Recently, I was interviewed on behalf of The Teachers Guild regarding my experiences and involvement with the Atlanta K12 Design Challenge. The Teachers Guild is an online forum for educators all over the world to collaborate and utilize the Design Thinking process to tackle challenges in education. My interview was related to a challenge regarding professional development, and I believe that public/private collaboration is one of the most essential pieces missing in professional development design today. My passion for improving professional development was ignited through my involvement with the Atlanta K12 Design Challenge, a partnership between Atlanta area independent schools, Fulton County Schools, and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. The partnership invokes the use of Design Thinking as a process for school innovation, and the collaboration among schools is essential to the success of the partnership.
THE TEACHERS GUILD CHALLENGE:
How might we reimagine professional learning so that we continue to grow, feel inspired, and have the greatest impact on students?
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Finish Strong. It seems out of place to utter these words as we are beginning a new year. After all, this is the time for new resolutions and goals. This is, however, also the time that many educators across the country dread. It’s back to school after a fabulous couple of weeks away from grading, lesson plans, and countless hours working outside of the classroom. It’s also the season of pressure and time constraints as many struggle to “cover” all of their curriculum by the end of the year. To those of you feeling this stress and anxiety about going back to school this week, I remind you to take a deep breath and finish strong.
This is a new semester full of new opportunities and energy. Allow yourself to be physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally ready. Put yourself first. Take time for your health and laugh with friends and family. Put your papers away at home. Go see that movie you’ve been wanting to see-maybe even on a school night! Read books for fun. Go for that walk or run you’ve been contemplating. Prepare to finish strong by first taking care of yourself.
Embrace the energy of the semester, and take a deep breath. You will not be able to “cover” everything in your curriculum more than likely. That’s just reality. Plan with your colleagues and determine essential outcomes and skills that will most prepare your students for learning at the next level. If you’re worried about state testing, also use this planning time to identify common themes and strands that will allow you to potentially narrow your focus and navigate the curriculum through experiences and stories. This builds relationships with your students and deeper connections are established. Find room within this curriculum to integrate 21st century skills and passion-driven learning moments. Your students want to feel connected to their curriculum, and it is possible to provide opportunities for student-driven learning that are tied to your outcomes. Desire to become more of a facilitator of learning and don’t be afraid to take risks. Let your students take ownership of their learning, and consider giving them choice in demonstrating their knowledge on projects and performance assessments. You will be amazed at their creativity! Prepare to finish strong by elevating the essentials and integrating student-driven learning opportunities. I promise you, this is worth it!
Here’s to you and your new year!