Friday, April 10, 2015

Teachers Visiting Teachers at WJHS

At WJHS, we have a program that encourages teachers to observe each other's classroom  We call this our Teachers Visiting Teachers (TVT) program.

This post describes the journey that WJHS went on from a culture where teachers never visited another teacher’s room to a culture where teachers visit other rooms on an almost daily basis. 

In fact, because the culture is so ingrained now, WJHS teachers regularly notify each other of potentially interesting visit opportunities.

TVT E-mail Invitation Examples:

As of the time of this writing, our teachers have documented 212 individual visits this year (and a total of 675 "TVT points" which will be described later in this post).

How did it happen?

First Step- We made it quick and easy.

During the development of The Wildcat Way, we were discussing one of our core values (observation) and having a growth mindset.  At that point we posed the following question to the faculty:

Everyone understands that the best professional development is often right across the hall.  Schools all across America talk about the importance of peer observations.  Why doesn't it happen?

Our staff verbalized several reasons including lack of time, cumbersome procedures, documentation requirements…

We asked, "What if we made it quick?"

                A visit can be as short as five minutes or as long as you’d like.

We asked, "What if we made it easy?"

                You pick when and where.

                Limited documentation required.

                We created various "types" of visits:

                                Idea Bandit- A quick visit designed to simply look for ideas.

                                Invitation- Teacher A invites Teacher B to observe a specific strategy.

                                Learning Walk- Multiple teachers gather and visit classrooms looking for specific things- student engagement, integration level of technology, higher order thinking, etc.

                                Specialist- A session with one of our instructional coaches.

                                Other- Whatever!  You tell us how you worked with another teacher (outside of normal PLC activities).

Second Step- We made it fun!

Excitement began to build around the idea of a TVT program that was quick, easy, and fun.

We assigned different points to the type of visits.  One point for the most basic (Idea Bandit) more points for those that require more time/commitment (Invitation, Learning Walk, and Specialist).

We asked the staff how many TVT points they would commit to and were hoping to hear at least two per semester per teacher.

They discussed it and agreed on a goal of 700 points for the year!  

Our administrative team was blown away!

For the record, we logged 862 TVT points the first year and currently have 675 for this year with two months of school remaining.  Amazing!

Third Step- Maintain Momentum and Focus

Our administrative team was looking for a “big finish” for our faculty meetings and we decided to highlight the TVT program.

We celebrate TVT’s at the end of each faculty meeting.  Teachers share what they’ve learned, staff members are praised, and prizes are awarded (random drawing, teachers with the most visits, teachers visited the most, etc.).

Our TVT program has been a huge success that has helped our teachers grow professionally and have fun while doing it.

It is important to note that none of this was mandated by the administrative team.  This program and the commitment to it grew from a simple conversation with professionals about a "best practice."

It flourished because of our staff's commitment to our core values and way of doing business...The Wildcat Way.

Tim Sparacino, Principal