K-12 Classroom teacher
Long Island, NY
Build Communities of Learning
Schools and districts need to build and sustain communities of learning. District and school policies, as well as structures, must be predicated on the belief that every conversation between two professionals is professional development.
On the school level, this means establishing peer support groups, interdisciplinary teams, grade level teams, etc., so that groups of teachers who face the same challenges and who teach the same students have the opportunity to surface issues, set goals, and propose strategies to address the problems they face.
Teachers, like students, learn what counts in the eyes of authority. By creating structures that communicate the importance of professional decision making, teachers will become the problem solvers and independent learners we need them to be.
If we expect districts and schools to have the capacity to lead staff development, we must have school leaders who are instructional leaders. Districts must recognize and value this ability and hire those principals and other school leaders who can do more than handle paper efficiently.
Once hired, districts must train their leaders to be effective in assessing their schools and identifying areas for improvement. School leaders need to be brought together by the district not just to review school performance, but to support each other by sharing effective strategies, voicing concerns and collaboratively addressing district concerns.
District and site based professional development meetings need to reflect good practice. They need to be well planned, have articulated goals that are responsive to the needs of the learners, and be flexible to meet the needs of a diverse group. They need to be part of a comprehensive plan that fosters the faculty's ability to solve its own problems.
As democratic structures become part of the school or district governance structure, the process of identifying goals, developing, sharing, and researching solutions becomes the responsibility of the entire community. All members of the learning community will then share the responsibility
for professional development.
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