Sunday, August 11, 2013

Four Days of Transformational Professional Development

During the last week of July and into the first few days of August, I was fortunate to attend PAUSD's
Thank you to the wonderful people at Teacher's College for
coming to Palo Alto!  Thank you to Matthew Lindner for making
it happen for our school district.  This was a game changer!
Teacher's College Reading Writing Project (TCRWP) homegrown writing institute.  TCRWP sent out a few knowledgable and passionate staff trainers to teach us about writing workshop.  I was lucky enough to be assigned to four days with Alissa Levy.  Alissa is a classroom teacher who just started with the project full time this summer.  We were her first group to train, and such a fortunate group of teachers!

What I really found inspiring about this professional development was that 120 k-6 teachers voluntarily attended the sessions.  Of the 18 teachers at my school, 15 attended.  My principal was also there everyday.  Every single teacher I talked with is just thrilled with how the week went.  We all agree that we learned a great deal and are making the commitment to implement this model in our classrooms.  At most professional developments, teachers are isolated, discouraged to talk, and asked to put away their computers.  This was was the opposite of that model.  Alissa presented material, we asked questions, she helped us problem solve with thoughtful suggestions, we were given valuable assignments: one being teacher as the writer, we were given collaboration time with writing partners, and were encouraged to take risks and figure out how this model will work for all of us individually or as grade level teams in our own classrooms.  This is the first professional development in all my years of teaching that I wish lasted longer than four days!

During my teacher credential program, I learned how to use the writing workshop model.  My grade level partner during my first year of teacher was also a dedicated follower of the model, so that solidified my use of it.  I've been using this model now for over 11 years.  Prior to going to the institute, I thought I'd pick up some great tidbits, but I didn't think my teaching would change or I'd be blown away.  In fact, my teaching will change and I was blown away.  Not only was Alissa a catalyst of change for me in my classroom, but she was also that catalyst for the 25 other teachers in the room with me, including two of my current grade level partners.  All of us felt so fortunate to work with her.  After the four days, we even bought her a small gift and all signed a card of appreciation.  That never happens at a professional development!

I could continue to write about the set-up of the days, the particular lessons we learned, and my experience as a writing student, but I honestly don't feel I can do the week justice.  I'll end this love letter to TCRWP by restating the three important professional development keys that made this week work.

  1. Nearly my entire staff and principal attended the workshop.  Not only will my classroom and grade level change for the better, but also my entire school will change.
  2. Our presenter, Alissa Levy, was knowledgable, realistic, passionate, and a teacher herself.  These four traits are keys to being an great teacher trainer.
  3. The material was relevant, research-based, and realistic for the classroom no matter how much technology or lack of technology a teacher and students are able to access.
My follow-up post on this will come after I've implemented the TCRWP writing workshop model in my classroom.  I can't wait to guide my fifth graders through the process and see the writing they will produce this year!  Thank you, Teacher's College!