"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."
We’ve all heard it before, but implicit in the adage is the underlying assumption that the water is good. In the case of Professional Development (PD) this is not always true!
I have been guilty of serving-up PD that didn’t hit the mark. It's in humble reverence for the amazing educators in our school that I share my "epic fail."
I was recently reminded of the most basic PD principle; if something is content-heavy or complicated make sure the path and process are light.
We are in the midst of a two month “Flipped Faculty Meeting” series. The content delves into some intensive reading research and learning about culturally responsive teaching. It is scholarly and involved. This complex content is paired with an online learning approach that utilizes our school’s Moodle platform along with some faculty online forum postings. The online forum process is also new to many staff members. Both the content and the process are complex. How did I miss it?!
Fortunately I’m surrounded by an amazing team of teachers that communicate their professional needs in an open and trusting manner. (Best of all....they are gifted. They truly "get" the importance of relationships and are doing inspiring work with technology integration.) A leader on staff met with me to solution-seek a means to moving forward on our PD plans so that each and every staff member was learning in a manner that was responsive to their needs. When collaboration along these lines occurs our kids are the winners!
I’m hoping the short story above highlighted two things:
- Planning PD for the digitally connected age requires leaders to be more purposeful than ever before. We cannot assume that an entire staff or building has the same exact needs. Nor can we project our own readiness-level with regard to a content area, tech/tool, etc. on anyone else.
- Listen to your people. Put the power of their learning in their hands and support them in an unswerving and wildly passionate manner. By collaborating with the all-stars on staff you can successfully plan PD that offers multiple pathways to collective growth.
Remember…we can’t always assume that the “water” is inherently good. Be reflective and critically evaluate the process you’re using to move to new frontiers. Here’s to wishing you the best of luck in moving forward.