Effective Classroom Strategies Based on Successful PD

Imagine if some of the best practices of professional development workshops were transferred to the classroom? As a regional and national speaker, I create presentations focusing on literacy skill-building meant to support teachers in all content areas. What might it look like to transfer those pertinent workshop skills to the classroom?

Here are five foundational suggestions to create a simple, significant and sensible classroom.

Memoirs from a Groupie

In February I attended the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention, and had the honor of introducing Sam Bennett.  Truth be told, I was at the November Leadership Meeting in Stevens Point and they were looking for introducers.  I noticed Sam’s name still had a space for an introducer.  I bowled three people over to get to that sheet of paper and write my name in that space!

Vocabulary by Mom

I think my mother, Jean, always envisioned herself as a writer.  She wrote for her high school newspaper, “The Patriot,” and was the star editor in ’45.  She understood the significance of a strong vocabulary and how words could persuade, shape or change attitudes, emotions and values.

However, the death of her father and the necessity of work did not allow my mom to pursue her hope of a writing career. 

We’ve Only Just Begun!

We often think of ‘retraining’ as something mature workers have to do to stay employed.  Their careers have come to a crossroads: get retrained or get fired.

Yet, retraining is not just for the veteran worker anymore.  In addition, it doesn’t have to be a dismal fork-in-the-road event, either.  Retraining or relearning can give any professional the opportunity to reinvent his/her skills and share those skills with a brave and brand new world!

Parents, We Teachers Really Want to Work with You!

I wrote this article almost 9 years ago (reprinted with permission from JSOnline, August 27, 2005), and I believe it is just as timely now as it was then.  With Common Core, standards based grading and an onslaught of new initiatives, I hope you feel this advice is practical for everyone involved in education!

This is an exciting, almost anxious time as your son or daughter enters high school or begins another year of academia.

To Market, To Market . . . and Who Do You Know?

Let’s face it, teacher’s really aren’t very good at marketing themselves.  As a matter of fact, “marketing” is usually done in the business industry; selling products and services, not an educator’s expertise or knowledge.

However, in the current world of education, that has changed. Most recently, I’ve changed my current reality and created a new one.  Okay, I quit my job and got another one.  But, instead of a lateral move, it was all about the marketing and networking.

Let me explain . . . .

In 2005 when I left the private school, I knew I didn’t want to be a traditional English teacher anymore.  For those of you who teach English, you’re nodding your head because I don’t even have to explain why, you just know.  From 1993-2005, I taught freshmen English.

Initially, I was up for grading nearly 170 essays (and the revisions) – taking work home and planning my life around grading (again, for those of you who know what I’m talking about, I even played the “How Many Essays Can I Grade in an Hour?” game).  My entire life revolved around grading papers and homework.   I creatively planned lessons focusing on analysis and critical thinking.  Heck, I even tutored students in the summer so they would be better prepared come fall.  The last straw for me came when I had decided to splurge one Sunday afternoon and treat myself to a pedicure.  As I was having the pedicure, I was grading the last dozen Romeo and Juliet papers.


What relaxation?

I HAD to get these papers graded and returned by Monday!!  That’s when it hit me – I cannot do this anymore.

So, I quit.

Without another job.  Without prospects.  Without marketing or networking.

But, instead of marketing myself as an English teacher, I decided to market myself as an alternative education instructor.  I had the license.  As a matter of fact, when I earned the license in 1995, the president of the private school said (and I quote), “Why did you get an at-risk license?  No one is at-risk here.”  No comment.

I revised my resume focusing on my #952, alternative education licensure.  I revised my appearance, getting rid of the themed jumpers and concentrating on classic business attire.  But most importantly, I revised my mindset.  While the English teacher in me was definitely still there, the struggling student emphasis took over and I began to read books by Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones (Shadow Children) and read articles by Carolann Tomlinson about differentiation.  I knew the subject matter, now I wanted to know the student.  Who was the at-risk student and how could I make a difference in his/her life?

In August, with school starting in just days, I got a call from a suburban school to interview. They were looking for an alternative education English teacher.  Really.  No kidding.   The interview went very well, but when it was over, the principal confided that he had already heard a lot about me.  His niece attended the private school and I had been her 9th grade English teacher, and here’s the best part, she loved me! I was hired.  I started in August of 2005 and it was fabulous!

However, in August of 2013, I earned my Reading Teacher license.  In December of 2013, I earned my Reading Specialist license.  I knew I wanted more.  I wanted to be the Reading Specialist at the high school; planning professional development, guiding teachers in best practice of literacy and most importantly, assisting new teachers in reading interventions and strategies.  I wanted to share the latest literacy research and be the go-to person for reading academics.

Unfortunately, the district couldn’t make that happen.

Time to market myself again. I revised my resume focusing on my administrator’s license in reading.  I revised my appearance, concentrating on subtle make-up tips (remember, this is from a gal who wears only moisturizer . . . big step!).

But most importantly, I revised my mindset.  While the reading specialist in me knew the subject matter, now I wanted to know the teacher.  How could I support the teachers and make a difference in their practice? I began interviewing last summer because I wanted to see what was out there and what the world of reading looked like.

In late August, I applied for a position with a major school district but hadn’t heard anything.  Most recently, they called, I interviewed and the rest, as they say is history. I am now an Instructional Coach where I will be planning professional development, guiding teachers in best practice of literacy, and assisting new teachers in instructional interventions and strategies.  I will be the go-to person for reading academics – that means ALL of reading academics – math, science, social studies and English.  Now here is a caveat: a former administrator from the suburban school is an important person at the district where I was recently hired.

However, (and here’s the best part), she opted out of any type of vote regarding my hiring; in other words, I was hired solely on my merit.  After I was hired, she spoke volumes to her superiors about my worth as an educator and as a professional, but again, only after all was said and done.

So, in the world of business, marketing and networking are everything.

And, in the world of education, marketing and networking has become nearly everything.  We all know that our students must remain our focus; however, in this new age, it is critical to market and network so the most knowledgeable educators continue to grow and within that growth, continue to motivate our kids. Market, network and motivate!!