In October this year I had the pleasure of taking in some PD with Rex Ferguson-Baird. I found that while I was listening to Rex talk about his school we had many common interests.
- We both like to build community
- We both like to build capacity internally
- We want our students to be proud of what they do and who they are
- We want to engage our staff and reward those who dream big
In our first meeting Rex told his audience about
1. The Wrench
2. A walking school bus
3. Using the PATH process to build a school plan
4. and about many community building events that he hosts.
I liked what I was hearing and wanted to see it for myself. I am a firm believer in cross pollinating because although I feel I am good at what I do I know that there are ideas out there that have never crossed my mind. My division gives each teacher a day each year where we can explore anything we like, I chose to visit Rex for part of that day.
In my first ten minutes at Brooklands school I got my first good idea, Rex announces substitutes as “Guest teachers”, and refers to his staff-room as the “Team” room. There is a subtle difference between Substitute and Guest but it makes all the difference and I could see that his “Guest” Teachers felt welcome and involved.
At his assembly I noted that his teachers led the assembly, great idea, and that they used the time to discuss the Seven Teachings. Respect was the theme for the month and the teachers presenting used song, stories (on a document camera) and discussion with students.
Rex has an Educational Assistant who is trained by his division in Math Intervention, Great idea. He purposely split his classes so that teachers would have common times together to plan and work together. I got to see one of the groups of teachers working together and they were discussing the book “Teach Like a pirate” (TLAP) which is definitely on my reading list. Mutual time to plan and learn together is something that is invaluable, we do this in my division with Early Dismissals and Professional Learning Communities, which are working well but I would like to do ever more. Rex also showed me his literacy wall where every students literacy level was posted on a graphic organizer. Students names were coded and so were there grades. What this does for him is that he can see trends in literacy levels. I liked this idea so much and asked him if there was a way to do it with math, he said he is working on it and I will be too.
I saw the WRENCH program where students learn bicycle maintenance and even get to keep a bicycle. The WRENCH program trains students who then apply their skills at school. I met his “Walking School bus” which consists of parents who walk throughout the community knocking on doors and bringing students to school, and receives funding through an attendance grant. I saw his school path, a beautiful document, which is present in every classroom. The PATH process is something for another post but is basically a way to graphically organize your hopes dreams and resources for improvement, and I am thinking would be a great thing to try in the future at my school.
It is really hard to summarize the many ideas that we shared with one another but the biggest thing I learned at Brooklands school was that I need to do this more often. Simple little things that others do differently and sometimes better do not come to light professionally unless you take the time to observe others at work. I would like to also add that without Twitter and my PLN this would likely not have ever happened as @RexFB and I are in different divisions, and cities, but through the magic of my ever growing PLN we were able to sustain contact and arrange time to share.