A Residency for Teachers
My husband Jasen is an oncology pharmacist. I am a teacher. He goes to work carrying hope that his patients will have a future that lasts just a little longer. I go to work carrying hope that I can last just a little longer so that my students will have a future. More often than not, it feels like the stresses of our careers could not be any more different. Then Jasen and I discuss, “what does it mean to be a professional learner?” and we find common ground.
As a PharmD graduate from Washington State University-go Cougs!-Jasen was trained to be a critical thinker and a pursuer of new knowledge. When he graduated after seven years of higher education, he chose to spend a year in residency. He has pursued and been awarded, not one, but two national board certifications. From him I have learned the power of seeking ongoing, job-embedded learning opportunities. I’ve often asked myself, what can the teaching profession learn from medical professionals like Jasen?
Others in education have reflected on this same question. I believe they have found an answer–the studio residency.
What is a studio residency?
A studio residency is best described as time, “set aside for you and an expert coach to develop your professional skills” (Boatright, et al.). Teachers “in residency” work together with the coach and other resident teachers to move through three stages of learning:
- Pre-observation discussion and planning
- Teaching and observation
- Post-observation debrief
We are fortunate in Camas School District to have a progressive administration that recognizes and supports teacher leadership. At Skyridge Middle School, the studio residency model was adapted to meet our faculty’s needs by replacing the expert coach with the expertise of our teachers, Teacher Learning Leaders, and TOSAs, who work with each PLC. While in residency with my PLC, I studied, planned, taught, observed, debriefed, and retaught multiple lessons this year. As a result, my instructional practice has shifted and grown.
What does a studio residency look like at Skyridge Middle School? Does it work?
Rather than tell you, let me show you…
What are the benefits of this model?
Unlike other types of professional development, studio residencies are not a new program, they are a mindset that puts leadership and self-improvement in the hands of teachers.
Peer observation is nothing new to the teachers in Camas School District and other districts throughout Washington State. Observational rounds and learning walks have helped to open doors and break down walls in schools from Seattle to Spokane. Why then should your staff join ours and move toward the study residency model to further school-wide professional learning? Boatrigth and Gallucci claim that the studio residency model sets itself apart from other professional learning models by providing job-embedded opportunities to have:
- hands on experience with real students and real problems of teaching practices
- time for teachers to be released from their everyday responsibilities
- external instructional expertise as well as teachers’ own knowledge about practice
- ongoing participation form building and district leaders
- sustained participation with a group of people over several sessions a year
The job-embedded nature of these professional learning experiences increases the likelihood that teachers will be able to transfer what they learn into their own classroom practices (Boatright, et al.).
A big thanks to my stars–Grade 8 ELA PLC members: Alison Abney, Tonia Albert,Lesa Blanchard, Nancy Koty, Jeanette Romano, and Melanie Weakley–you have all inspired me with your selfless collaborative spirit. Skyridge Middle School TOSA, Stephen Roiko, by guiding us through our studio residencies, you have transformed professional learning in our school. And of course, our Skyridge Principal Aaron Smith who pays the bills, makes all the tough decisions, and produces one heck of yearly variety show… Loretta Lynn would be proud.
When I am not pondering problems of practice like this, I spend my free time wandering the woods, cycling the streets, and disconnecting to be present in the moment with those I love.