Implementing a Visual Thinking Initiative
In my time at Oakland Christian School in Auburn Hills, MI I was privileged to be on the teacher leader team for the Visible Thinking initiative. After reading Visible Thinking, by Ron Richhart, our administration committed to creating a culture of thinking in our school. They realized, along with Richhart and his team, that shifting school culture and truly embracing an initiative takes more than a few PD trainings. A real culture shift requires a well-trained team of teachers dedicated to guiding the school community on a daily basis.
As a leadership team, we attended monthly trainings with Ron and the Visible Thinking team. Each day of professional development allowed us to become immersed in the new material. We practiced routines, collaborated with teacher leaders from other schools and developed lesson plans. We even role played the task of sharing the initiative with others. We also toured schools that were farther along in their Visible Thinking journeys in an effort to become experts on all things Visible Thinking. We were constantly gaining knowledge to share with everyone in our building.
Back at school we distributed materials, made ourselves available for questions and shared challenges and action steps at our weekly staff meetings. We worked with our administrators to introduce the initiative in a steady and manageable stream and to integrate it into the daily life of our community.
Throughout the year, teachers embraced the new ideas with varying degrees of confidence while we, as a team, continued to model the new practices in our classrooms. The beauty of having an in-house teacher leader team was that whenever a teacher was ready to try out a new routine or idea one of us was ready to lend a hand. Teachers were able to process the new information in their own time and could come to us for more information when they were ready.
When I left the school due to a move after two years on the team the culture shift was beginning to take shape. (Richhart explains that a school-wide buy-in may take five years!) Another teacher took my place and the school continued on its Visible Thinking journey.
I truly believe that the success of this bold initiative can be credited in part to a well-trained and invested teacher leader team. Ongoing PD definitely takes commitment, but the results speak for themselves.