How do we, as leaders, develop meaningful professional development with staff that continues to move education forward and keep it current for our biggest stakeholders? This is one area I continue having difficulty mastering in the buildings I work in and here are a couple of roadblocks as to why this is.
1. Administrators are not kept up to date on current educational trends.
2. Staff are unwilling to think outside the box and try current best practice approach methods.
It’s pretty hard to lead a horse to water if you don’t know how to get there yourself (let alone make them drink). You may have an idea as to what direction to take and you may even have some willing followers, but it may not always be the most efficient route or current map you are using. Where does an administrator go to stay current or better yet, when does one have time to find out about what is currently best practice? Who’s responsibility is it to keep us up to date and then try and pass on to our staff? The District? Association?
All administrators are passionate about their role as leaders, but not all have time to pursue further education or constantly read up on ‘what’s new’ in the field. Often, school administrators only professional development is under the guidance of their Personal Growth Plans (PGP) to develop some aspect of their profession which could be transferred to their current building (or not). Is this really professional growth, or ‘work’ to satisfy our contract with our School Board?
If you happen to be an administrator who has time to follow the current trends in education and are excited about what is up and coming, what next? Time to get the staff together and hope the excitement spills over to the classroom. Here in lies the next roadblock to improving professional development – the continual need for staff to maintain the status quo in their classroom.
Will Richardson, a well known author and co-founder of Powerful Learning Practice (plpnetwork.com), a unique professional development program that has mentored over 10,000 teachers around the world in the last six years, recently wrote in his blog:
What if we don’t necessarily want teachers to get “better” in the traditional sense? What if, rather, the focus of PD is to help them evolve as learners? Or is that a silly question?
Isn’t this our hope for our students, to become better learners? Shouldn’t teachers model themselves as learners first? How can students stay current, if teachers are not? The message from teacher to student should always be, ‘never stop learning’. Why, then do teachers, not all, continue to pull out a folder for September and think it will be the same as last September, or the one before that. This mediocrity has to end if teachers are to give students the best opportunity to succeed in today’s ever changing world. 19th Century teaching doesn’t work in today’s 21st Century classroom.
For both roadblocks it comes down to our own mindset and desire to improve upon our practice to ensure the people we work for are prepared for their future. Both administrators and teachers need to ensure we are kept abreast of up to date methods and best practices and be more in tune with the students we serve. Administrators need to have the opportunity to showcase current trends with staff knowing there will be buy in and willingness for staff to take risks. These are some of the things that will make professional development more meaningful for everyone involved.
I am the Principal at David Livingstone Elementary School in Vancouver, BC. I am passionate about inspiring others to be creative, curious and collaborative in their learning