I was really nervous Monday morning. I was standing in my normal classroom, using my normal structures and my normal lesson routine, but I still caught myself talking a mile a minute and wondering if I was making any sense at all. Because this time, I wasn't teaching teenage students, I was teaching Other Teachers.
Even worse, I was teaching about a specific topic: collaboration. If I failed to work actual collaboration into my workshop, I would feel like a major hypocrite. It would be like that time I went to a professional development session on multiple intelligences, and the presenter handed out a summary and proceeded to read it to us. But if I went too far into touchy-feely land, it would be like that other time when we chose a picture from National Geographic and had to figure out how it represented our feelings about a certain school policy change. How to hit the sweet spot between boring and baffling?
Well, I hope I got it right. I provided a lot of materials to give examples of cooperative work and activity centers. I asked teachers to brainstorm activities they've tried or would like to try, then mix around to hear what other groups came up with. Hopefully everyone could leave with a page full of ideas to try out. After that, we used slates to send questions about assessment and accountability, and get multiple perspectives and solutions.
Once we got to those brainstorming parts, the parts where I could stop talking and really just listen to everyone else sharing, I felt much better. People were participating and the ideas seemed to flow well. The session went quickly, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
Overall, the format of colleagues offering workshops for their fellow colleagues worked well. I heard a lot of engaged conversation, a ton of sharing, and far, far fewer gripes and whines. I would love for this to happen again and again, so I can continue to introduce cooperative activities to new colleagues, and also so I can meet colleagues ready to discuss level 2: how to integrate activity centers into your lesson plans. This could be an awesome way to cultivate local resources and local experts in our own colleagues.