At Edmunds Middle School in Burlington, Vt. the standard format of having inservice days peppered throughout the year has been replaced with a model of early release Wednesdays, teacher driven committee work and professional development. Under the direction of principal Bonnie Johnson-Aten the new model combines the Wednesday early release format with the weekly faculty meeting. The work accomplished during this extended block of time rotates on a monthly schedule: committee work, professional learning community (PLC) work, supporting the one-to-one technology environment, and teacher-led professional development.
At least once a month, five faculty committees based on the 2013-2014 collective commitments of Respect, Learning, Collaboration, Support and Innovation convene during the Wednesday block. Principal Johnson-Aten is “particularly impressed with the work of the committees”. Some of the outcomes have been the 2013-2014 pilot of the 30 minute Wednesday homeroom, the February 11th Digital Learning Day, and the upcoming April 1st Math Night and Community dinner. In addition, a movement toward teacher-led professional development and a deeper understanding about issues surrounding diversity are being designed and implemented by faculty members. Practices that have been presented using this model of collegial professional development range from integrating arts into the curriculum to implementing peer-observations, to using tweets and other forms of social media to connect with parents, students and the community. This model not only adds to the professional toolbox for teachers, it also allows teachers to continue to support their colleagues as “local experts”.
Equally as important as learning from one another is the opportunity to engage in collaborative conversations about education. Once a month, the professional development takes the form of Vertical Professional Learning Communities as an extension of the work teachers do on a weekly basis. In these meetings teachers engage in content-based discussions about best practices, create common assessments, analyze data and align the existing curriculum with the Common Core. Since the PLC’s were introduced five years ago Edmunds has consistently shown growth while creating an environment of collegiality across the curriculum.
Finally, the faculty always looks forward to learning about technological innovation during the monthly “Wifi-Wednesdays” supported by the Tarrant Foundation. In collaboration with the Innovation team, these Wednesdays have used both faculty and Tarrant resources to further the practice of digital citizenship, effective teaching practices in a one-to-one environment, apps for chromebooks and using QR codes to name a few of the practices demonstrated. This is just another way in which collaboration, teacher leaders and collegiality have supported improved practice at Edmunds. As someone who has spent the past 28 years participating in inservice programs that whooshed in and just as quickly whooshed out, I can fully vouch for the new model of professional development.