Professional Development Opinion

Teaching & Learning is an Open Book at Turner Middle School

By Contributing Blogger — October 19, 2017 2 min read
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By Brandy Grieves, Principal, and Winifred Lezine, Assistant Principal, of Turner Middle School, Thompson School District

At Turner Middle School, we are opening our classrooms for principals, teachers, and district level administrators across Thompson School District in Loveland, Colorado, to come in and “see” what we put into practice each and every day. Thompson School District has created this opportunity for all buildings throughout the year to get direct feedback and continue our collaboration journey. We are able to share our struggles and successes with personalizing instruction and building a competency-based education system K-12.

To begin our collective commitment at Turner and to focus our work for this school year, we started with our district’s essential question: “How does personalized learning ensure equity and excellence for all students?” We began by discussing what competency looks like at Turner, which led us to our own essential question, “How do we ensure students are engaged in daily instruction to best move them in their academic development?” To ensure that we are staying on course with our work, we have highlighted four pillars: voice and choice, personalized learning goals, evidence of mastery, and competency-based instruction. From these pillars, all of our professional learning and time will be spent understanding, developing, and implementing to better engage each student daily.

As noted in the post, “We See and Believe in Thompson School District,” last year Conrad Ball Middle School began using their “Next Gen Room.” This idea was co-opted by Thompson Valley High School in the form of their “Summit” room. At Turner, we’ve created two spaces based on this same concept. We’ve created the Collaborative Teacher Space and the Collaborate Classroom. The Collaborative Teacher Space is where we have our weekly team-level meetings and share what we’re working on. It allows teachers to cross-pollinate one another’s ideas though we may not always have time to meet in levels or as a whole faculty. Our Collaborative Classroom is a space where teachers can co-teach and try different spatial set-ups for classes within a much larger space. This also allows our teachers to teach larger groups of students and collaborate in new ways.

Going from the idea that “seeing is believing,” we as a district have taken it as our work to learn from one another. We at Turner have brought that into the building. We see and explore what we are all doing in the building, sharing our work, our successes, and our struggles. We are encouraging and inspiring one another to reach beyond our comfort zones so that we model to our students that we are all a work in progress. Many of our teachers use the Design Thinking Model with the steps of empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing. We ask our students to not be afraid to fail forward, and, as a faculty, we are pushing ourselves to model that. We embody a growth mindset in ourselves in order to lead by example and encourage our students to become life-long learners.

The opinions expressed in Next Gen Learning in Action are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.