Friday, August 14, 2009

Staring down the barrel of professional development days

As a principal and instructional leader, building manager, certified staff manager and curriculum director I always get to the point where I feel I'm staring down the barrel of professional development days.

I habitually start beating myself up starting about July 4th. Sitting watching fireworks with the kids, spawns a knot in my stomach. A voice starts talking, "you need to inspire them out of the shoot, you need to dazzle them." On vacation I tote my laptop and do little things, searching for videos and website, nuggets to lay out for them to pick up and take into the year. Never really leaving my work behind for my free 12th month the anxiety level rises as you try to balance family, friends, work while off contract.

Then there's August. The whirlwind of meetings, professional and building, the smattering of teachers that arrive and the issues that need solved now and not in a week or two like you would like them to be solved. What gets pushed aside to solve these problems and help teachers get ready? Preparation for professional development. Never mind that your partners in education (the local AEA reps) are off contract and you each have a folder of things you discussed in June that continue to gather dust.

But we get there, we prepare and we do our very best (I might add we do better and better each year as we further implement effective professional development models like IDM or DDL or and effective PLT program). And it comes. Day one with teachers.

Thinking of title to this post I realize as I feel I'm looking down the barrel in July and August, the teachers show up and it's being pointed at them with no regard to the short time they have to get ready. We have rolled out very good sessions over the past three years, but you can't hide the fact the teachers are looking down the barrel of another gun - THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Teachers do come in some during the year, but many count on those three days to prepare.

So as administrators and educational partners we fire the gun on the first day with teachers yet they see another gun pointed, cocked and aimed at them.

Truthfully, it's not that dramatic and we do an effective job at balancing our professional development time with preparing for students. But the compressed time, and the problems that pop up that need teachers and administrators attention make it a pressure filled three days.

The key is to have "bullets" of learning that are not for the teachers to absorb in those few days. They should be starting points for initiatives that are ongoing and are addressing district needs.

Professional development is not a gun or a bullet, but we can make it feel like we're firing out knowledge and putting teachers in the cross fire of PD and getting ready for school.

Oh, and I'm writing this with a pile of things I need to have ready for Monday.

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