Every Fall seems to bring some sort of change. After 5 years in the middle school English/Language Arts classroom, 2 years as a middle school staff developer, 6 years in a high school English classroom, and 3 months of trying to survive on little sleep while helping my wife take care of our twins Ryan and Keira, I decided to leave 11th grade AP Language and Composition and make the move back to the role of staff developer (or literacy coach, instructional coach, instructional staff developer, staff development specialist..or whatever new ‘title’ the position seems to garner).
Being back in this role for the past 2 months has reminded me not only of how much talent there is in our district, but how much I can still learn about students, teaching, learning, curriculum and overall about what it means to be an educator….to be part of such a wonderful profession, career, and way of life.
I was also reminded of the unique challenges the staff development position sometimes brings. One of the tricky parts of being in this role is being invited into a colleagues room and being charged with the task of ‘observing’ (a word usually associated with an administrator coming in to evaluate) a lesson to provide objective, relevant, practical and useful feedback. I have always viewed staff development as a chance for teacher collaboration that should create opportunities for reflection. As I looked for ways to best support our teachers in their work, I came across a class visit observation chart that I had used back in my middle school staff development days. After a few updates and modifications, I landed on the attached form.
This past year, our high school moved towards a modified, rotating block schedule in which our class periods went from 43 min six days out of the six day cycle to three 58 min classes and one 80 min class for four out of the six days. With this new schedule came a need for professional development and working with teachers to help them engage our students for longer learning periods. After some research and debate, we introduced the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Literacy Network’s Model of Engagement as a common basis to from which to work. The preview below and full ‘classroom visit’ form attached has been adapted to collect objective engagement data in a classroom that a teacher can use to reflect on a lesson. LINKED HERE is the template, a sample form that has been filled in, and the original PLN Model of Engagement. This has turned out to be a very non-threatening, effective tool to help look at ONE aspect of the organization of a teacher’s lesson, classroom and/or learning space. Enjoy!