There’s a whole edu-industry out there featuring guest speakers and seminar leaders who are happy to visit our campuses (for a hefty fee) and tell us what works best for kids. Hands down, though, the best use of my professional development time has been visiting my colleagues’ classrooms.
When I was a new(ish) teacher, my principal gifted me with a sub-release day. Instead of teaching my classes, I became a student for the day, visiting six rock star teachers on our campus – the catch was that none of them could be from my own department. My day was filled with Algebra 2 equations (oof!), Spanish vocabulario, and, yes, a cow eyeball dissection. (Its milky blue iris still glares in my memory.)
The result? A wealth of ideas, from games to technology to discipline procedures, that I could bend to fit my classroom and curriculum. Even the lead-balloon moments (we all have ‘em, even our best teachers) led to growth because knowing what not to do or watching someone regroup when the wheels fall off the cart is also important. (Side note: The day, although awesome in so many ways, left me bone-tired and empathetic about the mental fatigue students face in navigating six strong teacher personalities – including my own – each day. Kids have a TON thrown at them.)
We don’t need pundits and policy; untapped talent is hidden in plain sight on our campuses. So maybe you can’t get a full sub-release day from your administrators. Fine. Then give up one prep period, even just once a month. Get out of your room. Get inspired.