Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Looking Toward the Future

Not surprisingly, I've been giving much thought about the future of our professional growth. At Chets, we have 1,250 students and 88 teachers. In years past, we’ve had upwards of 3 coaching positions. We’ve filled these three with one full- time coach (me) and four part-time coaches (coach half day, teach half day). In my opinion, this has been an ideal situation because most coaches keep a foot in the classroom, have gained the utmost respect from their colleagues, and share the most relevant rich professional development.

This year, that ideal has changed due to budget cuts and now we are carrying two coaches. One full time instructional coach (me) and an instructional technology coach. We opted for the technology coach so we could begin digitally warehousing and sharing information on-line, and promote self-learning opportunities. This cut has us relying more heavily on lead teachers who run PD in their content area at their grade level. With that said, they also have full-time teaching responsibilities. Therefore, without coaches with release time, we have gone from substantial in class coaching to virtually none. What implications this will hold are forthcoming.

In Florida, like many other places, we are continuing to hear of the dismal financial situation which will cut deeply into the pockets of schools. Next year, our district is likely to have a $139 million dollar cut, so where will that leave us? And, how can we prepare for cuts that run this deeply? It could be a reality that schools won’t be able to carry coaching support.

So, to prepare, I have four ideas:

#1 Capture, edit, and upload as many videos as possible from classrooms and warehouse them on our Setting the Standard ning.

The following video is an excellent example of what I mean, and will give our teachers--and others--open access to classroom observation and teaching.

#2 Digitally warehouse grade level content, assessments, and other resources on wikis.

This first grade wiki is an example of what I mean, and is the central data bank for a grade level. It can also easily be added to and deleted from to keep the most current information. In time, I'm sure it will even contain student work that supports each standard and/or lesson.

#3 Form PLC’s based on needs and passions rather than by grade levels.

Last week, a Grade 3 teacher did a writing demonstration lesson for four colleagues from Grade 2-5. The professional conversation that occurred in debriefing after the lesson was the richest dialogue I’ve heard exchanged between teachers yet this year. So many times, we form PLC's just by grade levels, but I'm wondering if we aren't sometimes missing the mark without these vertical teams also in place.

#4 Lead our teachers to be self-directed learners, avid readers, collaborative workers, and community contributors.

Collectively as a community of learners, thanks to technology, we can continue to move forward regardless of the financial constraints placed on us. Will this be a burden and a barrier? Perhaps. But with a strong will and determined spirit, we will move forward. To move forward with no coaching support, I think all teachers will have to be self-directed, avid blog and professional readers, and collaborate and share ideas with the whole community.

Are you facing the same bleak financial outlook? If you are, what are you doing to prepare your school community for the future?


J Clark Evans said...

I like your idea about teacher groups forming based on common interests. This year my school is doing that by sponsoring a PLP (Professional Learning Practice) group of teachers interested in using online tools to build our own professional learning communities online via twitter, nings, etc.

Suzanne said...

J Clark Evans,
Love it! How many people in your school are currently participating? Have you seen certain people emerging as leaders or is the leadership distributed?

dayle timmons said...

I love your ideas! While I think there will always be those among us that will take up the torch and will lead and participate in self-directed and on-line learning, I think there will still need to be clock time given for some teachers to pursue that type of professional development. While I think we make time for things that are important to us, there will always be young mothers, single parents, etc. that will have to have the time carved for them during the school day to keep up. I think the key will be to give enough resources and choices to engage the masses.

Suzanne said...

I agree that teachers deserve and must have time carved out of their day for professional development, but that happening in hard times isn't likely to happen. So, in my opinion, no matter how hard it is, teachers will have to continue to learn and grow on their own. If they don't, they will find themselves replacable by others who are willing to put in the hours.