Professional learning rocks!

June 12, 2018

By Peter Carpenter

When did you first learn about rocks? I distinctly remember sitting in my fourth-grade classroom at Wedgewood Elementary School in Turnersville, New Jersey in the mid-1980’s learning about rocks. My teacher called out the four different types of rocks, and I remember one name jumping out at me as she wrote the types on the chalkboard in perfect fourth grade teacher cursive:


Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic, and Conglomerate


Conglomerate. What a cool word. Equally fascinating to me was the composition of conglomerate rock. As she passed around a sample of the rock, I noticed a series of seemingly disparate rocks, stones and pebbles glued together through pressure with fine sediment, water and other ecological runoff. To this day, I still like saying the word, conglomerate; and have been known to use the term “conglomeration” in spoken and written vocabulary.


The metaphor embedded in the conglomeration of rocks and education is seemingly obvious. The pebbles in the rock represent many things: stakeholder groups, their varied interests, types of teachers, political interests; even professional learning initiatives. But the real and most important question that arises is, “What is the glue that holds all of these pieces together?”


Learning Forward Maryland has committed the past year to mining the answers to this question. Our findings have yielded some beautiful stones in our conglomeration of professional learning. Check out some of the ways we employed our glue to create the beautiful masterpiece we call 2017-2018:


SUMMER, 2017: During our Learning Forward Affiliate meeting in Denver, we discovered the importance in understanding the clarity of our vision, our mission, and our values. Our values have become our glue that holds everything else together. As an executive board, we reached out to our resident expert, Jen Lara to help us unearth the core values that make Learning Forward Maryland who we are. See if some of our core values resonate with yours:


Curious, Inspiring Others, Joyful, Purpose Driven, Trusted, and Whole-Hearted


As an executive board, we realized that our “glue” consisted of action-oriented words, which helped to focus on supporting others throughout the rest of the year.


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FALL, 2017: During our Fall membership dinner, we shared our newly excavated core values with our membership, who shared our values and saw the possibilities in what we can offer our membership. We are more than just the providers of professional learning for our state; we are partners with our organizations to help support their professional learning endeavors.


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WINTER, 2018: On the heels of our momentum-building core value experience, we hosted three main events to support others’ professional learning:


Learning Forward Maryland’s First Annual Fireside Chat: During the month of December, we hosted a virtual “book talk” about our favorite leadership books. Members logged on to a virtual chat room using Zoom Internet and shared their favorite leadership books and why they can help others grow their leadership capacity. It was a strong success (and, gave several members some holiday gift giving ideas!).


State of Maryland International Reading Association Conference (SoMIRAC) Edcamps: Learning Forward Maryland supported one of our sister organizations within the state by providing a structure for them to hold their very own Edcamp during their annual state conference. During lunchtime on each day of the three-day conference, Learning Forward Maryland co-facilitated an Edcamp on a different theme - reading, writing, and digital literacy. The collaboration lifted both organizations up!


PD in PJ’s: As part of our ongoing commitment to building expert coaches across the State, we held our first annual PD in PJ’s. This virtual learning experience was hosted by our friend, Jen Lara. Jen provided some more in-depth coaching strategies for members to use. The format was so popular, we will be hosting a second round in June!


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SPRING, 2018
: Perhaps the crescendo to our year occurred during Maryland’s annual Common Ground Conference. Learning Forward Maryland partnered with our sister organizations across the State to bring in Angela Maiers as a pre-conference experience. During our conference experience, Angela and Learning Forward Maryland issued a challenge coin to each participant, asking them to take a wooden coin emblazoned with “#youmatter” and our Twitter handle @LF_Maryland and share it with a colleague, eye-to-eye, by telling them, “You matter.” We gave away over 3,000 coins that day and the mattering message continues to spread! To model ongoing, continuous professional learning, our partnership with Maiers and Choose2Matter has transcended the conference; and members will experience three more learning sessions with Maiers throughout the summer months, keeping the #youmatter sentiment flowing into the school year.

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SUMMER 2018 AND BEYOND: We have many exciting things to look forward to in our future. First, we will be partnering with Anne Arundel Community College and our friend, Jen Lara, to build a tribe of educators from across the state who will be trained as life coaches. We understand the power coaching has on people and now more than ever, we need powerful, purposeful coaches helping our teachers and administrators. This partnership will have positive long-reaching ripples that go well into the future. In addition to our summer learning series with Angela Maiers and our PD in PJs events, we will be hosting a virtual book study for our membership throughout the summer and fall months.

Unearthing your core values can unleash your affiliate’s passion. Aligning passion can help plan for impact. When viewed alone, our accomplishments can be seen as “events.” When fused with our core values, we view it as substantive, deep change that transcends content: It’s a change within the heart.


As the Maryland Affiliate of Learning Forward, we realize the important work that lies ahead, and we are excited to continue to equip our members with the tools and resources they need to piece together the many rocks we carry in public education. PROFESSIONAL LEARNING ROCKS!



PeterCarpenterPeter Carpenter is Learning Forward Maryland President-elect.
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