It is always exciting starting a new school year. Be it as a student or as a teacher, there was always that nervous feeling before school starts, the little bit of restlessness the night before, the fluttering stomach the morning of. I think that it comes from the felling of opportunity and potential that the new year brings. Will this be the year I get straight A’s? Will this be the year my grading keeps up with lesson planning? Will this be the year I sort out my discipline? Will this be the year . . . it is the mantra of every student teacher and admin the week before school starts.
This year, the Specialist (TOSA) team from BUSD started the year off with a CUE Rockstar TOSA camp. As you can tell from previous posts, my CUE Rockstar teacher experience was something that I will not forget soon, and something that I still look back on and pull out gems for making my classroom and work life more streamlined and tech-integrated. I learned many skills at that first Rockstar that I am still raving to colleagues about. I couldn’t wait to go and experience a Rockstar camp especially made for TOSAs!
The one thing I can say about the CUE Rockstar experience is that it does not disappoint. The topics were designed with the teachers on special assignment and instructional coaches in mind, and therefore right up our alley. I was glad I was able to share the experience with more of my colleagues, and we could supersize the learning and get busy turning PD on it’s head in our district. There were seven of us that were able to go, a good sized team targeted on making our district PD soar to the next level.
I went to two sessions by Ben Cogswell (@cogswell_ben), the first on feedback. Ben stretched my views on feedback, and challenged my views on public vs. private feedback. He has caused me and my colleagues to come up with a better feedback form for our PDs, and to make that feedback both public and frequent.
The other session from Ben was on creating a coaching Omnipresence. This is really something that we needed to work on. Even though last year was a big success for the BIC, both in PD trainings given and professional growth for individual members, we struggled to reach out to our teachers effectively and consistently. We have made that one of our goals this year, to be more of a presence to our teachers and to make a point to get out and be seen and heard. Many of the things Ben suggested can be placed into our practice quickly and help us be more visible to those we are serving the most, our teachers. Thanks Coach Ben for the insight and help planning some great “get out there” activities.
I had my eyes opened again in my session form David Theriualt (@davidtedu) entitled Learning as a Happening. It got me to think about the building blocks of a PD, and how small projects and skill can lead to bigger projects incorporating those skills taught in the smaller lessons and projects. It is about building a foundation of skills, deep and wide, and then setting the student up for success when they are able to use those foundational skills on some bigger culminating project. I liked the student friendly approach and how successes built on one another to really have the student able to let their skill show and shine. I also like how we can incorporate that model into our own PD as well, teaching them small and easy foundational skills that will lead to a much bigger and complex project where those taught skills can shine.
Lastly, I went to a great session by Jody green (@peerlessgreen) on becoming a producer instead of a roadie in our TOSA shoes. Jody set us up with a great goals planning worksheet, where we had to really thing about our Vision and Mission as a TOSA, and how we are going to go about making that Vision a reality. Her ability to break things down and make the chunks manageable for us is what really helped us in our planning. As with all Rockstar sessions, there was a lot of hands on a group work so we could help each other and share and refine our plans with other teachers familiar with the life and struggle of the TOSA. I came out with a great plan for the learning and PD arc I would like to implement over the next few years, as well as some SMART goals and benchmarks along the way. Thanks Jody for helping us focus on our vision and plan steps to make that vision a reality.
As with all CUE events, there was a great deal of networking and time to connect with teachers. Being a TOSA can be a tough job, compounded by the fact that sometime you have to do that job with no one in your district understanding the role, making it a lonely job too. Events like this help us to bolster our PLC, and connect us with teachers hoeing the same row as us, making us feel a little less lonely, and giving us a friendly face to bounce ideas off with when no one in your district understands our crazy ideas and plans. It is definitely an experience I recommend, whether it is a Rockstar TOSA edition, Teacher edition, or even Admin, the networking and fellowship is worth the price of admission. I can honestly say, this is best start to a school year I can remember in a long time.