SIMS for Teacher PD

Teachers choose to be teachers to make a difference. They want their students to feel safe and supported in their classroom and they want them to achieve success. Teachers face a unique challenge in that the definition of success for each student can be markedly different.

Schools, therefore, need capable, visionary teachers to create multiple paths to academic achievement. That IS as hard as it sounds and requires targeted professional development that includes opportunities to practice different strategies and approaches. One way to provide that practice is by including the use of the SchoolSims Simulation Library into your teacher development program. SchoolSims provides an opportunity for teachers to gain virtual experience dealing with situations before encountering those same issues in real-life. Simulations allow participants to withstand trying situations, make decisions, and face the consequences of those decisions – all within the same session. Making a wrong decision and experiencing the outcome in a safe environment prepares teachers to make the right decision when it truly matters.

SchoolSims has simulation topics such as those below to improve the efficacy of your teacher professional development program:

Our simulations can be deployed in-person or virtually in facilitated group sessions where the participants can collectively decide on a course of action.   Simulations can also be assigned and viewed asynchronously as part of an individual’s personal professional development plan. Either way, SchoolSims provides a risk-free environment where participants have an opportunity to practice critical thinking and decision-making to prepare for real-life challenges.

SIM NameSIM DescriptionSIM TradeoffsSIM Stakeholders
Disruptive Teacher
This simulation is based around a collaborative teaching team. There is one teacher on the team who is not a "team player." The simulation begins with another team member coming to you as the school leader, to express concern over the way the disruptive teacher is behaving. You will have the opportunity to experience why decisions related to the handling of a disruptive teacher must be managed delicately - even when their behavior is clearly inappropriate and over-the-top. The simulation goals relate to school culture and climate, conflict management, and responding to teacher concerns.Addressing conflict and risking loss of experienced teachers

Avoiding conflict and risking loss of experienced teachers

Insisting on behavioral changes, possibly without getting to the root causes

Exploring root causes of bad behavior, possibly without affecting change

How to deal with an adult bully who insists that they are only focused on the students’ best interests?

When is it appropriate to intervene when team dynamics go awry?
Kim Compana, special education teacher

Diana Walsh, 6th grade teacher, co-teaching with Kim

Brian Beck, 6th grade teacher

Christie Lopez, special education teacher
Academic Goal Setting
This simulation is based around a veteran social studies teacher in a middle school. The teacher has set goals that are not aligned with the school's new goals or the Common Core standards. In playing the simulation as the school leader, you will have the opportunity to experience the challenges of moving this teacher outside of his comfort zone and towards alignment with the school goals.Investing the right amount of attention to motivate a teacher, despite their reluctance and a concern that they lack integrity

Persuading a teacher to see skills development as integral to students learning subject content, not as an "add-on"

Motivating faculty to use goal setting as a meaningful practice

Promoting a growth mindset in seasoned teachers

Investing one-on-one time with difficult staff vs delegating to others or leaving them to figure out things on their own
Everett Goodall, 10 years a Social

Studies teacher whose engagement with professional development is waning
School SafetyIn the face of a potential threat to students, you will work with others to respond decisively, while balancing conflicting considerations. How you measure the situation and choose to act will bear different consequences. In the process of this simulation, aspects of your leadership style may be revealed.At each decision point, you and the Crisis Response Team must choose between highlighting safety vs. routine, transparency vs. privacy, security vs. ease-of-access, and keeping a focus on your building vs. on the wider community.

In situations with uncertainty, do you find that "cooler heads" always prevail?
When working with a team, where do you find yourself most effective in emergencies?
After experiencing this simulation, what comes to mind regarding better building preparation, as well as personal aspects of your leadership style on which you want to reflect?
Derek, a nervous 7th grader

Kent DeForrest, Assistant Principal

Lauren Order, School Resource Officer
Cultural CompetencyThis simulation places you, a month into your new position as principal of Waterside School, in a district experiencing significant shifts in demographics. The district has a stated commitment to "Create high quality learning experiences that meet the needs of each child" which leads to challenges balancing needs and perspectives of long-time residents with those of newcomers. Your job is to uncover specific needs, and resolve discrepancies in treatment of students, wherever they may exist.Balancing the needs and desires of long-time residents with those of newcomers

Uncovering specific needs, and resolving discrepancies in treatment of students

Addressing biases and counterproductive habits of entrenched faculty

Moving established faculty to take a fresh look at their approach
Identifying implicit bias without blaming

Confronting low expectations
Mr. Henton, well-established and popular teacher

Mr. Turner, concerned parent of honors student, Kira

Mrs. Baldwin, active parent of average student, Andrew

Dr. Hidalgo, results-oriented superintendent
Difficult Conversations: RaceThis simulation considers the complex issues associated with race - in the classroom, in the community, and in the broader societal landscape. Playing the role of Principal at a suburban, racially and socioeconomically diverse high school, you will address sensitive issues such as conversations about race with students, and how teaching professionals and district staff can support those conversations.Balancing curriculum needs with demands from students and community to go beyond the prescribed curriculum

To what degree does your district have a common reference and framework for talking about race?

How do conversations about race figure into a broader district communications strategy?
Rose Glass, an active community member

Theresa Wright, young, studious, idealistic English teacher

Eve Alulation, Assistant Superintendent, wary of fads in education
Middle School TurnaroundThis simulation involves a new school leader taking over a failing middle school with an entrenched staff and little community support. As you seek to get a handle on the school's finances, finger pointing abounds. You will have to determine the best path to building accountability, commitment, and trust in turning this school around.When met with opposition, handling pressure to make immediate improvements, while taking the time to develop relationships

Inviting participation in decision-making, while not overwhelming staff who may feel responsible for past errors

Showing determination to establish correct procedures and not unduly burdening classroom teachers, while also requiring accountability and demonstrating transparency throughout the system

How do you maintain legal compliance yet provide the information for the staff to accept any new procedures?

How can you use a mundane procedural improvement as an opportunity to build trust and openness? When do you choose just to tell people what's to be done, rather than influence them to develop and institute necessary improvements as part of a process?
Candy Rittenhof, meek Bookkeeper

Anita Hammer, 7th year teacher who is ready for improvement

Saul Wellingood, 27th year honors Mathematics teacher

Ms. Simms, a newer, younger, enthusiastic teacher
Playground MishapsDealing with difficult parents can be one of the most challenging responsibilities for a school administrator, especially when it involves children's safety. Teachers can complicate matters if they inadvertently make a decision that jeopardizes a student's health. Administrators must be diplomatic in their response. It is essential that they weigh the options of each decision to find a solution that holds the teacher accountable, satisfies the parents, and is in the best interest of students.While being pressured by an angry parent, taking the time necessary to collect all the facts, while keeping focused on the student's best interest
Addressing a teacher whose choice to bend a policy jeopardizes a student's well-being while not allowing the angry parent to dictate your decision
Responding to parent demands
Diplomacy and decision making
Considering repercussions
Ms. Young, upset parent of Renika
Mrs. Brantley, Renika’s classroom teacher
Ms. Holmes, overburdened AP
New Teacher EvaluationThis simulation involves a second year elementary school teacher. The simulation begins following the school leader's observation of the teacher conducting a literacy lesson. The teacher instructs directly from the teachers' manual and the lesson has no higher-level skills nor does it include any embedded thinking. At the same time, there has just been a new teacher evaluation rubric implemented within the district that is based on four performance levels. The school leader must meet with the teacher and coach for improvement to instructional practice and explain how the outcome of the new performance rubric should be interpreted when it comes to meeting expectations satisfactorily.Investing time directly in improving a new teacher's instructional skills, while losing the objectivity you need to have to evaluate expected growth

Enlisting the aid of an experienced teacher to guide the new teacher, while jeopardizing success due to limited mentoring time and resources

What evaluation methods and presentations have you found to be most effective in elucidating and motivating needed improvements? Why do you think they work?
Ms. Goodworth, second year 4th grade teacher

Maria Harting, experienced teacher willing to mentor
Dress CodeAs the leader of an elementary school, concerns from staff have been raised regarding the clothing being worn by one of your teachers. In this simulation, you will need to decide how you address those complaints and balance those accusations with other issues that have arisen regarding the same teacher.Choosing a direct approach with staff vs going through a peer to address a problem, while risking embarrassment either way

Do you address all criticisms in a single conversation vs. tackling the most pressing and well-documented issues first, risking upset either way

Gender dynamics in the workplace
Gaining trust

Discerning reliable sources of information
Jen Brown, a teacher in problematic spring wardrobe

Several staff members who point out the problem to you

Dan Clymer, Math Curriculum Supervisor who, after observing Jen Brown in the classroom, raises a different, serious problem
Teacher BlogYou are a principal in a school district committed to expanding the use of technology. You must deal with issues that arise between increasing communication and protecting privacy. You have received a district mandate and your staff has received training. It is time to promote use of technology among many reticent teachers, while reigning in one renegade without squashing enthusiasm.How do you stay alert to and curb recklessness when also encouraging adaptation of new, quickly advancing technologies, especially when some parents have voiced interest and support?

Awareness and application of FERPA laws

What are the actual and perceived differences between posting students’ work on a classroom or hallway wall vs. posting it online?

When trying to encourage reluctant or beleaguered staff to take initiative, be creative, or expand their own skills, how do you incorporate the talents and enthusiasm of the individuals who are excelling?
Mrs. Peters, 3rd Grade Teacher, trailblazing blogger

Mrs. Appleton, pleased parent

Mrs. Sampson, inquiring parent

Mr. Viera, displeased and insistent parent
Learning EnvironmentIn the role of a first-year sixth grade teacher, you will be faced with a series of classroom management challenges that emerge over the course of a Monday early in the school year. You can avail yourself of support from others on your teaching team in the simulation, which is designed to be a springboard for dialogue between you and your peers to explore how differences in context and lived experience would impact judgement in the scenarios you face.Balance students' needs with leadership's classroom management expectations

Observe student behavior and make decisions on how and when to deploy available student engagement tactics

Leveraging exit ticket feedback and reflecting on what is and isn’t working in your classroom
Middle School Budget ChallengeYour Superintendent requests a 15% budget cut in two weeks. You must determine the process for arriving at the cuts, who to involve in the process, and how to drive alignment around prioritiesCommunicating with your broad constituency with maximum transparency, while controlling the inevitable rumor mill

Making time for listening to and considering each stakeholder, while adhering to a tight deadline

How can various stakeholder groups be managed to arrive at an optimal result?

Consider cases in which you have had to balance inputs and redirect resources?
Ken Lazarus, school counselor

John Perez, community activist

Everett Simms, district technology director

Maria Hernandez, parent liaison

Irina Popavitch, math department head