Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Our Professional Growth Tale

I'm giving a huge shout-out to my amazing staff! Once again, they have demonstrated their commitment to their own growth so that they can become the best for their students.

I strive to live my life with a growth mindset. If we are growing and learning the best strategies and ideas for our students, implementing those ideas and strategies in our classrooms, then our students ultimately benefit. Not only are they getting our best, but our students are also seeing us learn - we are modeling what we want our students to become, what many school's mission statements state - we are showing our students what it takes to be life-long learners.

And so, at our first staff meeting of the school year, I challenged my staff to model life-long learning, developing a growth mindset. This mindset can be overwhelming since there is SO much out there to learn right now. But, I knew my staff could do it, because they want to be the best for our students.

In just the first few weeks of school, the staff has taken this challenge head-on. They have been learning all about Google, developing their Google sites and collaborating on many documents in Google Drive. It has been a fast and furious transformation, but its use has transformed how we communicate and collaborate as a staff. It has been powerful! We had a lunch n' learn, where I just sat in the teacher's lounge and answered questions as they came in. Kelly, our technology coordinator, joined me after school for a couple days and met with teachers so they could work on their Google site. We had a mini EdCamp and shared insights together. But more than this, teachers have been asking each other questions, jumping into each other's classrooms to help each other, building strong partnerships to learn together. Now that is powerful, fantastic learning!

Last week, our leadership team came together to build an affinity diagram, all around the concept of our professional growth needs and wishes. They brainstormed quietly, placing one idea on a post-it. I knew they wanted to talk, but the important part of this activity is for ideas to come from within each individual. After our brainstorming session, we took a collective look at our post-its. We got out of our seats and categorized them, talked about what was written on them, and had meaningful dialogue about each post-it. 

At this point, we began to think about HOW we needed to approach each topic. What were our current priorities? How would this information best be shared or delivered? Together, we talked more and placed each post-it in categories, between PD Roundtables, Wednesday Collaborations, Lunch n' Learns, How-to Videos, and Other. Our PD Roundtables are voluntary before or after school sessions, open for sharing, asking questions, and discussing resources and ideas. Wednesday collaborations are one-hour after school sessions and a great time for the entire staff to come together. Lunch n' Learns just started this year, and while we have had only one, it was well-received. I've made a few videos this school year to flip staff meetings and information, and there is a desire from the staff for more of these! Our other category covered all topics that wouldn't "neatly" fit under the HOW categories already put together. 

The most exhilarating aspect of our conversation centered around how we can help each other grow and learn, sharing resources. We developed our big picture together, and through our conversation, we understood more of what it will take to truly unfold our growth mindset throughout this school year.  

This conversation was fabulous. If this is the what the development of our collective growth mindset looks like, I am so excited to see how it transforms into the future. We have so much to learn, grow, and share together. My hope is to further take these actions and ideas, and help the staff push beyond this list, building their PLN to seek answers outside of our school.  Even more than that, I hope to build time for reflection and conversation, as this is where the most powerful learning takes shape. With more tools in our toolbox, more opportunities to discuss and gain insight on these topics, our growth mindset will blossom for the betterment of our students. What an exciting time to be at our school!!!

photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/deannabeth/5616446797/">Asmaa Dee Photography</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

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