Do you find often “appraisal goals” are scribbled out in 15 minute meetings with your appraiser, then “revisited” at the end of the year as a kind of autopsy. What would happen if we flipped this model on its head? What if instead we created a teacher-centered, always-on, and social approach to teacher improvement? One that connected them with dynamic resources and human communities that modeled new thinking and possibility, and that crucially built on their strengths? Here some thoughts to guide you as you make your PLG inspired in 2017.
- In Term One establish a compelling big idea –then stick to it
This can be thought of as a mission or theme, but it’s really more of a tone and purpose. These heading are the same as the students hence reinforcing the idea of a learning community. Each of the goals are linked to the dispositions of the school in our case Ako, Manaakitanga and Wahine Toa. Time is made in Term one for authentic and robust conversations to eek out these goals. This is done collaboratively. Then–and this is the critical part–refer back to that constantly as you make decisions that might impact the inquiry. This is like a lighthouse. You can revise as necessary, but be careful not to drift too far away.
- Set the ground rules
You could probably call this a policy, but it’s the non-policy policy—just some basic rules and a common language to make sure everyone is starting and finishing at the same point.
The inquiry does not have to be come up with an answer but it does have to link to school goals.
- Diversify professional development sources
This is the anti-program program. Less about experts and more about staff capacity. To achieve a self-sustaining, always-on program, this is also where our Café style PLG kicks in. The grounds rules again must be clear. Everyone must contribute. It is not enough to turn up and be ready for a chat.
- Create a pilot or template that works for teachers
Pilot it in one department or grade level at first to work out the bugs, the factors you didn’t consider, and to better understand how it might work yourself. You may find this new open approach to PD confuses folks, and that’s okay. Simply go back to steps one and two.
- Connect teachers
Connect teachers from different schools to not only improve the diversity of resources, but naturally expand professional learning networks in the process. These connections will catalyze the effort as you move on. Relationships and curiosity will take a teacher further than a policy or minimal requirement. The point of this whole thing is staff capacity, not corrective training.
- Focus on student learning
The whole point of the PLG focus on strategies, tools, and thinking that ends up in pedagogical change, curriculum, assessment, classrooms, teacher-student interactions is ultimately “student achievement.” If it is not then what is the point?
- Let us celebrate teacher strengths & interests
Teachers need to see themselves as a crafts-person that is skilled and passionate. Strengths could be collaboration with colleagues, assessment design, classroom management, curriculum development, or other traditional educational pillars. This again can be done in the PLG Café or by cross-pollination.
So from the beginning, everyone should be aware that PLD and PLG is all a work in progress—just like the profession itself. Perhaps the greatest potential here is in the chance to personalize professional development for teachers.
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