The Professional Development day went off without a hitch. The atmosphere at the Basin St. Station was exciting. The meeting was held in the 4th floor reception hall with a view overlooking the neighborhood. The breakfast menu blended traditional foods with health foods. Good coffee is a requirement in New Orleans. We feasted on scrambled eggs, grits, croissants, strawberries, cantaloupe, sweet pastries, bacon, orange juice and yogurt.
This was the first full day in-service for our faculty since school opened in August, with the exception of the meeting following the work stoppage in December. Today’s meeting was much more pleasant. Having been to several parties held in the renovated train station, I selected the setting because of the ambience, vicinity to the school, free parking and other amenities. We thought it would be a treat for the teachers to get away from the building and experience a training meeting the way other professionals do. I was there for the breakfast and the opening Ice Breaker, but had to leave before the guest speaker did her presentation.
Gayle Miller, the Director of our Region I Service Center in the state, conducted a session entitled “Accountability & Components of a Successful Instructional Program.” She discussed the steps to creating a strong instructional program, laying out a plan of action for next year. I hoped she could create a sense of urgency for the faculty. This is our baseline year for the School Performance Score. Our growth target will be set, in part, based upon where we test this year. I know the type of effort we will have to produce to meet our goal and I wanted the staff to come to the same realization. We’ll have to be better prepared and a lot more focused next year.
When Gayle finished her session, the school’s curriculum coordinator took over to review the Louisiana Comprehensive Curriculum. Most of the faculty members were familiar with the LCC, but a refresher was needed since, some of them had not really examined the documents since Katrina. I was conducting a meeting elsewhere, so I did not see this session either.
I returned in time for lunch and my own session. The luncheon menu included gumbo and rice, potato salad, assorted sandwiches (including vegetarian), brownies and soft drinks. The session was designed to be a fun, interactive session of Truth and Trust. We did a few exercises and demonstrations using volunteers and read an illustrated story on PowerPoint.
The funniest part of this was after playing “Catch.” Three volunteers each selected a colleague who was responsible for catching them as they trustingly fell backwards into the arms of the “safety net.” All of us have done this at one time or another in summer camp. One teacher, a very petite young lady, chose as her partner the principal who is a “plus-size” man. While she is a little more than five feet tall and probably under 115 pounds, he is well over six feet tall and at least 250 pounds. We all understood her strategy in selecting the largest man in the room to ensure that he was strong enough to keep her from hitting the carpet.
What they did not know that part II of the activity was “Reverse Catch,” in which the partners had to switch places. When I gave the instructions, the look on the little teacher’s face was priceless! She took off her shoes, stretched her arms and prepared to catch a mountain of a man. The look on the principal’s face was even funnier. We couldn’t stop laughing. As a matter of fact, I’m laughing now—12 hours later.
My session ended with an original fable that I wrote while living in a little townhouse in Baton Rouge after the flood. I left after lunch, but I was told that the hard work slated for the afternoon, was tackled with sincerity. A pick-me-up snack of popcorn and cookies was available to keep the energy levels high until the 4:00 dismissal. The day ended with clusters of teachers developing strategies and a discussion of business for the remainder of the year.
I was very proud of the school leaders who prepared the day’s events. Tomorrow, I will let them know who much their high-level work reassures me that they are up to the job of improving student achievement. I have an idea that I’d like to propose for our opening of school institute. We’re going to raise the bar. If anyone can offer ideas that made a professional development session memorable, please share. You always have such great ideas.
The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.