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.

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