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Engage / Empower / Inspire

We work at a place that believes in the power of collaboration. In a school of our size, it is extremely difficult to find opportunities to connect with other teachers around the building to discuss what's happening in our classrooms and future goals we have for instruction and learning. Three years ago, a small group of us organized and planned for a team of teachers to come together to engage, empower, and inspire one another. This team became the Future of Learning Team, and I am excited to share our story in today's post.

As I prepared for our first meeting of the school year, I took time to browse past agendas and artifacts created by the team. Here is a brief timeline of our work: 

Year 1: We started with about 26 people - two from each department. Teachers were asked to share something "great" from their classrooms, and as we went around the circle to share, I knew that we had something special. The rest of the year we discussed effective instructional practices for engagement and learning, and together, we created various "Recipes for Teaching" to share with staff.

Year 2: During our second year of collaboration, we came back to the basics using George Couros's ideas from The Innovator's Mindset. We discussed the Innovator's Mindset and the importance of a student-centered classroom. We brainstormed how to make instructional shifts to allow for a future-ready environment that produces high-quality learning experiences for our students. Providing students opportunities for choice and voice became a key component of our discussion. 

Year 3: We picked up right where we left off, and our first meeting's purpose was to consider common instructional practices and decide how we could take these activities to the next level to promote student engagement, choice, and voice. The goal - give students opportunities to take ownership of their learning. From there, we took our role to the next level and shared these ideas with staff during our School Improvement Day. 

Ultimately, the team's purpose became to share, collaborate, create, and lead. 

This year, we needed to move forward. Step 1 - invite more teachers to join in on the fun. With this, all members of the team were asked to invite someone new from their department to join us. The result...our first meeting included 40 teachers!!! Yes, I said 40. Isn't that awesome?!? Step 2 - Rebrand the team. We're now in the future and doing awesome things, so the team voted on a new name. Say hello to The Collaborative Learning Team. Our goal is simple: Engage, Empower, and Inspire.

During our first meeting, I shared where we started and then transitioned into our goals for this current school year. As a school, we are motivating teachers to do the best kind of professional development: observing other classrooms. Typically, this happens within a department. Well...our team is going to take it to the next level. Here is the plan:

Why observe other classrooms, you ask? Well...first, teachers will gain an understanding of how students learn and react; consequently, student performance will improve. Second, teachers will develop new instructional strategies based on what they observe and learn from the experience. Third, our school will develop consistencies with skills and student support. I encouraged our team to focus on student learning.  Basically...what can we learn when we watch students learn? 

Yes, we talked about the two main barriers when it comes to teachers observing teachers: Time and anxiety. We offered options for our teachers to get back the time they give up to go observe. The team was also motivated to embrace the chance to motivate others. My motto for them...Just Walk In! Once a teacher is in the room, he or she will be happy for the opportunity to observe and learn. 

What's next? Well...we make a plan and observe. Then...

As you can see, our future is bright. The process of observing horizontally, and experiencing what our own students do on a daily basis, is extremely powerful and will lead to some awesome reflections and conversations. Get excited...the Collaborative Learning Team is ready to engage, empower, and inspire. #whatsup