Teachers learn by watching their colleagues take risks.

Take the risk to learn as you go. Tell your colleagues all about it.

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I interviewed my colleague, Matt O'Donnell, on powerful professional learning. Here's what he had to say: 

In our 21st C. classrooms, a teacher can’t keep up on everything. Instead, we have to be able to allow our students to try new things and to learn alongside them. We have to embrace professional development that's learn-as-you-go. 

I think the most powerful PD is when teachers see their colleague taking a risk. Maybe they're saying, “I was afraid to give up my seating chart” or “I’m not sure how this is going to work”. A teacher explaining their risk-taking to other teachers is one of our most powerful learning opportunities.


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I happened to visiting Maria Carrillo High School last year. The principal was telling a small group of teachers to take risk. He told us that he wanted to see more failure in the classroom, and cited an experiment that attempted to combine trigonometry / geometry with auto mechanics. The experiment ran for a year, but ran into some kind of trouble.

Of course this type of experimentation is not a total loss; something is learned. The quickly changing cultural, educational, technological landscape invites and pushes us to innovate and experiment. We need to do this - even though we invite a certain amount of failure.

Good thoughts Sarah!

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