Monday, April 9, 2012

The Best Professional Development: A School Visit

This week I am lucky enough to be spending three days at Allen Brook School in Williston, Vermont with Sharon Davison and her kind and generous colleagues.  Back in November I found Sharon's class blog when I was doing some research for our kindergarten's Jan Brett author study.  One look at Sharon's jam-packed blog and I knew she was a dynamic, creative, and passionate teacher.  Now that I have had the privileged of spending one day in her clasroom, I understand that she is a remarkable teacher driven to deliver only the most sound, effective, and meaningful instruction to her students. 

Sharon immediately welcomed me into her class, introduced me to her students and co-workers, and then got busy teaching so that I could see all that I came to see (and more).  She knew I was particularly interested in language arts and technology, so I saw her class use the Smart board, iPads, and computers.  I saw the students sort letters, write words, and draft blog posts.  I watched them enjoy the newest addition to their class blog, a slide show Sharon put together using Smilebox.  I heard them ask when they would get to compose their daily tweet, helped two students return the iPads to the technology room, and listened with them as Sharon explained the concept of pinboards on Pinterest.  Students in Sharon's class are at ease with technology because they have learned how to use it and understand how it enhances their learning--it is not a gimmick or a mere substitute for pencil and paper.

Taking pictures during Explore Time
Sorting letters during Explore Time
Morning Message
Fundations with Smart Board and iPads
Nonfiction text displayed via ELMO

Sharon spends a lot of time with her students--I was amazed by her schedule (below).  The students only had one special today: the end of the day!  Although her days are exhausting, Sharon is grateful for the amount of time she has with her students each day as she layers her teaching, always knitting content, process, character, and metacognition into her work with the children.  It is all fluid.  Not a moment is wasted, not an opportunity overlooked to teach her students how to think, act, and reflect. 

In addition to spending hours in Sharon's class, I also had the chance to talk with Allen Brook's technology integration specialist, Bonnie Birdsall, over lunch.  I loved sharing our experiences and look forward to talking more with her on my final day in Williston.  My conversation with Bonnie further solidified how lucky I feel to work at Flint Hill School, where our 1:1 iPad/MacBook program makes embracing technology so easy.  Our challenge continues to be using technology to transform our instruction; I hope my visit to Allen Brook will help me bring back new ideas on how to do that.

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