Westside’s instructional coaches and master mentors met last week via videoconference with Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, an organization focused on advancing professional learning for student success. Dr. Hirsh, then Stephanie Abraham, graduated from Westside in 1972 and received the future teacher of the year scholarship.
During the videoconference, Dr. Hirsh discussed the importance of using the Standards for Professional Learning developed by Learning Forward and building upon the success of the District’s Lighthouse Educator Program. She advised team members to think about the learning design of the program and identify the people who support it in the Westside system, along with their roles and responsibilities. The learning design of the program, she said, sends a powerful message about the type of educational experiences we want to model for Westside students. A successful program will meet the needs of all teachers with practical applications and follow-up. Professional learning without follow-up, she said, is a kind of malpractice. Supports must be embedded to allow deep implementation.
Dr. Hirsh posed some great guiding questions and ideas for the group to consider, particularly on the topic of time. Time for professional learning is scarce, and it is crucial to prioritize how that time should be spent. A successful model splits time between learning and implementation when also paired with clear direction regarding outcomes and supports. Being a 1:1 technology District, we should continue to provide multiple supports while avoiding overwhelming staff with too much technology.
Finally, coaches, mentors and other team leaders need to get to know our staff members before they arrive on campus. This upfront work will model for staff the type of individualization we are encouraging them to use with students. When modeling personalization for teachers, we need to focus on the following formula: differentiation plus individualization equals personalization. At WCS, we are ahead of the curve in providing supports with clear outcomes, and we look forward to redesigning our three-year new staff induction program (LEA) in a way that is personalized to meet the needs of all of our staff.