doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

The Look

If you have ever served in the role as professional development facilitator, you know “The Look”.  It’s what powers you and keeps you on your game.  I remember the first time that I ever noticed the effects of “The Look”.  It was on stage at the Western RCAC Symposium and I was watching the keynote address from Wayne Hulley from behind him.  As the audience responded positively to his words, Wayne stood a little taller and as they continued to respond, I swear he was up on his toes and spoke with that much more passion.  After his presentation, I mentioned this to him and I still remember his comments – this is why you present or lead a session.  You get the feedback, you feed on it as a presenter, and you take your craft to a new level.

I’ve always kept that in mind when I reflect on PD sessions that I’ve led.  For the past two days, I’ve been involved in a professional development activity partnered with the very enthusiastic and professional Zoe Branigan-Pipe.

The principal at David Maxwell Public School in Windsor had been in the audience at the OLA Superconference in Toronto.  As I blogged earlier, Zoe and I each led teams in the “Great OSLA Faceoff“.  It was a Canadian take on a Smackdown event with three periods and a Coach’s Corner in between.  In Toronto, with an audience of couple thousand, we had a whole staff behind us to make the event work.  In this case, when Joe Younan approached me about doing this, we knew it was going to be on a much smaller scale.

The audience was part of a four-board consortium with direction from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat but funding was from the boards that were interested in making it happen.  Each board sent a team (Junior/Intermediate on Tuesday, Early Years/Primary on Wednesday) and they were doing quite a bit of sharing of the project that they worked on and they were there to do some serious Read/Write Web learning with their team.  That’s where Zoe and I fit in.  The faceoff format allowed us to cover a great deal of material and content in a little over an hour.  Between periods, Joe and an audience member did their Coach’s Corner analysis of what happen in the period.  We didn’t have a sounds effect manager this time; we had Joe with a whistle commandeered from the Physical Education teacher.  And you know what?  It worked very well.

My voice was definitely the weak part of the whole event.  I’ve been suffering from a weeklong cold so my voice was just a crack over a whisper.  Thankfully, we had a microphone and speakers.  Zoe’s voice and enthusiasm more than compensated for this croaker.  But, we did have great audio visuals so you could see what I was doing as I droned along in the background.  How bad was I?  I was going to demonstrate Voicethread but all my attempts sounded so bad, I didn’t want to scare anyone.

Despite this, I was empowered.  We told the audience in advance that the whole thing was on a wiki and they would get time after the presentation to try out what we shared immediately.  But, that didn’t matter.  People had their devices out and some were going live with us.  Others were feverishly writing away trying to keep up.  I sat for the presentation to stop from going into a coughing fit but, even seated, I saw “The Look”.  From the audience, it’s the look of approval; the look of support; the look that I’m going to go back to my classroom and try this out and see if it’s a fit for my classroom and my students.

As I write this entry, I’m on a couple days of speaking rest.  I’ve got to let my throat go back to normal.  I can’t believe how much coughing exhausts you.  But, above that, I’m feeling the excitement that there will be some new things happening in the classrooms from the participants of the past two days.  To paraphrase Wayne, that’s why we do it.


2 responses to “The Look”

  1. Nice post, Doug. I couldn’t help but think, though, about “The Other Look.” That’s the one where, no matter how much enthusiasm I have, no matter how upbeat I am, there are those in the audience who give you the “who-does-she-think-she-is” look, accompanied by eye-rolling. Luckily I am good at standing tall anyhow. You are right on about the nice Look… it’s empowering. Imagine the effect if, instead of facilitators and teachers, the situation is teachers and students. Enthusiasm and optimism is contagious.

    Speaking of contagious, I had the croaker throat 2 weeks ago and totally sympathize. Being without volume is frustrating!!!


  2. My voice has reached rock bottom and is now starting to dig!

    As for “The Other Look”, it can be there at times too. I’ve always been of the philosophy that the fact that folks are there means that there is a modicum of interest there and that you need to find how to reach that person at their level. I really like your quote: “Enthusiasm and optimism is contagious.” Thanks for sharing it.


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