Its all about who you know

As part of my Kenan fellowship I get the opportunity to grow as an educator outside the classroom. Through the Professional Advancement Institutes I gained ideas and tangible practices from other educators at a lightning fast rate. Things that I would have never discovered on my own came in fast and furious in these gatherings. So many people are doing amazing things in their classroom and all it takes to gain that knowledge is time and a space to interact face to face.
The structured time gave me tangibles, but what I have found most valuable is the in between time. The time with other passionate people chatting about an engaging topic or cool activity they did in class. Picking their brain and asking hard questions led to a place of engagement that just doesn’t happen by accident. This isn’t Friday early release mandated PD. This is sharing of ideas from professionals who care deeply about their students and their content. This is crucial to growth and cannot be forced.
Of all the PD and all the institutes the space between is where the good stuff is. Other people have learned so much and as educators they can share succinctly what is good to know and what is most useful. The time with other teachers is the best PD I have ever had and I look forward to creating that culture in my school.

In the thick of it

Early in the school year I have already transferred some of my experience into the classroom. There are so many cool apps and ways to use technology that I have forgotten who and where I picked them up, sorry for not giving credit. One specific thing I have used with huge success thus far is the team structure we used in our specific research project.
For my astronomy class I created task forces that are responsible for completing large tasks and projects. Every student has a set role of responsibility and invariably they pick slack in areas they are talented in. Having been part of a team recently, I am familiar with the dynamics of a team vs. a “group project”. When each student has a responsibility, and is held to that standard each student has a value and feels that value. Students have already expressed happiness and engagement in their teams. One team even sparked a romantic relationship. That is a side effect, not necessarily an eventuality but any way to create a class culture is good by me. Culture and shared experience is the best way to engage students and create a space where everyone feels important and valued.