It may have been summer break, but issues on the minds of East Grand Rapids teachers were technology, collaboration and keeping on track with changing curriculum standards.
The district’s annual weeklong summer-learning series involved 80 percent of the district’s teachers learning to stay abreast of the latest in education. Started six years ago, these sessions focused on how to best use Smartboards in the classroom, assessment, curriculum and other current issues including Common Core Standards designed to raise and deepen student learning.
“I see us as students, just in bigger bodies,” said Jeanne Glowicki, the district’s assistant superintendent of instruction “Our teachers are ongoing learners.”
Glowicki chooses sessions, led by experts on topics that need further exploration and would require too much time outside the classroom for teachers to delve into during the school year. Hosted at the beginning of summer, teachers have time to reflect on what they’ve learned and bring it with them in the fall.
“Our teachers hit it hard in August,” she said.
Teachers as mentors for each other
Glowicki led a session on Peer Coaching, encouraging teachers to explore ways to benefit from each other’s strengths. Started as a concept for business efficiency and cost-savings in the area of training, the Peer Coaching model has been implemented in educational settings.
In Peer Coaching, teachers act as coach and “coachee” in a collaborative environment, feeding off each other’s instruction techniques and gaining knowledge.
“At the high school, the teacher can get to be very isolated,” said high school World Language teacher Kim Ibara, who is already working with a peer-coaching type program at her school.
Ibara and a group at the high school began thinking about peer coaching during the implementation of Engage 1:1, where each student uses a personal device (like a laptop or tablet) as a learning tool. Group members saw the value of coaching each other on a larger scale.
“Our small group became not only interested in the (Engage 1:1) program but in how we can work together as educators.”
Glowicki said her goal is to have this idea spread, spanning all content areas, through visiting other classrooms or watching videos of each other teaching.
Learning from each other
A key part of the concept is for teachers to have someone to turn to for direction, feedback or input.
“To me, mentoring is the idea. We are looking to lift each other up,” said Breton Elementary School teacher Bridget Rieth. “Ultimately what you are looking for is that improved teacher.”
“It’s all about professional growth,” Glowicki said.