Effective Teacher Professional Development Must Be Intensive, On-going, and Long Term
Amen! The one thing that seems to be constant in education, is that nothing seems to be constant in education. Veteran teachers know that if they wait long enough, the current district or campus initiative du jour will pass and they can get back to doing what ever they did before. What we as administrators often forget is that the greater the degree of change that we try to promote, the longer and slower it will take. Moving a campus is like swinging a big, heavy pendulum. Moving a district even more so. Stake holders need time to adapt and grassroots support is necessary for any success to be realized.
I had the opportunity to do some professional development at Byron Center High School in Michigan. Immediately you can tell that a great deal of time was invested in developing a positive school culture and increasing the quality of pedagogical practice. It is amazing how apparent this can be in a technology training, but if those foundations are not carefully constructed prior to any technology initiatives, then the tech is doomed to be underutilized. Principal Scott Joseph has done a great job in Byron Center. He commented that he had recently found the four year plan he implemented during his first year. His pride that they were still very much on track was evident.
Eric Erb, a former principal from Pennsylvania, told me that it isn’t uncommon for a large change initiative to take about 3 – 5 years to fully implement. This is especially true for sweeping technology initiatives like BYOD and 1:1. Professional development is a key component. My current district, Sanger ISD, is in it’s 5 year of planning and 3rd year of implementation of a 1:1 technology initiative for grades 8 – 12. We are blessed with a number of advantages including extremely gifted HS and MS principals, an experienced and talented faculty, lower incidence of low SES and at-risk students than other districts, a supportive central admin, school board, and community. That being said, change still takes time. And it is important to be dedicated to see it through. We have seen positive results first hand. Our culture seems to have hit a tipping point in Sanger, and the momentum is carrying the initiative forward on it’s own. A school can dig a really good 100 ft. well, or it can waste all its time and resources digging one-hundred 1 ft. wells.