Friday, March 30, 2012

Job-Embedded Professional Development Critical for Successful Implementation of the Common Core

People can be encouraged to change, but if the structure of the system in which the individuals work does not support them or allow enough flexibility, improvement efforts will fail.”  Todnem & Warner (1994)

A guest post by Bobby Moore,  Senior Director of Effective Practices at Battelle for Kids

Job-embedded professional development for teachers
Recently, I co-presented to a group of about 100 administrators during an Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators’ “Hot Topics” workshop.  The hot topic was “Transitioning to the Common Core,” but the theme of our presentation was job-embedded professional development. Ohio has evolved through proficiency tests, achievement tests, and now is transitioning to the Common Core. Historically with every new set of standards and accountability measures our students, teachers, schools, and districts have struggled. Then, after a few years, many would adapt and eventually become efficient and proficient. With today’s tumultuous environment in education, we cannot afford to adjust “after” the standards become implemented. We must be ready immediately to perform tasks and answer questions at proficient levels when the new Common Core Standards take effect in 2014. Teachers and schools will only be truly prepared through job-embedded professional development. 

As a former principal, superintendent, and now in my role at Battelle for Kids, where I lead a school-improvement collaborative of 122 Ohio districts, I have found that the key to this work is not about multiple initiatives; it’s about taking a focused approach. From my personal experience and research, the three strategies with the highest impact in accelerating student progress and achievement are:

1.    Building capacity around formative instructional practices system wide;

2.    Adopting a systematic approach to struggling (and advanced) students; and

3.    Embedding purposeful collaboration or job-embedded professional development.

Job-embedded professional development is much more than hosting one-day workshops, conferences, or inviting guest speakers to meet with your staff. This should be the time in which the adults in the building come together for purposeful learning and collaboration to improve student growth. I believe there is enough talent and expertise in every school in America that can be shared and developed. We do not have to fire our way to Finland or hire only graduates who are cum laude to create excellent schools. As a new principal and a new superintendent, our district focused on these three key strategies and as a result, we created schools that produced the top 4 percent of value-added results in the state and received the highest state ranking by committing to the three previously mentioned initiates with the teachers already employed in the district.

How do teachers become better at applying effective formative instructional practices? Through job-embedded professional development.

When do teachers share information about struggling students? This is also achieved through job-embedded professional development. 

School leaders must create structures and build in time and procedures for teachers to come together during the school day to learn and grow. School leaders should also participate as active team members sharing and growing. During this time, teachers can share best practices, develop learning targets, create common assessments, participate in online learning opportunities, and support each other in their work. 

Job-embedded professional development is a critical way to not only help teachers and school leaders prepare for the Common Core, but also to create a culture of learning, collaboration, and improvement in our schools, and most importantly, prepare our students for success in college, in their careers, and in life.

Bobby Moore is the Senior Director of Effective Practices at Battelle for Kids, a not-for-profit organization that works with states and school districts and across the country to improve educator effectiveness and accelerate student growth. He can be reached at

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Online Professional Development Helps Students Surpass Expectations

In a slight departure from this month's theme on job-embedded professional development for teachers, I'd like to discuss the enormous potential that students are demonstrating.

I'm writing an article for Scholastic Administrator wherein I discuss the effect that online professional development is having on student achievement. Far from being a self-serving article, the article is meant to inform educators of what is truly happening throughout the nation when educators use online PD. Here are some independently confirmed stats from research done on PD 360--but know that the statistics you are about to see are not, in fact, what is important about this research. More to come on that, but first, the stats:

Online professional development for teachers is opening amazing avenues for student achievement. See graphs and research here.
422 Title I Schools Compared to Their Districts
In 2011, independent researcher Steven Shaha, DBA, PhD, shows that students at 422 Title I schools with PD 360 significantly outperformed their districts from one year to the next. Students in Title I schools improved reading scores by 4.8%, whereas their peers throughout the district only improved by 0.1%. Math scores tell a more dramatic story, with Title I school students improving by 7.3% and district students declining by -5.9%, creating a performance gap of 13.2%.

Online professional development for teachers is opening amazing avenues for student achievement. See graphs and research here.
Online Professional Development Results in Hawaii Compared to Districts
Also in 2011, 294 Hawaiian schools with PD 360 outpaced the rest of their state by more than 30% on standardized tests. PD 360 certainly cannot be called the direct cause of these improvements, but continued research over an extended period of time suggests a strong correlation between PD 360--and, by extension, online PD in general--and significant student perform. As an example of that continued research, in 2009, research shows that 187 schools outperformed district benchmarks by as much as 28.8%.

 The most significant findings in this research are not--and allow me to re-emphasize that the most significant findings are not--the results that correlate to PD 360. What is most significant about this research is just how much potential is clearly within our students. It just needs to be brought out when teachers have more support and training that answers their needs.

Our students receive better training when their teachers have an established learning method themselves. After aggregating this research, I came to the realization that we as teachers are professional students--we have mastered the learning process, and it is up to us to transmit that process to our students. Because our goal is not to fill their minds with names, dates, facts, and rules--our goal is to help our students to learn how to learn. When students can seize that process for themselves and understand how to ask the right questions, then they become not only independent, but filled with an insatiable desire to learn.

We are teachers, in part, because we have that passion for learning. So as professional students, we have questions, but we also need answers and coaches of our own. That's why online PD is so essential--the differentiation is unparalleled, the cost-efficiency is unmatched, and above all, the statistics show how much our students stand to gain when we train ourselves. 

I'm not trying to encourage you to use PD 360, per se. Every district has unique needs, and perhaps PD 360 is not the product that meets the majority of your needs (though frankly, I rather doubt that). But seek out personalized, differentiated training. Your students stand to gain an immeasurable amount of good when we as professional students have instruction of our own.

How has your professional development plan been working out? What do you like--or hate--about your current PD plan, and how could it improve? We have a lot to learn from each other. Sound off in the comments!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Evaluation for Continuous Learning

A Video on Job-Embedded Professional Development for Educators

Yesterday's guest blog post could not have been more perfectly timed (thanks, Mrs. Sanders!). Sanders's recent article aligns perfectly with the last free video from PD 360 for the month of March, entitled "Evaluation as a Form of Continuous Learning."

In the video, education consultant Jill Morgan from Swansea, Wales, examines evaluation as a natural extension of classroom practice and discusses the merits of formal evaluations--when done correctly.

Take a moment to watch the video, download the audio file, or read the transcript. It's all available here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Deia Sanders Show" - No Talking, Please.

Post on Job-Embedded Professional Development for Teachers

 [EDITOR'S NOTE: In reply to the March 16th post, "When Job-Embedded PD Failed...Sort Of," Deia Sanders has written the following truly insightful article. I hope you enjoy her candor, but I hope even more that you may learn from it. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Deia Sanders!]

Our school has been fortunate enough (though not all would call it "fortunate") to pilot the new teacher evaluation system that the state of Mississippi will be adopting in 2014. It’s lengthy, nit-picky, and some might say nearly impossible. But for students it’s changing our classes to highly engaged, thought provoking, inter-related lessons like we had not seen previously.
No Speaking image in an article about job-embedded professional development for teachers
image courtesy of
When I began teaching I had one purpose: to get my point across. I didn’t like noise, and I loved a quiet classroom where everyone was on task and listening to me.  The following year I began to loosen up a little and became comfortable with minimum talking and sometimes even let students compare answers.  It wasn’t until my third year of teaching that I realized I could ask a question and the students could discuss and come up with more answers than I had even thought of.   Before then,  I didn’t have the confidence as a classroom teacher to hand the learning over to the students.  I thought my job was to teach.  I didn’t know the students could learn more from each other than they ever did from me.  I had no idea what the next level of teaching looked like because no one had ever shown me… and for that matter, had no idea what level of teaching I was doing.  My students always grew, so we assumed there was a great deal of learning taking place, but  we never pinpointed why or how to get more out of them.
Now we have the teacher evaluation instrument that is no longer a list of boxes where you check yes or no.  It’s a deeply comprehensive evaluation that pinpoints where you are on the continuum of great teaching.  As a coach I’ve been able to use the evaluation instrument before the principal goes in for the official evaluation. I observe and nitpick as if it’s the “real deal.” Then we sit and discuss the evidence. There are multiple reasons for every ranking, and even better, I’m able to point them to what the next level of teaching says in the instrument and give them strategies for what that looks like in their classroom.  We are seeing this awareness move willing teachers fast.  It doesn’t have to take two to three years of “The Deia Sanders Show” to figure out that’s not how students learn best. We are able to move teachers forward faster, and in the end move our students!
We have seen quiet classrooms where learning was taking place become engaging vibrant classrooms where the student’s discussion and responses have shocked us.  Classes similar to  my first couple of years, where students were learning and growing, and considered successful, have now become classes with higher order thinking and learning beyond the limits of our state’s test.
 I am excited… let me say that again… I AM EXCITED about what teacher evaluation is bringing to our kids!   And  as for our teachers… they are actually excited, too! Everyone wants to be good at their job, and this is a way of showing them what good to great looks like. I tell them its ok to score a 0 or 1 the first time, this is brand new… just don’t ever let it happen again. Then give the tools, methods, and strategies to insure they don’t teach that way again.  It has become a method for guiding and individualizing our job-embedded professional development for teachers.

Deia Sanders is a particularly dedicated master teacher and instructional coach. She supports teachers and students at a rural, Title I school in Mississippi with over 90% of students living below the poverty line. 

Mrs. Sanders shares one experience that demonstrates a simple yet dramatic way that job-embedded professional development for teachers can be applied to the classroom.  

She is a mother of two girls--Nyla, 3, and Piper, 18 months.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Free Summit Registration!

Let's take a break for just a minute from the topic at hand--March is almost over, and you have 10 days left to submit a blog post to win free registration to the School Improvement Innovation Summit 2012!

This isn't a chance to win. It's not a possibility. EVERY educator who guest blogs for us will receive free registration--that's a value of $395 for only 350 words or more. Would you like to bring a team of teachers? Bring them all for free! All it takes is one brief blog post. Tell us about your experiences with this month's topic, "Job-Embedded Professional Development for Teachers: How to Apply PD to the Classroom," and you've got a ticket to one of the most practical conferences of the summer.

Email your posts (first drafts are welcome) over to me at I'm excited to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Five Ways to Integrate Technology into the Classroom

Here is a guest post from Joe Taylor, Jr., an author, training advisor, and business manager for a Fortune 500 technology company.

Few debates rile up parents and politicians as much as how to improve education. Just as technology has overhauled how we do business around the world, rapid changes to educational tools have stoked discussion over how to bring new devices and ideas into the classroom. Some educators even wonder whether these five forms of educational technology negate the need to bring kids into a classroom at all:

1. Content creation

Educational technology levels the playing field for both students and teachers. Giving all participants access to the same tools enables teachers to activate a variety of learning and communication styles. Instead of assigning a term paper, some teachers request projects that include polished videos, podcast audio recordings or even published websites.

According to an annual PBS survey, teachers recognize that digital content assignments help reach students with varying learning styles. Entrepreneur and homeschooling parent Penelope Trunk suggests using online tools to publish students' projects to audiences far beyond a single teacher or class. On her blog, Trunk writes that publishing prepares students for the kind of communication they'll use daily in their careers.

2. Curriculum development

image courtesy of
Bringing technology into the classroom doesn't just mean issuing laptops or tablets to students. From swapping best practices with colleagues on Twitter to participating in a virtual symposium with teachers located around the world, teachers can connect their students to the most current best practices for classroom education.

Instead of relying on outdated textbooks, teachers can publish their own instruction materials directly to e-book readers or tablet devices. Teachers with strong presentation skills have already popped up on YouTube and elsewhere online, where even more students can benefit from their passion.

3. Video games

Unlike lectures and other traditional learning formats, educational video games scale. They engage students one-to-one, rewarding results and enabling advanced achievement. Some of the most compelling education video games connect students, teachers and other game players from around the world.

Students also use games to build their own virtual universes. Alice, a 3D environment from Carnegie Mellon University, teaches the significant skills found in computer programming classes as students use the tool for storytelling and project creation. Alex Peake's "Code Hero" project requires participants to build new layers of the game as they play it.

4. Social media

Tweets, text messages and Facebook updates permeate the lives of most students. Yet, out of fear that students will bully or distract each other during class, many schools ban social media and personal technology from the classroom. Students crave connection so deeply that a New York entrepreneur has equipped vans as secure technology lockers. Parked outside busy schools, kids can stow their digital gear inside there for quick pickup after the last bell rings.

Instead, some educators suggest embracing social media in the classroom. According to teacher Mike Ribble, schools offer an ideal environment for what he calls "digital citizenship." Ribble and other social media advocates encourage teachers to grow students' communications and security skills -- traits that American Management Association members call essential to tomorrow's careers.

5. Remote learning

Projects like Khan Academy aim to reach students who don't always have access to compelling classroom experiences. The website includes hundreds of instructional lectures for free, designed for discussion with teachers, parents and coaches. Studies indicate that exposure to even basic micro-lessons posted to YouTube can help students advance math and scientific skills.

Online colleges offer more examples of remote learning environments, enabling students to blend a combination of real-time and asynchronous learning experiences into degree programs that reach the same results as campus-based courses of study. Charter schools have promoted remote learning tools as a way to keep slow learners or bullies from hindering the success of more advanced students.

Debate over this, and other types of technology, will keep raging, especially since the tools evolve and change faster than the current education system can measure results. In the meantime, parents and community leaders will keep relying on their own passion to help innovate the learning experience.

Joe Taylor Jr. has covered finance and business markets for over two decades. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, Fox Business, and ABC News. Previously, Joe worked as a marketing and customer service training advisor for three of the country's leading consumer lenders. He recently completed a personal finance book entitled The Rogue Guide to Credit Cards; (Rogue Guide Books, 2012). When not writing, Joe serves as a business sales manager for a Fortune 500 technology company.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Application to Be College and Career Ready?

Hi, readers. It's Jared Heath, here, and I came across something very . . . peculiar? odd? disturbing, even? . . . from a school district implementing the Common Core Standards.

It's an application to receive a College and Career Ready diploma, much like an honors, AP, or IB diploma. You can read the application here (and this is the article that describes the classifications and the "College Readiness Benchmark Scores").

college and career readiness image of a stressed student - why do students need to apply to be college and career ready?
Image courtesy of

Here's my confusion: why are districts now preparing to put a "college and career ready" stamp on a diploma? Does a diploma not already indicate (in theory, anyway) that a student is college and career ready? If we are now indicating that a "special" group of students is college and career ready, then what does that mean about the others without that stamp--that they turned 18 and got kicked out?

And if we make college and career ready a classification, then that does nothing to encourage those students who aren't currently performing well to suddenly up the ante. What it comes down to is that college and career readiness is not the privilege of the elite few; it is the province of every child.

I find it peculiar, odd, and even a bit disturbing that "college and career readiness" is not seen as inherent in every class period, every homework assignment, and certainly every diploma. That's not just missing the boat--that's more like missing the entire ocean.

Apply to be college and career ready? Come on. Common Core Standards or not, being prepared for what comes after high school is the very reason that every student walks into a classroom, and it's why you and I do what we do.

Of course we've heard--and probably said--the opposite before. "100% is impossible." "What about the kids with lower IQs and the children in special ed classes?" "I'll never get 100% to pass my classes if they don't want to." But teachers aren't there to babysit these students. You're there to teach them. To prepare them. To make them ready. And no, they won't all go on to become Rhodes scholars, but that's not what anyone is asking for, is it?

I realize this has been a rather passionate post, and you may not agree--I'd love to hear where you stand on the issue. Each of you educators deserves a voice in this issue that is sweeping the United States. Let's sound off in the comments!

Friday, March 16, 2012

When Job-Embedded PD Failed...Sort Of

A discussion about job-embedded professional development for teachers and a classroom evaluation experience that I’d rather forget

It’s Jared Heath here, and I can’t believe we haven’t talked about classroom evaluations yet. In a month that focuses on job-embedded professional development for teachers, classroom observations perhaps should have been the first thing to discuss.

Deia Sanders’s blog post this week made me think a lot about classroom evaluations. Classroom evaluations are incredibly helpful—even though I found my own evaluations less than comfortable (as you’re about to read), there was always something to take away.

These days a lot of staff development coaches and other leaders have electronic walkthrough tools like Observation 360. Some schools even use fancy cameras like thereNow to do remote evals with video examples.

Me, I didn’t have that. I had a senior staff member and a piece of paper.

My Classroom Evaluation Experience
job-embedded professional development for teachers with henry fonda

With a frame as slight as Henry Fonda’s and a manner perhaps as unassuming as Michael Gough, my staff development director would sit in the back of the room. I don’t even need to close my eyes to see his round glasses standing out in contrast to the deep creases of his 80-year-old face. Mr. “Fonda-Gough” seemed like an intelligently pleasant grandfather. Not like my grandfather, who was a physicist for Boeing and tougher than John Wayne. No, this guy was probably the kind of grandpa that would put you on his knee and slip you candy when your mom isn’t looking.

I was terrified every time he walked through the door. My students knew it.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like looking into the mirror, so to speak. In fact, I would have enjoyed a mirror or a video or something to show what my lesson actually looked like. Even though I knew exactly what it looked like. There are several words to call those observed teaching sessions, most of which are vulgar and none of which I am willing to repeat here.

That poor evaluation form was covered in comments. Mr. Fonda-Gough would bend sentences around corners and bury them in every space he could find. He had a gentleman’s handwriting, one that seemed heavily influenced, though not fully perfected, by his wife’s impeccable penmanship.

After the lesson, he would stand six inches away and squint through his glasses at me. I would always expect an aged voice full of whispers when he spoke, but apparently his voice never aged past his thirty-third birthday. Six inches away so that he could see and with a strong voice that rattled my lungs, he would deliver his assessment. Upon finishing, he would hand me the sheet full of gentleman handwriting, give me a well-practiced smile and “good job,” and leave. That’s when I could breathe again.

But Enough about Me…What About You?

Of course Mr. Fonda-Gough had the best of intentions, and he did the best that could with the tools that we had. But after reading Deia Sanders’s post, I couldn’t help but wish that I had had more actionable strategies. I’m not sure that we needed the fun technology—but maybe it would have been a blessing.

How do classroom evaluations go for you? Have you found a more successful method? What do you really want out of job-embedded professional development for teachers (whether you’re a teacher or an admin)?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PD in the Most Unlikely Places

A Post on Job-Embedded Professional Development for Teachers

Hi, readers. It's Jared Heath, here, once again.

To continue our conversation on job-embedded pd for teachers, I ran across something last night that I found curious. Actually, my wife found it. Seven weeks ago, my wife gave birth to our first child--a beautiful baby boy. She is now, understandably, highly intrigued by early learning, child psychology, and what makes little boys tick. Last night, she showed me this article: Parenting Boys: What Boys Need from Moms.

job-embedded professional development for teachers
As she read off some of the items in the article, I immediately (yes, immediately...some say I work too much) thought of you. Here's what the article offers:
  • "Recognize gender differences in brain development. The male brain according to Michael Gurian, needs time to “renew, recharge, and reorient itself between tasks by moving to what Dr. Ruben Gur has called a ‘rest state’. “ Boys need moms who appreciate the uniqueness of the male brain and how boys' brains need time to “recharge” throughout the day. Sons need moms to ensure they receive brain breaks during the day where they experience nature, listen to music, read, exercise, or draw."
  • "Understand his need for movement. Boys need moms to recognize their kinesthetic nature. Because boys’ brains often go into “rest states” they use movements like tapping a pencil or fidgeting to reorient.
  • "Engage in active play. Charades, monopoly, art, sports, digging for worms, climbing, swinging, exploring, or collecting rocks are different activities moms can join in with their sons. Moms can connect with boys love of adventure through story-telling, books, hide and seek, or unstructured play.

Oh, trust me. I know you aren't a parent to your students. There are some needs that parents can fulfill that a teacher never could.

However, there is a great deal of information in here that sure would have made my life as a teacher MUCH more bearable. Like the pencil tapping thing, for example. Not a single professional development session, job-embedded or not, told me about that. But it makes so much sense! If I replaced "mom" with "teacher" in several places in the article, then I have a treasure trove of child psychology information that would have helped me differentiate my instruction and read my class better.

So here's my question--how can you find professional development that is differentiated and really answers my questions? What does it take to actually receive the PD that you need? And how far does "job-embedded" go?

Those are my thoughts. Now I'd like to hear yours.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Job-Embedded PD: To Sleep, or Not to Sleep...

Deia Sanders is a particularly dedicated master teacher and instructional coach. She supports teachers and students at a rural, Title I school in Mississippi with over 90% of students living below the poverty line. 

Mrs. Sanders shares one experience that demonstrates a simple yet dramatic way that job-embedded professional development for teachers can be applied to the classroom.  

She is a mother of two girls--Nyla, 3, and Piper, 18 months.

So many times we bring in speakers and trainers, and travel far and wide to hear and receive the best professional development for our needs. Then we return from the trip, head back to our classrooms with the best intentions of implementation, but in the end we can’t find time to fit in something new, bury the materials under papers,  or fail to fully implement the full realm of training we just received… either way, we aren’t getting our money’s (and time) worth.
Deia Sanders discusses how to apply job-embedded professional development for teachers to the classroom
Mendenhall Jr. High choir receives Superior rating.

It Has to Apply to the Teacher First

The key to fully implementing professional development trainings is follow-up. And so many times this is nearly impossible simply due to the time and money invested in the initial round of training. And we know time and money are not things educators have a lot of.  Because of this, there has been a move for more schools to implement instructional coaches—a person whose goal is to train and then implement and coach side by side with a teacher on an on-going basis the strategies and best practices.  This has been an exciting and wonderful shift in our PD for both me and my staff. 

Drool Spill Clean-Up, Aisle 3...

But what job-embedded professional development for teachers look like? It changes every day and with every teacher, but here is what it looked like one day:

Earlier in the year I was working with a new teacher. We had decided to video her class and review her teaching because the students were telling her they were “bored to death.”  As I sat and watched the class, it almost appeared as if there was a carbon monoxide leak. The students’ heads were dropping one by one on their desks quickly followed by closed eyes and then the rumble of snores. The teacher asked me a question, and without even thinking I changed from coach to teacher-mode and began moving around the room and discussing the topic with the students. All of their little heads popped up and they began to discuss, share, and get excited about the lesson. As soon as I sat down and the teacher went back to lecturing and once again her audience hit the proverbial snooze.

When the teacher reviewed her lesson she was filled with excitement.  Although she was disappointed in her presentation, she was enthusiastic to see the shift in her students’ motivation when the class turned from lecture to discussion, and the simple change from standing at the front to “working the room.” We were able to pinpoint simple techniques that we could focus on to add engagement to her classroom.

PD Isn't Just About Teachers

We didn’t have to spend money or remove her from her students for a training that may or may not meet her needs. We were able to set personalized goals to meet her where she was both physically and professionally and move her step by step to the next level of performance. 

Not only is it huge for our teachers, but it’s an enormous benefit to our students as well, because we no longer have to remove their teachers to train them.  Because job-embedded PD is ongoing and catered to the individual needs of the teachers, we are seeing teachers move to more effective classrooms faster than before.  Our students are now getting lessons worth waking up for!  In an age of differentiated instruction, it’s almost amusing that it took so long to actually do that with professional development and our educators. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Taught ESL; They Learned Self-Confidence: A Job-Embedded PD Story

Hey there, readers. It's Jared Heath here, and I am going to talk to you about job-embedded professional development for teachers.

Job-Embedded PD for Teachers--I Had a Problem

job embedded professional development for teachers with esl students
Image courtesy of
I loved teaching English as a second language. And as I've already discussed with you, my students loved it, too.

That's how, in the first few months as a teacher, I found myself delivering a professional development session at one of our training meetings. We typically had the same two coaches giving us work sheets and asking us self-answering questions that induced sleep more often than they encouraged improvement. You know the drill. If these job-embedded professional development sessions for our teachers weren't considered paid time, my attendance would have been highly questionable. Then one day I got a call from my department head asking me to teach at our next staff meeting.

Now my less-than-favorable attitude toward these PD sessions was coming back to haunt me, because I now had to teach these teachers--many of whom had been at the game much longer than me and were undoubtedly better at their jobs than I. So what do I, a green teacher full of ideas but little else, teach veteran ESL teachers that they will actually take back to their classroom? I had one wild card up my sleeve.

I Had to Take Them Out of Their Comfort Zones

Staff meetings had heretofore been filled with discussions about "the students," always referring to how "they" learn English, how "they" perceive teaching styles, etc. I had spent several years becoming conversational in French, Mandarin Chinese, and German, so I always felt more like "them" with the students than "we" with the teachers. If I had anything to teach these teachers, it was how the teachers themselves learn a second language.

How often do we as teachers forget that we are students? We have to be students. The learning process never ends, and we (should) always push forward in our fields. I had a very solid academic background in phonology, syntax, and lexicon of the English language, but these teachers didn't need a lecture. They needed an experience.

So I Taught Them Mandarin

Most of our teachers had learned a second language, typically Spanish, but it had been a long time since they had lived the excruciating experiences of translating every sentence in their heads before spitting it out in an awful accent.

I took 30 minutes and taught the teachers to count to 10, introduce themselves, ask for directions to the bathroom, write a few Chinese characters, and more. We had so much fun, and the teachers were amazed at what they were able to pick up and retain. These teachers remembered what it was like to be the students again--and in the process, I demonstrated some of my strategies for helping students feel comfortable in the very awkward setting of trying something new.

The next 15 minutes, we discussed the mechanics of the lesson--the kind of questions the audience had, the explanations I gave that helped them see things a little differently, and the strategies that didn't work in that setting or maybe wouldn't work for one of their classrooms.

In that setting, we became the classroom example. But we could never imitate every classroom setting, and we certainly had more questions than an 45-minute session twice a month could answer. We needed something on-demand to carry us through.

I Taught ESL. They Learned Self-Confidence.

I realized that the same self-confidence that I wanted my students to gain was exactly what my co-workers needed in a job-embedded professional development session for teachers. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we can do hard things. Successful PD sessions aren't sessions that teach us lock-step drills for grammar, history, math, or science instruction. We as teachers are trying to change a student's way of thinking about the world and about themselves, and we can't do that until we learn to change our own perspective. Sometimes we forget that this is the most important lesson of all.

Friday, March 2, 2012

March, Frameworks, and Videos

Hi, everyone! It's Jared Heath--the man behind the scenes, as it were. I wanted to let you know about a few changes going on. Let's start with the free conference registration:

Free SIIS 2012 Registration

Our guest bloggers for the month of March will receive free registration for SIIS 2012. No catches. No gimmicks. You get registration to the summit worth $395 for only a few thoughts--when was the last time someone paid you that much for a few hundred words?

teachers apply job-embedded professional development in the classroomThe theme is "Job-Embedded Professional Development for Teachers--How to Apply PD to the Classroom." Maybe you have found simple methods of driving a concept home, or you have re-engineered your classroom. Perhaps you have your own form of PD that works particularly well for you. Whatever you're doing, tell us about it in a blog post! You can email me your post at

Job-Embedded Professional Development for Teachers

Starting on Monday, this blog and the Weekly Video Blog on will begin focusing on the theme ""Job-Embedded Professional Development for Teachers--How to Apply PD to the Classroom." We want to know what you are doing in your classroom that breaks up the norm and introduces education in the most effective ways for your students.

Do you host webinars between classrooms for a joint teaching session? I always wished that I could have a joint history and science class--the Chinese dynasties are interesting, and chemical reactions were supposed to be interesting (I'm not really a science guy), but how fun would it have been to study the development of black powder in connection with Chinese warfare? Or to study math and art together as physics students explain certain principles and art students show how to mold clay on  the wheel? How about studying Jane Eyre in conjunction with health sciences and the spread of tuberculosis or the study of psychology and mental health?

So what's working for you? What's not? Let's talk about it right here.

Free Monthly Webinar

On March 22, School Improvement Network will host a webinar by  Learning 360 Framework trainers that talks about building structure around your professional development! Whether your district uses a framework, needs a framework, or employs other methods of professional development, this webinar will help you refine the training process and structure learning for both students and teachers.

Free PD 360 Videos

Don't forget to check the Weekly Video Blog every Monday! You can watch videos straight from the PD 360 library for free. Check out past videos that are there for your viewing pleasure. It's a small sampling of what PD 360 has to offer, and we want to help in any way we can.

Monday is the day--I look forward to what this month has to offer!