Over the past year, I have attended several conferences, cohorts, and summits. There have been many take-aways from workshops, and I have been motivated and inspired by keynote speakers; but, perhaps, the greatest benefit has been the learning that happened in conversations with other educators. These unstructured and informal moments are what led to my most profound learning. Hearing teachers share stories of success and struggle is what has led me to reflect and make changes in my own practice.
Workshops and conferences are often not enough. Being able to discuss and share my take-aways with other teachers at my school is what has made an impact. These “in between workshops” conversations are what Michael Fullan refers to as Learning is the Work.
What I realized at a recent math summit, is that the Work is the Dialogue. At this summit, I had the opportunity to work alongside educators from numerous schools in my region, revising math assessments and rubrics. Most of our time was spent in rich discussions, as we unpacked standards, and shared our thoughts on what it truly looks like for a child to successfully demonstrate their learning. After two days of “work,” we realized that we all had a much deeper understanding of how to teach and assess mathematical practices. Even though we didn’t quite reach our goal, we knew that the learning we achieved through our dialogue was something we could take back and share with others at our schools. Having unstructured, uninterrupted time to just talk and learn together was powerful. A recent blog post from George Couros emphasizes the importance of this.
How can we make more time for this in our schools?
One way that we have introduced this at my school is a monthly Think Tank. A resource is shared beforehand, and then teachers come to the Learning Commons, and we just sit and talk about it. This hour of dialogue always provides me with many a-ha moments, and I get to hear unique perspectives from my colleagues. Many great ideas have come out of this dialogue.
Even the most well-planned professional development often doesn’t compare to just putting teachers in the same room and letting them have conversations.