So this week we are hosting a Middle School MUN event with over 250 students from around the world, and I managed to have lunch with a couple of teacher chaperones from Panama yesterday on campus. We started talking about the amazing and powerful learning opportunities that these trips can provide for kids, but then the conversation turned to the opportunity that trips like these actually afford adult educators as well. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that some of the greatest professional development a teacher can receive is through visiting other schools. The power of school visits are immeasurable, and the take aways for educators can be profound. It’s almost impossible to leave a school visit without some new and fresh ideas, some inspiration, and of course some new human and collaborative connections that quickly build your personal learning community.
We left in agreement that when thinking about professional development, we universally don’t think of school visits as a traditional top priority… but maybe we should. Obviously there is value in attending the right educational conference, and of course bringing in the right consultant can move us all forward professionally, and the best professional development might just be in our own buildings with teachers teaching teachers, but what about going to see other schools in action? I think we should start creating networks across the the regions so that we get into the spirit of home and away visits so to speak….setting up targeted visits with both public and international schools to work more closely together, to learn from each other, to create meaningful collaborative relationships, and to leverage the power of reciprocity.
Thinking back on my own professional development experiences throughout my career, the times that I went on school visits, either on an accreditation team or with another colleague or two, truly stick out in my mind as some of the best learning that I’ve ever had. Last year for example, I had the opportunity to visit both IZL in Switzerland and IICS in Istanbul, to see their outstanding early childhood programs in action, and later this Spring I’ll head to AIS Vienna and hopefully ASL London to share and learn about our individual approaches to student inquiry, and some innovative ways to report out on student learning. I always return home from a school visit with new ideas, plenty of inspiration, and some new professional connections that make me a better educator and a better leader. I want to start encouraging teachers to consider school visits when thinking about their annual PD, and to find schools (and other teachers working in these schools) that can help to improve their practice, and provide a boost to their current day to day classroom experience…you really can’t go wrong if you choose the right school and the right colleague.
Anyway, yesterday’s conversation with my new Panamanian friends was a great one, and I was excited to hear that they have found inspiration from a few things that we are currently doing here at ASP. It feels good to know that this experience has been a good one for their kids, but also an enriching one for them. I guess I’m asking you all to think about your current approach to personal PD, and start to begin thinking about a possible school visit to add to the possibilities…you won’t be disappointed. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…Behold the turtle: He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out- James Bryant Conant
TED Talk –It’s Okay to be Bored