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PD That's for Teachers, by Teachers



Meenoo Rami

Every Monday night from 7-8 p.m. EST, English teachers from around the world 'meet' via twitter to share, reflect, and question their daily practice in the classroom. The topics covered on #engchat range from teaching Shakespeare to digital storytelling in the classroom. Each week, a practicing teacher brings a new perspective, ideas, and questions to the forum. Participants often leave with more questions than answers—and that's a good thing.

This is professional development for teachers, by teachers. (See a sample thread.)

When I started #engchat, I doubted my ability to turn a nebulous idea into a vibrant community. However, that is exactly what seems to be happening. #engchat has become a meeting place for English teachers on twitter. Connections and conversations extend beyond Monday night chats and teachers are sharing valuable resources in real-time throughout the week. They post daily writing prompts, readings, and lesson ideas. Those in need of inspiration or advice can peruse the feed or pose a specific question, eliciting responses from the community.

Teachers tell me all the time that #engchat is a professional lifeline, their best PD.

How can #engchat help us understand what contributes to effective professional learning? Here are some factors for administrators and professional development leaders to consider:

Choice: Can teachers make choices about their professional learning? All have different needs: Even weekly schoolwide PD sessions cannot meet the needs of a diverse faculty.

Leadership: Do you encourage teachers to design and execute PD sessions at your school? How are you celebrating their strengths and challenging their biases about learning and teaching? How are you encouraging them to share their expertise and to envision themselves as professionals?

Just-in-time: How are you meeting the actual needs of the teachers at your school? How responsive is PD at your school? Let's say there's a teacher in room 208 who wants to use podcasting as a storytelling tool but feels overwhelmed by the technology. How can you help this teacher bridge the gap between the tech issue and pedagogical idea? What resources can this teacher draw upon?

Community: Do the learners in your professional learning community demonstrate trust, respect, and willingness to collaborate? When was the last time the science teacher in your school spent some time in the history teacher's classroom?

Iterative: What basic ideas about teaching and learning do you come back to again and again in your PD sessions? Do these ideas relate to core concerns like rigor, engagement, and connection to students' lives outside of school? If not, how might you change that?

There are many formidable challenges in education today, but there are just as many innovative teachers with insightful ideas about what works in classrooms. Let's honor that expertise by building interpersonal and interconnected learning communities in our schools.

What do you think about moving toward a "for teachers, by teachers" model of PD? What roles can teacher leaders play in making this happen?

Meenoo Rami, coordinator of the #engchat weekly Twitter chat for English teachers, teaches English to students at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

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