Last week, we had the privilege of spending three days with the members of the Higher-Powered Learning Program in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. This time together served two purposes: to reflect on the first year of implementation and to prepare for the next year of coaching and continuous improvement (check out the timeline to learn more about the structure of the program).
It is hard to believe that we met for the first time as a group about one year ago. Multiple people, including a few outside observers, noted the stark difference in energy between our professional development days this summer and last summer. The energy last year teetered between anxious and excited, which manifested in lots of tight smiles and furious note-taking. Though they were eager to implement new ideas, teachers still had questions about what this “blended learning thing” would actually look like in their classrooms.
The energy this year, however, was one of confidence and determination. Teachers that had asked question after question last summer now spoke with authority about the key steps for new teachers to take to blend their classrooms; others that had been skeptical about the potential for blended learning to work in their classrooms and schools were now planning and leading “Why Blended Learning” sessions for their colleagues. Each member of every BLAST has fully embraced their new role as an expert and teacher-leader within their school.
Many of the teachers reported feeling like their changes had been slow. They said that they had to remind themselves to take baby steps at the beginning when they already wanted to be sprinting. And though I agree wholeheartedly with this advice, I have to smile at their concept of “baby steps.”
Every single teacher in our cohort this year transitioned from a traditional model of instruction to a blended learning model in a matter of weeks. In the span of one school year (or less, in many cases!), they went from novices to assured experts. Of course these changes did not happen overnight, but it is important to recognize the strength and audacity with which our teachers accepted and conquered an enormous challenge.
Nothing could have made me prouder than to hear one teacher say, “I just feel like a better teacher this year. I know more students on a more individual level, I use my time more effectively, and I’m happier in my role than I was last year.” It is a privilege to walk alongside teachers and leaders in their journeys of personal and professional growth, and comments like that help us know that all of the questions and concerns, professional developments and site visits, late-night emails and last-minute phone calls, are worth it.
If you are feeling more like our teachers were feeling last summer, I hope this post inspires you to continue to do the hard work of growing in your professional practice. I think you may be pleasantly surprised by how you feel one year from now.
And on a more personal note: it was exactly three years ago today that I joined ACE’s team, and I bid my role farewell this week as I leave to pursue an MBA at Oxford University. I can’t wait to see how the Higher-Powered Learning Program, blog, and initiatives continue to grow and develop in the hands of my team members, though I know I will miss the work dearly every day.
This is a goodbye from me, but I hope you’ll stay tuned for a hello from our newest team member next week, and much more rich content in your inbox every other Tuesday :) To all the subscribers of the Higher-Powered Learning blog, thank you for a great three years!