Monday, September 26, 2011

Professional Development

What is "Professional Development"? For too many years it was the expert in the room talking at the others in the room who are all comparing themselves to the expert and saying one of two things, " I can do better than that" or " this sounds great but it will not work here". Friday was different. We started our day with a review of our safety procedures, but even that was different. Teams of teachers chosen at random split out into groups and armed with safety binder attacked different senarios. After some sound collaboration they shared out their answers, sometimes with more questions, comments and debate. After the wrap up, we moved on to the 2nd activity of the day. Three different sessions were set up and the faculty split into three groups. Each group was given a breif set of directions and selected their own leaders. The activities included, an article on "Win/Win in schools", a lesson study using Bloom's Taxonomy and a web 2.0 exploration in the computer lab. The afternoon was spent with the Assistant Superintendent leading a session to the entire secondary staff on assessment and continuing to group teachers and trust that given some brief directions great products will follow. Teachers were asked at the end of the day to give me some feedback or formatitive assessment in the "ticket out the door" style. below are some examples:
"I just think the in-service days have become very useful and worthwhile. Both articles we have read stimulated lots of thought and excellent discussion. we are all gaining things from these days"
"I enjoyed the break out sessions. I liked that it was fast paced and we had to keep moving."

"Enjoyed the article but would have liked more time to discuss because I think there were a lot of good points in there that our building needs to focus on."

"Enjoyed how Dr. T actually used activities to teach us what she wanted us to know. It was great to interact with our staff and those at the high school."
"I enjoyed listening to the other teachers are doing in their classrooms and ideas to try with our kids."
"Bloom's Taxonomy- got me thinking about how I assess my students."
"Best inservice in years- 1. Web 2.0 time 2. Article was thought provoking 3. opportunity to become reacquainted with formative assessment."
You know that it was a great day when at the end of the day you trying to summarize the day one of the teachers states that the day was productive, positive and worthwhile. They said it so passionately that all I could do was ask everyone to give me some brief feedback and send them home a little early. On the drive home I reflected on the day's activities and the two most important things that I thought of were consistancy and trust.

Our district and especially my building have been through some transitions lately.  Consistency in my approach to professional development, consistency in the staff in the building and most important consistency in the types of activities and central message by both the Assistant Superintendent and me. Teachers were asking me if the sessions were planned together. I said no, but the mission and vision of the district are aligning in each professional learning opportunity.

Trust- when people know that you trust them, they will do everything to make sure they don't let you down. During the break out sessions I continued my practice of trusting teachers to use the time to grow professionally. Each time I walked into a session I saw engaged professionals learning with and through others. I knew that the "trust" was back in the district when the superintendent walked into the sessions and the teachers continued to discuss the topics and engaged her in conversations. Our superintendent has trusted the building principals to lead building professional development and grow the professional learning community. She is visible, supportive and open in communication with teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Under her leadership I am sure that we will continue to participate in "the best in-service in years".

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