So many aspects of our daily lives have turned virtual during the last few months of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, this extended to our staff professional development session, as our 200+ faculty and staff members logged online for ASH’s inaugural virtual P.D. session. Facilitated by our Director of Curriculum and Professional Development Kili Lay, this recent session certainly looked different than ‘normal’, yet it still felt familiar with the content, thinking and activities driven by the new ASH mission and vision. This strategic and future thinking has anchored every P.D. session this school year, and even though we could not physically gather as a staff, we were all very much connected by these virtual discussions.
The afternoon began with Ms. Lay’s YouTube address to us all, emphasizing the relevance of our new ASH mission and vision within our current context and world of virtual learning. She also guided us through reflection questions about this current time and the polarities it presents in our teaching, learning and work at ASH.
Afterward, we joined one of 15 Google Meet ‘breakout groups’ to discuss these questions and hear from each other. “I liked this set-up,” said one staff. “Now it feels normal. Eight weeks ago, it would have felt odd.” “It was exciting to get a random mix of people talking together and enter into a chat randomly, rather than look for familiar faces,” offered another staff.
During these synchronous conversations, we contributed our reflections and thoughts on a padlet - a virtual pinboard. At the conclusion of our discussions, we all went on a virtual gallery walk to review our collective thinking and feedback. It was nice to “read how we are trying hard to make this work and gain knowledge from the experience to help grow our practice,” commented one staff member.
This session was a great opportunity to virtually gather as a staff, and to learn from one another about how we are all navigating this world of virtual learning (plus combining the re-integration of on-campus learning!) and the many challenges and opportunities that come with this. Sharing ideas and intensifying collaboration have helped upskill many of us during this time, as we have had to rapidly adapt to this new teaching environment to ensure student learning continuity. Many staff remarked how important it was to hear from colleagues, and that they felt heard by others in the group.
In an interesting way, this period of virtual learning has been one of development for our entire community. From our youngest learners to our longest-serving staff members, we have all had to adapt and embrace new ways of doing things. This virtual P.D. session helped highlight our own and collective growth and learning through reflection. “Last Wednesday’s P.D. session made me feel very much connected with colleagues and ASH as a whole, and I think this is what counts,” concluded one staff.
#ASHexperience #thejourneymatters #ASHlearns