Teacher Voice, Learner Choice - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

Teacher Voice, Learner Choice

Posted on October 7, 2017

by Dr. Edna Hussey on October 7, 2017

The emphasis and structure of Professional Learning in 2017-2018 is the result of listening carefully to the pulse of the faculty. Since 2009 when we began all-school professional development in the spirit of one school, the faculty, regardless of the grade level and discipline in which they teach, has engaged in learning deeply about the uses of technology e.g., iPad, 3-D imaging, VR immersive tech) in teaching and learning, assessment practices, STEM, discipline-specific assessment and its relationship to instruction and curriculum, social/emotional learning, and learning differences.

We began our 8th year of all-school professional learning with two significant differences compared to previous years: teacher-designed options and teacher choice! These developments were the result of meetings that began at the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools' (HAIS) Leading Schools of the Future conference last April. Mid-Pacific faculty representatives and the principals (TED) explored the notion of re-thinking professional learning, with an emphasis on teachers taking a more active role in their learning. The end goals? Refining the knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions necessary to support high levels of learning for all students and affirming the teacher as a professional.

In May 2017, all faculty were invited to an open discussion about the nature of professional learning. In the grand conversation involving about 25-30 faculty representing all grade levels, all disciplines, and range of teaching experience, these three areas about professional learning emerged:

• Habits and Dispositions: What mindset, values, dispositions, and habits characterize the teacher? What informs mindful, reflective practice? What are the aspirational qualities of the teacher?

• Collegial Connections: How does the school build a community of teaching professionals? How can teachers mentor one another in areas of expertise regarding curriculum, instruction, or assessment? How can classroom observations expand their worldview of teaching?

• Instructional Practices/Assessment: What are "new" instructional practices in content areas? How can the assessment practices (per the assessment guidelines) translate into the report card? What should "count"? How can assessment inform decisions about curriculum and practice?

In August, teachers were invited to yet one more meeting, this time to form self-selected teams to plan sessions that would fit into one of the three focus areas. The recent professional learning day on October 6 was the result of their efforts, with sessions on assessment strategies, the formation of a professional reading club, planning a system for teachers to visit one another's classrooms, and conflict prevention. In addition, we experienced an "unconference" that works like this: you come up with a topic of discussion or something you want to present, put it up on a board with times and meeting locations, and meet!

The sum experience of the day for me? Totally refreshing! More and more teachers are talking across "borders" and speaking the same "language" about teaching and learning. There's evidence of shared practices, e.g., student portfolios of learning. Teacher-leaders are not just a few; there's an increasing number of experts and mentors. The next professional development day is November 9 -- I'm sure many teachers are looking forward to a voice and choice in their own learning.

Our 45 fifth graders and six chaperones arrived back home safely on October 6 after two star-filled, 58-degree nights at Kilauea Miltary Camp in Volcano on the Big Island. I understand they hiked at least five miles each day, viewed the eruptions from Jaggar Museum, saw native birds such as the ʻapapane and ʻoiwi, cleaned up parts of a forest, and bonded as a class. Here they are at the Hawaiian Air terminal before entering the security checkpoint. Iʻm looking forward to hearing highlights of the trip from them and the chaperones.

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E Kūlia Kākou! Let's strive and aspire together!

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey, Ed.D.