What does Real Professional Development Look Like During a Pandemic?
Teaching in the last year has been like riding out a hurricane in a treehouse.
As seasoned educators, we tried to come prepared. We knew our student’s emotional needs would be our top priority, and we strived to make school feel “normal”, but from the beginning, it was clear that the 2020 – 2021 year would not return to normal.
Students were spread out across the country, only connected by their laptops. Distance and hybrid learning were part of every community and educators were tasked with teaching to dual audiences.
After COVID forced us to go virtual with a weekend to plan for a new reality, the impact on our student’s mental health was apparent. Students that seemed outgoing and well-liked in the classroom were suddenly isolated and lonely in the physical space of school unable to make connecting with others easy. In moments of honest feedback, students expressed their boredom of being expected to sit silently while a teacher’s face filled their screen or read a shared powerpoint together. Students missed having an active educational experience, collaborating with others, and having some agency in their learning.
These are the issues that became our main priority as we navigated through educational resources searching for an answer.
“This was much more effective than a normal professional development session. We learned in increments, made plans for action, and could immediately problem-solve with a trained professional.”
That answer finally came as we were contacted by Jeff Burstein, the founder of L-EAF.org. As a skilled Agile coach and a dedicated father, he saw how children and teachers were struggling to be disconnected from one another. He knew how to connect the pieces by using what software developers and business owners have known for 20 years. Agile allows teams to work together with open communication, and transparency and allows problem-solving and flexibility to develop.
Agile keeps teams connected, collaborating, and engaged in problem-solving. Agile teams can and do work across the world, in different time zones, and with different cultures. Jeff asked the first of many great questions: If we can do business together using agile, why can’t it connect students to deepen learning?
After learning a bit about scrum and the basics of agile we knew Jeff was on the right path. We joined Jeff for a journey into agile. Meeting daily we followed the LearningFLOW journey which was designed to teach us Agile while implementing it into our classrooms. This was much more effective than a normal professional development session. We learned in increments, made plans for action, and could immediately problem-solve with a trained professional. As a cohort, we brainstormed together, reframed impediments, and most importantly, learned how to let go of the control of information in our classroom. We let our students take the reigns and become the leaders of their own education. As educators, we learned incredibly important lessons about student agency, empowerment, and the depths that students can achieve when not limited by false constraints. Our students learned how to self-organize, manage their time, use a kanban board, and share moments of incredible growth that drove them to work harder because they were amazed at their results. Our students may have been hybrid, oscillating between quarantine and in-person learning, but they were always connecting, collaborating, and sharing the special moments together that all children deserve.
After working with Jeff and the people at L-EAF.org, we are different teachers than we were at the beginning of this pandemic. Our classrooms are learning labs where students are given goals, but design their own pathways of learning. They still work through a curriculum, take quizzes, and write essays, but they are making decisions about how to apply their knowledge to real-world topics they are passionate about. They are learning life skills that will benefit them in all content areas, all grade levels, and outside of the classroom as they prepare for college and beyond. We are now part of a small community of educators that have been trained to provide students with the experiences to be job-ready upon graduating high school, and thanks to L-EAF.org, they will hold certifications that they can use on their resumes and college applications to show the skills they have learned.
This is not another 2-day PD that loads educators with the promise of transformation that turns out to be burdensome when returning to the classroom. LearningFLOW is a journey where you are supported, encouraged, and celebrated as you learn Agile and adopt an Agile mindset that will have effects on every part of your life.
Join Ros and I to learn about Agile in education and easy ways to bring it into your classroom on The future of teaching: A demonstration of Project Based Learning + Agility hosted by L-EAF.org on Oct 14, 2021at 3:00 – 6:00PM EST.
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