An Innovative Approach to Professional Learning-Our Students’ Futures Depend on HOW Teachers Learn

Monday morning, I will be entering into my 4th week of school for the new year.  Before the first day of school arrives, teachers go back for a week of meetings, classroom setup and professional development. Ahhhhh, yes… the dreaded professional development meetings.


Is that what you think to yourself when you see “professional development” written on your calendar?  I know a lot of people do- and that’s because 9 times out of 10, they are stuck in an gym or auditorium type room with 80-130+ other teachers, spanning all grade levels and positions, listening to someone lecture them about what we need to be doing differently in the classroom or about a new tool that they should be using with their kids, as if that information applied to each and every one of them in the same way. Sound familiar?


I’m blessed to work at a school that understands that effective professional learning is not a “one size fits all”, however, the sad reality is that the majority of professional learning that takes place in our country’s schools is exactly the scenario I just described.  For the past 9 months, in talking to classmates in my graduate studies, my eyes have been opened to the realities that other educators face on a daily basis at their own schools- it’s almost as if I’ve been living in my own little bubble that is Presbyterian School.  Teaching at PS is all I’ve known, and while I am very happy there, I know that others struggle just to have their ideas heard, much less embraced.  So, now more than ever, I realize the need to be innovative in the ways that we teach our students, but in order to do that, we must first be innovative in the ways that WE (the educators) learn.

So what do we do now?

I’ve had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with two other educators, Chad Flexon and Kathy Darling, and what we’ve tried to do is to give teachers- from all over the country- a voice in letting us know how THEY learn best.  We are teachers from different parts of the country and we recognize that teacher professional learning needs to change.  “Change” can look different in any school.  What might need to change in my school, may be TOTALLY different from what needs to change in your school, so in order for schools to be able to provide effective professional learning, we first need feedback from YOU.


Since Chad, Kathy and myself are all from different parts of the country, we decided that working in Google Slides would be most effective for us.  This way, we could each go in and work on our project either on our own time or simultaneously and have our work saved.  As we are trying to divert from the traditional “sit and get” model, we really didn’t want to treat this as a “presentation”.  This isn’t a Power Point that we are requiring everyone to view.  On the contrary, this a way to reach out to all educators, learn what works for them, and then collaborate with each other. This is an experience.  Furthermore, we wanted to personalize it by having our voices in it, and opted to create video of each of us speaking.  We considered having voice over, however, that option didn’t seem to aide in our attempt to make this an experience that could be fully controlled by the viewer.  Another way we’ve personalized this, is by adding some of our own photos from our school’s professional learning sessions into our slides.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-5-15-13-pmI’m excited to post this and I welcome all educators to click the link below and take a look. To get the full experience, please be sure to click the “present” button in the top, right hand corner.  This will bring you into present mode and you’ll then be capable of fully participating in this experience.  Once you reach the above screen, be sure to click on the photo.  By doing so, you will be brought to our survey screen.  Please take the time to quickly fill this out!

There are also some great collaboration opportunities in this experience.  We’ve benefitted greatly from our professional learning communities and we want to be able to connect other teachers as well.  We’ve created a Padlet page that you can add information to and have offered up other digital PLCs that have helped us along the way.

****Enter in the experience HERE… don’t forget to click “Present”!****

We have the opportunity to shape our own learning!  Will you help be a part of it?


One thought on “An Innovative Approach to Professional Learning-Our Students’ Futures Depend on HOW Teachers Learn

  1. Nancy, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. My dissertation is on personalizing professional learning and I’m currently writing a book on it. It is so important that teachers are met where they are and their learning is contextual to their teaching environment. Your slide deck is spot on…and you are so right…our students’ learning is dependent on our learning!


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