Elevating the voice and impact of educators in Oklahoma
What is #MyPD?
In January 2017, our team launched a new project, #MyPD, in Oklahoma. #MyPD brings together educators from three different Oklahoma school districts to make progress toward areas that are important to them professionally. #MyPD is a “Community of Practice” (CoP), so it has some unique features that are not always found in other work groups or professional development sessions. Educators are the ones designing the process, setting the agenda and defining the goals. The process is also action-oriented, one facilitator explained: “We won’t just get together to share tips and complain. Instead, how can be strategic and punchy about making a difference?”
With the support of district superintendents and the Oklahoma Department of Education, SREB created this initiative for several reasons.
- Educator voices deserve to be heard. #MyPD elevates the voice and impact of educators to improve education.
- When educators drive the direction of their own professional development, it becomes meaningful for them personally and useful for them professionally.
- Passions, needs, experiences, insights, resources and best practices should all be shared. #MyPD provides opportunities for educators to connect across districts to create happier school cultures, improved learning environments and more successful students.
What happened at #MyPD?
Over 30 principals and teachers attended the first meeting in January 2017. Educator effectiveness team members and social learning consultants, Bev and Entienne Wenger-Trayner facilitated the meeting. The CoP structure provided autonomy and an innovative space for principals and teachers to drive their own professional learning. Throughout the course of the day, the group went through a process to self-design their community, create a cross-district identity, explore issues important to their work and test the concept of #MyPD. The day included a case clinic, in which a teacher shared a challenge she was experiencing with the adult culture within her school. The group asked thoughtful questions to surface underlying issues, offered advice and introduced alternative perspectives for consideration. The group also spent time regrouping into different configurations, such as by role, district and different topics of focus. These configurations allowed community members to surface different issues that were important to them. The community reflected on the types of topics that arose and noticed that they could be grouped into two core themes:
- professional development related to day-to-day teaching practice, and
- the identity and role of educators systemically within the education field and society.
What’s next for #MyPD?
Although many participants admitted they weren’t sure what to expect at first, most left with a better understanding of Communities of Practice. Educators, district superintendents and the educator effectiveness team all believe the launch of #MyPD is an example of the need for broadening conceptions about what constitutes professional development. Oftentimes, professional learning opportunities rely on an unengaging “sit-and-get” style that educators, administrators, district leaders and facilitators alike have become accustomed to. Our team is excited about being able to think outside the box about engaging ways to help educators grow professionally.
Five educators volunteered to form a core group that will collaborate with our team to plan future meetings. Oklahoma’s next #MyPD meeting will be held in May 2017 and will focus on planning action steps to address some of the topics that community members identified. Our team hopes the continuation of #MyPD will empower its members to lead positive changes in their schools, districts and state. Stay tuned!