PA Days – What it means for teachers

by Susan
Master of Teaching


Normally I would be sleeping in on a PA day as an elementary or secondary student but on a beautiful Friday morning in November, I am attending my first PA Day as a student teacher at my practicum school. Here is what a PA Day looks like for a teacher:

9AM: Refreshments and minds-on

Just like how we try to engage our students with an introductory activity, the facilitators this morning used iPads to anonymously survey our idea of “What does 21st century learning look like?”

Learning goals this morning:

  1. C/STEM – how to engage students in “real-world” 21st century C/STEM problems
  2. Brainstorm how it looks like in the classroom
  3. Explore available resources

9:30 AM: Learning goal # 1 – Using newspaper headlines to generate questions and using a Q-chart to categorize questions.

Ex: “Rio’s waters are so filthy that 2016 Olympians risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete”

Generating questions allow students to gain Factual knowledge, Predict, Understand and apply, Analyze and Apply, and Synthesize and Evaluate. These categories all fall under Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher and Lower Order thinking.

10:30 AM: Learning goal # 2 activity – Engineering Design Problem Based Learning. Teacher groups sharing their water filters designs and materials used to build the filter.

It was funny to see the activities are being unravelled, teachers like students are eager to touch materials laid out on tables and are becoming growingly restless waiting for the instructions to be over and get started. To tackle this challenge, each group had to design a water filter based on a given country and GDP. This activity was exciting as the departments faced off against each other. As a science teacher, there was a combination of health, chemical and engineering expertise in my group. We touched on topics from science to politics and the United Nations. It was nice to see some friendly inter-departmental competition and banter.

The activity drew links from the real world such as finances and literacy rates between different countries. Groups that were assigned countries with low GDP were also given instructions that were less legible than countries with high GDP and high rates of literacy.

11 AM: Learning goal # 3 – 21st century competencies document

Interestingly from the minds-on activity, I knew this document would come up somewhere in the presentation! It is a document I am currently reading for my issues class as part of my service learning project (SLP). So stay tuned for that!

Well that concludes the morning session. The afternoon session will resume after lunch and it is more self-directed as teachers will be given a number of workshops to choose from.

12:30 PM: Mark verification for report cards and comments.

1:30 PM: Finding trends in student absences across courses

2:30 PM: Departmental meetings

This last portion of the day brought science teachers together to discuss administration and curriculum in the department. Science teachers seem to be the most organized of the teachers. Everyone was so excited to order new school supplies and organize the chemical storage room (because safety is a top priority!). We also discussed roles in the department such as unit leaders that can serve as mentors for new teachers on units they may not be familiar or just to keep other teachers who are doing the same unit on track with similar content, labs and assessments.

Before today, I had always imagined a PA day as a day where teachers just sit together and get lectured by the principals for an entire day! I was very surprised at how interesting the day was and I hope this was interesting for you too.

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