This week, Angela Stockman asked how other educators have been facilitating professional learning in the midst of a year long pandemic. She also shared her learning on professional learning in our current state. Given the situation that all of us sit in, she uttered the perfect statement in terms of reimagining professional development right now. While seeking answers, Angela simply states what all of us are thinking:
“Who has answers?”
I’m with her. I have no answers. I’ve prided myself on being the PD guy for several years now, and even I struggle to find answers as to how we can revolutionize PD in our current environment. It’s incredibly difficult. This is the most confusing, troublesome, and demanding time I’ve ever experienced in my nearly twenty year career in education.
Students are struggling. Families are struggling. Teachers are struggling. Administrators are struggling.
In a profession where we all pride ourselves on being lifelong learners, and encourage our kids to do the same, it’s incredibly hard to want to grow when we are struggling to survive in our classrooms and schools every day.
Have teachers grown in the past year? Absolutely! Many teachers have grown leaps and bounds to figure out different ways to help their kids. The only problem is that we are all too exhausted to even acknowledge the growth.
As a building Principal, I’ve tried to figure out ways to continue to provide PD opportunities while not creating another overwhelming burden for teachers. It’s a fine line. It seems like every little task that we add might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It might be the one thing that sends someone over the edge. With this in mind, how do I add even more to teacher’s plates right now?
I try to add in opportunities for low-stakes PD, chances for teachers to engage in professional learning if they are interested, so inclined, or have enough energy:
- A Weekly Friday Focus updating teachers on upcoming events and schedules while also sharing some Tech Tips, some of my own learning, and blog posts and features that teachers can check out to learn something new.
- During our monthly PLC meeting time (which is required by contract), tech facilitators have offered sessions on different tech tools that have been introduced to teachers this year. The sessions have helped teachers to learn new ways to engage students during remote and hybrid learning. At our next monthly PLC meeting, we will give teachers the chance to gather with grade level counterparts from different buildings in the district to share and discuss what’s working, and what’s not working.
- Daily conversations and listening have become a regular part of my day. Sometimes, teachers need to be heard in terms of what they may be struggling with on any given day. If I can offer a suggestion or some piece of advice that may help, I will mention it. If I can’t, I’ll just listen and commiserate. Sometimes, that is just as helpful. Any conversations that I have often help me to make more sense of our role in education right now, and hopefully help teachers as they try to navigate this unusual teaching environment.
Any of these things are small but hopefully give teachers the chance to grow professionally. The opportunities may be small gestures that help teachers to continue learning and help them to connect with something. My hope is that we will continue to look at new ways to innovate in the PD space. An interesting side note to my struggles with answers during the pandemic has been my writing. I’ve been working on a follow up to The ROGUE Guide for much of the past year, and I’ve found that my lack of progress with professional development due to limitations in time, space, and social connection, has actually helped me to pour myself into reimagining what PD might look like when we are finally able to gather and connect again. Yes, that may mean that we “gather” in different ways, but it means that we will still continue to connect in a variety of ways that help us to grow as professionals.
I know that none of us have answers right now, but I’m willing to venture to say that our lack of answers isn’t from a lack of trying each day. I’m sure that there are small things that are working. Again, it’s not as if teachers have completely stopped learning and growing in the last year. They’ve just discovered different ways to do so.
We don’t have answers right now. We’ve got temporary fixes. We’ve been using tools, tricks, and hacks that are simply keeping us afloat for now. Out of this piecemeal PD will grow new ways of doing things, new ways of growing and learning, new ways of improving our profession.
How do we PD right now? We don’t currently have all the answers, but what we do have is the ability to keep trying every day.