conversations, walk-arounds, meetings/trainings at our central office, PLCs, etc. I’m so thankful for this platform to opening my eyes to far more than just the walls of how things are done in my school and even district.

I’m thankful to work in a very Twitter-friendly school district that embraces the technology for many of the reasons mentioned above and even has it’s own bi-weekly chat (#WCPSSchat) now which is connecting more and more intra-district (and visitors) educators.

Whether you’re just getting started with Twitter, moderate or advanced, I highly recommend the following three books:

http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Leadership-Changing-Paradigms-Times/dp/1452276617/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461528525&sr=8-1&keywords=digital+leadership+by+eric+sheninger

http://www.amazon.com/What-Connected-Educators-Do-Differently/dp/1138832006/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461528686&sr=8-1&keywords=what+connected+educators+do+differently

http://www.amazon.com/School-Passionately-Promote-Positives-Happening/dp/0986155527/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461528717&sr=8-1&keywords=your+school+rocks

The power of being a connected educator through EdCamps, Twitter & Voxer

Blogger’s note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in June 2016. edcamp-leadership

Connectivity

As the 2015-16 school year has wrapped up and we are now a few weeks into summer break, now is the perfect time to reflect on the power of connectivty within our profession. What does it truly mean to be a “connected educator?” Hmmmm. A few months ago, I made my initial leap into blogging with the following post: http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/the-power-of-twitter-being-a-connected-educator-and-the-pln-on-my-career?post_id=10153918982425804_10153918987765804#_=_ Read at your own leisure if you choose but that post essentially maps out my 5 year journey through being a connected educator and explains in short what the term means to me.

While Twitter is the longest standing form of connectivty related to my profession followed by EdCamps and most recently Voxer the three are all of equal importance to my continued growth, learning and connecting.

EdCamp movement

I first heard the term EdCamp 4 years ago while a 4th grade teacher. A first year teacher who I served as an unofficial mentor to mentioned this concept to me, showed me a video overview (which is actually one of the links listed at the bottom of this post) and asked my thoughts. She knew I was very forward thinking and already heavily connected via Twitter for eduational enrichment purposes. I liked what I saw but the movement was just getting started and I didn’t have buy-in from connected educators. I wasn’t ready to make that leap.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013. At this point I was out of the classroom serving as a school-based Administrative Intern. At this point I became connected through Twitter with Dr. Steven Weber who at that time was principal at Hillsborough Elementary in nearby Orange County Schools (NC) along with a parent at our school, Mr. Nathan Stevens who was heavily involved with the makerspace movement through his position with the College of Education media services at NC State University. Both Steven and Nathan took me under their wing and highly encouraged me to check out this “new thing” called an EdCamp. They’d both been to a few “camps” and encouraged me to go to one that fall in Raleigh – EdCamp NC. I attended. My first EdCamp I just listened, took it all in – valuable PD but the unconference layout took time to understand and soak in. However, I was a believer. Later that spring along with a colleague, attended EdCamp Rowan in Salisbury, NC and became more involved. Connecting face to face with educational leaders from around the state and having rich discussions and learning sessions about our profession in a school setting. Hooked. From then on I, I started spreading the word about EdCamps and have since attended EdCamps in Charlotte, another in Raleigh, and returned to Salisbury the following few years. This year, I’m on the planning committee for the second annual EdCamp Leadership NC held in Raleigh. In a mere three years I’ve gone from skeptic to firm believer in this process. It’s not just me. I’m fortunate to work in the Wake County Public School System, not only one of the largest districts in the nation but also most progessive. My district is constantly a leader in “the next thing” and I’m proud to say has played host to several EdCamps which continue to grow in strength and attendance. The movement is truly grassroots and growing. It takes some encouragement and and arm twisting at times to get folks to go to that first EdCamp, just like it took Dr. Weber and Mr. Stevens years ago but I’m thankful they did…and I’ve “paid it forward” to countless colleagues in my district and throughout my PLN encouraging them to attend and in turn their new love spawns similar results.

Voxer

I’ve been on Voxer for a year now. I’ll admit prior to a little over a year ago, I had never even heard of the iOS and Andriod app. I was sold at EdCamp Leader NC last summer on the value of this app as an educator. One of the sessions was about Voxer. I attended only because I had heard bits and pieces about this app and wanted to learn more. Wow. Blown away. In that session so many statewide “heavy weights” within education…all talking about Voxer and specifically #NCed Voxer group. Now I was familiar with the #NCed chat hashtag and “group” as it had been (and continues to be) very much a “go to” for me content and quiestion bouncing wise. But this group – conversations could be text, photo or VOICE? Oh my goodness – next level. My inner-nerd went into overdrive – huge. From right there in that sessions one of the group admins added me and from that moment on I at least follow from afar with the 100 or so members from around the state sometimes chiming in text or voice commentary. Easily as much learning happens for me educationally in that Voxer group as does on Twitter. Valuable. Please check it out. If you’re a North Carolina educational leader in any capacity hit me up and we’ll ensure you can join the conversation.

Conclusion

Wrapping it up, this journey as a connected educator I equate as a 5 year journey with the train going down the tracks and just now starting to speed up. I’m excited what the future of this journey will bring not only to me as a professional but also what can help me in adding value to the colleagues I work with directly, indirectly and the studens we all serve. Powerful doesn’t do it justice.

At the bottom of this post I’ve included several articles and links which are all great introductions to EdCamps, Twitter and Voxer. All worth checking out no matter your level in the process of connectivity.

Lastly, a huge shout out to Dr. Steven Weber and Mr. Nathan Stevens for adding significant value to my connectivity as an educator. You can follow both at: @curriculumblog and @nathan_stevens

Resources

http://edcampleadernc.weebly.com

http://edcamponline.weebly.com/what-is-edcamp.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7DwCI7j0Bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svHXvjwcc1c

http://www.edudemic.com/guides/guide-to-twitter/

http://blog.voxer.com/2014/06/06/connecting-educators-through-voxer/

21st century professional development

Blogger’s note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in July 2016. 

504f633ee1f8607b40d8d79c2389bb60

Modern Day PD

2016-17 will mark my 12th year in education. I’ve seen a lot change in my decade plus both in methodolgy, styles of teacher learning, student learning, the rise of social media for edu learning/connecting, etc. Considering my mother was a career eduator, I’ve literally been around the education setting my entire life and have seen a lot of changes within our profession both directly and indirectly.

One of the biggest shifts from the professional lens has been the way we receive professional development. With budget cuts to resources gone are the days often times when a large percentage of a staff could travel long distances to see speakers at workshops for PD then bring the contents back to the remainder of the faculty. This still remains to a point but most of the PD is site-based. As we shift from the traditional “sit and get” PD more and more, how do we effectively ensure our teachers, the most ones who have the most important positions in the school…the backbone of the faculty if you will receive PD effectively?

As a curriculum coach, this is one of the hurdles I’m faced with (one of the many hats I have in my position) while I’m afforded some of those traveling PD experiences mentioned above many times, I too, am not and the PD has to be school based.

I’ve learned to get creative. First of all, every school has a lot of experts in certain areas. Think about it. Coming from the elementary lens, ever school has a few teachers who really and truly excel in guided reading instruction, or introduction of CCSS multiplication methods, always on the cutting edge of classroom education apps, Daily 5 integration, 4Cs woven into literature, the list goes on. Utilizing these “in house” experts is huge! As opposed to the principal, assistant principal, myself or someone from our district central office coming out to give PD, while we can assist, teachers love learning from their peers that are “in the trenches” with them. We’ve had great success with this model at my current school and previous school as well. It’s a win-win gets some teachers out of their comfort zones by recognizing skills they have and would benefit sharing with peers and teachers are learning from eachother in personalized PD settings this way no one is learning things they already know about, have previously heard, already are experts on, etc. This makes the PD much, much more meaningful.

Being in the 21st century brings about all sorts of new technology. Example. Last spring one of our Kindergarten teachers came to me asking about the Seesaw app she had heard about. I mentioned that I had a connection on the other side of our school district who was a Seesaw ambassador and had already mentioned to me doing a PD at our school for interested faculty. I hyped it to our faculty enough that the entire staff was interested in at least learning. So…. we did a Google Hangout PD. The staff had their laptops, could see and hear my friend (45 min away) ask questions and she could see our progress in live time. It was truly meaningful PD! The link below is a tweet from the event….https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/719628291074826240

Visting another workspace

Another way to grow as professionals is by visiting other educators’ workspaces, seeing them “in action.” The Science specialist at the school I serve is dynamic – always on the top of her game, asking questions, attending district encouraged Science kit PD, learning and growing. The students love learning from Mrs. Hodges and we’re lucky to have such a great educator at our school. However, she wanted to learn more. She came to me with ideas for PD beyond what she was getting. Immediately I came up with taking a day, visiting two schools within our district one middle, one elementary and seeing two amazing Science teachers in action to see how they interact in their work spaces and asking questions during down time. I spent a day with Abigail at these two schools having amazing observation experiences, discussions both with the teachers, students about their learning and eachother at the end of the day about what we saw and how Mrs. Hodges could apply what she saw into her practice. Talk about meaningful PD – she still mentions it and clearly so do I…. https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/717829739734507525

EdCamps

Edcamps are a wonderful way for educators to learn and grow professionally – at your own pace and skillset. I’ve blogged in ASCD EDge before about the power of EdCamps and they still remain true. If there is one in your area and you’ve never attended – GO. Take a leap of faith. I promise you won’t regret. If you’ve been before encourage peers in your school and/or district to go that have never attended. Everyone gets a lot out of EdCamps and it’s always a good use out of a Saturday or Monday morning and afternoon! https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/752508358398271489

PLN

Of course, in my opinion, the most powerful PD out there is your PLN (professional learning network) via Twitter & Voxer. It takes time to build and maintain an effective PLN but it’s so worth the investment. Feel free to check out my blog post from a few months back on this very topic if you’re not connected……yet.

In education today within professional development, you have to be willing to think outside the box. Both from content, delivery and being respectful of your faculty’s time. Never lose sight of the later. I truly believe the teachers have the most vital role in the school – we need to honor and respect that. Not by giving them “one more thing” in PD but rather PD that is truly meaningful for every faculty member. It takes more on the planning end but will be worth it in the end by a mile.