Reprinted with permission from Connect & Learn
Improving our craft, learning new skills, staying current on trends, modeling “life-long learning” — these are all things teachers want to do, but finding the time is a whole other story. The days are long, the work-load never ending, the expectations are high, and then to add professional learning in the mix, well, many teachers feel that there are just not enough hours in the day. To meet this need, we must get creative. The professional learning must be relevant, personalized and timely.
One way to accomplish this is through some version of the “Pineapple Chart”, which I learned about last spring from Cult of Pedagogy’s Jennifer Gonzalez. (I am thankful people re-post popular blog posts, as timing is everything!) Jennifer shares the idea of teachers opening up their classroom to visitors to observe specific things. Teachers write on a chart, located in a prominent place in the school, something they are teaching that other teachers might be interested in seeing in action.
While learning about the Pineapple Chart, I also came across #observeme on Twitter. Teachers place a sign outside their classroom, listing a few goals that they want feedback on and inviting others into their classroom. Robert Kaplinsky wrote a post about #observeme and the benefits of opening your classroom to others for feedback.
Both of these ideas were shared with teachers and administrators in our district, as one of our goals is to create “model classrooms” where teachers can see innovative ideas in action.
As Austin Kleon has said in his book, Steal Like an Artist, “Nothing is completely original.” He explains that we take ideas and “remix” them to find something that works for us.
In this spirit, one of our elementary campuses, who was interested in trying this out this school year, decided to merge the two ideas. Teachers at Austin Elementary have boards with pineapples on them (a sign of welcome) with an #observeme sign. It was suggested that teachers make this a “team” effort in the classroom, making goals with their students. In discussing this with the administrators on the campus, they felt this would be a way to make it a goal for all learners in the classroom to grow each day. As I visited the campus one day recently, I snapped some pictures of #observeme signs and goals.
One of the teachers on the campus said that she likes the concept, but they are finding it a challenge to get teachers to come in, as conference periods are packed full of other responsibilities. To help with this, campus administrators will have classrooms covered for teachers who want to visit another classroom to learn. They are hopeful that this will get the ball rolling and feedback will come in to help them all learn and grow.
Twitter, always a go-to for quick learning, provided another option for teachers who are not quite ready to jump on a Pineapple chart or are a little intimidated by #observeme. Teacher2Teacher saw the pictures above that I tweeted out and reached out to me. They teamed up with Melissa White and Lacey Snyder who are inviting teachers to participate in #onesmallthing. Read this post about #OneSmallThing and decide if starting small might just be the best fit for you.
All of this ties in nicely with my reading of Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda. Through this book, I became familiar with The 16 Habits of Mind by Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick. As I read through the habits, I reflected on how each of these relates to learners of ALL ages, not just our students in the classroom. An important one for educators is to remember to be a learner. You’ve heard it before, no longer are we the keepers of the knowledge but are more facilitators of learning. To make this shift, we must first be learners and so importantly, “resist complacency.”
Making time for learning is as important for adults as it is for our young learners! Whether it is a 15 minute visit to a classroom, a 30 minute Twitter chat in your PJs, or a weekend edcamp, finding the learning that is just right for you has never been easier or more accessible. And for a quick way to grow your #PLN (personal learning network) follow the people mentioned above!