By Tiffany Miller, Principal at Conrad Ball Middle School,
and Lanny Hass, Principal at Thompson Valley High School
Sometimes as educators we get new ideas from magazines, online, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and one another. Rarely, do we actually get the opportunity to see what these ideas look like in person and actually see how the idea is working. Not today.
Today Thompson School District in Loveland, Colorado is doing a “Seeing Is Believing” tour in one of our district high schools, the new “norm” for our administrator meetings. Right now as we write this, we are in a room filled with administrators, teachers, community members, and others from different districts across the state. You might ask what this “Seeing Is Believing” tour is, and here’s what we would say: it’s the best professional learning (PL) I have been a part of as a leader, an educator, and someone who is always wanting to try something new if it’s best for kids.
This type of PL started a year ago after our district made a major shift to personalized learning. Through this journey, we have learned that living in silos in each of our own buildings isn’t the way to personalize our district and that working collaboratively is truly the Thompson way. As a team, we asked ourselves: Are we actually modeling what we expect of our very own students? We expect kids to collaborate, take risks, ask for feedback, and be vulnerable, but do we do that? Are we taking that risk of opening up our doors and asking other teachers and administrators for feedback? We do with those we trust, but rarely do we step that far out of our comfort zone to become vulnerable… until now.
In Thompson, we believe so deeply that a collaborative practice is our practice and supporting each other is the only way we will grow as leaders and teachers. So, with this lens of personal growth we opened up our doors to showcase our classrooms and share our success stories, share our struggles, and we have created a true Professional Learning Community (PLC) across all ten secondary schools. Instead of calling it a PLC we call these tours our “Seeing Is Believing” time with each other. Why? Here is the simple answer… sometimes to believe that something can exist, you have to see it in action.
A year ago, Tiffany opened up the doors at Conrad Ball Middle School and shared this next generation school with others. Today, Lanny and Thompson Valley High School opened up their doors. One idea Lanny took away from his visit to Con Ball last year was our Next Gen Room. A year later, he created a room called The Summit. Both of these rooms represent a place of hard work, collaboration, and visuals on the walls to show where we have been and where we hope to go. This one idea from a year ago has quickly evolved into so much more. This is just one example of how both schools are learning from one another and continue to push each other in the best way possible. The best compliment we can get from each other is: “Today wasn’t a dog and pony show. This was real and I can tell this happens on a daily basis.”
In Thompson, this style of PL gives us confidence in what we are doing in each of our own buildings. It brings us together by making sure that we are all collaborating on the same goal of becoming the best competency-based education system for kids in Colorado. We are united as a district and we believe in the work we are doing with kids, staff, and each other.