In their own words

How do you help teachers reimagine teaching?
Jeff Heyck-Williams, Director of the Two Rivers Learning Institute

“In shifting [to remote learning], we make sure we're not losing sight of our mission. How do we not change our core as we are changing everything? That is the first thing to be mindful of as we try to think about shifting teachers to a whole new mobile modality. How do we nurture social and emotional resilience, especially in a time that is particularly traumatic for the entire country. And how do you help [students] do deep and important work? The second thing - what are the things that teachers can pare away? Let's be aware of those. Once you come up with that list, then the next list is what are the new opportunities that this time provides. Experiences that we can provide kids virtually are necessarily changed because we don't have as much control over the environment. I can't give you some materials to work on on a day-to-day basis, or I can't intervene in the midst of a learning experience in the same way if I'm not physically present with you… and then [let’s think about the] collaborative component. We can create breakout rooms [in Zoom] or for our older students to use Google Suite where they can work together on a given piece but it's not the same one-to-one interaction as when you're physically present together. 

[There is a] new opportunity from giving kids some choice about how they produce or what they produce. It's giving kids a new way to engage and share their learning. How do we help teachers name what are the core things that I want a kid to get out of an experience and how do I know what they really got out of that experience. [Regarding Showcase] students have to produce what they produce on their own. It is opening up this opportunity for students to share and synthesize their learning and they can do it in a number of different ways. Let's talk about how you want to do that. 

The big learning for teachers is how do you set norms and expectations so that whatever students produce is of real high quality. Do we need a network-wide rubric of what quality work looks like or do you set some norms and expectations generally of what high-quality work looks like and have teachers tailor rubrics to their own individual products? As an example,third graders last year had options for how they synthesize their learning of rocks. Some students created a rap. Some students created [mock] Instagram posts. Another student created a traditional slide deck. All of those [examples] still had the opportunity to show how students synthesize and share their learning and take lots of information and share in a concise way. It's [about] communication and development of that content. But you need a rubric to help you find what you're looking for in any of those products that get at that synthesis and communication. That is very different from everyone creating a single product or working towards a common product [which is what we traditionally did]. And it's giving students a lot more agency and increasing engagement. 

How do we prepare teachers to be able to do that? We believe at Two Rivers that professional development (PD) should mirror the experience of our students.  PD is about learning - and in this case - [understanding] how to engage students virtually. We can use some of the same modalities [ourselves] to help students engage. [In our} two and a half week orientation, we had teachers experience learning in similar ways to what we might have students experience: synchronous and asynchronous learning blocks, using breakout rooms and polling functions. We organized our work through Google Classrooms. Their “assignment” might be how do I plan for the first 6 weeks? [Teacher] work mirrors [student] work.