The Principal, Teachers, Technology and PD.

cc licensed flickr image courest of Thorne Enterprises

A principal has an overwhelming amount of tasks to complete on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.   From discipline, facility and student needs, staffing and who knows how many others, the job can be exhausting at the best of times.  Over the past couple of years, I began to think more about teacher professional development and how I could help my staff.  Since I became a principal very early in my career, I did not put this aspect of administration at the forefront of my duties. Most likely because I was overwhelmed with the overall learning curve of school administration and all the associated tasks.  Then add-on a significant teaching load, where I had many new courses to deliver.  Lately though, I have thought a great deal about how I could help my teachers better themselves and in turn increase learning for our students.

Two of my more recent reads include What Great Principals and Great Teachers Do Differently, both books by Todd Whitaker.   One common theme denotes how principal'scannot choose their people entirely, so an administrator is left with two choices:

1.  Hire great teachers (when you get the opportunity) and

2. Make the ones you have better.

The second strategy is one I feel can be ignored for a variety of reasons.  It's especially tough for younger administrators to feel comfortable helping more senior staff in the area of professional development, unless the admin. has a real comfort zone in a particular area.   While an administrator cannot be knowledgeable in every subject area or strategy, they can be great support people.  For this year, I have made it my admin. goal to help teachers get better.

How can an administrator then help teachers with meaningful PD?  I find the use of division based PD only scratches the surface and

does not translate into the classroom very often.  I think our school division has taken notice of this and has really stepped up to provide meaningful PD for its teachers.  The alignment of sessions that promote division initiatives and teacher choice can translate for better learning opportunities for students in a significant way.

The use of growth plans (PPGP's) are beneficial to both teachers and school administrators.   Here teacher choice (for growth) and alignment with a schools Learning Improvement Plan can translate into some wonderful learning opportunities for students.

How does one go about this?  Again the use of the growth plan is key with the administrator supporting the process.  This year our staff is using growth plans as stated below:

1.  Teachers pick one area for growth and set their goal.

2.  We have a common technology goal as a staff.

As principal, I meet with each teacher and discuss their plan, how they will achieve their goal and how I can support them.  In #2, we are using a common technology goal for two reasons:

1. To increase each staff members technological literacy level.

2.  To provide a framework for consistent PD in their choice area.

For #2, we started the year with teachers learning about Google Reader and Twitter.  My goal was to help them get a framework (Google Reader) so they could build a network (Twitter) and obtain resources to help them achieve their goals.  There is a great deal of follow-up with each staff member, but overall rewards can be significant.  My hope is that technology can help each staff member with their own personal goal in the PPGP, and that tech. will help them in future years as well.

Supports for PPGP's and technology include division consultants and our TLT teacher .  I want to use them more this year in the area of teacher growth and find these people can be a valuable resource as well.

There  are many other methods one can use to help teachers become better educators, this is just my plan for this school year.  As administrators we encourage teachers to take risks, and we should follow suit.  The plan (for PPGP's)  I have outlined here was also done in collaboration with my staff.  It is my job to keep communicating and supporting my teachers in any way possible.

As always I welcome your input.

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12 Comments

  1. rob said:

    How do you get staff to access their PLN on their time? Some don’t see out of school learning as their reponsibility

    October 3, 2010
    • Dave said:

      Rob,

      Some are breaking into this area slowly, others are forging ahead. PLN’s are like email, you just need to check them regularly. I think once most get some more followers and subscribe to blogs, they will see the benefits.

      Thx. for the comment.

      October 3, 2010
  2. Teachers get stuck with new administrators too. Works both ways. Teachers can help admin get up to speed as well. Works both ways if we work as a team for the best outcome for all stakeholders.

    October 3, 2010
    • Dave said:

      Elona,

      I agree. I think when admin’s and teachers have a common focus, they can do great things working together. I cannot describe how many tips and hints I have picked up by being able to sit in my teachers classrooms and watching them work. It definitely has improved my practice.

      Take care and thanks for the comment.

      October 3, 2010
  3. I like the balance here between teacher choice and common goals within a school.

    Differentiation is important for student learning, and it’s important for teacher learning too. So, while teacher choice is an excellent idea for professional development, it becomes less valuable when that choice is required to be finalized in an undifferentiated platform. Teachers need flexiblity in how they demonstrate and document their growth and results.

    Principals also benefit from considering that some teachers may need to go beyond the walls of the school and the hours of the school day in order to continue growing. In other words, some teachers may need to connect with others beyond their on-site colleagues in order to continue developing ideas and practices. Smart professional development recognizes this and allows for it to happen. The technology goal at your school actually dovetails well with this dimension of professional development.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

    October 3, 2010
    • Dave said:

      Gary,

      Thx. for the elaboration. We constantly need to remember as admin’s that we can’t try to force the issue. If we can develop common understandings and combine with excellent professional practice, it becomes a win-win for all.

      Excellent comment and thanks for reading.

      Dave

      October 3, 2010
  4. Chris Wejr said:

    I think you have nailed it Dave. Taking professional development and individualizing it is definitely the way to go. If we push others’ ideas for growth on to people who have no interest in that area, the learning will not be as effective. Sitting down and talking to teachers and staff members about where they would like to see growth and how the admin can support them is, in my opinion, exactly where we need to start. If I was forced to professionally develop in the area of teaching social studies, I would be turned off and put in the minimal effort, whereas if I had the choice to develop in an area such as student motivation or assessment, I would be all over that (because I do this already); supporting teachers in the area of their strengths and interests is exactly where we need to start. We still have conversations as a staff around literacy, numeracy, etc but for professional growth, no different than for students, it must be personalized and differentiated. Thanks for the reminder.

    October 3, 2010
    • Dave said:

      No problem Chris. I think the more we use teacher choice and good practice, we can develop at a much more rapid and meaningful pace. I completely agree with you. When I am forced to do something and cannot see the benefit for my school, I get irritated. Put a time line on it and I get really frustrated. This was happening when we first started into PBIS and Rti, but because we did not have a defined timeline, I can now structure these initiatives fo my school much better.

      Take it easy!

      Dave

      October 3, 2010
  5. Lyn Hilt said:

    Dave, I just recently finished reading Whitaker’s What Great Principals Do Differently and had some of the same take-aways you did, in particular, Whitaker’s view that to improve your organization, you need to help your teachers better their practices and hire the best you can. Our teacher supervision model is currently under revision and does not yet include a formal goal-setting experience for teachers. This is a huge concern for me, so in conjunction with my formal observations, I’m asking teachers to identify an area where they’d like to develop so I can help support them in the classroom. I love how your building has common technology integration goals. Thanks for sharing your plan!

    October 3, 2010
    • Dave said:

      Lyn,

      I would push for teachers to have the PPGP model. This is put in place so teachers can grow. Also, PPGP’s can help them in their own supervision cycle as it is documented evidence of their progress and overall growth. The tough thing is getting teachers to take growth plans seriously.

      Take care and thx. for the post.

      Dave

      October 4, 2010
  6. ” teachers may need to go beyond the walls of the school and the hours of the school day in order to continue growing”. -that’s what’s so great about the net and Twitter. I can go beyond the walls of my school and outside of the school day to explore self directed PD to develop memberships in various PLN.

    October 3, 2010
  7. […] into the latest and greatest technologies for their classrooms and student/teacher use. Without quality professional development with connections to learning, are the investments worth […]

    October 11, 2010

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