Monique Harrison Henderson — Special to Clarion Ledger
About 100 Scott County School District teachers and paraprofessionals gathered Wednesday to begin a new professional development journey – learning basic survival Spanish so they can more effectively communicate with Spanish-speaking students and families.
The teachers worked in small groups of five, practicing their newly learned Spanish phrases with each other. Sessions were held every hour with 25 participants at a time.
“Bienvenido!,” Bailey Education Group English Learner Coach Gwen King, Ed. S., said smiling. “That means welcome.”
Teachers gamely repeated the phrase to King and each other.
On the same day, four groups of Cleveland teachers worked with Bailey Education Group math and English language arts coaches. Nine teachers participated in one-on-one and small group PD throughout the day.
Another group of 36 Brookhaven K-2 elementary school teachers worked on instructional planning for the new school year with Bailey Math Coach Tiffany Freeman.
All of these professional development sessions were held on the same day that Mississippi’s leadership announced a statewide shelter in place order due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.
But the participants in Bailey’s various professional development sessions didn’t have to worry about exposure or about learning opportunities being canceled – because the sessions were all offered virtually using videoconferencing technology.
Participants were able to participate in both whole group and breakout sessions from home, with the use of virtual breakout room technology. And when people in one group needed the support of the facilitator, they raised their hands to signal they needed help – just as they might in a live session.
“It went really well,” coach Gwen King said of Bailey’s new virtual slate of services. “I was happy that people still felt comfortable asking questions and having the ability to break into small groups was huge. I know that people can naturally be nervous about change, but in this case, people jumped right in and kept on learning.”
Bailey Senior Project Manager Kelly Earls said she has been energized by how flexible educators have been about taking professional development online.
“Teachers and administrators have been very responsive,” said Earls, who has lead hundreds of professional development sessions across the Southeast since coming to Bailey in 2011. “The closure of schools has pushed educators to be more innovative, and they have really stepped up. Bailey considers it an honor to be a partner in this new way of learning, equipping and engaging.”
A number of Bailey’s district partners have indicated that this school closure is a good time to begin planning for next year, while also supporting students and families through distance learning, Earls said.
"Districts and schools also normally struggle to find time for professional development,” Earls said. “With this format, no substitute teachers have to be called in. No one is giving up their planning or PLC time. It’s a way to take a less than ideal situation and find a strength in it. We are happy to offer this solution.”
For more information on Bailey Education Group's new slate of virtual services, including professional development and student instructional and tutorials, call 601-707-5778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.