One of the things I dreaded most as a teacher was attending professional development sessions offered by my schools. PD sessions were supposed to be a time where I could refine my craft; a time where I could learn from administrators and specialists in the field during workshops where I and my colleagues could strategically decide on how to move forward. Unfortunately, most of my experiences weren’t that. PD involved either (1) going over procedural directives, (2) receiving information from people who were either far removed from the classroom or were never connected to the classroom to begin with and (3) doing the work of the administration i.e. developing amended rules and guidelines for student behavior. In fact, a few of those sessions were so bad that I didn’t stay for their entirety.
The few opportunities I facilitated a PD session, I made it teacher centered. It was easy to do; most of my PD’s surrounded classroom management and student-teacher relationships. Unfortunately, I was never given the opportunity to lead a content specific PD… I was just known as the Black and Brown student whisperer, but I digress. Your school may not offer PD considered by teachers to be worthwhile. I recognize that as administrator, you wear many hats and have many responsibilities; coordinating PD may not be at the top of your priority list. But school administrators are you are instructional leaders first. Everything that you do is to improve instruction for student growth; from observing teachers to handing out discipline. PD, when done right, has the potential to help teachers have a positive impact on the academic achievement of students. As you consider what PD will look like next school year in your building, make sure your PD has the following components…
- Anchored in student learning – whatever the outcomes are for session modules, they must be about (1) what students learn; (2) how to institute the best instructional strategy, (3) how to best facilitate their comprehension, and (4) how to best assess what learning has taken place.
- Distributed over time – no one session will address any given topic. Give topics you wish to cover the attention they deserve. Like a good college course, your topic sessions must have parts to it delivered over the course of multiple PD scheduled days.
- Content focused – give your teachers content specific attention. In order to improve as teachers, they must grow in their content knowledge and in their content delivery… in addition to all the general teacherisms that they need to know.
- Teacher/Leadership Collaboration – whatever you decide PD will be in your school and/or district, you MUST include teachers in the development, the planning and the execution of PD. If you want teacher investment (and you need it), then you must include them in all phases of the work.
- Continuous support as follow up – after the session is over, you must have a framework to offer and provide support to teachers to implement the strategies and tools learned. PD is not simply for PD days only; they are to be carried out in the classroom daily. Help embed your strategies in the minds and hearts of your teachers.
- Localized – PD must be focused on your city, your community, your school. State and national issues are good for mentions, but if you want to blaze a trail that can have a wider impact, you must start the fire at home first.
- Involve active learning – make your PD active and engaging… so that (1) you do not bore your audience and (2) to show teachers how to teach (and not bore) their students. You must be the model of planning and instruction you want teachers to execute.
You have the power to create experiences for your teachers that take build them personally and professionally… you also have the power to craft experiences to make them worse. Your attention to detail, or lack thereof, can lead you down one of those two destinations. Be careful not to neglect the obligation you have to your teachers. Just as they owe the best that they have to give to students, you owe the best of what you have to give to them.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!