A lot of my time is spent facilitating professional development. I present within and outside of my own district. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to present within my county and up and down California. Recently I was able to do so on the other side of the country. I tell you this because it is with each of these experiences that I gain new knowledge to grow forward. Every single one of these experiences has been unique. I believe the main reason is because we are in a "people business". When working with people, there is so much unpredictability involved and I kind of love it. Recently, my Superintendent friend posed a question on Facebook regarding PD plans. Reading through the feed, it seems like no one has yet to figure out the formula for complete success.
I do not have the answer, I wish I did. I would be in a very happy place because THAT is a crisis I would love to solve (and I would probably be pretty wealthy, too :)). What I do have are a few ideas based on my experiences.
Yesterday, a group of 60+ district administrators, site administrators, classroom teachers, RtI/Intervention teachers, student teachers and board members came together to learn and collaborate side by side. It was an incredible day filled with inspiration, collaborating, learning and fun. My head is still spinning today. One of my friends asked me what the difference was...what made it a success? I am not sure of the exact reasons, but I will share my thoughts. I felt that a blog post was warranted to answer the question.
Before we get into that, I would like to give you a bit of background. Last month, my team was tasked to run two identical trainings. The first one was a voluntary day for student teachers, the second was a "voluntary" day for our last tech adopters, who were "strongly encouraged" to go. The first day was incredible...they were eager to learn, soaked it all up and were incredibly positive. They went back to their master teachers and shared their learning. The second day, not so much. At one point, one of the teachers picked a fight with me, in front of the rest. Push back is fine, but this was done quite disrespectfully with full intent to cause a ruckus.
As I reflected on those two days, there was a clear divide between the group that wanted to be there and the group that didn't. So my question is, why do we force people to get "professional development" when we know they are not going to grow professionally from it...in fact, their actions may stunt others' growth? My other, more philosophical question is, why do people need to be forced to grow professionally? I don't have these answers and I don't have the power to make such decisions.
So let's move on and fast forward to yesterday. Let me lay it out for you.
We decided to pull together a specific group of teachers- these are teachers at our Title 1 schools and our Title 1 "like" schools. This was offered to the administrators, the classroom teachers, Literacy Coaches, RtI/Intervention teachers and student teachers at those sites. The purpose of pulling them together was to start a culture across those sites of sharing and collaborating. There is something magical when you get educators together that work with like populations. Like I said, Over 60 were in attendance!
We were incredibly lucky to bring out two of my favorite humans; Jon Corippo and Ed Campos, Jr. to work with our educators. This was important. The knowledge, credibility, relatability and inspiration factor of the presenters is key.
*Bonus- Our Assistant Superintendent of Ed services spent the morning with us. Two of our School Board members came by- One participated in all of the afternoon sessions/activities right alongside of our educators.
Full day professional learning with the overarching theme of "End of Average" based on Todd Rose's book. The focus of the day was on both ELD and Math. Math is a big push in our district right now. But if we want to create a change in math, we need to create a change in the way math is taught. This can not be done by buying a box of curriculum, purchasing a program or having a full district, publisher, blanket PD. Our teachers and students deserved better. We decided we wanted to start with a smaller sample size and if it was a success, we could grow it.
Prior to the actual day, we worked very closely with Jon and Eddie to plan both their mini-keynotes and break out sessions. The topics, philosophies and activities were carefully decided based on the need of our end users. There is nothing worse than a Professional Development planned by someone who neither understands instruction or current trends in education and/or are far removed from the classroom, teachers and students. We are fortunate in the fact that we are able to spend a lot of time in the classrooms working with teachers and students. While there, we can learn about their wants and needs as well as where they are currently and where they want to go. We used all of this information to plan out our day.
Check this out...it was on a SATURDAY! A Saturday. Why is this important? Because this means that the people who signed up and showed up WANTED to be there. This changes the WHOLE game. *They were given a very, very small stipend to attend but not enough to be the "make or break" on the decision.
To start a movement...to create a ripple...to shake things up...all for the benefit of our kids. These are our #Saturdayteachers as Jon called them. These are our change agents, they are our first followers, they are the ones that will take back what they have learned and start tomorrow...on fire. They will take risks and share forward so that we can bring others into the fold. They (as do all educators) deserve to be valued and validated by participating in worthwhile, meaningful, inspiring and relevant professional learning. One of the teachers there told her principal "This has been incredible...Let's bring Jon out to work with our whole staff, we deserve this." Good for her, because they absolutely do!
We had a clear vision, we had an administrator who let us run with it, we had teachers who were thirsting for it and we had money to put into it (and to be honest, the monetary part was pretty small, especially considering the amazing impact).
So...how do we know it was a success? Well how else...from feedback. Did we send out a survey? No. We didn't even get a chance to because throughout the day I was receiving hugs, kind words, texts, and emails full of "thank yous" and positivity. Twitter and Facebook have been filled with even more of the same. And guess what is happening?? A whole lot of #FOMO. People wondering what was going on, why they weren't included, how can they get in on the next one- THAT is how we build a culture of learning and sharing. And from the participants...they are asking for more...more...more.
So I am curious as to what the next steps will look like. I have my ideas, but I don't make decisions.
Will there be next steps? What will the support of these educators look like moving forward? I hope this didn't end yesterday. We should fan those flames and keep it moving and growing. It will be fascinating to watch and hopefully be a part of. Until then...
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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