Learning Walks at Bellevue Christian
Academic instructional coach Sharla Wybenga Walters shares these reflections on a learning walk at Bellevue Christian that focused on the practices of Storyboards and Learning Targets. As she states in her reflections, it was a time of both professional growth and celebration.
As a teacher, I have mixed feelings about February. On one hand, there is the stress of scoring assessments, finalizing grades, and getting anew semester off the ground. But on the other hand, February offers an important time to refresh ourselves and our students—in starting anew term, we have a chance to revisit the things that are most important, especially when it comes to TfT. In an effort to capitalize on this opportunity, our school took a February Friday to engage in a campus-wide gallery walk. Knowing that we wanted to grow in the effective use of learning targets and storyboard, our goal was to interact with each other’s storyboards so that we could learn from each other and grow with each other.
We had three learning targets for this half-day of professional development:
- We will be actively engaged in Storyboards as we walk through classrooms.
- We will reflect and provide specific warm and cool feedback for our colleagues.
- We will reflect and plan with intention after receiving warm and cool feedback.
As we gathered that morning, nervous energy filled the room. Teachers expressed an array of feelings, mostly vulnerability. It was a risk to invite others into their classrooms, especially when they were asked to reflect on an area for growth. After an opening circle in which they were invited to share those feelings, teachers were divided up into groups of five. Each group had a school map indicating the path they were to follow and two colors of Post-it notes to provide their feedback. Group leaders (chosen beforehand) were tasked with facilitating conversation and gathering main ideas that would later be presented to the larger gathering. The groups also brought with them a storyboard rubric so they could intentionally incorporate specific language for feedback. As the groups strolled through the classrooms, they placed Post-it notes on and all around the storyboards, each one a tangible sign of joyful collaboration.
Upon returning from the gallery walk, groups were provided time to debrief and reach clarity concerning what would be shared out in the larger circle. The leaders spoke on behalf of their small groups, noting key themes. Afterward, teachers returned to classrooms to collect their Post-it notes and review individual feedback they received. Then, they were given time to reflect and write a next-step goal. Finally, everyone gathered for Closing Circle.
During a month of mixed feelings, the gallery walk offered us an opportunity to step back, refresh ourselves, and encourage one another. Reflecting on this time together, one teacher said,
“We don’t always get to see the impact we have, so celebrating the beautiful work my colleagues and their students are engaged in reminds me why this job is so important.”