Monday, September 26, 2016

Rethinking Professional Development - Friday Focus


If how we deliver content to students is constantly evolving than how we offer professional development to our teachers needs to continue to evolve as well. And the good news for many of us in the field of education, it is doing just that. Professional Development (PD) is on the move. It is better, smarter, more efficient and personalized. Educators are moving PD in the right direction. Just as powerful is the fact that there is an amazing number of exemplars in the field of how we can and should offer PD to and for our colleagues. Equally as powerful is that educators are and need to continue to find platforms to share what is and what is not working in relation to teaching and learning. And, for those of us that are connected, there are countless members in our #PLN that make us better at this very task.

When it comes to your own learning in how to become a more impactful educator, most teachers and administrators in the field of education value the need to continually grow themselves in all aspects of their jobs. Like growth mindset, professional development centers around the notion that we each strive to increase our abilities as educators by constantly growing our depth of knowledge. In an attempt to be relative to our audience, we must challenge our way of instructing them. When it comes to teaching and learning we must model our own growth if we expect those around us to embrace the same expectation.

When it comes to the delivery of professional development with my teachers, the truth is that I am no genius when it comes to best practices. I know very little theory in the matter. The reality is that my approach to professional development for my teachers, and the training I have, is in large part to what I have observed from those around me, including you. Simple observation has been most greatest tool. Application of what is best and removal of the ineffective has been my greatest asset. Instead of just doing, I do with purpose. I model what I observe.

Think about the best PD you have experienced. The following characteristics should be present:

  • collaborative
  • shared ownership
  • an environment that fosters the idea that the collective whole is greater than any one common presence
  • open communication
  • each participant feels valued and respected
  • meaningful and relevant content
  • applicable to your role and those you serve
  • student-centered
  • interactive
With this list of characteristics (and more that you could add) think ahead to your next opportunity to learn with others. If you are the leader of this PD then I encourage you to think about the ways, platforms, tools and resources to ensure the needs of the audience are met. If you are on the receiving end of the professional development than make sure that your school leaders embrace these common threads of PD.

Here is an example of how I am rethinking PD that supports each of the bulleted items above. This is just ONE of many forms of ongoing embedded growth. Please feel free to use this idea in your work with your colleagues.
This week my assistant principal and I continue our Friday Focus (link that explains what it is with questions) series in which we invite staff to our innovative Media Center as we discuss our next topic. This week we discuss Parent Engagement in the Learning Process as we prepare for the end of the first quarter. On Monday (going in to the Friday Focus) we share out questions to consider so that staff members can be reflecting on it throughout the week. Then, on Friday, we simply facilitate the conversation allowing our teachers to share out best practices, ideas and suggestions for the weekly topic. Teachers come to the Media Center during their plan period. Conversations can last anywhere from 10 minutes to the end of the period (50 minutes). Teachers can come and go as they please and it is NOT required and we do NOT take attendance. Each semester we have four of these "Focus" conversations. Next semester our staff will determine the topics by using a Google Form to submit ideas.  So far, so good. Great feedback from our staff.
As you continue with your year in learning and growing as an educator, continue to embrace how you offer and how you learn when it comes to professional development. You do not need a title to offer rich, meaningful and intentional content to those around you. You need a passion for growth and a willingness to learn.