Becoming an Organization Who Learns Together

Nido Teachers came together during our July Inservice days to build a shared understanding around our Critical Friends Groups (which we have renamed, Nido Learns Together- NLT). Critical Friends Groups (NLTs) provide structures that support adult learning in schools. They are groups of educators who meet regularly with the goal of improving teaching and learning and are characterized by skilled facilitation and the use of protocols to guide adult learning. This simple structure assumes that (1) teachers have both things to learn from each other and things to teach each other, (2) that learning together will improve their teaching practice, (3) deepen their knowledge of students, (4) and build a shared understanding of fundamental ideas about schooling. Our goal at Nido is to become a true learning organization.

In order to build a shared understanding of the theory and practices that comprise critical friends groups, our faculty participated in a variety of professional learning experiences facilitated by Nido faculty. We believe that to become a learning organization we need to learn with each other and from each other. Day 1 began with a Breakout Edu Challenge. Teachers had to search for clues hidden around the room that would help them solve a mystery together. Once the clues were found, they had to work together to unlock more clues until the final mystery could be solved.

In large groups of 10, teachers had to collaborate with each other, be creative, use problem solving skills, and communicate effectively. These skills are the same skills we want to use when we talk about teaching and learning in the classroom. Teachers debriefed what was engaging, helpful, frustrating, and challenging about this experience and then discussed the implications of this challenge from a learner's perspective, tying the learning back to the classroom experience for their students.

The second shared learning experience of the day had two main goals. First, teachers read and discussed quotes from articles about critical friends to strengthen their understanding of the theory behind this model of professional learning. Then teachers worked together in groups to brainstorm elements that excited them about our NLT work. They also brainstormed ideas about what they would like to get better at in their own individual practice in service of improving student learning. The final outcome of this session was for each teacher to walk away with personal goals for improving teaching and learning in his/her own personal practice.

Day 2 began with an energizing performance from one of Nido's teacher bands, JustinCase. We wanted to bring in an element of fun and excitement to get the faculty ready for another day of learning. My friend Nikki Hinostro, Director at High Tech Middle, says "professional development is business up front and party in the back." Finding that balance is important for keeping adults engaged and invigorated in learning experiences. So, following a little "party in the back" we launched into protocols. Faculty participated in a variety Tunings facilitated by other Nido faculty.

A Tuning is when a person (or a small group of people) present an idea they are working on to their colleagues to get feedback in order to solve a problem they are facing or to get new ideas about their work. The tunings had topics ranging from ideas people wanted to present at the 2019 AASSA conference to feedback on launching new units of study in courses.

There were several purposes behind having all school Tunings. First, it was important for faculty to experience a protocol that they might want to use in their NLT group. The tuning protocol is a powerful protocol for improving teaching and learning. The second purpose of this session was to provide feedback to colleagues to help improve their work and to provide an platform for meaningful conversation about teaching learning. Because this session was not just about getting feedback but was also partially designed as a "protocol learning experience" it was set up in a fishbowl format. Some faculty participated in an inner circle and others sat in outer circle. People from the outer circle were still able to participate in the process of brainstorming ideas and asking questions to a lesser extent, but their main goal was to be an active observer of the protocol which helped enhance the debrief of the experience. The inner/outer circle format also allowed for different entry points into the protocol. Some faculty were familiar with the Tuning process while others were trying the protocol out for the first time.

After lunch we had a session that served as a culminating experience for our two days of professional learning. Each member of the faculty was charged with the task of creating a short keynote in which they were asked to elevate their own thinking for other international educators about why Nido's approach to professional learning, our NLT groups, was important for transforming teaching and learning. Through a process of critique and revision each faculty member narrowed their ideas into one powerful sentence which became part of group keynote speech that was video taped. Here is one group's collective keynote.

We ended the day with a movie screening in the theater, watching the different keynotes. It was inspiring to see everyone's thinking, shared publicly, about our work together. This work is not easy. In order to transform teaching and learning we must trust each other, share our doubts and fears, and our successes. In the spirit of our learning journey we closed with a group sing along, inspired by the closing of the 2018 Deeper Learning Conference, "Lean on Me." Follow us on our journey towards becoming a learning organization!

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