Last week, I had two full days of professional development, or PD as we like to call it. I shared my excitement on Facebook about the two days and, of course, was met with disbelief. Excitement? Really? Since when has PD actually been something to look forward to? And so I realized that I might be in the minority when it comes to excitement for PD, that I might be a lone voice among the educational community and yet, in my district I am not. Because my district, Oregon School District, has figured out how to do PD right.
They operate under a few simple things; trust, communication, and choice. Tenets that far too many districts kind of believe in when it comes to PD but then really don’t when it comes to setting the agenda. Yet, my district not only believes it, they live it, and it is apparent every time we are given time to learn as professionals. Our two days consisted of many different things, all meant to fulfill the needs we not only have as a community, but also as individual learners.
We started with curriculum time. Just that. No set curriculum to go through. No agenda. We were not even told who we had to meet with. Instead we given the true gift of time to meet with those we felt we needed to meet with. And so we did, and we planned, and we even book shopped as we prepared for book clubs. They trusted us to use our time in the best way possible, in the way that we would see as most beneficial, and so we did.
Then we were given small group work time. We have 4 separate professional learning communities happening in our school, so each group met to check in and then as a group we decided what we needed to do. My group had decided it needed time to read the books our school had ordered for us (on our request of course). So we did, we met after and we discussed what we found. Not in order to fill out a sheet, or to check off a box, but because we wanted to learn from each other.
The afternoon was filled with whole school learning as a coach came in to teach us how to coach each other and students. 2 hours were spent trying to make our community stronger and more cohesive. While confusion may have arisen from things we did, it still started a lot of conversation. It still gave us tools we could use. It still gave us a chance to learn from each other.
We ended the first day with work time for whatever we needed. Again, no need to check in. No need to report somewhere. Just work, get it done, whatever “it” is.
The second day had two components to it. The first part of the day being an Edcamp style set-up where we could choose to go to whichever sessions our colleagues were holding, the second being time to work on Educator Effectiveness, our state evaluation system. The morning was fantastic, there were so many sessions, it was hard to pick. And the best part was the variety of the sessions; from discussion of curriculum, to brainstorming, to hands-on projects. From the advanced to the basic, there was room for all. That afternoon we ended our two days with time to do all of the things that our government is asking us to do. Whether it was to meet with our evaluator, meet with a colleague, simply fill out the many online forms, or contemplate how to reach our goals, we were given the time. We were given the tools. We were given the support to be the very best educators we can be.
I wrote about trusting staff in my book Empowered Schools, Empowered Students. I wrote about what it could do for an entire district if professional development started to mean something again. I wrote about how a district could actually use these days to honor the talent, the curiosity, and the need of its educators by trusting them. By listening to them. By offering choice. When I wrote that book, I had no idea that I would get to work for a district that lives out this vision every day. I am so grateful that my dream is not just, but actually a part of the tapestry of where I get to teach. PD can be done right, after all.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.