I had the opportunity to lead a three day workshop with a colleague at a middle school this week. It was waaaaaaaaay better than doing a keynote speech at a conference.
Actually I’ve never done a keynote so I can’t honestly say that, but it was way better than all of the presentations that I have done at my school for PD or at conferences.
The honest truth is that one hour sessions at a conference bring about very little, if any change in educator’s practice after attending. Sometimes they are an emotional pick-me-up which is needed but rarely do they lead to substantive change. The three day workshop format of this PD allowed for us to get deep into the PBL framework AND give teachers work time to actually develop their first project.
Highlights for me included watching teachers transformed from fear and anxiety on the first day to excitement about implementing a PBL project by the end. Many teachers were struggling in an honest way with the challenges of giving up control of curriculum and content in their classroom. As they learned the complete process and how to gradually release students into it they became more comfortable.
The other thing that was fascinating to be a part of was watching the principal give permission to his staff to make decisions. He was a true example of servant leadership. After an intense but healthy debate on grading practices, the principal asked people to move to two sides of the room based on what they supported. To everyone’s surprise, all of the teachers went to the same side of the room in consensus. It was a powerful, unifying moment for this staff.
All in all we had a great week that I and the teachers enjoyed. I know that this school is on a great path of changing from traditional classrooms to a PBL framework. It was exciting to have a part in making a real difference in a school, rather than being a drive-by keynote. I definitely hope to have more opportunities to lead workshops in the future!