West Contra Costa’s Sustainability Story
Highlighted ILC Principle: Use capacity to grow capacity. Learn more about the ILC Project Principles.
This blog entry focuses on sharing work from the West Contra Costa team in Contra Costa County.
This ILC team began as part of the ILC Project’s outreach in 2017 to historically underserved areas of California. Since then, the ILC WCCUSD team members (who hold a variety of roles including teacher, program assistant, educational technology support, and vice principal) have collaborated to grow local capacity by leading professional learning on a variety of topics while modeling the value of a “teachers teaching teachers” model. This team aligns its focal topic to the district’s professional development (PD) goals each year.
Collaborating to Facilitate a Mathematical Problem Solving Workshop
In their first year, this team developed a workshop on Teachers Make Sense of Math and Persevere in Solving Problems The district’s Director of State and Federal Programs, the team’s ILC Peer Support Provider, and the local California Teachers Association Instruction and Professional Development Consultant helped brainstorm and edit the workshop content. The team conducted two
Saturday sessions for 50+ WCCUSD teachers in which session participants became both “learners” and “experts” as they solved math problems and explained their methods to each other. Attendees planned to incorporate strategies from the workshop into their class activities, including learning about students’ strengths, giving students multiple modalities and opportunities to learn in ways engaging and relevant to them, and letting students struggle a bit while guiding them toward math strategies and problem solving instead of just providing information. Many also planned to collaborate or communicate more with other teachers within the department and across math courses.
Getting Started with Leveraging Teachers’ Expertise Across General and Special Education
In their second year, the WCCUSD ILC team continued to use local educators’ capacity to grow capacity. The team recruited 3 teachers who had experience with students with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to present, one from Special Education (SPED) and two from General Education. A challenge in the past was that district SPED professional learning opportunities were not accessible to General Education teachers and vice versa. These educators co-facilitated a two-session workshop on Engaging Students Who Have ADHD Using the NGSS. By bringing more than a dozen colleagues from the General and Special Education departments together in a single classroom to learn about ADHD, this team helped to provide an informational bridge across departments and offered a more holistic approach to supporting the focal students.
Helping develop the PD and sharing the struggles and successful strategies based on their own experience made the teachers from both departments feel more skilled, confident and empowered. For example, many teachers were dubious about flexible seating and squeezable fidgets until a teacher showed an eight-minute video of her Kindergarten students 100% engaged in learning while using flexible seating. Including reflective questions like “how are you observing students in your classroom?” and “what do they need?” in the workshop helped teachers realize that their students need physical movement. Before the workshops, there was some skepticism about teachers teaching other teachers. After the workshops, participants were very positive about what they learned from colleagues. For example, one teacher learned “how flexible seating and science can engage students more than traditional seating and reading/writing only.”
Continuing the Collaboration Across General and Special Education
In their third year, this ILC team continued to leverage the expertise of teachers across departments. They recruited a SPED teacher who was an autism expert and a General Education teacher who had experience with full inclusion to help plan and facilitate a workshop on Including Students with Autism in Teachers College Writer’s Workshop for 21 WCCUSD teachers. As in the previous year of this ILC team’s work, the teachers recruited to co-facilitate felt validated when given the opportunity to share their expertise. The team learned that they needed to also give the participants a chance to show their knowledge and expertise, because teaching and learning are two sides of a coin—one doesn’t happen without the other. It also helps the learning community thrive.
Connecting with teachers who had expertise in certain areas allowed for the teaching of other teachers. One way the WCCUSD ILC team got buy-in was through lots of relationship building and reaching out for needed support to publicize. Personal connection was important for gaining stakeholder support. Additionally, the district provided some stipends for the teachers and ILC Mini-Grants helped to pay for the psychologists and writing activities for students with autism.
Pivoting to Meet the Moment in the Pandemic
Until the pandemic, the WCCUSD ILC team thought they had enough buy-in to the “teachers teaching teachers” model and familiarity with district procedures to easily continue their work this year. However, the uncertainty and reduced resources during the pandemic has made providing PD more challenging. This year, the team pivoted to partner with their Union President and Director of EL Achievement and Literacy to produce videos of local educators reading aloud culturally relevant literature. The read-aloud videos have already been accessed over 300 times. The team hopes the videos will help to advance equity and inclusion and the use of more culturally responsive strategies in the district’s virtual elementary classrooms.
Watch ILC Member and WCCUSD teacher Jennifer Hague introduce the read-alouds.
Watch WCCUSD teacher Angelina Hernandez introduce her bilingual read-aloud of Alita encuentra su color.
The Union President and Director of EL Achievement and Literacy are helping to develop, promote and distribute the videos. For example, the Union President recruits teachers to read literature aloud for the videos and advertises them in the weekly email newsletters.
Looking ahead to 2020–21, the ILC team has already been in conversation with colleagues as well as district and union partners. They hope to be back in their classrooms full time but are considering ways to continue the cross-department offerings in a virtual environment as well.