When we set out last spring to design a “Choose Your Own Adventure” professional learning opportunity, we were confident we had created something meaningful and unique. We were less confident that we would have any takers. We did our due diligence, created a promotional video to inform the potential participants, created a construct for teachers to earn activity related points which would equal professional development hours, and established some dates for face-to-face workshops that would help enlighten our colleagues about Teaching Channel and the power of Tch Teams.
This past fall, our extremely supportive principals and district administrators shared that promotional video and enthusiastically served as cheerleaders for our work. By November, we had ten very diverse teams ready to take on the challenge. Our inaugural class of Teams participants included reading, physical education, art, music, English, social studies, science, and special education teachers. Our Teams also represented each level — elementary, middle, and high school. We were pleased with the number of teams as well as the scope of the departments and grade-levels represented.
Throughout the year we stayed in contact with our Teams, sending them several Tch Teams update videos that we had recorded to help all participants pace themselves and to feel supported. We uploaded these videos to our “umbrella” team for all teachers participating on their own individual Teams. This was an easy way for all Tch Teams participants to connect and get any questions that they had about the process answered.
As the first year drew nearer to a close, we sent out a Google Survey to all Teams members. We asked questions that allowed participants to rate their experience with this opportunity, to share any feedback they felt was applicable to their experience, to reflect on how Tch Teams benefited their practice, to share any discoveries they made about their own instruction, and of course point out any frustrations.
While this is only a snapshot of the data collected, the responses validate the usefulness of Tch Teams to enhance teachers’ professional practice.
These comments focus on what teachers learned about their own instructional delivery:
- I learned that I say “ok” a little too much! The students enjoyed being recorded and sharing their thoughts and ideas.
- I tend to repeat myself often and do not provide enough wait time for my students when asking them higher-level questions.
- I have to be clearer in my directions prior to beginning a task.
- I noticed that I still need to continue working on my wait time and using more strategies to include more students in a lesson, rather than just calling on the students whose hands are raised.
These comments focus on the benefits of participating:
- There are so many amazing teachers in our country. It was great to watch the videos and learn what other colleagues are doing to make teaching and learning exciting.
- Aside from getting great feedback from colleagues, watching myself teach has been really beneficial.
- It was beneficial getting to work together and being able to discuss our teaching. It forced us to make time to do something we never seemed to have time for before. It was enjoyable conversing and sharing what we learned and it turned out that it wasn’t too time consuming or overwhelming, and we were able to work at a doable pace. Also, it was really interesting to see my colleagues teaching subject areas different from my own. We found that we could adapt each other’s lessons to our own areas as well.
- You are able to see and hear how you sound to the students.
And while the frustrations seemed to have been limited, there were a few that we will attempt to address in the second year.
These comments focus on those frustrations:
- One frustration that I had was having to find an iPad to record my class with since I use my school iPad to teach. I had to borrow a colleague’s iPad for this and had to make sure they weren’t using theirs during that period.
- Uploading video was challenging since the Wi-Fi was not always present in my classroom.
- The only frustration I had was finding the time to give my teach team the attention it deserved.
- It was interesting seeing what other colleagues were doing but stressful to tape myself and put it out there for others to judge.
This summer we will use the survey feedback as well as feedback we have collected from informal conversations to fine-tune our “Adventure Cards” and enhance the positive outcomes of this professional learning opportunity. The great news is that next year we will be expanding our offerings, allowing teachers to really select an option based on their needs and comfort level. This year we offered a “Novice 101” plan and an “Advanced 201” which was differentiated by teachers’ familiarity with Teaching Channel.
Next year there will be five “Choose Your Own Adventure” options:
- Novice 101: Tch Teams for Beginners
- Advanced 201: Tch Teams for Experienced Teaching Channel Users
- Self-Reflection 301: Work Independently to Reflect on Your Own Practice
- Cross-Teams 401: Work With a Teacher Who Uses Teaching Channel in Another District
- Writing Initiative Team 501 (for elementary teachers): Collaborate With Your Grade-Level Colleagues About Process Writing Instruction
Our first year has exceeded our expectations and we look forward to the second year of implementation having an even greater impact on teaching and learning in the Oceanside School District. Our Teams plan is truly a celebration of collaboration, collegiality, and reflective practitioners who are willing to take a risk to enhance their own professional practice. Let the “Adventure” continue!
Beth Zirogiannis is the Director of English and Reading, K-12, in the Oceanside School District. Prior to becoming an administrator, she was an English teacher in the district. Beth recently completed her doctoral studies with an emphasis on instructional leadership, and she works to support her teachers in as many leadership roles as possible. The Oceanside School District has utilized Teaching Channel’s Teams platform to support 1:1 mentoring, and is now exploring additional professional learning opportunities that Teams can support.
Jason Manning is a National Board Certified Teacher and 12-year veteran of the Oceanside School District, where he teaches high school social studies. Jason is an innovative teacher who has been on the forefront of many district initiatives during his tenure, most recently serving as one of the lead teachers in the adoption of the Big History curriculum to supplant the traditional ninth grade global curriculum. Jason also coaches several sports at OHS, serves as a mentor for new teachers, and will be honored by the New York State English Council this fall with a Collaborator of Excellence Award.