At Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks, we provide exceptional professional development for school districts, schools, and families across North America. We are known for our highly engaging, hands-on workshops for both math and literacy. In addition, we are also a leader in the area of using games as a teaching strategy.
Since March 2020, with the arrival of COVID, we pivoted to meet the challenges that many districts were experiencing. Still providing exceptional hands-on professional development, we are now able to comfortably do so in both virtual and in person settings.
We meet teachers and administrators all across North America who tell us that it has become too costly to bring in workshop facilitators. This common issue is mainly due to the fact that their districts are in remote locations, making it costly and difficult to arrange travel. In addition, administrators have told us that when approached, many consultants are unwilling to travel to these locations as travel time to get on site makes it infeasible.
A related challenge is experienced by districts that are spread out geographically. The travel costs to bring all teachers into a central location for in-person professional development consumes much of the district or school budget, leaving little left for purchasing resources to be put into classrooms.
Again, COVID brought us many lessons, and virtual workshops have been the answer for meeting the challenges faced by districts that are remote and geographically spread out.
We have worked with hundreds of schools and districts setting up district-wide professional development days, where they assemble all teachers in a Zoom webinar format. All sessions remained hands-on, with either the teachers providing their own simple manipulatives to use throughout the webinar or the district pre-purchasing classroom kits. Because the budget was not spent on bringing participants into an in-person format, these savings were allocated for purchasing resources. In addition, teachers were also happy to avoid traveling time and missed days of school, while also clocking professional development days.
The live webinar format provides flexibility in scheduling, length of time, content, and planning multiple sessions that sequentially create ongoing training opportunities.
We did at times hear that teachers missed not being able to “see and have a coffee with their peers”, an important aspect of professional development to be sure, but overwhelmingly teachers and administrators found live webinars a win win!
Here in Canada, our remote and northern communities took advantage of live webinars. Some communities are not accessible during certain months of the year, or almost impossible to travel to in any reasonable length of time (author John Felling took two days and six flights to get to a remote Inuit community pre-covid, an incredible opportunity for him professionally, but one day of work required fice days total time).
As prime examples, we’ve worked with our communities across BC, Alberta, Manitoba and the north Yukon ,and Nunavut. We’ve become a “consistent consultant” in residence for many of these districts and return several times a year.
One district in the interior of British Columbia in particular stands out. Pre COVID, after school teachers spent 1-2 hours driving by car for each person. Due to this travel time, they scrambled to get their classrooms covered, so they could get to the central office on time, and often didn’t get home until very late at night, driving on dark, remote highways.
Registration for these after school workshops increased about 30% when they were offered as a live webinar. The district’s Family Literacy night set a record for the most families attending a virtual event—175 in total. Previously in this district, they were lucky to get 30 – 40 families registering for a parent engagement/family games night.
Results like these have allowed us to reach 1,000’s of teachers, schools and families. Long term relationships have flourished as we have repeatedly been able to provide follow up sessions for less cost.
Val Edgell from Salmon Arm shares her experience with our live webinar:
“Jane and John have done an amazing job for over four years working with our district, presenting workshops in person and through Zoom. They are professional, engaging, current with research on promising practices, and flexible as they work with us to tailor learning to exactly what we need in our district.”
Also, Craig Par from Frontier School District had this to say about our virtual workshop!
“This past year our schools participated in several wonderful numeracy PD opportunities offered by Jane and John. The learning activities and manipulatives used were excellent as they supported the Learning Outcomes to a tee. Follow-up with teachers and students in our schools was met with enthusiasm and increased engagement and learning.”