You can take a team of teachers out of school for the day, but that doesn’t stop them from doing what they do best: discussing teaching. In fact, perhaps off-site planning meetings are the best way to foster creativity without boundaries, higher-quality ideas, increased collaboration, and ultimately enhanced classrooms- all for the benefit of the students.
Today a grade level team sat around my kitchen table and reviewed their grade level’s curriculum based on a set of skills-based standards. What could have been a quick just-say-we-do-it-and-let’s-move-on type of experience was in fact something much more thrilling: a day of ideas. Good ones, bad ones, expensive ones, impossible ones. But they were flowing freely, and they were presented without restraint.
Perhaps that is what happens when a Starbucks drive-through is on the way to my house or when it’s jeans day at school. Instead, I believe this is what happens when passionate teachers are given the freedom to have professional development thinking experiences. No one was lecturing at the front of a large auditorium, no one was presenting an idea or system that has no real significance to a teacher’s personal classroom or teaching style, and no one was discussing new technology so foreign that we were lost at “You turn it on by….” This was just a plain old wooden table and four chairs. Yet it was magical.
Not all teaching teams could have handled this task with such energy. But this particular group had the recipe for success: a willingness to test new ideas, a desire to perform at exceptionally high standards, a passion for 21st century skills, and a high level of respect for one another. In essence, these teachers desire to be the best at what they do because the students in their classrooms are the ultimate prize. At the most basic level, a teacher is responsible for adding a year’s piece of the puzzle to create a respectful, resourceful, and responsible citizen who has the tools to think and do great things in life.
Moving off-site, having a team of inspired professionals, and gaining administrative support for teachers to think creatively and freely about their jobs are the key reasons this curriculum review was a success. Could we have met in the school conference room and eaten in the cafeteria? Sure. But these teachers- the leaders of our school, the coaches of our children, and the facilitators of 21st century skills experiences in this skills-based curriculum movement- were the creators of an amazing final product. In just one day they stepped away from the table with a set of documents describing commendations, recommendations, and questions about their teaching. Lots and lots of questions. And we know that those willing to ask great questions find great answers, many times in the most interesting of places. Like kitchen tables.