The sunlight is still Summer while the breeze feels like Fall. Teachers stream in, eager to find their names at check-in and chat with colleagues on their way to hear the keynote speaker frame the day, “It’s not that differentiation is part of the work. Differentiation is the work itself. We all can make progress and we can all grow. Each student deserves a goal that they can work hard to achieve!”
So begins Differentiating Like a Star, one of four mini-conferences CPET recently offered to early career teachers from the Bronx. The New York City Department of Education, Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality (OTQR), partnered with us to bring this series of professional development workshops to life. Each mini-conference was CTLE credit-approved and offered words of inspiration rooted in the reality of our classrooms, followed by a customized workshop session designed to model the practices and strategies of 21st century skills and work on authentic tasks educators could use in their classrooms.
The Art of Instructional Design: Many new teachers struggle with daily (or rather, nightly) lesson planning, which is often inefficient and ineffective for long-term learning. These breakout sessions supported teachers in taking their planning to a new level by helping them understand the basic components of any plan, and cultivate strategies for long term planning.
Differentiating Like a Star: Differentiating instruction is an essential, and often misunderstood, pedagogical strategy. These breakout sessions were designed to tackle one element of differentiation that teachers struggle with and provide them with a clear foundation for what differentiation is and isn’t, as well as provide tangible strategies for immediate implementation.
Digging Into Danielson: Each breakout session, aimed at understanding the Danielson evaluation system, focused on 1-2 of the key Danielson domains. Teachers explored the language of the rubric, made connections to their own practice, learned 2-3 techniques aligned with the expectation of Effective Practice, and created a plan for implementation.
Teaching Through the Test: Each breakout session analyzed high stakes assessments within each content area. Teachers anticipated their students’ strengths and likely challenges, and made connections to essential content knowledge and skills in addition to highly effective strategies for teaching through the test, rather than to it.
As each mini-conference drew to a close, teachers provided feedback, sharing that their experience exceeded expectations at a significantly higher rate than any other ranking! Participant comments point to accessible and expert facilitators, practical application, and engaging material: