How to Share PD Resources (Without Being Too Obnoxious)
One “leadership” capacity that I really, really enjoy in my job is the professional development that I get to bring to my staff. It’s probably the thing that most closely resembles the work that I did when I was a teacher, with the obvious difference being that I’m working with a group of teachers, rather than a group of students. There are many similarities between how adults learn and how students learn, but one major difference is that teachers have a primary responsibility to teach. Which basically means that the work I do as a professional developer can not occupy anywhere near the amount of time that I had when I was working with students to help them learn. I’ve got to pick my PD spots wisely.
I’ve written previously about how I reengineered the structure of my department meetings so that the time that we spend as a group can be almost totally used for professional development, instead of handling a laundry list of management items. That’s working really well for me so far, and I’ve been really pleased that multiple staff members have let me know how much they prefer the new, PD-focused department meetings. But department meetings are 1 hour a month. Personally, I want some other opportunities to get my staff resources.
One thing that I’ve done to give me another place to do some PD work is in a structure that I’ve come to refer to as the “Thursday Professional Piece”. Initially, when interesting articles or other PD resources came my way, I would just send them along to the staff. But after a few months of that, I realized that I could probably share things in a bit more focused manner if I restricted my sharing to one day a week. For whatever reason, Thursday seemed like a good fit. A little while later, I figured I could help my staff delineate these specific resource shares by prefacing them with a repeated signifier in the subject line of the email that contained them. So that’s what I do: Every Thursday that classes are in session, I send out a PD resource under the subject line “Thursday Professional Piece” (which I bet will soon be abbreviated to TPP in future subject lines, so I’ll use that acronym for the rest of this post).
Pretty simple, right? Here are some more advanced considerations that I’ve developed over the time that I’ve been sharing TPPs:
- It’s probably obvious to most, but it should be stated that TPPs are strictly optional for my staff. None of my teachers are required to engage with them, and I’d be really shocked if any teacher found each and every TPP that I share to be a worthwhile read. I send them out because I think they are useful, and I leave it at that.
- Here in the age of Google Docs, it’s really easy to archive TPPs in a place where anyone can go back and check out old ones. I made a spreadsheet and published it to the web. So anyone who ever wants to check out prior TPPs can get there through any web browser. For future years, I can just add new sheets, which become new pages on the published spreadsheet website.
- Recently, I’ve realized that even though the TPPs are totally voluntary for teachers to engage with, I can try to make them more engaging by connecting them to a question that I pose to teachers or a “challenge” for them. What’s really nice about this is that it dovetails really well with the newest state regulations that all areas of the professional rating rubric (Danielson for us) have to be observed over the course of the year. Any teacher who takes a TPP challenge, and lets me know about it, can point to it as a piece of observed evidence for relevant professional responsibility ratings.
- It’s really good to mix up the TPPs. I’ve tried my best to include a variety of resources that span topics and employ a variety of media. Sometimes, the TPP is relevant to something happening right now in school (ex. last week’s was a few articles about calling home, to dovetail with administrative requests that teachers call the homes of all failing students here at the halfway point of the year), but most of the time, it’s just something that came my way that I thought was interesting.
That’s TPPs, and how I’m using them with my staff. Of course, I’m using them in my own practice, too. The weekly structure means that I have to find something worth sharing with my staff every week, which requires me to remain engaged in the various professional networks that I’m a part of, at least to the point that I can find one thing a week worth letting people know about. It’s hard to think of any reason why that’s not a good idea.
How are you sharing PD with your colleagues? If you have a moment, let me know. We only get better if we share.