Madison City Schools welcome many new secondary teachers to our district each year. It is our district’s practice to create opportunities for them to participate in New Teacher Professional Development over the course of their first year. This group is composed of teachers who just graduated from college and are taking their first jobs in the profession, teachers who come to our district with numerous years of experience, and everywhere in between. New Teacher Professional Development ensures that teachers understand district expectations for the strategies they will use with their students to teach content skills Teachers also begin to build trust with instructional leaders at their schools and at the district level so that they will feel supported in their classrooms. The Secondary Instruction Team includes Coordinator, Sharon Powell; Instructional Specialist, Mary Oliver; Math Instructional Specialist, Peggy Dupree, and Instructional Technology Specialist, Russel Johnson. The specialists collaborate to plan and implement the professional learning days for our first-year teachers. In the rest of the article, each team member will comment on the phases of the professional development to describe the process new teachers experience.
New teachers in our district are met with very high expectations, and it is our job to temper our expectations with their zone of proximal development. We understand that teachers cannot learn everything at one time, whether they are first-year teachers or new-to-our-district teachers. Our new teacher professional development, created by an amazing secondary instructional team, exposes teachers to the four pillars of effective instruction and provides time for the teachers to develop something they can use or try the very next day in their classrooms. After their first year with Madison City Schools, the teachers will have an opportunity to learn about each of these four pillars more deeply.
Planning New Teacher Professional Development is one of my favorite parts of my job. I also love presenting it with our team. The major topics we cover with new teachers are: Strategic Teaching, classroom management, Quality Questioning, and differentiation. Our goal is for teachers to use these research-based practices. Strategic Teaching functions within the framework of a before activity to activate prior knowledge about a concept, a during activity to teach a concept and allow students to practice the skills associated with it, and an after activity for students to reflect on their learning. The strategies support students in each phase of their learning, so students transfer their learning into their long-term memory. Madison City Schools expects teachers to follow the standards for each content outlined by the Alabama State Department of Education. In doing so, their lessons guide students to know information and to apply skills they learn in real-world settings.
Our classroom management session focuses on the value of building relationships with their students and developing structures for their classrooms to foster a positive classroom culture.
Deeper, lasting learning is achieved through the variety of questions that teachers ask. Our emphasis on Quality Questioning comes from the book, Quality Questioning: Research-Based Practice to Engage Every Learner by Drs. Jackie Walsh and Beth Sattes. We expose new teachers to the numerous types of questions and when each type is best used in a lesson.
The last session helps teachers build skills in differentiation. Each classroom is made up of unique students with varied backgrounds, experiences, and ability levels, so it is essential that teachers are able to meet each person where they are in their understanding of a concept or skill.
The first two sessions (strategic teaching and classroom management) were held at central office. Teachers had the opportunity to collaborate with other colleagues who have the same subject content. This allowed the specialists to tailor the PD sessions to the learning and use multiple strategies to present information. Throughout the Strategic Teaching session, the strategies clock appointment, turn and talk, collaborative groups, jigsaw, and two-note column notetaking were modeled. Videos of our own Melanie Turner and Dr. Ambra Hamilton using strategies were shown as the teachers used two-column notetaking strategies as they watched. Using a strategy while learning strategies, is so fun!
During the segment when classroom management was discussed, the strategies used were parking lot, turn and talk, and anchor charts. We introduced several scenarios that are management issues and then the teachers were given time to create an anchor chart for a particular scenario of their choosing. The days were very active with lots of discussion and movement.
For the last two sessions on Quality Questioning and differentiation, specialists led sessions at each school. Again, learning was achieved through modeled strategies and teachers had the opportunity for workshop time to develop applications for their students to use the next day in their classes.
One of the best things to observe at these sessions was the deep conversations the specialists watched take place among the teachers. It was neat to hear teachers talk about their students and the joy they experienced when they were able to teach them something new.
Since we were able to have intentional, collaborative conversations with our new teachers, a handful of the teachers wanted to work together to integrate technology into their lessons after learning about new teaching strategies. They wanted a way to engage their students at different times in a lesson, and technology can be a great vehicle to increase student engagement. Anytime our teachers are planning with technology in mind, we always try to think of what the student is doing with the technology. Seeing students as creators or producers not only cultivates interest and engagement, but it also gives them ownership of their learning. So, teachers worked hard to create activities where students could design, build, explore, or display their learning through various tech tools that fit under our spring focus of quality questioning and tiered instruction.
Madison City Schools is fortunate to have such knowledgable, caring, committed teachers join our school faculties each year. They invest themselves in the lives of our students to help each one reach their fullest potential, and we are eager to support them in this process.