Be the change, being a teacher, PD

Small Moment PD or How To BE a PD Ninja

image from icanread

I am busy working on my second book to be published by Corwin in the fall hopefully, tentatively titled “Empowered Teachers – Empowered Students” it is all about how to change the climate of a school and a classroom.  One of the things that I have been writing about is the need for “small moment PD,” particularly as we get busier and busier in our educational lives.  What follows here is an excerpt from the draft, I would love to add your ideas to it or just get your thoughts.

 So where can small moments of professional development happen?

  • 5 minutes after the first bell.  This may be a sacred time for attendance but why not dedicate it instead to article reading time or video viewing time. Send a short blog post or article for teachers to read the first five minutes during the day.  Students are typically settling in, working on morning work, listening to announcements, and getting ready for class to start.  While you read they could still be doing all of that or they could also be reading an article to benefit them.

  • Create school-wide independent reading time.  Once a day or once a week, everyone should drop everything and read.  Often teachers think that independent reading time (if at all implemented) should be used to meet with students, grade papers, get ready etc, but instead give permission to just read something.  You can choose whether it should be something pre-determined or whether teachers can choose their own reading material but give them the time.

  • Buy professional books for book clubs.  Some teachers thrive in informal book club discussions but don’t want to spend their own money buying the books needed.  So why not allocate money for staff to pick their book club books and then highlight that a book club exists.  Often all it takes for teachers to start reading is to give them a nice, new inspiring book.

  • Forward on condensed magazines filled with information.  One of the biggest obstacles to quick professional development is finding the time to find things to share.  Magazines such as “The Best and Next in Education” do the work for you.  All you have to do is subscribe and then pass it on to staff.

  • Preload iPods with podcasts.  I know teachers who drive for more than 45 minutes to get to work, why not have pre-loaded iPods ready for them to check out with great new podcasts to inspire them?  There are so many wonderful podcasts available for free that is destined to inspire.  What’s more many podcasts nowadays are 15 to 10 minutes long, that means even teachers driving short distances can benefit from these.

  • The all school read in.   Why not have a weekly or bi-weekly read-in in the gym where teachers can drop their students off and meet in teams to learn something together?  Often teachers are eager to learn but don’t have the time to meet, so even a 30 minute read-in can provide the time needed with minimal supervision required.

  • The bathroom article.  The one place that all teachers go at some point is the bathroom, so why not post relevant articles in them?  While this may seem silly or disgusting to some, having reading material right in front of you usually means you will read it.

  • Bribe teachers with lunch or coffee.  Where this is food, there can be learning.  Once a month, my incredible PTO provides a teacher appreciation lunch, why not combine this with a great video or discussion group.  While it could not be made mandatory, if the content being delivered is worthwhile, you should see at least some teachers choose to participate.

  • Combine PD with students.  Some of my best best PD has been in discussion with mystudents after watching a video or reading an article.  Now these are 5th graders so the content being delivered has to fit the appropriate age group, but I have always left these student discussions with ideas to implement in our classroom the very next day.

As I said, this is not the ultimate list, but rather a beginning to spark ideas for you.  Every school is different, as is its culture.  Brainstorm with teachers and students where to find the time for extra professional development.  Create the opportunities and then highlight the teachers that take it.  Lead them into new leadership positions where they can share their new-found knowledge, after all, it is not just meant to provide teachers with more knowledge, but for them to become experts in their own right.

 I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students” will be released this March from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

7 thoughts on “Small Moment PD or How To BE a PD Ninja”

  1. Thanks for sharing our magazine, “The Best and Next in Education” – we really think it is time for teachers and leaders to “empower” their colleagues with research, information, and emerging practices!

  2. First, I have to say, “Damn you Pernille Ripp” because as I scroll through my Twitter feed each night, I can’t roll past anything with your name on it! I am always inspired and will pass this one along. I love the idea of small moment PD because that’s all we’ve got. One thing I’ve tried this year is to pass along an app, blog post, or article to a specific person saying, “This is so YOU.” We all seem to be inundated with mass emails that we just don’t have time to read and ideas we don’t have time to try, but when I come upon something that brings a certain person to mind, I try to pass it along with a personal message or quick demo if I can. And I hope they will return the favor!

  3. Pernille,
    Good luck with your new book! I have a couple of other ideas I would like to share with you.
    #1. One Wednesday a month, I take the entire student body into the gym for an assembly while the staff has an hour and 15 minutes to collaborate and learn from each other.
    #2. One Wednesday a month, we have a 30 minute meeting right before school in which staff have the opportunity to choose what they’d like to learn about, taught by members of our amazing staff.
    #3. Once in a while, I host Twitter Tuesdays to facilitate further understanding of Twitter.
    #4. We had an EdCamp for an afternoon in which staff learned from one another while the superintendent and I chaperoned the students in the gym with a DJ, board games in the commons, or reading in the library.
    #5. I include tweets and blog posts in my weekly email to staff. This is mine from last week.
    If you would like to discuss any of these further, please let me know.

  4. As a teacher, I love all these ideas (except the first–first thing in the morning is tough for me–I really want to be interacting with students as they come in, and I never feel like there’s enough of me to go around as it is).
    Where I do mini-PD is during lunch. I used to work in a school where the culture was that everyone came to lunch–we did great sharing around the table. Now I’m in a building without a good place for people to gather and I miss those conversations. Instead, I use my lunch time to catch up on reading all the prof. blogs I subscribe to (it’s my lunch right now). Having prep. time where I can use my discretion about how I use the time (rather than meetings) also allows me to read my favorite teaching blogs. Perhaps introducing teachers to a lot of good blogs and then encouraging them to subscribe to one could be a good way to get teachers connected with regular PD reading that’s quick and easy.

  5. I agree with Natasha — your first suggestion doesn’t seem at all practical. If all the kids are reading at that time, yes, but that’s your #2. There’s far too much going at the start of the school day (in the classroom, in our heads) for us to focus on reading, especially if we’re supposed to learn something new from that reading. But I do like the rest of your list.

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