2. Honoring Professionals (The ‘H’ in CHOICE)*
These people know what they are doing. It’s why they were hired, and why they are still here. They probably know what they need next. If we approach every professional development opportunity while repeating those three sentences, it will go a long way.
I was in a planning meeting in a district as they prepared for an upcoming PD day. The plan was to have the teachers choose their session topics, and then have their name tags coded with different colored dots so that we knew where they were supposed to be. The rationale was that the teachers would never remember where they were supposed to be, and more importantly if we didn’t have the dots, teachers would go to sessions they didn’t sign up for. They’d be bouncing around all over the place instead of where they were “supposed to be.” I asked what was wrong with that scenario, and indicated that it sounded a lot like an EdCamp philosophy, where educators vote with their feet. If they aren’t getting what they need, they move on (please see page 25 for more on EdCamps).
Let’s start the thought-process of PD with those three sentences in our minds. Respect people for what they’ve done and who they are. Expect that these fine educators will make good decisions in the beginning and be inspired to make great decisions in the future, in large part because we champion their enduring professionalism.
We should probably be asking all of our teachers, and a few individually, if they would share their knowledge. Their peers will want to hear from the practicing teachers in their buildings, and will get to look through the windows into a classroom where innovation is happening. It is a great leadership opportunity for those who accept the invitation. Even if they don’t accept the invitation, it’s a great way for us to communicate the truth that they have something to contribute. We value what they bring to the table.
What if we went a step further and envisioned educators in our district as movie stars or famous musicians? How would we provide professional learning opportunities for them? Sit them in a big room and show them all the same PowerPoint with remarkably small font? Probably we would recognize, share, and honor what they have already done. We would celebrate their excellence. We would ask them what they want to work on. We would encourage them to show and share what they already know. And we’d probably give them a pretty fancy dressing room with some cool free stuff and drinks. But let’s start small and build from there. The educators in our districts are celebrities, and we should treat them with the same immutable deference every day.
*excerpt from the book Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development