Have you ever experienced a professional learning opportunity where a so called “expert” was hired to come in and provide divine intervention that was supposed to lead you out of despair? I have and often found that exorbitant amounts of money were paid for professional learning that was not useful for my school. I would bet you have experts in your building that can provide dynamic professional learning opportunities for your teachers at a very minimal cost. Your walk-through program allows you to see for yourself your experts in action. Visiting class rooms allows you to observe and identify the experts in your building that demonstrate unique abilities each day as they work with students. You do not need to hire so called “experts” from outside your building. My guess is that experts are already in your building. The question is do you know who they are?

Our walk-through program has revealed that there are many experts in our building and we have made a commitment to ensure other teachers have opportunities to experience that expertise. Specifically, we have created two professional learning opportunities for teachers in the first two months of this school year. One opportunity was prescribed for eight teachers and the other has been offered on two occasions, one in August and one in September, for all teachers in the building. 

We provided substitute teachers at a total cost of $150.00 for eight of our teachers to conduct observations of some of our expert teachers. Each of the eight teachers was provided an additional planning period at which time they were to observe three of our expert teachers. Each of the eight teachers was asked who they would like to observe during their additional planning period so that they could have some ownership of the professional learning experience. A schedule was created accommodating some of their requests while also prescribing some of the experts we wanted them to visit. During their visit, each teacher was asked to take notes regarding what was observed. At the conclusion of the visits teachers were asked to consolidate their comments into a summary of the visits and submit that to us for review. The information communicated to us in those summaries was enlightening. Based on the information obtained in the teacher summaries it appears that our eight teachers benefitted from the visits and will take some strategies they observed from the experts back to their own class rooms. Overall it was a good opportunity for some of our teachers to experience some professional growth and for our experts to be recognized for their exemplary work.

Our second professional learning opportunity that we have provided to teachers costs me $75.00 each month. A total of approximately $600.00 spent on this professional learning initiative for the entire school year. Each month we ask one of our experts to present their unique strategies to the entire faculty during planning periods. All I have to pay is the substitute teacher cost for the expert. In August of this year we asked one of our experts to present his strategies he uses to get students engaged in the lesson. He is phenomenal at creating lessons that require students to be active participants in the class. He gets students up and moving around. His students compete against each other and other classes. His students love his class and his scores demonstrate their commitment to learning. His presentation was great and many teachers have incorporated some of his strategies into their classes and are seeing some noticeable improvements. This month (September) we have an expert presenting on her website and her methods for organizing her lessons. She uses these organizational strategies to keep students informed of her expectations regarding class. I have seen some of her strategies and have been informed of many more that she uses to ensure students have the information they need to be successful. I can’t wait to see her presentation and learn more about what she does to ensure her students are informed about her class. 

Each month of this school year we will select an expert from our building to present useful strategies to teachers they can use in their classes that increases students’ opportunities for success. We hope this information will provide our faculty with additional strategies they can use to build lessons that will motivate students to actively participate in their learning.

Over the past few years we have taken a proactive approach to professional learning in our building. We have realized that we do not have to conduct exhaustive searches for experts or spend exorbitant amounts of money hiring people to come to us. We have tremendous teachers in our building that have a wide variety of expertise in areas that can benefit our entire faculty. Our walk-through program has afforded us opportunities to discover the experts in our building so that we can share in our own professional learning together.

If you find this information useful or if I can assist you with other educational endeavors please leave a comment or contact me directly at sean.kelly@douglas.k12.ga.us