Christi L. Furrow
Goose Creek Elementary School
Goose Creek, South Carolina
1) Having been the Berkeley County School District English Language Arts Coordinator, I thoroughly enjoy working with teachers on curriculum and fostering collaborative conversations on data to inform instruction. I am driven by supporting teachers and digging deep to determine where our students are, and using all of our strengths to figure out what best to do to personalize their learning to ensure success.
With this in mind, I have played an integral part in the implementation of building effective Professional Learning Communities and creating a solid data protocol for teachers to follow as they analyze their results from common to summative assessments. The first key was to choose the best PLC Facilitator for each grade level with leadership qualities, the respect of their group, and willingness to be coached. After building a strong personal and trusting relationship, our Instructional Coach and I have been able to work with and support these professionals hand-in-hand. As they develop, we have allowed them to spread their wings and fly. It has also been beneficial to give roles and responsibilities to everyone on the PLC. Everyone having a job has allowed for all members to feel a part and to be invested.
With support from AAIS, we worked with our teachers on utilizing the Teaching for Understanding Planning Cycle and how to realistically and productively work our way through this process. Offering targeted professional development such as teaching strategies for specific learners or curriculum areas and how to increase engagement and accountability within the classroom are just samples of ways we support teachers in this growth process.
In addition, one of the district coordinators and I worked together to create three mini screencasts for teachers to watch and then come implement in a flipped professional development on “Effective Data Conversations”. We did this through a grade-level PLC meeting. This data protocol is an effective structure that continues to be used today.
As GCE switched from a K-2 school with extremely effective PLCs to a K-5 school with brand new PLCs, we worked through the same process we started when I first arrived at this school. With time, hard work, growth pains, support, and development, we will once again build dynamic PLCs. These PLCs will pride themselves on being student-centered – focusing on individual student needs and outcomes through innovative and personalized instruction.
2) Goose Creek Elementary includes a diverse group of learners. These learners range from students who are excelling academically to students who have just arrived from another country and have limited to no English proficiency. To meet all of our students’ needs and foster their continual growth, we began our journey in implementing personalized learning.
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, our leadership team met to map out a purposeful, step-by-step plan to implement personalized learning over a three year period successfully. Last year, our administrative team chose one teacher from each grade level to join our GCE Personalized Learning Team. This team began building their knowledge of personalized learning and executing small pieces as they were taught monthly through our participation in the SC Department of Education Personalized Learning Cohort.
The team also felt our teachers needed to understand the power of personalized learning. I conducted monthly mini professional development sessions at each of our Faculty Meetings. We had teachers fill out Learner profiles at the beginning of the year and continually had the staff add to them throughout the year. The administration and coaches utilized these profiles to decide the best way to give individual teachers feedback, which professional development would best suit their specific needs, understand their learning styles, and what their “favorites” were to give them services they truly loved. After implementing Learner Profiles with teachers in the Fall, many of the staff were ready to utilize them with their students to allow them voice and choice in their learning.
I was also able to create an innovative professional development opportunity for our staff through a personalized learning book club. Each of our administrators and coaches picked a professional book that they wanted to lead and was connected to our school goals. Teachers and staff were able to sign up for the book club of their choice. This gave them the ability to choose the book that interested them and supported one of their professional goals for the year. Participants were able to collaborate with many educators that they would typically not have the opportunity to work ‘with during school. The book clubs took place on our Early Dismissal days. The book clubs’ facilitators worked hard to model personalized learning pathways and flexible learning environments to model for teachers what it should look like and feel like within their classrooms with their students. Allowing teachers to hear it, see it modeled, and experience it has decreased their anxiety in implementing personalized learning and truly allows them to experience the power of learning through personalized pathways.
This best practice proved to be an asset as we were forced into eLearning during the Spring of 2020. Personalized learning has also connected naturally with our Guided Reading school initiative. Our Reading Inventory and DRA scores continue to show continual growth and a decrease in the achievement gap. Students enjoy being empowered to take an active role in their learning, and student engagement continues to grow exponentially.