GREAT PROFESSIONAL LEARNING SHOULD BE...

We all have good intentions as educators, but sometimes what we do doesn't match our positive beliefs and knowledge of best practices. Great professional learning helps teachers work from our most positive goals and beliefs. We need to constantly ask, "Why do we do what we do?"
What are your goals? Where do you want to take your personal practice, your school, or your district? A canned approach is likely beyond the reach of some and will diminish great practices in others. Professional learning should be tailored to your needs, your schedule, and the culture of your school.
Adult learning should be grounded in research, theory, and purpose, but we can't stay up in the clouds for too long. In the end, we need to know what to do - today and tomorrow. We need tried and true practical strategies we can use right away.
Have you ever attended a workshop where the presenter was sharing about differentiation but then didn't differentiate during the workshop? That's so frustrating! Professional learning should mirror the best practices we're working to implement with students.

WORK CAN BE CUSTOMIZED IN MANY WAYS...

Bring the whole faculty together for an inspirational talk to support district unity and shared vision. Keynotes are most impactful when they are part of a broader set of work. No matter how uplifting, a one-off talk rarely helps make meaningful change without being connected to the bigger picture.

A workshop might be a half-day, a full-day, a week, or anything in between. These give educators a chance to dig into content together in depth. Through a mix of direct presentation, activities, planning, and discussion, learners get to wrestle with challenging content in the safety of a community of colleagues.

Sometimes the most effective way to support change across a large school or district is to develop a set of in-house teacher-leaders who can then facilitate learning with their colleagues. In order for this to work well, teacher-leaders need to develop skills of facilitation and access to high-quality resources. This can help build sustainability for long-term implementation in a district while also nurturing your next set of school and district leaders.

When teams of teachers get together to plan, share strategies, and problem-solve, incredible growth can happen. This format allows for professional learning to be embedded throughout the year–small groups can rotate throughout a day which reduces disruptions to classes and only requires minimal coverage.

Teachers crave authentic and meaningful feedback. They also love to learn from and with each other. Too often, peer observations in schools are unwieldy–requiring complex charts and coverage systems. What if it was manageable? What if teachers had a set of protocols and skills so it felt meaningful and safe? That’s what collegial coaching is all about!

It can be so powerful to see strategies in action with your own students! Demonstration lessons give teachers the chance to watch a strategy in action and then reflect deeply about it afterwards. Over and over, teachers share that this is one of the most impactful professional learning experiences they’ve had.

When a teacher has a specific goal and is ready for highly specific and supportive feedback, you can’t beat one-on-one coaching. This strategy is best used with teachers who crave it and are open and eager to learn.

Sometimes it makes sense to support teachers and students remotely through an online platform. This might take the form of a book study, small group planning sessions, coaching, a live workshop, or an online course. Key principles of great learning still apply. It must be purposeful, practical, dynamic, and interactive!

Most commonly requested topics...

Keep in mind, these often blend together once we get going!

In this practical and timely professional learning, we explore how to reduce teachers' workloads while also boosting student engagement.
The basic tenets of good teaching apply whether we're in person, online, or a bit of both: relationships are key, learning should be engaging, and routines are important. We can take much of what we know works in a traditional school model and transition it to other formats--with a little bit of creativity and positive energy! In fact, any of the categories below are still possible (and may be more important than ever) as the learning environment moves beyond the traditional school setting.
There are important social and emotional competencies that students need to develop to be successful in school and beyond. And yet, too often in schools, these skills are demanded but not taught (“Cooperate in your group work today!”) or taught in isolation, separate from academic work (February is Empathy month!). Through this work, teachers will learn to identify the social and emotional skills their students need to be successful and develop a repertoire of practical strategies for teaching them as a part of the regular instructional day.
The language we use with students impacts every aspect of school, and is perhaps the single most important strategy we have as educators. It sets the tone of any school environment: academic lessons and activities, hallways, the cafeteria, the playground, whole school assemblies, one-on-one coaching sessions, and more. It’s not surprising that this is a highly-requested topic, either as a school-wide focus or as an embedded topic in other professional development.
Too often in schools, motivation is something we do to kids. We think it's our job to motivate them. What if this is part of the reason kids struggle with motivation - because the energy is coming from the wrong place? In this work, teachers learn how to move away from systems of extrinsic motivation (gem jars, clip charts, grades, etc.) and instead tap into intrinsic motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and curiosity.
What if differentation wasn't so overwhelming? What if one key to effective differentiation is offering students choices and then teaching them how to make good choices? This work is all about creating opportunities for kids to learn and then teaching them to take more responsibility for their work.
One disruptive student can bring all teaching and learning to a halt, and in many classrooms, there are several (or more!) students with such challenges. Teachers who are already under incredible pressure to deliver an unrealistic amount of content in too little time feel overwhelmed with students who melt down, refuse to do work, and disrupt others. Teachers need practical strategies and supports. To be clear, this work isn’t about quick-fixes or silver-bullet cures. It’s about building teachers’ and students’ skills sets to set everyone up for long-term growth.
When students have the chance to explore a topic about which they have a keen interest, amazing learning can happen. In this work teachers learn how to craft independent research projects that help personalize student learning. Though independent research can be quite diverse (it looks different in kindergarten than it does in high school), there is a common structure that can enable any teacher to use independent research in their setting. Through this work, teachers also learn key management strategies that enable highly dynamic learning to thrive in a classroom.
Help teachers establish key structures, routines, and skills to facilitate a reading and/or writing workshop. This tried-and-true approach combines students' desires to engage meaningfully with real texts with direct teaching in key literacy skills and standards.
Teachers can't take good care of their students if they're exhausted and overly stressed. We need give teachers concrete and practical strategies for self-care so they're ready to meet the needs of their students.

In these videos, you’ll see two very different kinds of customized professional learning opportunities in action. 

In August, 2018, I delivered the opening-day keynote event for 2200+ educators in Nashua, NH. The primary goal was to kick off the year for teachers with positive energy and enthusiasm. The other goal of this talk was to support work I had been doing in several Nashua schools and share that message with the whole district. 

In this video, I’m teaching a demonstration lesson in Boca Raton, FL as a part of my work at this school on social-emotional learning (SEL). The goal was demonstrate the teaching of SEL skills during a third grade reading lesson. Just off camera are about 12 teachers from the SEL leadership team. After the lesson we debriefed as a team.

Are you ready for Mike to work with your faculty?