Professional Development Salad Bar

4fingers Not surprisingly given my role at Loomis Chaffee, I see and read a large number of articles, blog posts and books on the subject of professional development. I have a somewhat random mix of items this week that all have the theme of professional development running through them. I encourage you to read the pieces and then take the more important next step, namely, to take charge of your own professional development and commit to doing something that will foster your own grow as an educator.

  • A few weeks back in the Friday 4 I included a piece on Grant Wiggins’ (@grantwiggins) blog that described a colleague’s shadowing of 2 high school students. Grant posted a follow-up to that first post which is quite interesting and will certainly get you thinking about ways to improve and grow as an educator.
  • Connected Professional Development Is Now An Imperative is a recently published piece on the te@chthought website that makes the case for: “If Collaboration and Communication are two important 21st Century Skills, then educators should be the model for the way it works.”

  • The following New Yorker piece came to me from several colleagues that explores “How the ‘performance revolution’ came to athletics—and beyond.” One of the “beyonds” is education in general and teacher training in particular.
  • Practice what you preach is a thought provoking piece that contains several good reminders for how to constructively and productively receive feedback. Giving feedback is something that we are all quite familiar with as teachers, but we need to also be ready to receive feedback.

Enjoy. As always, I welcome and appreciate your feedback…good and bad!

Pre- Mother’s Day Friday 4

4fingersMoms: Our First Real Teachers

It would be difficult for most of us to deny that the first “teacher” we all had was our own mom. Who was there when we learned how to tie our shoes? Who taught us to believe in ourselves? Who taught us to always say please and thank you? Mom of course…and maybe Dad if you were lucky. So while Teacher Appreciation Week is technically over today, if you are lucky enough to still have your own mom around, I encourage you to extend the sentiment and be sure to pay a special tribute to your first “teacher” this Sunday – Mother’s Day. Personally, I think it is a perfect juxtaposition of the two celebrations.

This week’s Friday 4 includes two pieces to get you thinking a tad and a couple of resources for those of you looking for some online options for ongoing professional development in the summer.

  • Bringing the Locker Room Into the Classroom is a piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education that was passed along by a colleague who happens to be both a teacher and a coach. I have always thought of coaching and teaching as one and the same and liked the collaborative project that is described in the article.
  • Response: ‘The Grading System We Need to Have’ is a blog piece from Larry Ferlazzo (@Larryferlazzo) that appeared on the Education Week Teacher site. Larry is a well-known teacher, author and presence online who is definitely one you should follow on Twitter.

  • Are you an AP teacher looking for resources, ideas or fellow AP teachers to collaborate with beyond your own school? The AP Teacher Community is a great place to start. The summer is a great time to connect with colleagues from around the country and share ideas.

  • The Teaching Channel is another rich online resource and network of educators. The site describes itself as: “Teaching Channel is a video showcase—on the Internet and TV—of inspiring and effective teaching practices in America’s schools. We have a rapidly growing community of registered members who trade ideas and share inspiration from each other.”


Final Friday 4 for February



February may be the shortest month of the year as far as calendar days are concerned, but this year, with respect to the weather in New England, February has been one of the longest on record. As one frigidly cold blustery day blends into yet another sub-zero polar vortex of a night, I anxiously await spring and the first baseball practice outside when I do not have to wear my thermal socks. What better way to spend yet another day cooped up indoors than to consume one last Friday 4 missive. With no further ado, here you go…

  • Several colleagues mentioned in a recent survey on the Kravis Center that they would like some help effectively incorporating technology into their classrooms. Google forms is a powerful tool that can be used in a whole host of ways. There happens to be a Classroom 2.0 live show on Google forms on Saturday, March 1 at noon EST. You can join in here live or listen to the presentation at a later time.
  • Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) recently wrote a piece on his Free Technology for Teachers blog about How to Add Voice Comments to Your Google Documents that can take your feedback on student writing to the next level.
  • 7 Things Smart Learners Do Differently is a nice little piece that might be nice to share with your students and serves as a good reminder as we develop lesson plans.
  • Peter Gow (@pgow) recently wrote a piece on his blog titled “Why Twitter Beats February” that describes how he uses his Twitter PLN to make the days of February bearable. Seemed appropriate as I watch the weather forecast predicting yet another snow “event” in the coming days.
  • Examining Your Multiple-Choice Questions is a piece I ran across on the Faculty Focus website that begins an exploration of how to craft better multiple choice questions.
  • My final nugget is completely unrelated to teaching and learning, but given that the Loomis Chaffee mascot is a pelican, I could not resist! Get an up-close, face-to-face view of a rescued pelican learning to fly.

Spring – A time to reflect and hone your skills

Spring in the education world is a frenetic time filled with final preparation for AP exams, honors teas and events for our best and brightest students, countless meetings and the final “push” to the end of the year in all of our classes. As busy as the final weeks can be, it is also an excellent time to actually take some time and reflect on the year that has past and consider how it has gone and how we might improve what we do the next time around. In that spirit, I have assembled a few items (more than the usual 4) that I ran across this week that will hopefully inspire you to think about some of the fundamental aspects of teaching and learning, and with some serious reflection, might help you to become a better teacher in the long run.

 I welcome comments on any of this week’s “finds” and welcome suggestions for future editions of the Friday 4. Enjoy!

Belated Friday 4 – Google Goodies and more

 Friday Four – Jan 27

The end of the week snuck up on me, as it sometimes does, and prevented me from posting my weekly Friday 4 on Friday. I guess I will have to ask for an extension and hope for some leniency! I am pretty sure that the your life went on just fine in the absence of the Friday 4, but I did not want to completely let you down, so here is my somewhat belated Friday 4 for the week that will in all likelihood end before I finish typing this post.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a big fan and user of Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) in the classroom and with my students. I ran across 2 great resources this past week having to do with Google Drive that I wanted to pass along.

  • The first is a post from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne), who writes the FreeTech4Teachers blog, titled “Five Essential Google Drive Skills For Teachers.” If you are a new user of Google Drive, this is the post for you. If you are already a user of Drive, you may still be able to pick up a tip or two from this post.
  • The second Drive-related item is a short video explaining how you can use a neat Chrome plugin called WeVideo with your Google Drive to create, edit and share videos all for FREE.

The last two items for the week are more reflective in nature.

  • Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) wrote a post recently “Building a professional learning network on Twitter” that explains how educators can harness the power of Twitter for their own ongoing professional development. If you are new to Twitter and have not yet “found” Tom, I would strongly recommend that you add him to your “follow” list.
  • Marc Seigel (@DaretoChem) is another person I follow on Twitter who is a fellow flipped-classroom teacher. He recently wrote a blog post that resonated with me that I hope you will find interesting.

Enjoy and have a wonderful final week of January!

Friday Four – 2 to use and 2 to mull over

In this week’s Friday 4, I offer up two items that you may be able to incorporate tomorrow into your classroom routines and two items that are intended for contemplation and perhaps long term action.

Two items you could use tomorrow:

  • “Whiteboarding” is a wonderful way to get students working together in groups that can be used in any classroom. I came across a twist on the standard use of whiteboards in the classroom recently that I thought was pretty neat. The Whiteboarding Mistake Game will help to introduce higher order thinking into any activity that uses whiteboarding.
  • Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) recently highlighted three free online tools that students and teachers can use for collaborative brainstorming. With more and more collaborative work happening in classrooms, managing and facilitating the archiving of ideas can be a challenge; these tools may make it a little bit easier.

Two items to read/discuss/debate and ponder:

  • Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) recently penned a blog post (can I even say “penned” a blog post?) titled Confidence through Connectedness that I found to be quite thought provoking, particularly given our school’s ongoing discussions about online learning and innovative teaching.
  • Why do girls do better in school than boys? A recent study looks at some of the reasons. I was left thinking “What can I do as a classroom teacher to counteract the forces at work?”

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions. Enjoy!

Friday 4 – Summer Homework


 Friday Four 5/25/2012

We are rapidly approaching the end of the current school year which means that summer vacation is right around the corner. For me, summer is when I have time to work on new ideas for my classes. I do not have papers to correct, meetings to attend or any of the other distractions that make focusing on bigger projects virtually impossible during the school year. I am confident that many of you also use at least part of the summer break to ponder, explore and develop new ideas for your own classrooms. With that spirit in mind, this week’s Friday 4 includes several items that I hope will inspire you to expand your repertoire as a teacher. Once the craziness of the spring subsides and you are in summer “big picture” mode, revisit one of the links from this post and develop a new lesson or update a current one to include a new idea or twist.

Enjoy the remaining days/weeks of your school year and don’t forget to do your homework over the summer. Your students are counting on you!


How can I help?

In a few short days, I will be working with the new faculty at my school, Loomis Chaffee, as part of the new faculty orientation program. I have been doing a great deal of thinking about what would be the best use of their time and what I should focus on and “do” with them as they join our community. Most of my new colleagues have had some teaching experience so they are not completely new to the profession, but a few of them are brand new on the scene and have never been in a classroom other than as a student. As I thought back to new faculty orientation before my first teaching job, I realized that I did not get much guidance at all and was pretty much left on my own to figure out what to teach and how to teach it. Pretty scary actually! I am committed to making sure my new colleagues do not have an experience like I did 25 years ago.

I have been inspired by a number of blog posts from members of my PLN (Steven Anderson, Grant Wiggins, Lyn Hilt) recently having to do with the fundamental questions of

  • Why do I teach?
  • How can I improve as a teacher?
  • How can I best help my colleagues to become better teachers?

I have shared a few of Grant’s most recent posts with the new faculty prior to our orientation training and I am thinking about showing them the following video clip that I first saw in a post from Lyn Hilt:


I did send the new faculty a brief google form to fill out asking them what they were most excited and anxious about prior to the start of school and asked them to give me suggestions for topics they wanted me to address when we met. As those thoughts come in, I may tweek what I do, but so far my plan includes the following:

  • Establishing a PLN. I want to get them all hooked in with Twitter at the very least and will add them to a circle in Google+ so that they will always have a network of support available to them. I also plan on giving them a quick overview of some of the other PLN resources out there that I use. These include but are not limited to: Project PLN, The Flipped Classroom, Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0.
  • Lesson planning. In the past I have had the new faculty experience a lesson as students in my classroom. I ran a 45 minute class and they got to be the students. After the 45 minutes, we dissected the lesson as teachers. I shared with them the planning I had done prior to the lesson and what I would do going forward given what I learned as the teacher. In the past, this activity has generated wonderful discussion about a whole range of topics including assessment, homework, pacing and differentiated instruction to name a few. Being able to switch out of teacher mode for 45 minutes has been a relief for them as well given all that they have had to endure during the past few days.

I have limited time so I do not want to try and cram too much into the time I do have with them. If I am successful in getting them to establish and utilize their PLN, I will have plenty of help!

Thoughts? Suggestions?

New teacher PD

In a couple of weeks, I will be working with the new teachers at my school during their orientation. Most of them are novice teachers or have been only teaching for a year or two. I have about 3.5 hours total time with them broken up into two different sessions. I have some ideas for what I would like to do with them based on what I did last year that was well received and some new ideas to try as well. Here are some of my thoughts…

  • Establishing a personal learning network (PLN). I would like to encourage all of the new faculty to see/use Twitter as a wonderful opportunity for professional development (PD). The Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0 will also be on my list of suggested resources.
  • Formative assessment (FA) techniques. I am a big fan and user of “clickers” (Student Response Systems) in my classroom and want new teachers to think about a variety of ways that they can assess where their students are as they come to master new concepts. One of my favorite descriptions of FA is: “Assessment FOR learning not OF learning.” I do not remember where I picked this up, but I like it. Of course, one key piece in FA is what the teacher DOES with the information he/she learns. Knowing that the students are struggling with an abstract concept and knowing what to do next are not one and the same.
  • Backwards Design approach to lesson planning. I have run a typical lesson with the new faculty as the students and then deconstructed the lesson from the perspective of the teacher, explaining how I planned the lesson, activities and assessments along the way. This has been well received in the past by the new faculty and generated a great deal of discussion about lesson planning. On a side note, Grant Wiggins, one of the “inventors” of backwards design happens to be a fellow alum of Loomis Chaffee and former faculty member. I was lucky enough to moderate a panel with him and a few other fellow educators at Reunion weekend this past June.

What do you think are the most important topics to include during orientation for new teachers? Please share your ideas and thoughts. Thanks!