In my last post, I wrote about my vision for professional development. I believe that professional development should foster deep understanding in teachers. So what might this professional development look like within a school?
One of the best PD experiences I’ve had in the last couple of years was a book club. Four of us, ranging from a first grade teacher to middle school math teachers, chose to read a book about math discussions in the classroom. We read, we discussed, we tried out some of the “talk moves,” and debriefed. We then decided to videotape ourselves trying to use the talk moves. We met again to watch each other and give feedback. We talked about spots in our lessons in which using a certain talk move would be beneficial. And the school’s math specialist knew that using these talk moves in my math shares was a goal of mine.
At first, I didn’t use the talk moves. Then I misused them. Finally, I was able to incorporate the talk moves in meaningful ways. Now, a school year later, those talks moves are mine. My lessons are better and my kids do more of the math talking and thinking than me.
So what made this book club such a powerful form of professional development?
• The topic and book was self-selected.
• The process was contemplative and took time.
• Each teacher was able to come away with something specific for her.
• There was little uniformity in the learning process.
I still want quick take-aways. I still want to watch other teachers, whether live or digital, and get ideas. But schools have to also make space for the kind of thinking work that the book club allowed me. The kind of thinking work that we ask our own students to do.
Jessica Hahn has taught elementary grade children for six years in Phoenix and New York City. She has a master’s degree in literacy from Teachers College and began doctoral work in curriculum and teaching there as well. She currently teaches 1st grade in Brooklyn.
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