It all started with Smart Board Technology. I was invested in the Lesson Activity Tool Kit, the Gallery, and so much more. My lessons seemed to come alive and students were excitedly spreading the news. Since I taught in an open space school with no walls, windows, or even a door, my classroom became a fishbowl for curious observers. I found myself sharing quick snippets with my colleagues before school, during lunch and after school. Later, I was asked to be a presenter at in-service workshops over the next few years.
Fast forward to today. So much has changed. The Smart Boards are gone and replaced with even better technology resources. My classroom is now occupied by someone else since I became a Literacy Consultant in the district. One thing has not changed… I still love learning and sharing new ideas!
The challenge is HOW? The number of professional development days is limited and there are so many topics to be covered. Teachers are committed before and after school. Morning meetings, parent conferences, bus duty, after school tutoring programs are just a few of the many scheduled activities. Let’s not forget that teachers must also transport their own children to school or extracurricular events.
Suddenly I thought why not offer a workshop during lunch. Teachers could eat their lunch while I presented a topic of interest. It seemed so simple. Would it work? I offered the first Brown Bag workshop to a group of Kindergarten-Grade 5 teachers in their building computer lab. Since the lunch times were staggered to accommodate the different age groups of the students, I repeated the workshop over three thirty minute sessions. Teachers were rotating in and out. Some ate their lunch while others didn’t. The atmosphere was very relaxed and engaging. We were able to interact by asking questions and sharing thoughts and ideas while gaining knowledge. Hooray, it’s working!
I have continued to present Brown Bag Workshops each month to the teachers in our district. Even Reading Interventionist, Special Education Teachers, Instructional Aides, and Principals have attended. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Choose a relatable topic to present. Time is a valuable commodity, even thirty minutes. Teachers want to be able to quickly implement this new knowledge into their classroom. Topics need to be interesting and useful to them.
- Be prepared. I am fortunate enough to work with a wonderful group of educators. So I listen carefully to what they tell me in our conversations. One thing that I hear over and over is give me the resources for instruction. So while preparing the workshop presentation, I consider all of the resources and research to include to meet the needs of the staff. In fact, a few teachers remark that I provide “ more than enough”. Always listen carefully for suggestions or requests during the presentation and follow-up as soon as possible.
- Forget note taking. The biggest sigh of relief comes when I announce that no one needs to bring a pencil or paper for taking notes. Teachers need an opportunity to relax and take a break from their hectic day. I always send information to them through email or create a folder for them to access in Google Drive.
- Resources Every workshop includes some type of resource, such as lesson plans, website links, a visual aide. I usually include these materials in the Google Drive folder or email. You can also schedule a time to model the workshop topic in the teacher’s classroom.
- Advertise the workshop. Some principal have a set date each month on the calendar such as the second Tuesday of each month. Other principals include the information in their school’s weekly staff newsletter. I send email information and post flyers in faculty lounges, by staff mailboxes, and even by mirrors in faculty restrooms. Still one teacher commented that she wasn’t sure the workshop was for her. Of course, I listened. Now I started sending a short informational video describing the workshop using PowToon weeks ahead of time to the teachers. Here’s a link to my first post for the Brief Focus Lesson Brown Bag Workshop.
- Sign up sheet As the presenter, I wanted to be aware of my audience. Primary and Intermediate teachers can hear the same topic, but some tweaking may be necessary. I want my audience to feel that I am focusing on them. This was difficult to achieve without knowing who had sign up and which time slot they were attending. SignUpGenius is a perfect solution. It’s a free online software where I can enter the available dates and time slots, send the staff the link, and the teachers sign up online. SignUpGenius even notifies me when someone has sign up and sends them a reminder prior to the date.
As long as you are flexible and able to go with the flow, you can make it work. Sometimes the location changes due to someone needing the space. I’ve been in computer labs, libraries, conference rooms, and even a storage space. Just bring your I Pad and think outside of the box. The end result is a meaningful interaction with some of the most talented, resourceful, and intelligent people dedicated to educating our youth.