Brave Teachers- Conferring Fishbowl!

In a professional development session on conferring I led today, I asked teachers to take a risk.  I asked them to activate their growth mindsets, put themselves out there, and open themselves up to feedback.  Because they were willing to take this risk, the power of the professional development was magnified. 

Since the professional development was during the school day, we decided to put our refined conferring skills into action and fishbowl confer!  Six brave teachers volunteered to confer live in front of the teachers from their grade band.  The observers used a protocol to record their thinking.  After the students returned to the classroom the teachers debriefed with one another.

I put them at ease, I shared my story of teaching live for Linda Dorn a few weeks ago.  I told them how even though I am a strong believer in growth mindset and I strive to embody it, it was still really hard to be that vulnerable.  However, once I really embraced it as a learning opportunity, it was incredibly powerful.

Teachers are passionate about what we do for kids.  We do the very best we can.  We tend to expect ourselves to be perfect, right away, every time. Teaching is such a personal craft, it is hard to put yourself out there in front of your colleagues.

But it is so very important!  This is how we will grow.  This is how we will strengthen our teams.  This is how we will continue to learn.  Too often professional development is disconnected from the classroom.  At best, there is time embedded to plan for application or a follow up coaching cycle.  While these are vital pieces, I've really been thinking about the power of watching each other teach and getting feedback from one another.  Imagine the way your conferring would change if every member of your team shared a video of one of their conferences with a reader that was puzzling them.  Imagine the power in the collective problem solving you could do.

I've always made sure to engage teachers critiquing videos of the teachers demonstrating what we're talking about.  I always include time to discuss and plan for application in the classroom.  Today felt different though.  They weren't watching an unknown teacher with students that may not reflect the students in their classrooms.  They were watching teachers they knew and students they knew.

After today I'm puzzling around how I can replicate this authenticity whenever possible.


  1. Very cool idea for some close-to-the-classroom PD. I facilitate PD too, and I would love to see the protocol teachers used to observe the conferences. (WW Erin)

  2. Such and important post. I love that you had a scenario fresh in your mind where you were vulnerable in order to share that discomfort and the power of doing it anyway.


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