Pulldown Menu

By Santo Nicotera

Let me start by saying, what a great honor it was for our CITY Center team to be chosen to participate in the ‘Teach to Lead Summit’ in Long Beach, CA on Friday & Saturday, September 23-24.

We sensed that our proposal was an important one, not only for advancing professional learning and growth within our three small schools, but also, as an innovative model that could be used by other schools (and school districts) for redesigning their professional learning plan (PLP) process to more fully engage and empower teachers.  Our proposal was for doing exactly that and then integrating the revised process with ongoing teacher participation in professional learning communities, delivery of professional development modules that would be aligned to the PLP process, peer and administrative classroom observations, and finally, culminating in demonstrations of teacher learning, growth and efficacy at the end of each school year.

We sensed that we were onto something powerful but we didn’t really know what our national colleagues might think.  So it was both an honor but also extremely validating to be chosen from among 100+ team proposals/applications nationwide to participate in this 30-team summit in Long Beach.

Off to Long Beach

img_2021We started out early Friday morning (9/23).  At 5:00 am, I was the last to be picked up by Brett Goble (Principal, City High School).  Fellow passengers Carman Ryken (Mathematics Teacher, Paulo Freire Freedom School – University) and Krista Gypton (Humanities Teacher, City High School) were already on board.  Our two other team members – JoAnn Groh (Principal, Paulo Freire Freedom School – Downtown) who had been consulting all that week in Fairfax, VA and Peter Rabbett (Professor and Critical Friend, University of Wales) – had arrived in Long Beach the night before.  The four of us who were driving from Arizona to California however, were not complaining.  The 7-hour road trip was full of excitement and anticipation for the summit, laughter and storytelling, and lots of both deep and light conversation about our lives, our schools, and our professional practice.

img_2022bWe met JoAnn in the lobby of the Renaissance Marriott at around 12:15 pm, went up to our rooms to freshen-up, and then made our way downstairs to the Summit at 1:00 pm to find table 27 where we introduced ourselves to Professor Rabbett who had been appointed by the ‘Teach to Lead’ staff to serve as our critical friend throughout the two-day planning process.  Peter turned out to be a wonderful addition to our team; providing an extra pair of eyes and helping us make sense of our work together and to think through the process when we became stuck – using probing questions and wondering aloud about what was not yet uncovered by the group.  He also joined us for dinner and evening activities on both days.

13434815_10153533022431372_6766612863749414539_nThe summit began at 1:00 pm on Friday with some brief ‘Teach to Lead’ introductions and acknowledgments but got right down to the business at hand fairly quickly.  Our first task as a team was to create together a six word tag line that would sum up what our team and its proposal was all about.  Once we had come to consensus as a team, each of us individually were to tweet those words with the hashtag #TTLSummit and our team’s table number.  At around 1:30 pm PST (9/23) six tweets hit the twitter sphere that read something like this:

#TTLSummit Table 27 ‘Three Schools, Valuing Teachers, Transforming Lives’

After completing that initial group task, the framework for the ‘Logic Model’ to be used during the summit was introduced to the ‘Teach to Lead’ Summit participants with examples:

logicmodelguide-1Each team was then asked to work together to identify the problem that was at the root of their particular design project and then to articulate together the goal of the project, making sure that the goal was complete enough to address all of the components of the problem, as well as, robust enough to generate several outcomes (short and long term) that would serve as evidence that the goal­ of the project had been met.

teach2leadWe spent most of those four hours from 1:00-5:00 pm that first day working diligently together to understand our different perspectives on each of these three big, group tasks within the Logic Model framework and to come to consensus around our project’s problem, its goal, and the outcomes we could measure over time to know that we had reached our goal (see below).  ‘Teach to Lead’ held a reception for all summit participants that evening and then the six of us made our way down to the water for sea food and harbor sights.

  • Our team’s draft problem was framed as follows: “In the past, there has been a lot of different professional development and work around professional growth, but it wasn’t always cohesive and it was implemented with different levels of fidelity and passion.”
  • Our draft goal was framed as:  “All teachers will be engaged in self-directed, collaborative professional learning with effective administrative support.”
  • Our draft outcomes included the following: In one year’s time, “All teachers will identify a problem of teacher practice and at the end of the year provide evidence of professional growth with indications of growth and learning that had happened throughout the year” and “Teachers will sustain engagement in the professional learning process not because they have to, but because they see the efficacy of their work and learning on students’ success.”  In two years’ time, “CITY Center is providing leadership through demonstration and conversation around collaborative professional learning.”  And beyond two years, “Visitors can come to any classroom and see evidence of strong professional learning.”

The meat of the Logic Model however is created after the problem, the goal and the expected outcomes are identified.  That next morning (9/24), ‘Teach to Lead’ project teams were instructed to plan backwards from each outcome to identify the outputs (concrete tangible products) that would result in that outcome, the activities that would produce those outputs, and the inputs (stakeholders, resources and strategies) needed to support those activities.  After lunch we posted our large, poster size, completed logic models on the walls of the summit space (categorized by the type of project) and then participated in a Gallery Walk with the other teams in our project category.  After the Gallery Walk, during which our team provided feedback to the other teams in our project category, the six of us returned to our table to assimilate the feedback we had received from our national colleagues.  All in all it was a pretty intense 9-5 work day with inspiring teacher leaders sharing their stories interspersed throughout.

I am not going to share in this blog, the meat of our Logic Model.  We are viewing it as a working draft and will be seeking input from our stakeholders.  But I will share what we had submitted to ‘Teach to Lead’ as part of our summit proposal/application (written by JoAnn Groh with editorial support from Brett Goble) in answer to the question:

Describe your teacher leadership idea in 300 words or less. What would success look like?

“Professional development in schools is most impactful when it is embedded, collaborative, data driven and most importantly, includes teacher voice.  We would like to build on our current PD processes to design a system that is integrated, cohesive and fundamentally rooted in the needs of students and improving teacher efficacy.

As background, this year, three small charter schools, including City High School, combined efforts to fall within the management of CITY Center for Collaborative Learning, a nonprofit which, in addition to running the 3 lab schools dedicated to implementing innovative practices on a daily basis, also runs an PD outreach center that works with schools and districts throughout southern Arizona and beyond.

Currently, our three small schools all use Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) (using the SRI Critical Friendship model) to promote collaborative reflection among teachers.  We also employ a mix of internal and external professional development sessions, the topics of which are based on a mix of administrator assessed needs and expediency (what happens to be available).

Our new vision has the professional development plan aligned to our newly adopted teacher evaluation rubric. Each teacher will develop and implement a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) on a topic that is responsive to their students’ needs and aligned with the teacher evaluation rubric. Throughout the school year, teachers direct and engage in their own learning plan individually and collectively. Teachers will develop their plans with supportive feedback from their colleagues (in PLCs) and professional development workshop sessions throughout the year will be on topics relevant to teachers’ PLPs.  The school year would culminate with teachers presenting the results of their PLPs in teacher-led conferences (TLCs).  The structure of the TLC will mirror the student-led conference processes we already have in place.

In addition, teacher sharing of the learning outcomes of their PLPs will result in a ripple effect, with teachers learning about areas of instruction their colleagues have chosen.  Teachers who have developed expertise in various components of curriculum planning and instruction can become resources to their colleagues throughout the three schools and to the larger southern Arizona community through CITY Center’s Professional Development Outreach Center.”

As it turned out, the drive back from Long Beach to Tucson on Sunday was even more fun than the drive there, with the addition of our own carpool karaoke queen, JoAnn Groh – though our new dear friend Peter Rabbett was dearly missed.  Stay tuned for updates on the evolution and implementation of our ‘professional learning proposal’.