If you are a teacher, it’s safe to say that you have probably experienced professional development that wasn’t, shall we say, as inspiring as you would like it to be.
I’m hoping that you have also been a part of amazing professional development—professional development where you left re-energized to better meet the needs of your students.
What’s the secret to truly inspiring professional development?
Here are a few of my thoughts.
Culture of Collaborative Learning:
Great professional development happens in schools where teachers work together on a regular basis. In one of my larger schools, the principal has the teachers work in smaller groups of 4. Each teacher in the group becomes an expert in a different subject area. The group works together over time to study kids and plan curriculum.
Common Practices, Different Paths:
I was recently asked to work with a school that had made the decision to implement Writing Workshop. The principal made it very clear that she wanted her teachers to view Writing Workshop as a practice, not a program. I loved that distinction. Programs tend to ask people to do the same lessons on the same days; whereas a practice gives teachers more leeway to be responsive to their students.
The teachers and I spent the first day together talking about the common practices of Writing Workshop. There were only two.
- Kids would be taught to make responsible choices
- Teachers would plan a yearlong curriculum calendar as well as individual units of study.
At first glance, you might wonder how we spent an entire day talking about these two ideas. Together, we imagined how these ideas would play out in the classroom. Teachers also asked lots of questions and talked freely and openly about their concerns. Each teacher’s classroom would/should look different from one another, but the common practices would be what united them.
Collaborative Work in Classrooms:
The best professional development involves working with teachers and kids in the classroom. When I return next month we will work together in the classroom. Watching real kids do the work always bring more questions, as well as more clarity.
What else would you add to this list? Please let me know in the comments below.
Also, if you are interested in having me do this work in your school, please email for a free consultation.