Buffet Style PD

App Smashing? Platform Smashing? Addons and Extensions Smashing? It was a little bit of everything and delivered incredible results! 

I developed the Buffet Style Professional Development as a way to meet the individual needs for an entire staff! It began after I had been asked to provide a several-hour professional development for an entire staff. Initially, I was “given” the topic. I couldn’t help but cringe knowing I would be tasked with delivering a training that would only apply to a few. I remembered many-a-day that I had sat through a training frustrated knowing I was burning up valuable time in a training that did not apply to me. I so badly did not want to do that to these teachers.

It came to me. Google Classroom was amazing for differentiation for students. Why couldn’t it do the same for teachers? That got my wheels spinning. First, I surveyed the teachers. I had to know what they REALLY wanted. As I had suspected, almost every one of them hoped for something different. No worries… Classroom is magical in this type of scenario.

Centered around food, (it was lunch at the time and I was hungry) the Buffet Style PD was born. Four Classrooms; Main Dish, Side Dish, Appetizers and Dessert. Each Classroom housed four assignments offering a total of 16 options to choose from. Next, I got busy organizing the requests into the four categories. Everything that was asked for fit nicely into at least one of the four categories. Now it was time to invite the staff to sign up. 

A Google Form was perfect for the sign up process! The Form was created using the four categories, with each of the four categories offering four options. There were a total of sixteen options, but teachers would be asked to choose one from each category. The idea was that teachers would have a max of four options, but during the actual PD time the rotations were very fluid. More to come on that later.

An email was drafted explaining the schedule for the day. It would start with an introduction and a brief overview. Teachers would learn initially that they would have four opportunities to “rotate” to a different station. There would be allotted time for each station, but if any one person found they wanted more time to work at their current location… they could. Though it sounds like they were moving, they really weren’t… unless they wanted to. You see, with everything being in Classroom the physical location really didn’t matter. It was just some wanted to sit with others who had chosen like topics. So that too became a choice. Before the day was over, everybody in the room had the opportunity to work on at least four topics and ALL topics of choice came from them. With the email also came the Google Form and an attached Google Doc with the names of the sixteen options, a link for further investigation and a short description. 

Teachers received the email, looked over the options and used the Form to sign up. Now the fun began! With the Classrooms being Main Dish, Side Dish, Appetizer and Dessert, teachers needed a menu! It was important that as they entered on that first day return after a long summer break, that they had something to guide them through this crazy day! That is where the Google Sheet addon, Autocrat, came into play. Autocrat will use the header from each column of a Google Sheet and drop that information onto a template. Sounds a bit confusing I know, but it really isn’t! You simply make a template, in this case my menu, then tell Autocrat to use the template as a place to drop in the information from the Google Sheet… you know, the one that came from the teachers filling out the Form! What that became in this case was a personalized menu for each teacher that fateful morning as they arrived.

Now all I had to do was load each of my Classrooms with amazing resources for each of the four assignments that would be offered. I already had the topics… I also already knew what the teachers were requesting… I just had to create the materials and search up some relevant materials so they would have everything they needed that day to learn.

As the teachers arrived that morning, we were all a little anxious about our day. I was greeting them and handing out their menus not knowing if I could pull this off. I felt like it would work. I had combed over all the details and played out all the worst case scenarios, but felt like this was going to happen! Well… and it was, whether it was successful or not! I chunked our day into four time slots. Even though I would explain to them they were free to continue working longer at any time they chose, I just wanted to offer that break and change of pace. The very first session was interesting… it was apparent the staff were not used to being able to work on their own. They continued to look to me for that “sage-on-the-stage” style lecture, but I had stopped talking and had begun helping some with questions. Ultimately, the questioning and chatter lessened and turned into that beautiful buzz of engagement.

The first rotation ended quickly, the teachers came out of their studies easily and looked up for more direction. I spoke very shortly letting them know they could now go onto their second choice OR choose to stay with what they were currently working on. After resolving a couple of tech issues and answering a couple of questions, the room went back to that beautiful buzz. Round three was more difficult to stop them and for round four I almost could not get them to stop working. They were 100% engaged. Very few had moved physically, though some had. All of them expressed the appreciation for having been heard in their requests.

It wasn’t a perfect day, but it certainly was the most perfect I had ever witnessed a PD run. What was even better was the feedback. 95% of the staff filled out the feedback form; a number not often seen for feedback. It was genuine, appreciative and in the criticism it was productive. Just offering choice and giving people the opportunity to work through those items they wished to at their own pace made a huge difference in the outcome of that day. I think of this PD often when I am planning. I’m not always able to deliver in the method because I am not always able to convince those on the receiving end that it IS something they will actually enjoy. I would say to anyone tasked with training a team… the team you have to train doesn’t matter. This model works for EVERYONE. 

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