A few weeks ago, the PYP Coordinator at my school sent an invitation for teachers to join a committee whose mission would be to plan and organize professional development opportunities.
Like coaching, but different
This was remarkably similar to a proposal I had offered last spring to take on an additional role as an Innovation Coach. After submitting my proposal to encouraging feedback, I followed up about it every week with no definite answer until finally giving up. So when this committee idea sprung up, I jumped at it.
After exchanging ideas, it was decided that my task would be to introduce, organize, and coordinate our Professional Learning Community (PLC). I got right to work preparing a presentation to introduce the concept and purpose of the PLC to my fellow teachers: PLC Introduction slides. The presentation went smoothly, and while the reception was somewhat mixed, there were many enthusiastic teachers ready to help ‘professionalize’ our faculty.
One notable difference between my innovation coach proposal and this new PLC is that my participants would have been volunteers only. The school administrators decided that classroom and specialist teachers must participate in an action research project. In my opinion, this reduced the intrinsic benefits that affording teachers agency would have had. It also may possibly diminish my role as a coach, since some teachers may see me more as yet another ‘coordinator’ or big brother keeping everyone in line. Hopefully there will still be teachers eager to involve me in their projects, and I will certainly do what I can to be helpful to everyone.
One action that may lead in the direction of being helpful was that I downloaded copies of almost every journal article cited and recommended in our International Baccalaureate Organization Primary Years Programme essential literature. In total there are about 100 articles saved in a public folder in our Microsoft Teams collaboration space.
Nominating topics Edcamp style
After a week to ponder possible topics, we met again to write ideas on large sheets of paper stuck to the walls of our multi-purpose room, inspired by my experiences organizing and hosting Edcamp Tokyo. Teachers voted for their favorites and a list of topics was born:
- Play-based learning
- Parent involvement
- Inspiring writers
- Student motivation
- Reading enjoyment
- Library & inquiry resources
- Vocabulary development
I created an online form which teachers used to sign-up for their topics over the next two weeks. This was intended to organically bring people together from different grade levels or areas of specialization and reminded me of a favorite quote from Creative Confidence about diverse teams:
With sign-ups about three quarters done, it’s exciting to see how the teams will finally coalesce. The largest will be Play-based Learning with approximately half of the staff. It will need to be split into smaller, more manageable teams, which should be a useful conversation by itself.
Why action research?
The ideal inquiry for these collaborative teams to pursue would be a complete action research project including a literature review, preliminary data collection, designing and conducting and experiment, and then publishing and sharing their results. However, it would also be acceptable to included any of these elements as we get used to the collaborative process.
The reason to frame the projects as ‘action research’ is to elevate the sense of purpose and professionalism within the school. The idea of being a scholar-practitioner would appeal to the more precocious and experienced teachers, providing an opportunity for them to elevate their practice as well as mentor younger teachers.
Hopefully, the benefits will radiate from the early adopters, ultimately benefiting the children under our care.
Off to the races
There is an orientation meeting scheduled for next week, in which we plan to ensure that everyone is on a team and understands how to use our digital collaboration space. After that, the teams will begin meeting by themselves and conducting their projects.
It’s an exciting moment and a bit of a turning point in my career, and I look forward to blogging about it further.