Teaching is an evolving profession where educators are expected to keep current on best practices while honing their own craft. Although districts require formal professional development hours to help teachers sharpen skillsets, nothing compares to the honest learning experience that occurs among colleagues watching each other in action.
Inevitably, there is someone in your building who is an expert in some aspect of teaching. Instead of spending loads of money bringing in professionals to run a learning in-service, teachers should just turn to each other. By sharing our gifts and enthusiasm with each other not only does it build instructional capacity in the school building, but it brings everyone together as a cohesive unit moving towards one common goal.
I wrote a previous blog post about my experience learning from my colleagues in The Secret to the Most Effective PD. If after reading you want to learn more about how to implement this learning experience at your school site, snag my PD product to walk you through it step-by-step here: Learning Walks: Effective Peer Observations.
This post, however, is going to give you some quick tips on how to get the most out of a learning walk:
Make a Plan
Learning walks are meant to be a collaborative process among colleagues. In efforts to keep it harmonious and moving like a well-oiled machine, a plan has to be in place for how and when teachers can visit each other’s classrooms. I highly suggest setting up a bulletin board in the staff room for teachers to place schedules for “open show” times where others can come visit each other’s classrooms.
Have a Focus
When teachers walk into each others’ classrooms, it can be overwhelming. There is a lot happening and we educators rarely get to see our friends teach. It is very exciting, but we don’t want to distract students while learning. There’s no way to capture ALL THE AWESOMENESS happening in just a few short minutes, which is why you need to develop one simple focus for when you pop in. Now, your eyes and ears only take in data on your focus and you simplify the overwhelm.
Nothing is worse than having an observation without feedback. The same is true with learning walks. Even though your peers are popping in to beg, borrow and steal ideas to bring back to their own classrooms, it is still daunting to have eyes on you and it is only natural to want to know how you are doing. So, upon exit be sure to thank the teacher with a silent gesture or drop a quick note celebrating something you learned and gained from the visit. This takes the intimidation and pressure off the experience and encourages more teachers to show off their skills knowing it’s a safe place to be celebrated.
Have you tried learning walks at your school? Share your experience below!