When I started my first year as principal I spent a considerable amount of time planning the perfect professional development. I knew exactly what our staff needed, despite having never met them. I spent hours crafting a PowerPoint presentation to deliver 'to them' containing the next best fix to public education. The staff sat and listened - for six hours - while I delivered their professional learning. They sat politely, mostly listened, and returned to their classes for the beginning of a new school year. Unfortunately, the time I spent planning had zero impact on the teaching that year and more importantly, had no impact on our students. The presentation I had developed lacked relevance, collaboration, and ownership from a majority of the intended participants.
I used to think I needed to plan all professional learning opportunities for the building to which I was assigned, but now I realize that our staff knows best their individual paths for learning. In order to facilitate meaningful professional development, a school leader must provide time and demonstrate trust to allow a group of educators to craft outstanding learning opportunities. This will enable them to grow and ultimately to improve their impact on students.
This is the type of professional development that our teachers also want, need, and deserve. It's their actions and ability to develop expertise is what will dramatically improve our schools and best support students. My goal for our school's professional development is to establish a learning environment where teachers are empowered to participate in their learning paths, collaborate with others to improve upon their expertise, and be able to see the positive impact of their learning on our students.
What are your thoughts? What strategies or philosophies of professional development have you found most effective? Continue the conversation by reaching me @davidjhuber on Twitter.