6th grade language arts/social studies teacher
Salem Middle School
Apex, North Carolina
Have you ever tried on a “one size fits all” garment and thought to yourself, “Who does this fit?” Have you ever noticed the same problem with staff-development strategy? How would professional development look if it were custom-tailored?
In my school, teachers work on learning teams within subject areas to set their own professional direction. We tailor our learning experiences to students’ needs and our professional interests. This has heightened our interest and commitment to growth.
When selecting an area of study, my team bases its decisions on ensuring student success. First, we identify the obstacles that keep us from meeting that goal. Those obstacles then become our list of professional development topics. From there, we narrow by consensus, interest, need, data, and experience. Once we have a focus, we devise a cycle of improvement that includes:
1. Research and reading: What are others doing?
2. Brainstorming: What can we do with our new knowledge?
3. Testing: How does this work in our classrooms?
4. Evaluating: Have we been successful?
5. Tweaking: What would make this better?
6. Assimilating: How do we make this part of our routine?
7. Sharing findings: Whom can we tell about this?
For schools to break out of the “one size fits all” PD model, teachers need three essentials: flexibility, freedom, and trust. Our team is given the flexibility to work productively, unencumbered by rigid external guidelines. Most important, we’re trusted to make the best instructional decisions for our kids.
If this sounds good to you, my team recommends A Facilitator’s Guide to Professional Learning Teams by Anne Jolly.
A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as Professional Growth