Over the past 10 years as a teacher (and more recently as an aspiring administrator), I have consistently sought out new and innovative professional development. This work has included gaining a doctoral degree, attending trainings, reading books, going to conferences, and a multitude of other opportunities I have engaged in as others sought to support my personal and professional goals. However, no opportunity had truly satisfied my urge to improve my teaching and also prepared me to become a principal until the fall of 2016.
At that time, I was invited to take part in Tennessee’s micro-credential (MC) pilot. This pilot sought to understand how beneficial MCs could be for teachers and begin to determine how MCs could play into the professional learning landscape of our state. Over the course of the school year, I was able to complete two MCs and dramatically shift my perceptions of student learning within my classroom. I discuss this personal journey in my podcast here.
This year, as part of Tennessee’s second phase of the pilot, I was asked to be one of nine Virtual Facilitators. With over 100 teachers participating and the majority of MC work being completed online, Tennessee trained the facilitators to support teachers in this format. At the same time, my district, Kingsport City Schools (KCS), was also looking to implement its own pilot to both learn more about MCs and to investigate how to embed MCs into its professional learning model. I was asked to co-facilitate this work, as well. Luckily, 27 teachers from KCS chose to participate in Phase 2 of the state pilot, so the state and district work overlapped naturally and led to a “perfect storm” for my own professional growth.
This “perfect storm” gave me the opportunity to lead from within. Not only did I help my colleagues dramatically improve their practices, but I also got to hone and develop my skills as an instructional leader virtually and face-to-face.
Leading up to the kick-off of both pilots, I went through intensive training from the state and thoughtful planning with my district. However, no amount of preparation can equip you for the realities of a project.
The first time I addressed our KCS pilot group, I felt like I had it all figured out. But I was quickly reminded of how much uncertainty is associated with a brand new endeavor. The first time I facilitated a virtual learning session on the BloomBoard platform, I struggled to stay on topic and led my one participant through our introduction to MCs at warp speed. To put it kindly, I was definitely a work in progress.
Reflecting what has happened since those initial bumps, I can see my journey’s winding path and take pride in how much I have accomplished. Not only have I earned another MC (Annotation Strategies for Deeper Thinking) to continue developing my craft as an ELA teacher, but I have practiced and adapted my leadership strategies and skills through my interactions with both my district and virtual participants.
I’ve become a deeper listener through one-on-one sessions with teachers struggling to understand a particular portion of a MC. I’ve strengthened my communication tactics through wait time and content on virtual sessions. I’ve broadened my understanding of curriculum as I’ve coached an elementary math teacher to fit aspects of her curriculum into the parameters of a MC and guided other teachers to select MCs suited to their grade levels and content.
I’ve thickened my skin as I’ve listened to a frustrated veteran teacher vent about the process. I’ve also sharpened my problem-solving skills as I’ve worked with that same veteran teacher to overcome her frustrations and move on. I’ve learned to celebrate successes and not dwell on the negatives as teachers were either granted or denied a MCs. Moreover, I’ve developed strong, trusting relationships with a wide variety teachers and learned how to serve them best.
Without any hesitation, the opportunity to participate in this MC work has been one of the most meaningful and rich experiences along my professional development journey. I look forward to spreading the word and helping other teachers across my district and state find success and personalized professional development through MCs as well!