I walk in, dragging my feet a bit, set down my coffee, click on the speaker and with the first few notes of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” I get energy in my feet. I start to glide around the room as I spread out my Sharpies, hang the large Post-Its, and set out the candy. I know it’s going to be a good day.
How does professional development get labeled in your school or organization? Too often, I hear: boring, unproductive, compliance-driven, not based on my needs or interests. Research on professional development shows that the “drive-by” workshop model does not meet the needs of teachers. No two people learn the same way, though many leaders do not change the way they provide instruction for professional development. Just like education should be personalized for students, professional learning should be personalized for adults. Effective professional development or learning (semantics to me) needs to improve educators’ professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness. No matter if you are a teacher, school leader or district leader, below you will find ways you can reframe professional learning in your school or district.
August is an important month for school leaders; it is the last opportunity to reflect, recharge, and realign on your personal and shared goals before the school year officially kicks off. While there is no debate that we all want better student outcomes, many discussions occur during this period regarding the best methods to employ. One of the most important systems to take into account is how your leadership team will structure the professional development (PD) curriculum and options that are presented to your staff this upcoming school year. As educators, we understand the importance of modeling our thinking and actions, and this is no different when it comes to PD. During my time as a school leader, it was important for me to acknowledge that if I was going to demand that our teachers be empathetic and innovative in their implementation of personalized learning, then we as school leaders must provide those same personalized qualities in the development opportunities we offer.
It is hard to make something better each year and yet, somehow, as I reflect on the Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit 2018, it feels like we have done it. It’s five days since the Summit ended and I am still energized by the energy and passion of every one of the 750 people who attended. I am still excited about the ideas I heard and looking forward to talking more to the people I met. I am still amazed that we pulled it off. 750 people is a lot of people for a conference that four years ago had less than 150!
School and district leaders that are thinking about personalizing education tell us one of their top concerns is how to train, support, and develop teachers effectively to teach in ways that may feel new and unfamiliar. As former educators we agree that this is crucial, and are happy that they recognize the challenge and are ready to take it on.