I wrote about the importance of students being leaders of their own learning in October. At the time of that writing, I kept thinking about the parallel between students as leaders of their own learning and teachers as leaders of their own learning. And it’s pretty exciting to watch teachers take hold of that learning. In two recent blog posts, Dean Shareski has been writing about how to balance supporting teachers who are working in one of the toughest environments ever, while encouraging teachers to continue their own learning journey.
I think 2 things are true: Teachers are overwhelmed and tired and teachers still need and want to learn. To that end, how do we design professional learning that equally honors both of those truths?
— Dean Shareski (@shareski) October 27, 2021
I’ve been fortunate enough to watch this phenomenon – teachers as leaders of their own learning – play out a LOT this year . It has taken shape in so many different ways:
- Open Up Resources Community Coaches, Cassie Leiby and Esmerelda Rivera under the direction of Lead Coach, Justin Endicott, do an amazing job of leading teachers across the country through the EL Education Curriculum. As they lead others, they are most definitely leading their own learning. I was both honored and humbled to be a contributor to this shared blog: Things I Wish I Had Known
- A group of teachers, counselors, coaches, and administrators in FMCSD continue to lead their own learning as Trauma Champions. They bring this learning, under the direction of the amazing Kara Grafft and Brittany Roberts from Four Oaks, back to the groups of adults and students that they get to work with.
Education Liaisons @KaraGrafft and Brittany Roberts presented at the 2021 Midwest School Mental Health Conference in Des Moines today. They led a session called “Be a Space Maker”. pic.twitter.com/ymMjxienf8
— Four Oaks (@fouroakstoday) August 11, 2021
- First grade teacher, Deb, not only attended the most recent Open Up Resources PLC, but she has taken immediate action to implement the ideas she heard Cassie Leiby talk about.
- First year teacher, Allison, has quickly internalized the EL Foundational Skills Block rotations, and has them successfully up and running in her first grade classroom. Oh, and did she teach both this Coach and veteran teacher, Deb, a thing or two about those rotations!
- Veteran kindergarten teacher, Kristy, reached out for assistance in getting the EL Foundational Skills Block rotations up and running. Additionally, as a leader of her own learning, she asked to borrow my copy of Know Better, Do Better, by David Liben and Merdith Liben for “some holiday reading.”
- Veteran kindergarten teacher, Dawn, continues to work toward a better understanding of the placement of students in microphase groups, as part of the EL Foundational Skills Block. She continues to ask questions, push back, explain her own thinking, and wrestle with doing what is best to move her students forward. In addition, Dawn is using the knowledge she gained from IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham training to better meet her students needs.
- Fourth grade teacher, Amy, asks question after question during PLC meetings – all in an effort to better understand, as opposed to asking questions to stand still in her practice. Amy epitomizes what I described in my November 7 blog, “I believe the key, here, is to be humble enough to recognize that some of our practices are not the most effective, be willing to collaborate, remain curious, and be vulnerable enough to make, admit, and fix mistakes that are bound to occur when we tackle something new.”
- High School SPED teacher, Danyle, reached out for support with structuring her classes to work miracles: adhere to grade level standards, while filling in foundational learning gaps for her students using IMSE’s Orton Gillingham training. Danyle is one of many teachers who were able to take advantage of IMSE’s training last summer – leaders of their own learning.
- Melissa and Jenni are sixth-grade math teachers who are a well-oiled machine, and could easily make the decision to just keep doing what they’ve been doing. But. They. Never. Quit. Learning. They continue to seek out opportunities to better understand the Open Up Resources Math Curriculum, from Illustrative Mathematics, so that their students continue to accel.
- Jessie and Shar, who have been thrown quite a curve-ball mid year, continue to be leaders of their own learning for the sake of their 7th and 8th grade math students. They just keep growing and learning in the face of challenge.
- High School Building Trades Teacher, Clint, took it upon himself to start writing his own blog, which chronicles the amazing feat he and his wife have undertaken with building a new home(s). As he recently wrote, “Somehow writing down things I think I already know makes me process the experience differently, more thoroughly. When I write about an experience that was less than ideal (that can light had it coming) I have an opportunity to reflect on how I could have handled it differently. And when I write about a good experience I get to relive that moment. Either way, I’m better for the process.”
- Speaking of writing a blog… retired teacher, Kate, has expressed interest in possibly joining this venture. Kate has always been a leader of her own learning, whether in her kindergarten classroom where she continually sought opportunities to bring the best educational experiences to her students, to her “retirement” where she worked for our local Area Education Agency, to her current retirement status where she just can’t stop learning about education through reading, watching, and talking about best educational practices.
- First grade teacher, Stephanie, continues to seek ways to improve her instruction of the EL Education curriculum… and she always, always shares her latest take-aways with colleagues!
- Third grade teacher, Lisa, is taking on the daunting task of creating Labs for all third grade students in our district, as an off-shoot of El Education’s K-2 Labs. Talk about being a leader of your own learning!
- Elementary Specials teachers, Matt, Katie, and Annah, have implemented Restorative Circles with all of our K – 3 grade students. It is nothing short of amazing to walk by the elementary gymnasiums on a Wednesday and see our students “circled-up” and responding to well-crafted prompts, all as a means to build community. Matt, Katie, and Annah continue to model what it means to be leaders of their own learning.
- Third grade teacher, Jackie, refuses to settle for the status quo. In a recent PLC meeting, she said something along the lines of, “We can’t settle for good enough. We have to keep pushing our students to meet grade level standards.”
- Our FMCSD Instructional Coaches continue to seek out learning opportunities to better support the teachers we work with. Every time we are not in a classroom, we are digging through grade level materials or attending self-sought-after webinars. The rare days that the coaches are in the office together, we don’t even stop to eat lunch (MUCH like teachers) – we sit at our desks, answering emails, attending webinars, and preparing for coaching cycles.
- Our elementary SPED teachers, who are unable to attend grade-level PLC’s because of scheduling obstacles, have requested and are attending their own weekly PLC, before school. As leaders of their own learning, they made this request a reality.
- A first grade team came to their PLC meeting this past week, absolutely giddy with the growth their students have made around a priority standard. Their students’ growth speaks to the growth this team has made around guaranteeing proficiency of a priority standard.
- Our Middle School PLC teams continue to grow in their understanding of standards-based-learning. Every week, a new revelation occurs around standards based learning and data collection; these teams keep rolling with and expanding on their new learning as leaders of their own learning.
- Kindergarten teacher, Jennifer, new to our district, continues to ask questions to ensure that she is doing the best that she can for her students. She and I are stepping into a coaching cycle, where I was able to observe her implementation of EL’s Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol – an excellent promotion of students as leaders of their own learning!
- Many, many individuals and teams have reflected on what the following quote means to them, and how they will respond to this reflection:
The past year-and-a-half has been challenging, to say the least. I am over-the-top grateful that I get to work with colleagues who have chosen to rise up to the challenge, rather than lie down in the face of adversity, and truly be leaders of their own learning.