I’m pleasantly affirmed right now. I’ve had a strong sense over the course of the last few years that we weren’t getting the best bang for our PD bucks when the rubber hit the road. What I mean by that is we all love PD sessions, especially if they include lunch. We get revved up and excited to get back to our classrooms and try all the exciting innovative strategies to get our classes more engaged and learning more deeply. We get back to the classroom and, sure enough, we try out all the practices we’ve picked up. Some work, some don’t, some we have no idea if they worked or not. We smile, knowing we’re changing for the better.
But sometimes, at least for me, that’s where it ends. Because teachers have a million things to do, marking, planning, coaching, sometimes these great ideas are forgotten after year one or the strategy is simply dropped because it was new and you were uncertain whether it was effective or not. It’s easy to slip into what we’ve always done. Old strategies become that comfortable t-shirt you just don’t want to give up on.
The learning from most PD sessions is unsupported in the long run. There is no collaborative dialogue to discuss whether the strategy worked, no reflective process and no revisiting the implementation to ensure that it was effectively developed for your classroom. Research affirms this notion as most “one shot” PD has very little impact on our teaching.
As I reflect personally on whether I have had ANY PD that has changed my practice for the long run, I recall a writing workshop I attended. I definitely grew as a teacher of writing and still use the strategies today. But wait, I went to that workshop with a cohort of teachers from the school. We planned together, tweaked what we didn’t like and constantly met to really ensure we had it right. Not only that, we delivered an in-school PD workshop for other teachers to share our knowledge.
That’s the model I think we need to grow on as educators. The whole idea of meeting together regularly as professionals to revisit our practice is crucial. Changing the way we grow as professionals needs to change from the traditional one-shot sit-and-get session to a more collaborative model of working for the betterment of all the cohort. PLCs are a wonderful vehicle for this change but so are Instructional Coaches.
Instructional Coaches play the part of the critical friend for teachers. Someone to bounce ideas off and reshape the way we look at our classrooms. They allow us to move away from the isolated box of teaching to a more visible model of instruction where we can critically assess what works best for the students in our care. We want our students to collaborate and grow, what better way to show them it works then to model it through Instructional Coaches. Although I still am caught up in the term “coach”, I love the model.
Keep on learning,