Summer Learning

I have such deep respect for people that want to learn new things. While learning is often fun, that fun is usually the result of overcoming varying levels of frustration, anger, and ego-bruising.  

I spent the past two days working with a group of teachers that decided to use a part their summer holidays to work through all of these feelings in order to bring something new to their students in September 2013.  As I watched them work, I felt the same pride that I feel when I look at my students buzzing through their learning in class.

The two day workshop I led was my first attempt at leading a longer PD session.  Teachers came with the expectation that they were going to build a class website, but I’m not sure how many were really expecting the format that I was providing.  I really tried to give teachers freedom to create.  I also really encouraged them to seek guidance and inspiration from each other.  

By the end of the first day, I was pretty worried about the state of my students.  Some had not bought into the model.  I think that they were expecting a more traditional workshop.  More scripted; more direct instruction.  In fact two teachers did not return for the second day of the workshop.  To be fair, it’s very difficult to share freely and be vulnerable around complete strangers.  I was probably expecting too much sharing on day one.  People had bought into chatting on TodaysMeet and using a Padlet wall, but they were uncomfortable with speaking up and using their voices.image


Somehow on the second day everything changed.  Maybe it was the now familiar faces?  Maybe teachers now had enough of a grasp on the material to feel comfortable sharing?  Regardless, they were moving around, sitting with others.  Talking up a storm.  

I felt guilty when I had to break up their conversations to address the group, so I made sure to keep my interruptions brief.  I gave a quick spiel on purposeful design and I also chaired a sharing session where each participant showed their progress on a projector.  The rest of the time was theirs to build.

A very big shout out to JenniferJanet, Concetta, Michael, and Adrian for all of their hard work.  Perhaps the biggest compliment they paid me was that when I went to their sites this morning many of them looked even better than when the session ended yesterday afternoon. They went home and kept working!!  To all five of you: don’t forget to rest during your summer holidays!!

A super huge thank you to Luke MacPherson who probably should have been facilitating this session with me.  He made a great site, but spent most of the two days helping other teachers with their questions.  I feel really lucky to have met such a good friend and colleague over the past year. Cheers buddy.

Given the opportunity to do this again, I would try to make the format clearer to participants before they signed up.  I felt a little sad that some people gave up a day of their summer vacation to something that their heart wasn’t into.  With clearer communication on my part, that might have been avoided.

Having said that, I’d be really curious to see how this free flowing PD model could be applied to other workshops in the TCDSB.  One attendee commented that the format was “refreshingly respectful of [his] time and [him]self as a professional”.  That made me smile.  That’s the kind of PD I wanted to provide.  It’s also the kind of model that I’m hoping our board will start to implement.


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