A few weeks ago, we wrote about the impact the Higher-Powered Learning Program is having on students. Everything we do, we do on behalf of the students we serve. But for Father Nate, Francesca, and me, the students we serve are the teachers on the schools’ Blended Learning Advancement and Strategy Teams (BLASTs) who work tirelessly to learn and implement new methods of instruction in their classrooms.
Though we do not give grades or have a permanent classroom, we are responsible for the professional development of these outstanding teachers over the course of our three-year program, and we do not take that responsibility lightly. One of the main indicators of success for our program is how happy, effective, and empowered our teachers feel with this new model.
We continually collect feedback from our 35 teachers in meetings, but we did so in a more systematic way through a survey in December. After only half a year in the program, many teachers already had great things to report! Here are some key takeaways from their reflections:
Teachers enjoy the challenge.
It is not easy to change the way you think about student learning, the tools you use in your classroom, or the interactions you have with your students. Many teachers initially feel overwhelmed by all of the changes they are making, but that feeling quickly translates into a renewed excitement about teaching.
“I think this has refreshed my teaching and helped to make it more purposeful. After a few years, teaching can become a little stale, and it is great to get new ideas and develop new skills.”
“I enjoy (and hate) the challenge of it. I am thinking about things I haven't in many years.”
“It’s the most exciting thing I’ve done in 38 years of teaching.”
Teachers want to collaborate.
Teachers spend most of their days surrounded by children. Catholic school teachers especially often have limited opportunities to have meaningful conversations with other adults because there are so few teachers in the school. We intentionally designed our program to give teachers regular time to collaborate with a professional learning community of outstanding teachers from across the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and we have found that teachers appreciate this time more than almost any other aspect of the program.
“I really like that we have opportunities to reflect and collaborate, and that we have intentional scheduled time for both.”
“I love that we are building the network of support across schools.”
“I have really enjoyed that (the Higher-Powered Learning Program) has provided me a network of teachers within my school and outside of it that fosters collaboration.”
Teachers are growing.
The challenge we mentioned before pays off when teachers see how much they grow. We are already working with some of the best teachers in the area, and it is amazing to see how they develop into even better teachers throughout the course of the program.
“I used small group instruction for reading and math in previous years, but this year my teaching and my students’ learning are more intentional. I know that they're not wasting time 'playing' a game or struggling with a concept. They're getting feedback and adapting their answers and I'm using the information to inform my small group instruction. Everyone is more engaged!”
“Before blended learning I always felt frustrated that I wasn't giving students exactly what they needed to grow. Or I didn't always know that there were kids struggling that flew under the radar. Now I feel more confident that I know who is struggling and on what.”
“Before I learned about it, I really thought that blended learning was another buzz word that would come and go. In my mind, good teaching was good teaching. Now that I have learned about it and implemented it, I have become a better teacher, which in turn has helped my students to make more progress.”
If you’re thinking about implementing blended learning at your own school, don’t forget to take care of the ones who make it all possible. Teachers want to be challenged, but they also want to feel supported, with strategies like time for collaboration. Most importantly, teachers want to grow, and introducing a new model like blended learning is one way to make that possible for them.