Every Tuesday and Thursday night (and sometimes Saturdays), I go to a Total Body Conditioning class. I pretty much schedule my week around it. It has a lot to do with my instructor, Amanda, and the class concept. I am continually pushed and motivated every session.
What really ignited this reflection is how Amanda starts every class. She hands out our class outline (every session it changes: see examples below), and she states “this is our workout tonight. I will provide you with options at various degrees of difficulty. You know your strengths more than I do, so it is up to you to push yourself!” It is important to note that a very diverse group attends class ranging in age and abilities.
I attend Amanda’s class whenever possible, because I leave every session feeling like I pushed myself to my limit and know it was an hour well spent. My question is do we leave our teachers feeling the same way leaving our PD sessions? How can we change the format so we provide the variations but it is up to educator to explore and push themselves based on their strengths?
Move from the Front of the Room to the Side:
My TBC instructor doesn’t stand in front of the class directing us through each move. She goes right in the middle participating and pushes us while modeling each move and its variations. We should move away from the strictly lecture style sessions for PD. The presenters should be a part of the discussions and collaborative opportunities. You can also try out an edcamp or genius hour format!
Provide Variations and Choice
A standard exercise in the TBC class are Jumping Jacks. Amanda provides us with a couple of variations: at the lowest degree of impact are the Step Jacks, next level up are Basic Jumping Jacks and to really challenge yourself you can do Star Jumps. Now, I am a competitive person, and I continually accept challenges but I never move to Star Jumps. Like Amanda stated, I know my body. I know I can push myself just as much and get more reps in doing basic jacks plus I won’t cause too much impact/irritation on my knee (3 knee surgeries can can cause you to worry). We need to be providing different levels/variations to our teachers. A helpful tool for this is Nearpod. You can provide your teachers with leveled options by creating multiple NPPs and sharing the different student paced pins they can choose from. The presentations should focus on the same skill, but you could provide more details/examples/models at the lower level.
Create an Open and Fun Environment
In our class, Amanda will often incorporate a fun exercise like the Casper Slide Plank Challenge (see video below) or a new partner exercise which gets everyone talking and working together. She sets the tone with upbeat music as soon as we walk into the door. It creates an environment that is open and entertaining but still focused at the same time.
Teachers should feel excited when the walk into PD sessions. It shouldn’t be quiet and stale. You should ignite their energy from the start. Create an upbeat playlist (you can even survey your teachers a few days prior to get some requests) and set the tone!
Try breaking up your sessions with some icebreakers/brain breaks as well. You should keep it simple, short and fun! They should promote collaboration, excitement and creativity. Some activities that I have witnessed that were very successful include:
- Word at a time life motto: ( Collective Capital: PioNear Summit)This has your teachers working in pairs to create a life motto one word at a time. It gets your teachers collaborating in a fun way.
- Round Robin Rock Paper Scissors (George Couros: Pete&C 2016) Quick rounds of rock paper scissors until person is crowned champion. It quickly builds up an energy and gets everyone excited.
- What Could Be Worse/ What Could Be Better: (Collective Capital: PioNear Summit) Give a prompt and have pairs take it to the darkest depths of despair, and then bring it back to positive light.
Promote Continued Learning
Amanda also gives out her social media accounts so we can all collaborate and share new workouts/recipes with each other. We continue to grow and improv even after her session is over. After PD sessions, many times we ask teachers to show evidence that they have acquired and understand the information presented. Many times only administrators see their work. Rather than just incorporating their new ideas into their classroom practice, you should challenge your teachers to critically think and reflect on their practice. Allow educators to choose from different reflection options based on their strengths/skills:
- Write a Blog Post
- Record a Video
- Tweet Your Summary
These can be easily shared and everyone can benefit and learn from the posts, videos and tweets. The biggest connection between TBC and PD is that all participants need to feel pushed! Your goal should be that they leave feeling that their learning is pushed but wanting to come back to the next session for more!