Welcome to another profile in SimpleK12's Teachers Teaching Teachers — Views from the Field series, where we talk with educators about what they're doing to train other teachers and administrators.
Today we want to introduce you to Tatiana Gomez Ramirez.
How and where have you been involved in PD?
I have been a teacher trainer on and off for the past 8 years, but during the last three years I have focused all my energy on training. I have worked for an international organization preparing teachers in a wide array of pedagogical topics, and also on my area of expertise which is English international exams for speakers of other languages. Additionally, one of the topics I believe I love to share most with teachers is how to use technology in the classroom, even though they may face challenges. I currently try to engage teachers, motivate them and inspire them to become life-long learners, and have a growth mindset.
What roles have you played in K-12 education?
My training sessions usually are directed towards K-12 teachers, although I also train teachers in other contexts like language centers and universities. With the goal to develop teachers in Colombia, I have taken part in a project with the Ministry of Education, as well as private companies, to further teacher knowledge and tool management in the classroom.
Please tell us about your website(s), books, or links to your other work.
I am working on a website, the ELT Think Tank, which is all about my own take on professional development and the now more popular term professional learning. You can find my advice, a blog, and other resources on my website or through my social media networks.
What led you to pursue teacher PD?
I used to be the Academic Manager of a language center in Medellin, Colombia and, although I loved many aspects of this job, my all-time favorite was helping teachers to improve their craft. When I decided to move on and pursue other professional goals, I always knew that it had to be PD, and after three years I am convinced that if we are able to make a difference with teachers, we will definitely see a difference in the classrooms.
What advice do you have for other teachers who would like to create and deliver teacher PD?
My biggest advice is that we need to consider what teachers actually want and need. Just like with our students, we need to engage them and get them hooked on PD and on recognizing the importance of having ongoing professional learning activities to improve their students' experience. If a teacher is serious about creating and delivering teacher PD, they should make it an experience that teachers can will find to be useful and practical.
What's the biggest mistake you've made and what did you learn?
My biggest mistake is sometimes assuming that teachers have everything they need in place for the strategies I'm training them on. We need to find out about our teachers beforehand and we need to make sure that what we are training them on is possible in their setting and context. If not, then start over and do something that will be able to be applied in their context.
If you could go back and give your 20-year old self some advice, what would it be?
I think I would tell myself to participate more. I now see the importance of communities of practice or professional learning networks and if I had been in one before I think I would have been able to grow even more.
If your FUTURE self in 20 years could look back at where you are today, what advice might the Future You offer the Current You?
I think it would say read more. I try to stay up to date by reading and following thought leaders in today's educational world, but I feel that I need to invest more. I need to read more and get more out of what other trainers and teachers have done before me.
What are the biggest mistakes you see teachers making in the classroom?
Playing it safe. I think teachers get into a comfort zone that they are afraid to get out of. I see teachers every day with a fixed mindset and with our 21st-century students we need to engage them. As professionals and people we need to transition into a growth mindset, which will allow us to not just grow ourselves, but the community around us as well.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of the various forms of PD delivery?
Most training sessions organized by institutions are what I call one-hit wonders. They are used as a response to something that is not working and once the trainer comes everyone is thrilled because they found a “solution” to their problems. The reality is that there are no quick fixes, so these training sessions don't usually have long-lasting effects on this educational community. Whereas there are other institutions that are recognizing the importance of organizing a long-term PD plan, and understanding that teachers must be part of this plan. If teachers are taking charge of their PD and communities are supporting them, the results will be seen in the classrooms and students' performance.
As Master of the Education Universe, what 1-2 things would you change about K-12 education and schools?
I would change the cookie cutter mold schools have for kids and would promote alternative ways of schooling children. This could be done by promoting their creativity, encouraging collaborative communities, and inspiring students to be critical thinkers, all while maintaining open channels of communication with the whole community including teachers, administration, students, and parents.
What would you change about university teacher education programs?
I would include more life and transferable skills that are needed in addition to the best practices and theory that is taught. A good example of this is when teachers step into the classroom for the first time but are not sure how to use the volume of their voice to engage students or when they need to cater to students that do not fit the lesson plan they have designed. I also believe there should be something that prepares teachers for their ongoing PD after they graduate.
What would you change about traditional PD as used in schools today?
I would eliminate the one or two workshops a year that are used by many to cater to the feedback received. Instead, I would focus on understanding where the teachers are at and what they need as a collective and as individuals. I would suggest promoting communities of practice or professional learning communities within the school, school district, or even across district lines. Learning from the experience of other teachers and having teachers become leaders will make PD sustainable.
Do you have a favorite quote or expression you live by?
Live each moment only once. It's translated loosely from the original Japanese quote, which for me basically means that I must take advantage of the moment to do what we want or have to do because there will be no other moment to get things done.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do, be, or try?
It may sound like a cliche, but I would do what I'm doing right now and live life the way I'm living it right now. I used to be a dancer, and miss being on stage so much, but I have found a passion in the classroom and a rush that I had never felt. Now as a teacher trainer I feel I can replicate that feeling for other teachers, and that puts a smile on my face every morning.
What are the 2-3 most important work-related purchases you've made in the last year?
I have actually just gotten back from the TESOL 2018 International Convention and English Language Expo, which is an international convention held every year for the English language teaching community. I live in Colombia and making the trip to the US is not always easy, but this year my goal was to participate in events that could further my network, where I could feel inspired and learn what was happening all over the world to bring it back to my country.
Are there specific resources you use that you'd recommend to others?
I use so many resources as a teacher and as a PD trainer, but my favorite is always Socrative. This website allows me to engage with my audience as I get them involved in the session and give them a voice as they can respond to questions in real time. It has so many advantages for both students and teachers. Now, as I was mentioning before I find many schools or teachers that don't have the resources to use a tool like Socrative, which needs both the students and teachers to have their own device, as well as a stable internet connection. So, I also recommend Plickers, which only requires the teacher to have a device with internet.
What's your next goal?
My next goal is to take part in research projects and to get published. I want to share my knowledge with my fellow teachers and hope to impact and inspire them to improve student performance. I am also working on my personal project, which is the website and community ELT Think Tank because I believe this can offer a space where teachers can continuously take part in PD as a personal goal and not as a required box to tick off at schools. ELT Think Tank has the objective of creating safe spaces for teachers to learn, grow and share ideas.
Anything else you'd like to share with other teachers who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don't be afraid to be active in the learning community. You'll be so much better for it and the effects will trickle down to your students, which are the reason we teach in the first place.
This teacher profile is part of SimpleK12's Teachers Teaching Teachers — Views from the Field series, where we interview educators about what they're doing to train other teachers and administrators.
If you have any questions for Tatiana or anything else related to this topic (and there will be more Teachers Teaching Teachers profiles and stories coming soon), please leave them below in the Comments.