For the past seven years, I have had the distinct pleasure of working part-time in a district as their K-12 Curriculum Coordinator. While the road has not always been smooth - what I have learned from the "bumps" has made me a better educator and a better leader. With budget cuts, my formal work there will end this year but I leave confident that when it comes to professional learning they are headed in the right direction.
I know this because last week was the last Superintendent's Conference Day of the year and it was one in which the teachers shared their learning from participating in Collegial Circles all year long. It took seven long years and many mistakes in PD for this to happen - but the teachers wanted it, cried for it and we were able to make it happen.
For each conference day this year, thirteen groups of teachers met under the direction of a team appointed facilitator with a team developed agenda to learn about team goals. They ranged from infusing technology in a variety of settings to developing curriculum in areas like counseling and PE to examining middle level transition. These weren't administrative directives, these were teacher selected and teacher led.
Along the way, the teacher leaders on the committee that helped to lay out the PD plan met and reviewed what was happening and tweaked the process and sought additional input. And they were honest with each other about what they thought was effective teaching and good pedagogy and many other things. Brutally honest at times. And incredibly professional.
I know that it seems too good to be true - a local superintendent wanting to replicate the process had her doubts too. But she visited us - so don't believe me, believe her.
It makes me sad that I haven't been able to help replicate the culture anywhere else - at least not yet. But I know now that it is possible and not just me tilting windmills again. And when I read posts like this (and of course the comments that follow) I see complaints and excuses and lamenting galore - but I don't see a lot of "so here is what we are going to do" happening. I'll keep working toward changing the meaning of professional development - what will you do?