It used to be, “One size fits all,” then, “One size fits most.” Finally, Burger King announced, “You can have it your way,” and the floodgates blew wide open.
Learners today require that teachers get to know them as individuals and tailor instruction to meet their individual needs to help them gain maximum growth throughout the year. Personalized learning has become one of the newest “edu phrases” of the year. Teachers are working overtime to meet the needs of their students, but are districts doing the same for their teachers?
If you ask teachers for the one thing they need more of it is time. They need more time to plan, more time to learn, more time to develop the continual list of options that grows in their head. How can districts provide time for teachers to learn and grow and support them as individual learners in their professional growth?
Google has the famous (infamous?) 20% Time Project allowing team members to devote 20% of their work week to a side project that aligns with Google’s vision. Many students participate in Genius Hour in classrooms across the nation allowing dedicated time during the regular school day to pursue passion projects. Time and time again research is showing that these practices are creating more collaborative, creative, and inspired environments by allowing choice and voice in the learning and work taking place.
However, what spark are we igniting in our teachers as they desire to continue their professional growth? Districts today are still taking a more traditional approach when it comes to organizing teachers’ professional development. The monthly faculty meeting is still held on the 2nd Tuesday of the month and a “one size fits most approach” continues each year.
What if we flipped the mold a little? What if we continually asked teachers what they needed? How they needed it? Would they like some hands-on training? Maybe a virtual meeting? Maybe some micro-learning site where they can learn on their own time and at their own speed? (HELLO, Pxyis!)
Teachers are lifelong learners. However, each teacher comes with a unique set of passions, learning styles, and skills. When districts create professional development are these unique differences being addressed, or are they required to listen to the same speaker and attend the same workshops as the teacher down the hall? What if we created avenues of personalized professional development for our staff?
Create a Bingo Board for staff. List books to read, podcasts to listen to, topics to study, or tools to learn. Allow staff to dig into what excited them over the course of a semester. Encourage staff to share out what they are learning and how it is impacting their classroom. Free space in the middle? What not let them choose a topic of their choice to dig deep? Plan a fun share out event so teachers can learn from each other and grow in their learning as well. (Note: this doesn’t even have to be done in person. Maybe a collaborative Slides presentation and everyone gets their own slide? Maybe a Doc with a table; everyone gets their own row to share takeaways and links to their learning? Get creative! Don’t let time be a barrier!)
Are you a member of Pyxis? Members can access over 1,000 educational resources on a variety of topics. Want to know more about how to use Flipgrid? Curious how to personalize instruction in your own classroom? We have a resource for that (and tons more, too!)
Plan to have no plan. What does your staff want to learn? Make a list. Post the list. Who (in your building or district) can help lead a session? It doesn’t even have to be at the same time. Is it better for that group to meet before school? Great! Schools have a wealth of knowledge inside each building. Shine a light on the amazing learning happening everyday in various classrooms. Let the teachers teach each other.
Most importantly - above all else - celebrate the learning and growth that is happening! Even if the idea fell flat and was a complete bust, celebrate! Celebrate that your staff wants to learn, grow, and be better than they were yesterday. Shine a light on the amazing things your teachers are doing! Encourage them to step out of their comfort zones and learn something new. Something that is important to them. Something they choose...because their learning was personalized!
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