I was in China earlier this month to present a paper on professional development for the Third US-China State/Provincial Education Leaders Dialogue. A day of school visits preceded the dialogue, providing an opportunity to see teacher learning in action. While there were many takeaways from the experience, I want to focus on four key observations.
Shirley Hord, Learning Forward’s scholar laureate, has focused her career on research about and practice of effective professional learning communities. Here she answers an educator’s question about professional learning communities.
It started with a simple statement: “We need a vision.” As the director of staff development for Gwinnett County Public Schools, I realized I was in trouble when similar sentiments echoed throughout our staff development team.
Followers of the Learning Forward blog know that we changed our name several years ago from the National Staff Development Council to Learning Forward. Later this year, we’ll reach the five-year anniversary of the new name. As I reflect on those years, I think about some of the learning I’ve seen in schools and districts that leads me to ask, “Are you learning forward or backward?”
The longer I serve in education, the more I realize I have so much to learn about learning and the kinds of cultures that make it central to the daily work of an organization. As part of our work with the PD Brain Trust on redesigning professional development, Learning Forward is looking outside of education to hear from learning leaders in other sectors. Last month, we had the opportunity to hear about SAS, a world leader in business analytics software.
When I was a local school board member, parents frequently asked for my advice on how to ensure their child got a particular teacher in a school. I knew how the game would be played after I reminded them this wasn’t the role of the school board: They would write the principal with their requests for the next year. The principal would respond to assure the parents that no matter which classroom their child was assigned, he or she would have a great year.
As a consultant and coach, I do a lot of my best thinking in the car or on the plane. I found myself doing just that a week ago, when I tuned into National Public Radio’s morning show. The moderator mentioned that playwrights often use a technique to hook their audiences. Simply put, they draw people into their plays by breaking a ritual or custom and letting the characters wrestle with the conflict that it produces. In the world of theater, this creates the “edge” that forms memories from the play or musical. Thus, in the theater, breaking the ritual is a good thing and it produces the intended result . . . drama and memories.
After 30 years in education, I have never felt more dedicated to student success and the adults that support that success. The education world talks a lot about how students learn. Is it just as important to consider how educators learn? I think so.
Windshields are larger than rearview mirrors so that we may focus on the road ahead while occasionally looking behind for perspective and course corrections. My resolution for 2015 is to learn more about six topics that will help us make sense of the continuously shifting educational landscape so that we can focus on next steps for student success.
As an elementary teacher in Elyria, Ohio, a small urban district about 30 miles west of Cleveland, I looked forward to asking my students the question all my teachers had asked me that first day of school: “What did you do this summer?”