As any teacher will tell you, knowledge is power — and sometimes a little peer influence is great for motivation! So Elfster was proud to play a part when a group of teachers took time out of their busy schedules to exchange the gift of knowledge with their own peers.
We Often Learn Best From Those Around Us
These busy teachers used Elfster to be paired up for “Peer Visits” with other teachers in their own grade level to exchange their thoughts and ideas. “We are a group of elementary school teachers from Pottsville, PA,” explained exchange organizer and PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) Prep Teacher Maria Larish. “We teach kindergarten through fourth grade at the John S. Clarke Elementary Center. There are about 50 of us who participated in the Elfster exchange. We were able to include almost all of the teachers in our building.”
“First, the teachers were invited to join the exchange,” Maria said. “After they accepted and the names were drawn, we created a Peer Visit schedule. Each teacher was assigned a 15-20 minute block of time to visit the classroom that Elfster chose for them. While visiting, they could be a silent observer or an active participant.”
“We first used Elfster for a Secret Santa gift exchange [in] December,” she added. “We thought it was a fantastic way to randomize the gift giving process. I am one of the i3 (Investing in Innovation Fund) Coaches for our building. As a coach, it is my responsibility to help teachers develop professionally and provide them with a comfortable journey along the way. We often learn best from those around us. With that in mind, we decided to have teachers visit other teachers in their classrooms while teaching. Our hope was to have teachers return to their rooms with fresh ideas to try out with their own class. Again, we wanted a fun way to select the classrooms that teachers were going to visit. Elfster was perfect for what we were looking to do. I created an exchange for each grade level, but we would not be exchanging gifts. Instead we would be exchanging something much more valuable to teachers…ideas.”
Helping Teachers & Students Succeed
According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the i3 program is “the Investing in Innovation Fund, established under section 14007 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), provides funding to support (1) local educational agencies (LEAs) and (2) nonprofit organizations in partnership with (a) one or more LEAs or (b) a consortium of schools. The purpose of this program is to provide competitive grants to applicants with a record of improving student achievement and attainment in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices that are demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement or student growth, closing achievement gaps, decreasing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, or increasing college enrollment and completion rates. These grants will (1) allow eligible entities to expand and develop innovative practices that can serve as models of best practices, (2) allow eligible entities to work in partnership with the private sector and the philanthropic community, and (3) identify and document best practices that can be shared and taken to scale based on demonstrated success.”
Sharing Great Ideas for the Classroom
Elfster was happy to play a small part to support such an important and valuable program to help teachers and students succeed. Making the process fun for everyone is even better!
“Elfster definitely helped make our Peer Visit exchange a success. I tried to create a lot of positive hype about the Peer Visits. No one really likes someone to come in and watch them at their job, but we figured, why not? We have some of the best teachers in the state. Since we have a school of about one thousand students, we never have free time to go into each other’s rooms and just soak in everything. Elfster provided us with a fun way to exchange classrooms in order to do this. The best part? Teachers eagerly awaited the draw to see whose classroom they would visit. Some posted anonymous messages to each other to give hints where they were headed and others left treats for those coming to visit in honor of the true purpose of Elfster. The visits began to be anticipated by our teachers,” Maria explained.
And even though the participants already knew each other, the secret messages feature of Elfster was still a big hit with the exchange group. “I think it will help with our future exchanges,” she said. “We plan on using Elfster for an exchange next year across grade levels. Teachers in our building do not really have a chance to get to know other teachers outside of their grade levels. Elfster may help with making our next exchange more comfortable.”
As the organizer, Maria said her favorite feature of Elfster was the random selector. “No one knew who they would get, which made the exchange even more exciting and interesting.”
“Many of our teachers were apprehensive about our Peer Visits in the beginning,” Maria explained. “Elfster helped our teachers really get on board with our Peer Visits. We appreciate [Elfster’s] help! Now that our teachers are familiar with your website, we plan on using the other features more in the future.”
Looking for some motivational gift ideas for teachers? Check out Elfster’s gift guide for teachers. Or, set up a gift exchange for even more gifting fun! You can share your ideas on Elfster’s Facebook page, on Instagram @Elfster, or Twitter @Elfster.