Tear Down Classroom Walls With Learning Walks

One of the most untapped and useful resources available to us is the experience, practice, and expertise of the professional colleagues on our own campus. Learning Walk are a fun, inexpensive way to immediately impact your own educational practice. As lifelong learners, we seek professional and personal growth through many avenues including conferences, webinars, articles, in-service workshops, presentations, twitter, blogs, etc. These are all elements of our PLNs (Professional Learning Networks). Learning Walks are another powerful, yet underutilized element. This practice is one key towards establishing a professional learning community. Each teacher is expected to complete one learning walk per semester as part of their professional evaluation, but we encourage you to conduct as many learning walks as you would like/as your schedule permits.

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What is a Learning Walk?

A learning walk is one part of a multi-faceted, professional learning approach designed to give educators access to their peers’ expertise in short, focused observations. It is an opportunity to unashamedly borrow or steal the best ideas, strategies, and inspiration from our colleagues next door. It brings down walls.

What are Learning Walk norms?

Before

  • Learning Walks are not about criticizing the teachers you visit, but rather about growing yourself and seeking to glean insights from the experience and expertise of your colleagues. It’s about you directing your own growth through observation and reflection. You are there to learn.
  • Plan your walks in advance, put it on your calendar, coordinate with your Head of Grade.
  • Decide on your specific focus in advance – what are you looking for? (ie – one of the standards of professional excellence or how your vertical team members teach a specific math learning outcome, essential outcomes, assessments, use of technology, etc.). Limit your focus to 1-2 specific practices.

During

  • Learning Walks should take 20-30 minutes max. Keep each visit brief – 1-5 minutes in each classroom.
  • Observe an entire hallway, building, or vertical team, not just one or two people.
  • Learning Walks may or may not be announced in advance. If unannounced, when you enter, you can say, “I’m on a learning walk – just ignore me.”
  • If you are being observed, keep teaching. Don’t stop.
  • Quietly observe and ask students questions – look for student learning.
  • Take notes on what you discover/learn, especially about your specific focus.
  • Take a picture. (If you plan to share it on twitter, etc. – make sure it represents the School in a positive light (Be a raving fun publicly).

After

  • Within 24 hours, email the teachers with positive, specific praise about something you learned and took away from their practice.
  • Tweet about what you see – try to share useful, applicable practices to other teachers who follow…
  • #learningwalk  #MVMiddle  #MVPSchool (use these hashtags in your tweets so we can all benefit).
  • Implement something specific that you learned in your own classroom.

Throwback Post: My Big Break on 99X

chip 99X my big break
Barnes & Leslie – The Morning X – 9/18/2001

Originally published on blogger.com on August 2, 2005.

It was September 10, 2001; the eve of the first terrorist attack on America. I had long hair and was a regular attendee of Eddie’s Attic, usually 3-4 nights a week. I had managed to overhear that John Mayer (who was just on the verge of celebrity, but still a local musician) was performing a private gig for close friends and family. My friends at the Attic got me in to see the show.

While there, I ran into a friend of a friend who went to my high school who was married to 99X DJ Steve Barnes. Barnes was a famous radio personality on the most popular morning show in Atlanta radio. It was fun to meet him and I enjoyed chatting with them both. I thought nothing of it and after John’s show was over, I went home. (Home, by the way, was a basement apartment in a family’s home, but that’s a story for another day)

The next morning I awoke around 9AM. I checked my phone messages only to hear the two most incredible messages of all time. First, came the message from Barnes.

“Hey Chip, this is Barnes. I enjoyed meeting you last night and got to thinking that you should come in tomorrow morning and play live on the radio. We have a program called ‘My Big Break’ and you need to be one it. Call me around 5am if you want to come in.”

AGHGHGHGH! I had totally slept through it! I missed a chance to be on the radio. This would have been huge. After all, it had only been 4 months since I quit my job to become a full time songwriter. This was my chance to be heard by the world. Or at least Metro Atlanta.

Then, the second message:

“Chip, this is your mother. We’re under attack. Wake up and get to a television!”

What!? There was my mom overexaggerating some story again, waking me up too early. I couldn’t have even imagined what I was about to discover when I turned on the news. I saw the second plane hit. I felt desperation and rage all at once. I was stunned, paralyzed, mouth gaping, motionless on the edge of the couch. Disbelief. Vulernability.

At some point during the hours of the day, I returned the call to Barnes. He told me that it would be at least a week or two, but that he would make arrangements for me to come in to the station to perform. Meanwhile, he said, “We’ve got to deal with this.”

The morning arrived for “My Big Break.” I rose early, warmed up my vocals and made my way to 99X. It was all very exciting as I felt privileged to see the inner working of such a popular radio station, much less to share one of my original songs with my hometown. I played “Aimless” and did a brief interview with Barnes and Leslie. Jimmy Barron was absent that day. Leslie asked me how committed I was to this life of an independent musician. I told her that someone once told me “it takes 10 years to become an overnight success” and that’s what i would give it. The feedback was immediate and large. There were many phone calls to the station and I got to talk to lots of cool folks. My email was flooded when I got home with congratulations from friends and family and praise from total strangers. I even had an email from an A & R rep with Warner Bros. Nothing ever came of it, though. I had taken a huge step forward, but I was still very green as a songwriter/performer. In many ways, I still am.

Looking back now from the vantage point of 4 years later, “My Big Break” was really more like “My Little Gig,” but it gave me a great boost of confidence to keep going. As Barnes said, consider it like a “spot” given to a weightlifter. It’s just one step in a series of many intended to spur my growth and strength in the business. I’ve got 6 years to go before I become an “overnight success.”

Return to Eddie’s Attic

chip eddie's w: willi boos

Originally posted on blogger.com on Friday, July 29, 2005 at 1:43 p.m.

Return to Eddie’s Attic

Last night marked my return to Eddie’s Attic, the premiere acoustic venue in the Southeast, if not the nation. Having said that, I’m not sure what I was doing on the stage, but life is full of little mercies and graces.

I played a 45 minute, solo set to an intimate crowd of about 50. The feeling was that of a homecoming. Not only because it was my first gig in the Attic in 12 months, but also because there is a new owner, Bob Ephlin, who has the vision and the ability to bring the “magic” back to Eddie’s and take it to new places. In a stroke of pure genius, Bob’s first act as new owner was to hire former owner and namesake Eddie Owen as the Director of Operations. Wow!

Back in the heyday, I thought of the Attic as my own little tree fort. John Mayer used to work the door for $40 in 1998. Shawn Mullins and Josh Joplin were our own little-known, local discoveries before they were signed and put into heavy rotation on the airwaves. And the smell of Eddie’s pipe permeated the patio where you could count on meeting a number of interesting acoustic music lovers and players.

Anyway, it is good to be back. I wish Bob and the Attic great success!