Today we completed our 175th lesson live to our professional development site at the Schultz Center! The concept originated as a collaboration between Dave Conte at the Schultz Center and KK Cherney at Chets Creek. It uses video conferencing technology with equipment that is owned by the Schultz Center. We first began over five years ago sending live lessons to the three Literacy 101 classes (k-1, 2-3, 4-5) at the Schultz Center. The Schultz Center gave us a topic every other week and then we asked teachers at Chets to teach a lesson live around the topic and debrief afterwards with the teachers in the Literacy classes at the Schultz Center. The goal was to produce a "real" lesson that the teacher would actually be doing instead of offering a "dog and pony show." Those first teachers were such risk takers! They had no idea what to expect (almost anything that can happen has happened live! - including kids losing teeth, throwing up, a fire drill!) Many of the teachers visibly shook as they began those first lessons. Even then, they almost always said they were willing to do it because they knew what it would have meant to them to be able to visit a real classroom early in their careers. Opening your door and showing the world what you do can be frightening in a culture that had done so little of that! Transparency has not always been the name of the game in education. Over the years we added the first live lessons to the Academy of Mathematics and the Academy of Science. We did the first lessons for the Literacy Leaders (the Academy of Reading). We spent a year broadcasting lessons back and forth between Chets Creek and Carter G. Woodson, an inner city school in our county. We even broadcast a lesson live to Hollywood, CA for a presentation at the National America's Choice Conference - even dealt with the four hour time difference!
We have been fortunate to have leadership at Chets Creek in Principal Susan Phillips that has allowed us to do "whatever it takes" to accomplish the live streams. She has released technicians and coaches from their normal responsibilities to support lessons. She has paid for subs when they were needed out of her own budget. She has encouraged reluctant teachers. She has praised every single teacher that was willing to take the risk with kudos in her weekly Memo and often with a coveted award at the end of the school year. KK Cherney, our Media Specialists, has also been a huge part of our success. She has been our "larger than life" cheerleader and has NEVER said no. She, along with JB Boyd, have operated our equipment and dealt with every type of problem there is! They have been unfailing in their knowledge and support. Our coaches, too, have stopped whatever else they may have had on their plates, to work with teachers when they wanted to discuss a lesson or wanted someone to come watch the day before or wanted someone to co-teach the lesson with them. They have offered whatever level of support the teacher needed for the debrief from sitting with the teacher and answering the tough questions to simply standing in the shadows as their major cheerleader. So many times someone could have said, "It's not worth it." "It's too hard." "We can't do this." "I don't have time." "Why should we do this? What are we getting out of this anyway?" but those words have never been uttered.
Our founding Principal Terri Stahlman taught us that we have a moral and ethical obligation to share what we learn with our colleagues. Susan Phillips continued that mantra and it continues to be a cornerstone of our work today. Besides well over 2000 visitors who have visited us by actually walking our halls in the past five years, we have hosted thousands of others virtually through video conferences. I think we have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do these lessons. We too have benefited from both our successes and our mistakes. Each has been a new learning opportunity. We have benefited from making our work transparent.
I applaud the many, many Chets Creek teachers who have trusted us enough to say yes when we have asked and I personally thank Dave Conte for always believing that we could do it. Terry Kasza, Schultz's technician extraordinaire, has also supported us through every lesson. Ann Peterson, another important player from the Schultz Center, has led the K-1 Literacy 101 debriefs from the beginning. She has also never failed to protect our reputation and smoothed out any "not so perfect" lessons by finding the best in the lesson to discuss. She has often e-mailed our teachers to let them know how much they are appreciated. I think she has always understood how difficult it is for teachers to put themselves on the line, but her kind words and notes have made a world of difference.
I am so very proud of this body of work and the difference that it has made, not only in our county but in our own professional development. I can't wait to see what the next five years will hold! So... bring it on!