Too often, we sit through professional development workshops that are not aligned to our interests or designed to actually meet the needs of OUR students. I’m not talking about the workshops that are required by law or the district. I get it, those have to have happen. I’m talking about the professional development workshops and sessions that are required for faculty to attend but are narrowly focused on one topic that does not pertain to all. It may be important, but if it isn’t relevant for the attendees, it becomes another session in which participants walk away feeling as though their time was wasted.
How do we fix this? How do we intentionally create learning experiences that our teachers YEARN for instead of dread? I believe the answer starts with allowing our teachers to experience what they do so often for their students-personalized learning. In this case, I believe personalized learning should drive professional development planning in schools. Administrators should build relationships with their faculty that allows for a safe space to collaborate on personalized professional development plans. In addition, a culture of teachers giving feedback, sharing best practices, and being open to observation are a must. The more comfortable your faculty is with others watching them and learning from them, the more likely you are to have your faculty volunteer to lead things and be the experts on certain topics not tied to evaluations.
I would like to share two ways I’ve tried to implement personalized professional development :
Monthly Personalized PD
When I was assistant principal at a start-up charter school, I had the privilege of overseeing the academic programs of the school, including the supervision of teaching and learning. I met with my faculty at the beginning of each year and asked for THEIR goals and areas of growth. I did not choose this for them. I also surveyed our faculty at the beginning of the year and asked them to list things they would like to learn more about or see offered in workshops during the school year. Every Thursday, our school released an hour early for professional development. At least once a month, it was my mission to have personalized PD during that hour in which I asked faculty members to sponsor sessions on a topic of interest or expertise. I would then allow our entire faculty to sign up for the session they would attend based on their interests. Additionally, I checked in with my faculty throughout the school year, and when I did learning walks or stumbled upon resources, I shared ideas and specific actions with teachers when it applied to them.
Teacher-Led, In-House Conference Day
At my current school, I lead the Innovation Team for the Upper School, and the team implemented an Upper School Conference Day last year that was met with overwhelming success. This year, we knew we wanted to do this again, and the team spent the fall using design thinking to understand the needs of the faculty while planning for this day. Every so often, we have late start days that allow our faculty to collaborate from 8:00-10:00 am before students arrive. Our conference was held in January on a late start day, and we had over 20 people sign up to present on a topic-without being bribed! Teachers picked 3 sessions to attend, and each session was 25 minutes. This was a tremendous success again this year, and now we are planning deeper dives because we’ve had great feedback from our faculty that indicates they are yearning for more.
Check out these resources below to see how I planned our personalized PD days at my charter school and our conference day at my current school. I’m happy to answer any questions and help you get this up and running at your school! I believe in the power of teachers teaching teachers.
Monthly Personalized PD Survey
Conference Day Proposal Form
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