Over the years I have grown exponentially as an educator from visiting other schools and seeing all the great learning experiences that students from around world are involved with on a daily basis. On the flip side, I am really proud of the fact that educators, on an international scale, have come to visit our school. Both scenarios provide all participants a chance to improve their craft and reflect on how they are impacting student success. Often you will see educational conferences now held at schools, which provides yet another opportunity for educators to experience another learning environment even though school may not actually be in session.
The positive impact school visitations have on education as a whole is truly inspiring and must be the standard. What I mean by "must be the standard" is that visitations should be the main focus instead of standardized testing, educator accountability reform, and wasteful money spent on irrelevant professional development opportunities to name a few. I wish there was some way that the money spent on the above-mentioned initiatives could put into a all encompassing program that would provide educators ample opportunities to visit educational institutions from near and far. The knowledge gained from these visitations could then be put into practice to benefit the school community as a whole. There is no doubt in my mind that school visitations are right up there with the EdCamp model and personalized pd, as innovative ways to provide educators with meaningful professional growth opportunities.
Other benefits of school visitations include bringing about a sense of pride amongst all school stakeholders. On a daily basis our students and staff are doing tremendous things. So why not show them off to the world at large? Also, they give students an opportunity to truly explain what they are learning about to the special visitors. Visitations also give teachers and administrators alike, the opportunity to share insight on educational trends taking place around the world. Sometimes informal conversations are the most relevant forms of professional growth.
So what do you say? Consider approaching your administration about visiting a nearby classroom, school, or district. If they know what's good for their school and students, they will agree to providing release time for you and/or your fellow colleagues. What if administration is an actual road block in making this happen? Another alternative would be to conduct a Google Hangout or Skype session with educators. It's free and be done at an agreed upon time. In the end, school visitations are what's best for kids, teachers, and administrators. It's what makes sense as the educational world looks to move forward with providing innovative learning environments.
Brad Currie is the author of All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities and the newly released Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development. He is one of the founding partners of Evolving Educators LLC. Brad is a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader and Google Certified Trainer. Brad currently serves as a K-8 Supervisor of Instruction and Dean of Students for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. He is a Google Certified Trainer and speaks nationally about tech integration. Learn more about Brad by following him on Twitter @bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.bradcurrie.net.