Pleasanton Unified School District: "We should be practicing what we preach"

We interviewed Lisa Highfill, Instructional Technology Coach at Pleasanton Unified School District about the steps she and her colleagues have taken to provide differentiated and active professional learning for their teachers.  She discusses the importance of building trust with teachers by truly listening to their needs and creating learning opportunities that feel relevant and meaningful. Listen here or read the transcript below.

Victoria: I’m excited to introduce to you one of the most passionate educators I know. A seasoned speaker, author, and former 5th grade teacher, and she is now an instructional technology coach at Pleasanton Unified School District, Lisa Highfill.

Lisa: Thanks so much Victoria and Chris for having me on to talk about what we are doing in Pleasanton. I have to say, I have a coaching partner, Scott Padway, and we tried to mastermind this and figure out the best way that we can move teachers to not only learn something new about technology and integrating it into their curriculum, but how do we also shift instructional practices so that kids can learn in the best way possible.  So we always say, “We should be practicing what we preach.  Teachers, I want you to do this with your kids” — and yet how many professional development opportunities do you go to and you sit there and there are slides?  And the slides don’t pertain to what you want, what you need — you feel like you’ve wasted your time  because you’re sitting and listening. You are not an active participant. We are telling our teachers to make learning active and to get kids participating — yet we are training them in the opposite ways. It seems so frustrating. I know I’ve sat through sessions like that and I’ve thought, “Oh, we can do better”.

So here we have all these teachers who have different levels of ability, different comfort levels of using technology – we needed to personalize the professional development for them.  We needed to differentiate instruction — just like we are telling them to do with their students.  Yet as challenging as that is — we had so many teachers to be training, it was the game changer for us and our professional development.  In order for our teachers to trust us — that what we are having them do is not adding to their plate, we are trying to make what they are doing more effective actually — they needed to trust that we listened to them and that we were going to meet their needs, and they weren’t going to come and spend the day doing something that they didn’t need or didn’t want. So that was the first step — coaching is about building trust with teachers.

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