#CFISinnovate17: My first organized school-wide PD session

Over the past few weeks, I have been engaged with planning and organizing a Preschool to Grade 12 Professional Development day for all the educators, support staff, and specialist at Calgary French & International School.

I was originally inspired to organize an event like this through various conversations I have had with the Head of School regarding the organization of a “marketplace” PD, that allows different educators to share their expertise with others. This is also known as a mini conference, that our ECE and Elementary Division have done from time to time. As I have built relationships with the staff across all three divisions of the school, I was really inspired to be able to take advantage of the expertise that we have within the walls of the school to organize a school-wide PD or mini-conference. We often bring in experts from outside to work with our teachers during PD day’s, yet we have so many experts that are available on the inside. Furthermore, teachers are often attending professional development outside of the school, and yet are not often given the chance to share some of the things they have learned and been able to put into practice in their own classroom. Therefore, after reading the Innovators Mindset, and participating in the #ETCoaches online Book Study, I was so inspired to bring alive the “Marketplace” idea, that I took the risk in asking the principles from each division if I could organize this event. They all thought this was a fantastic idea and over the next few weeks helped me contact teachers or provided suggestions on who may be interested in presenting.

When meeting with the Innovation Reps in the Elementary and ECE division, and with curriculum teams in the secondary division, I made it very clear when I approached everyone that they did not have to feel at all obligated to present during the PD. However, what I did do, is share individually one thing they are doing that I feel is innovative and exciting and that others would like to learn about. I felt this created a trust between myself and the teachers, and everyone seemed extremely excited and happy to share. I also explained that I would like to build in time to allows the attendees to build, play, explore or try anything that would be presented, so to consider framing their session around 15 minutes of instruction with 30 minutes exploration.

Once I had a good number of teachers willing to present, I was determined to make this a professional development day, like nothing the school has scene before. And had a goal to create the feeling as if everyone was attending a high caliber conference. To do this, I modeled what I learned from a conference I attended last year and created a website with: the schedule, descriptions of sessions, registration page, a page for session resources, and a hashtag for the event: #CFISinnovate17. Furthermore, as things fell into place, I was also able to organize a keynote speaker to begin and end the day, in addition to integrated built-in reflection time.

What was also so positive, is that in in the weeks leading up to #CFISinnovate17, everyone shared with me how excited they were to be able to share their passions and expertise with others.

Overall, I am so impressed with how the school came together and got an opportunity to learn together across all three divisions. The positive responses while reading the feedback survey and everyone’s individual reflections was overwhelmingly positive. In addition, a number of teachers who presented for their first time, thanked me at the end of the day for believing in them and encouraging them was inspiring. Overall, this has been such an amazing experience and definitely a highlight of my career so far, that I have asked if I could do this again next year.

Here are some highlights from some of the attendees’ reflections:

“I was impressed with the caliber of the presentations and by my knowledgable colleagues.”

“We need more sessions like today. Today was a fantastic day.”

“Can we do more PD like this???? This was awesome!”

“This staff is a treasure chest of resources.”

“What a wonderful day of presentations from our colleagues. Thank you for organizing them!”

“All the presenters, were passionate and interesting and truly “formidable”.

“The best ressources for a teacher is often inside of a school!! What a powerful PD session.”

“The presenters were very prepared and great resources on their chosen topics. I enjoyed the sessions very much.”

“We have GREAT resources at our school, we need to use them more.”

“This was a great opportunity to meet other CFIS staff and having the freedom to choose what we learned for PD was very refreshing!!” ”

“Today I was inspired by some amazing presentations. I am so lucky to have the colleagues I have.”

My reflection for improvements for next year:

  • More break time in between sessions.
  • An announcement on the PA system 2 minutes before the next session begins to remind teachers to go to their next session.
  • Choosing a different time of year, as many teachers were at school quite late the days prior with parents-teacher conferences.
  • Finding additional time to allow teachers to revisit what they were introduced to and having time to put into practice what they learned.
  • Have one hour sessions instead of 45-minute sessions.

In the meantime, I would like to explore the implementation of #ObserveMe and the use of a #PineappleChart in the staffroom, throughout the school. Now that we have got everyone motivated and inspired, I want to be able to provide additional opportunities for staff to connect with our internal experts and allow for teachers to go into classrooms to observe and see what they learned during #CFISinnovate17 in action.

To learn more about #CFISinnovate17 and some of the sessions that were offered, check out the PD website and the Storify Twitter Feed.

Building trust within a team

I believe that one of the first things in building relationships and a culture of trust in your team is by being available for your team members. One of my teachers had a major breakthrough last week and shared with me that she experienced an “A-ha moment” by feeling supported. She knew that I was there to help her and I would continue to encourage her. Teachers will more likely be willing to take risks when they know that they can rely on their coach. I also believe that active listening is an important skill to develop trust. And not just listening, but caring. Taking the time to find out how your team members are doing, looking out for their health and best interest, and reminding them when it is time to take a break, are all important things to remember. Coaches also need to be open and honest, and available for discussions. They need to celebrate with their team when things go well and provide guidance when things don’t go as planned. Coaches also need to be able to provide constructive feedback and not be afraid to ask questions. Many of my teachers also say that they see me as their cheerleader, because no matter how big or small, I will always be on the sidelines to help see them through to the finish line.

What does your team say about you?

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