March 10, 2017 Fund Program

SDP Spotlight: Providing Time for Teachers to Collaborate

Today’s guest post is authored by Olimpia Bahena, Principal of Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy. Olimpia led teams through the Summer Design Program in 2014 and 2016. 

I have been the principal of Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy since 2007. Having led a team through the 2014 Summer Design Program (SDP) cohort and knowing firsthand the value it brought to my students and school, I was excited to have the opportunity to work with Furman Brown and Sensible Innovation for SDP 2016.

I joined the program to work on some key scheduling challenges; specifically, with the goal of providing more flexible time for our teachers to collaborate. Our school community has been integrating innovative and impactful programming into our school — including LEAP’s Pilot Network and Culturally Responsive Teaching — but we haven’t had a schedule that reflected our key values: personalizing learning for all students, providing excellent professional learning opportunities for teachers and exposing all Talcott students to fine arts.

To support our teachers and students, we implemented regular learning walks and lesson studies. This means that every quarter, our teachers have an informal observation from the administrative team and their peers. This process allows us give regular feedback to teachers to help them better serve their students.

However, it also requires us to schedule strategically. With help from Furman and his team, we modified our schedule to free up our resource teachers to have time to collaborate for an hour every day. On days where we want to conduct learning walks or lesson studies, the resource teachers are able to cover the classrooms.

We made these changes by working as a team and leveraging the tools that Sensible Innovation provided. My team, including my assistant principal and some of our teacher leaders, used the workshops and scheduling tool to create several possible scheduling scenarios to bring back to our school community. We were able to visualize the changes and share with our team what it would mean for our school to implement these changes.

Creating dedicated time for regular, informal peer feedback has proven highly beneficial for our teachers. We have been able to foster a culture of collaboration and partnership among our teachers while providing support to personalize learning and be responsive to our students.

With reduced resources, working with Furman and The Fund provided us with tools and guidance to achieve all of our school’s goals.