Every week millions of teachers spend time planning out lessons that will engage a classroom of students. Mat Doty, a ninth grade teacher at the Crossroads Center, an alternative education center that is part of the Baltimore County Public School System, is one of those teachers. But, Mat doesn’t have to plan alone. Mat has been participating in the MyLivePD™ Online Coaching Service pilot program since September 2011. Thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, several school districts, several Teach for America (TFA) regional districts and National Education Association (NEA) members have enjoyed free access to experienced Algebra coaches online.
Mat uses the service regularly to connect to a coach during his prep period or after-school hours to collaborate on lesson plans especially for upcoming high stakes exams. Here’s how MyLivePD is helping Mat every week.
Tutor.com: Mat how long have you been teaching?
Mat: I’m in my fifth year of teaching at the Baltimore County Public School System. Right now I teach Algebra to classes of 18 ninth graders, who all have different challenges when it comes to school and school work.
Tutor.com: Ongoing professional development is an important part of your profession. What types of professional development programs have you participated in?
Mat: I’ve done a lot of professional development (PD) since I started my teaching career. I’ve attended conferences, workshops and I have even provided PD to other teachers, as well.
Tutor.com: What type of PD were you providing?
Mat: I focused on helping teachers make math relevant to their students to help really engage the students in the classroom. The program also brought the elements of urban culture to suburban teachers.
Tutor.com: How is MyLivePD different from other PD programs you’ve done?
Mat : It’s a completely new way to get help. Before MyLivePD, if I had a question about a teaching technique or wanted to try something new in my classroom, I would have to wait for a larger workshop or seminar that may be weeks or months away. Now I can get help from one of the coaches right when I need it, which is really exciting.
Tutor.com: How often do you use MyLivePD and what types of topics do you discuss?
Mat: I started using the program this past September. I have been using it pretty regularly. In the fall I used it to get my courses fully planned and to tweak some of my lessons. I also connected to coaches to prepare for my observation. Now, I’m using the service for suggestions on engaging my students to prepare them for the Maryland High School Assessment (HSA). Our recent benchmark tests were not as high as I’d like and I want to find innovative ways to prep them for the test.
Tutor.com: What do you like best about connecting to a coach for PD online?
Mat: I like how immediate the help is and how personal it is. I get to ask a specific question and get a very personal experience and response. Not long ago, I prepared a lesson and it didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. That day I was able to connect to a coach online during a prep period and work through some other options. I had a new lesson plan ready to go for the very next day. Other PD doesn’t work like this.
Tutor.com: How would you recommend other teachers use MyLivePD?
Mat: There are many ways teachers can use MyLivePD. I recommend it for planning lessons to help make them more exciting and to better engage students. When you are planning alone you can hit a wall sometimes. It’s great to have a coach to share ideas. The service also helps teachers take more risks and try something new like inquiry-based lessons. And I like that I can have a great new idea and lesson plan in 30 minutes or less. It really saves me planning time.
If you or your school district would like to check out MyLivePD go to www.mylivepd.com to watch a video and read more about this new, teacher-driven PD.