VII. Professional Learning

Spring 2020

In the Spring, we offered a variety of professional development (PD) opportunities around tools for distance learning - for example, Google classroom, zoom, class dojo, google meet, Schoology, FlipGrid, and seesaw to name a few. We also offered Accessibility and Accommodations for Remote Learning, a session looking at some of the most common accommodations and avenues for educators to provide these accommodations in the virtual setting. Educators were eager to participate in professional learning opportunities to prepare for engaging students in remote learning during this unique time. Just in the beginning weeks of offering our adjusted professional learnings (March 23 - April 17) we had 481 unique educators participate for a total of over 1600 hours of logged learning. Links to weekly PD offerings from March 20 through June 12 are available below.

We also recognized that this was a stressful time and transition for staff as well as students. Therefore we offered sessions focused on personal wellness for staff which included ongoing sessions run by a licensed adjustment counselor, yoga, and building resilience and self-care from the city of Somerville.  

Adjusting how we deliver learning has broadened how we are thinking about professional development opportunities and will change our practices moving forward. In online platforms we were able to reach more educators in various roles, accommodate more learners at one time, and use time efficiently because there were no longer the constraints of space or travel time. In this time of continually changing conditions, we appreciate how important it will be for our professional learning model to be responsive and flexible to the changing conditions and needs of our educators. We have included below a detail of the PD offerings that took place during the Emergency Closure (Spring, 2020).

Weekly Professional Development Offerings

Summer 2020 & Preparing for Fall

Based on June survey data from staff on what was needed for their own professional and personal development, we designed our Summer professional development offerings with four primary areas in mind: Equity, SEL/Trauma, Remote Learning Best Practice, and Transition Back to School. While SPS has focused on equity as a district priority for the past several years, the murder of George Floyd and many other unarmed Black Americans, led us to increase our focus on equity this summer. Advancing equity and anti-racist practices will continue to be a prioritized focus of the upcoming school year. Our focus on Equity was heightened during the summer offerings.

The area that staff expressed the greatest desire for support was maintaining student learning and engagement during remote learning. To address expressed needs we are offering Best Practices in Remote and Hybrid Learning, focusing on strategies to increase student engagement during times of remote learning and Universal Design for Learning strategies. This session takes place on August 11th and 13th, 88 educators have enrolled, and is run by seasoned educator leaders. 

Staff also highly noted they would like learning opportunities around Covid-19 policies and procedures, SEL and trauma informed instruction, and Anti-bias and Anti-racist practices. In light of these findings, summer offerings include Understanding Trauma and Trauma-Sensitive Schools in the Midst of COVID-19 offered by Riverside Trauma Center staff, and culture identity work. 

As part of the 12-day planning, professional development, and training window at the beginning of the school year, SPS will prioritize professional development in the following areas: (1) Equity; (2) Remote learning best practices for engagement with a focus on project-based learning, small group instruction, 1:1 instruction, and community building; (3) Technical and instructional support using online platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom/Meet, and Dojo; (4) SEL practices for how to recognize and respond to student trauma and transition issues; (5) Teacher assessment and feedback to students and families including formative/ pre-assessments, common assessments, and grading/standards feedback; and (6) Family outreach structure, strategy, and plan. 

The detailed plan for the 12 days is forthcoming. Design and preparation is being led by the Director of Educator Development in partnership with educators and administrators across the district. The professional development and training will be implemented by a collaboration of SPS educators and partners. 

Fall 2020

Somerville’s already robust delivery system for choice professional development (PD) will continue. The PD catalog, annually released at the start of the school year, will detail Fall opportunities led by Somerville staff as well as outside providers.The PD choice opportunities will be captured predominantly under the umbrella of four focused areas: Equity, SEL/Trauma, Remote Learning Best Practice, and Transition. 

District, department, and school based learning will also continue during the 2020-21 school year. The professional development calendar is currently being developed and modified to meet the evolving needs of our educators. Updated schedules and offerings will be distributed before the beginning of the school year as is normal practice. Continued professional learning around safety procedures and school level protocols related to Covid-19 will continue throughout the school year as appropriate.