At the beginning of her teaching career, my daughter shared with me that she would never want to be a “staff developer.” She told me how people were not happy with the staff development required by the school system. They wanted time to work in their schools and with their colleagues to study their curriculum, plan their lessons, and problem solve around situations facing their school and their students.
What she was expressing was precisely the definition of effective professional learning. That was five years ago and she was in her second week of her first year of teaching. Today, her job is, indeed, staff developer. She serves as a master teacher in a Title 1 elementary school. While the challenges are different and often require additional resources, what her colleagues want for their students is no different than what other educators around the world desire.
School is just getting started for many systems. I want to send my daughter, her colleagues, and all teacher leaders the following message of hope for their new school year:
I hope for you administrators who recognize the important work that you do. That they see the key to success in their school is dependent on the important work you do with colleagues, examining data on student performance, determining what you all need to learn to address the student growth targets, and developing and executing a plan to promote your learning and improve your practice so that more students are successful this year. That they protect your time so you can facilitate this continuous cycle of improvement with your teams of teachers and then celebrate with you ongoing success from your efforts.
Secondly, I hope for you colleagues who embrace the concepts of collective responsibility and continuous improvement. We need educators who recognize that the success of all students depends on educators who share responsibility for their success. No teacher has the answers for every student’s challenges. Students are best served when educators recognize the talents and expertise of colleagues, acknowledge their own strengths and areas for growth, and agree together to accept the responsibility for the learning for all students.
I hope that you are surrounded by educators who value their own commitments to life-long learning and continuous improvement — educators who are deeply committed to their students and willing to do what it takes to help them be successful. Educators who not only network with other educators in your school but also engage in other networks beyond the school and bring their new learning back to their colleagues; educators who seek your help, your view, and your feedback. And then I hope they act upon it. I hope they experience tremendous satisfaction when they gain new knowledge and practices and see the impact on their students.
Finally, I hope that all educators openly share their successes as well as their failure. I hope they experience great success and attribute it to their opportunities to be part of a school that places learning for educators equal to learning for students.
Have a great year.
The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch 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.