This has been one of my most difficult years in the classroom, not because of the kids or the school, but a million other factors. Others on the Nex+Gen Academy staff would probably agree that it was a hard one. However, instead of leaving the school with a whimper, our faculty stayed on for a day of reflection and planning for next year, and saw some of the best collaboration I’ve ever seen. I left the building ebullient.
I post this (extraordinarily long) piece to document what went into the planning and execution of the session for two reasons; first, because it will be helpful for me next year, and second, because faculty from other schools might find it useful.
Our staff always allocates a day or two after the students leave so that we can reflect upon the year, and if possible, come up with a theme or a focus for our PD in the coming year. The focus is usually the result of looking at the past year, and saying, “What can we do better? How can we improve learning for students?” Three years ago, it was “Collaboration”. The next year, we changed our learning outcomes, and so we made it a bit more broad – “Teaching and Assessing of the Learning Outcomes through a lens of growth mindset” We did that two years in a row, and the general sentiment was that it was time to assess whether that theme would continue to serve us and our students, or if we needed to change it.
The time we planned for our reflection was 5 hrs, including breaks…so it was kind of like planning for a week of a class. Below is a sort of description of the day, but I have organized it by the guiding principles we used in planning the meeting.
Collaborate in the planning
I am the “Teacher Leader” on campus, which I took to mean in this instance that I would serve as point on the planning – I didn’t want to do it all by myself, because that doesn’t create as much buy-in, and honestly, by myself, I can’t come up with a plan nearly as well as our collaboration can. I asked different people to do different things: our drama teacher helped plan some of the fun stuff; our language teacher helped with overall design; two of our English teachers helped brainstorm, and served as critical friends for a couple of the activities. I also wrote to our NTN coach, and a few others at New Tech to get some help with ideas.
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