Why is this shift in thinking so important? In the school system, the most important people are the students. The students are the reason the school exists and we must do everything in our power to assure that they are getting the best instruction and curriculum possible. The most important asset the school district has to achieve this goal for our students are the teachers. Therefore, we must work together to develop professional learning experiences that will help teachers in their classrooms. It seems to me the most obvious people to ask about what they need is the teachers themselves.
The committee consists of about 20 teachers and administrators. The committee has met two times this Spring. In the first meeting the committee spent a lot of time talking about transformation in education as we move deeper into the 21st Century. The committee appreciates the freedom in which the school district allows them to operate in their classroom as they incorporate instruction that reflects the changes in 21st Century educational practice. However, they wanted to make sure that there was a framework in which they could operate so they new the boundaries in which they were working. This framework, of course, is the curriculum. The committee also wanted to explore some ideas for offering professional learning experiences for teachers within the school district. These experiences would be tailored to the needs of the teachers. With all of this in mind, the school district will offer for the first time the Penn-Trafford Summer Academy for Teachers. This is a "pilot program" year for this initiative and we hope to build on it for next year. The learning experiences are as follows:
- On June 6th, K-8 grade teachers will meet to align their curriculum between grades. This will allow each grade level to know the expectations of the grade before and after them. The teachers will also develop a list of "essential skills" for Math and Reading for each grade level.
- Also during this week, elementary teachers will have the opportunity to learn a literacy strategy called LTRS. The importance of literacy in the elementary grades is paramount and this training will put more "tools" in the teacher's toolbox.
- June 4th, 5th and 6th will see teachers being trained on how to implement virtual learning into their classroom. A trainer will spend time with teachers working on making their curriculum and instruction "virtual".
- For three days in June (either the first or second week, I can't remember right now since I am at home on weekend writing this!) middle school and high school teachers will have the opportunity to learn about the Penn Literacy Framework for improving literacy in all subject areas. The framework comes from the University of Pennsylvania and is highly recommended. The school district has had an administrator and a couple teacher go through the training through the course of the school years and they have had very positive results.
I am very proud of the hard work the professional learning committee has put in this year. They actually studied national standards for professional learning published by the leading national organization in school professional learning (http://www.learningforward.org/standards) and are trying to incorporate them into what the district does for professional learning. The district has had a huge head start in the adoption of the standards since Penn-Trafford was one of the first local school districts to create and use "professional learning communities" in our schools. Once again, the district is building on a solid foundation that was built over the course of the last decade or so. I know this is longer than usual and it reflects my pride and enthusiasm for the work of the members of this committee.