02 Mar Slice of Life: If Successful … #SOL18
Last fall I started using a ritual to begin my professional development sessions. I don’t remember how it started. I remember where, when, with whom and why, but the how still escapes me. It goes like this…
So, we have between now and 10:30 today. If we are successful, what will we accomplish between now and 10:30? Turn and talk it out with a partner. Let’s share out and chart it.
If Successful …
The timeframes change, the participants change, but the question I ask at the beginning of each session has remained the same since October. It has been a game changer for me. It typically takes about five minutes and the payoff is immeasurable. Here are the benefits I notice:
- Begin by listening
As a staff developer, coach, or teacher I always have goals in mind for my instruction. I think through how I want to focus my time and make connections between my sessions. I am clear on how I want to be successful. When I begin sessions by listening to what the participants want to achieve it gives me a different point of view. It helps me adjust the goals to the needs and interests of my learners.
- Give people time to shift focus and engage in professional learning
I always have time to set up and get my head in the game before a group of teachers joins me. The teachers, however, are typically coming from the classroom. Their minds and hearts are not always in the room when we begin. This ritual gives them a few minutes to shift attention and orient their minds for the work we are about to begin.
- Frame the time and focus of the session
So little time and so much to do! Teachers want everything done yesterday. It is helpful to connect success with the amount of time available. It helps set real but achievable goals.
- Prioritize goals
Sometimes the list gets too long. The group can prioritize the goals to make sure we discuss what is important to them based on our shared focus.
- Reflect on the session and seek feedback
It is a great way to set the group up to reflect on the process of learning. When we end by asking ourselves if we were successful it provides an opportunity to give and receive feedback to improve how we learn together.
It is great to step back and recognize the work accomplished … before everyone starts worrying about next steps. Taking the time to be in the moment and celebrate is energizing and motivating.
It is easy to save the list and refer back to it or use it to plan future sessions.
It is rare that someone doesn’t say (and add) something funny to the list. Laughing brings us together, reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously and releases creative energy.
There are times when something is going on in a school, among a team or with a person and I am unaware of the situation. Teachers, being the professionals they are, often carry on with a session. When I start with asking this question, it does provide an opportunity for me to connect with the group in case there is something they want to share with me or each other.
I have also used this ritual in my personal life when my to-do list feels overwhelming or when I am planning something for a group whose members have varied agendas. Recently I even tried it out on my family – I think it would work to think through a weekend, a vacation, a project, the next two hours together – but it was rejected since it violated the “no teacher talk” rule in our house.
It is so simple. It is so quick. It really works. If Successful … I would love to hear how it works for you!
Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Melanie, Lisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year.