Sunday, February 14, 2016

T is for Transformation: Creating Experiences for our Staff

It seems like February can be the month of the winter blahs in many schools. The sparkle of the new year may have faded, the weather can be less than predicable and the reality of state testing can push staff stress levels to new highs.  How can we bust these winter doldrums in our schools? Let's start first by rethinking professional development time with our staff. In Teach Like a PIRATE, Dave Burgess asks of us a pivotal question when planning lessons, "If our students didn't have to be there, would we be teaching to an empty room?" As leaders, how can we TRANSFORM the typical staff professional learning into EXPERIENCES that will carry over to make a true impact into instruction? How could we ensure that if our staff didn't have to be there, the room would still be full?

For this week's #LeadLAP challenge, think about a meeting, professional development day, inservice, etc. that you have coming up in the next week or two. Ask those transformational questions of yourself as you begin to plan:

  • If your attendees didn't have to be there, would the room be empty?
  • How could you make this a experience that you could sell tickets to?
  • How could you alter the room or setting to make the learning more meaningful?
  • When planning the content, how could you make it relevant to all that are in attendance?
  • How could voice and choice of participants be honored?
  • Which #tlap hook could you use to increase learning?
  • If you were a participant in the training yourself, would you want to be there?
  • How could you get prior feedback from the participants to help with your planning to personalize and differentiate the experience as much as possible?
  • How could you ensure that the transformation would only add to the learning and not take away?

At our professional learning day this past Friday, the leadership team and I wanted to be sure that we devoted a portion of our time to the opportunity of leaning new information. Collective professional development with staff is much needed to create a common language and understanding, but offering staff options for personalization of learning is also a priority in our building. One of our goals is to deepen our knowledge of best practice at the middle level. I first thought I would find a shared article to read and process together as a staff. As I looked for an article on, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to let our staff choose the reading that best matched what they needed, as any of these articles would help us live our school mission. The next question was how to transform the traditional read and respond method in our meeting. Through our school hashtag #FMSTeach, I had seen a teacher in our building showcase "speed dating" with a book to help students narrow down their next read. That sparked a an idea in my mind of how to make this work with our staff. FMS Speed Dating PD was on it's way to reality! The big day arrived and our staff selected their article and took notes on their advanced organizer that I had created. (PIRATE-style, of course Template:

We then revamped our library to speed dating central by moving our chairs into two circles to face each other. Staff would have three rounds to share their learning and then in turn gain learning from their colleagues. The first partner had 90 seconds to share the most important points from his/her article. The second partner then had 30 seconds to paraphrase (a norm of collaboration that we are practicing) and ask questions. Partners would then switch roles and repeat the process. I modeled this specifically before beginning and ran the timer on the Smartboard to keep us on track.

After two rounds, I asked for feedback from staff on effectiveness of the structure. A few ideas were given, we adjusted and moved into the third and final round. I made sure to point out during this feedback time that we often get formative assessment about the content of what we teach in our classrooms, but asked the question of how often do we ask for formative assessment on our methodology of delivering that content. We ended the session with reflections and continued sharing through our school hashtag.

Remember the power of the PLN as you begin planning your ideas for transformation. Feel free to reach out to the amazing leaders on the #LeadLAP hashtag for support or ideas. Together, we really are better! Shelley and I can't wait to see your amazing ideas unfold over the coming weeks!


  1. Speed Dating PD is a great idea! Could staff pick their own article or were they selected by you? @bmaurao

  2. Thanks! Each staff member picked an article based on his/her need or interest from the AMLE website.

  3. Love this! We did speed dating PD one year, but with a little different format. We'll have to try this!