Growing Together: Creating authentic learning experiences for educators!

by Brenda Maurao, Principal of Stall Brook Elementary School, Bellingham, MA

The Background: Collective Teacher Efficacy (1.57)

Stall Brook School is K-3 elementary school with approximately 325 students. We have used the work of John Hattie and Peter DeWitt about Visible Thinking and influences on student learning to help us focus and set goals in areas that will have the greatest impact. These influences were rated using an effect size, with a .40 effect size having the potential to stimulate a year’s growth.

Teacher Next Door

With an effect size of 1.57, Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) is ranked as the number one factor that influencing student achievement (Hattie, 2016). CTE is a staff’s shared beliefs that through their collective actions, they can positively influence student outcomes. This influence can pose a challenge to us as educational leaders because it is very challenging to change someone else’s beliefs, but this challenge is definitely worth exploring and taking on!


Stall Brook Staff Want to Grow and Learn Together!

One way Stall Brook embraced the CTE challenge was by incorporating it explicitly into our school goals. We worked as a staff to build a system where teachers feel “welcome” in one another’s classroom and can provide informal feedback to teachers on something that is meaningful to them!

Stall Brook’s teacher leaders and I spent time researching, reading and sharing examples of systems that other educators have tried/support, including #Observeme and Pineapple Charts. We then reflected on the comfort level of staff to determine an authentic structure that would be accepted, but still pushed people out of their comfort zones to allow for growth.

As a result, we decided to use pieces of both #Observeme and Pineapple Charts in our school and named it “Pineapple #Observeme”. Here’s how it works:

  • The concept was introduced to staff at a staff meeting, and then a teacher leader volunteered to send out a follow-up email with next steps/reminders.
  • Teachers interested in participating put a laminated pineapple door hanger on their door as a signal to welcome colleagues into their classroom!
  • If teachers are looking for specific feedback, place a sticky note on the backside of the door hanger, or attach a sticky note stating the focus area.
  • Teachers visit one another at a time that works for them. There are no substitutes needed.
  • If staff visit 5 classrooms, they can be entered into a raffle using the Pineapple #Observeme Incentive (pictured below) and winners are chosen at the biweekly staff meetings.


How is Pineapple #Observeme helping educators at Stall Brook?

One of my favorite parts of teaching is being able to collaborate with and learn from other educators. Being given the opportunity to participate in the Pineapple Observations to observe classes of my choice at any day and any time that works for my schedule has been a breath of fresh air! As dedicated teachers today, we are always so consumed in our own classrooms that it’s often quite difficult to leave, even for a few brief minutes. But it’s amazing in just a few short minutes, how many take-aways you can gain by visiting your coworkers classrooms!

We, as teachers at the Stall Brook School, know that this is an optional activity where there is no judgement, just gratefulness, respect, and encouragement. As a staff, we are embracing the Growth Mindset and are encouraged that we can all learn from one another!

– Laurie Jason, Special Education Teacher, Grade 2

As a specialist, I enjoyed the experience of glimpsing into other classrooms! Although my field is unique from a classroom teacher, I feel like I do many of the same techniques and enjoyed recognizing the connection in a different setting. It also was a nice opportunity for me to see students outside the gym and see my colleagues in their element! I felt so touched to have so many teachers stop by in the gym to take in a few minutes of P.E.! It definitely made me feel valued and their positive comments were awesome!

– Stefanie Rothschild, Physical Education Teacher

I have visited over ten classrooms since the start of our Pineapple Observations. I watched students using “I wonder…” as a way to reflect during literacy instruction. Prior to seeing this, I was comfortable using “I notice…” and “I observe…” but now I also incorporate “I wonder…”. I pick up something every time I go into a room, whether it be a strategy for a movement break (like crocodile breathing) or putting my morning message on the Smartboard. During one visit, I noticed a post-it note on the classroom’s pineapple door hanger, asking for feedback on how to arrange the tables in the classroom. I shared a suggestion with the teacher and it felt great.

-Nancy Polny, Kindergarten Teacher

As a classroom teacher, I have benefited from the Pineapple #Observeme challenge. It has allowed me the opportunity to go into my colleagues classrooms which includes not only my grade level, but vertical teams and specialists as well. Observing other classrooms has helped me reflect on my own teachings and it has inspired me to try new strategies as an educator.

-Elisa O’Reilly, Classroom Teacher, Grade 2

We have been encouraged to get into each other’s classroom for a couple years now. The majority have every intention of stopping in a room, but it’s so easy to get caught up in your own classroom world that the opportunity slips by. In establishing our pineapple observe me initiative, just that visual of the pineapple outside of people’s doors is inviting and a reminder that anyone can stop in to observe at any time. It’s created a welcoming and inviting atmosphere and serves as a reminder that we all are lifelong learners and can still learn from one another by coming into each other’s rooms. A fresh perspective is always a good one! Having a day with subs to make the observations happen was awesome! Being given the time to actually go into others’ rooms was such a positive experience. I can’t wait to do it again!

-Kara Winslow, Classroom Teacher, Grade 2

Where do we go from here?

As noted in the educator comments above, having an authentic, informal structure for peer observations allows for professional, on-the-job growth across content areas, grade levels and throughout the school. The Pineapple #Observeme structure can happen without coverage for staff (and does) but when we were able to arrange for substitutes one morning, the participation increased tremendously. A goal moving forward is to grow this structure so that these visits happen on a daily basis and that they become a part of the day in the life of an educator.

BrendaBrenda Maurao, Principal

I am committed to creating an inclusive school community that supports students, empowers teachers, and engages families. Please read my 2017-2018 Leadership Pledge


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