Connecting and Innovating

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A few months ago I attended my first EDCamp. My only prior knowledge about EDCamps was that the participants’ interest determined the workshop topics and it was a great opportunity to connect with other educators. This EDCamp also featured a “who’s who” of local innovative educators on Twitter such as: Chris Wejr, Neil Stephenson, Aaron Akune, Gino Bondi and many more who were going to be leading and facilitating the learning that day.

Chris Wejr facilitated one of the first sessions on inquiry learning.  As participant Stina Morrisette shared her school’s (Homma Elementary) iChallenge program that was designed to build capacity amongst teachers integrating technology into classroom learning, I experienced the perfect “a-ha” moment. We had been looking for a framework to further drive and support inquiry teaching at Ridgeview Elementary.  As I investigated the inner workings and success of iChallenge, I began to enthusiastically work out a mental picture for how a similar mentorship program could be put into practice at Ridgeview. Conversations with Toshi Carleton-Gaines, an Inquiry Coordinator at Holly Elementary, further enriched my thinking as the development of a new plan began to take shape. Toshi’s role working with teachers, connecting educators and supporting inquiry teaching in the classroom reaffirmed my belief that for teachers to move forward with inquiry, we must provide the time and support needed for both a deeper understanding of inquiry learning and reflective practice. Synthesizing these ideas and connecting them with the direction we were intending to move, inQuire was born.

This past Wednesday, ten teachers attended our first before-school group session. It was wonderful to have representatives from throughout the grades as well as an interested teacher from another school. The goals of inQuire are: to develop a culture of inquiry, build on our strong pedagogy with deep inquiry teaching, and create our own network of mentor teachers. As this was our first meeting I utilized a Prezi (my first) that was designed to provide information, spark discussion and share one teaching strategy that would empower students in their learning; questioning.

I found the positive attitudes and growing confidence amongst our teachers encouraging. We have been actively engaged in inquiry teaching and are now ready to begin sharing and developing ideas about how to further inquire. For the remainder of the year, our teachers will continue to meet as an inQuire group once a month. Each week, we will also have an open door drop-in time before school where teachers can gather at will, for time to read/discuss new articles about inquiry, engage in dialogue surrounding current implementation or to simply touch base quickly for regular feedback. Throughout our monthly sessions, we will be inviting guest speakers such as Janet Hicks (West Bay Elementary) and Brooke Moore (Rockridge Secondary) to share their knowledge, and we will provide time for teachers to: reflect, share and develop more strategies to deepen the interest and understandings of their students.

Professional Development is much more than attending workshops and collecting information. For me, the greatest professional development sessions are the ones that allow me to question and enhance my practice, inspire new ideas and most importantly provide the opportunity to connect with others and hear what is going on outside my classroom. For me, it is one of the foundations for inspiring innovation.

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