I was working with one of my “oldest” and most faithful clients last week and we had some great conversation with the district staff, site leadership and instructional facilitators about direction for next year. They have hit what I would consider a glass ceiling – they are working really really hard to increase the scores, but the scores just aren’t budging in relation to the amount of work they are doing.
We talked about differentiated instruction and how that is so critical in moving students (especially those sub-groups that are difficult to move) to the next layer (from Intensive to Strategic or Strategic to Benchmark, for example) and we talked about collaborating more often and become more fluid (our favorite word of the day!) and all that good stuff, but the bottom line of the “next step” notes that I sent them was JUST DO IT! Yep, like Nike said.
Here’s what I’ve noticed with this particular client and many others: we often turn to professional development in its most traditional form that looks like a presenter brings new information as participants sit in a room and listen to the presenter, as the magic bullet for increasing motivation of teachers, improving skill levels of those instructing or moving whole groups of students who have been struggling to improve quickly enough to meet the benchmark. Of course I believe that this traditional professional development is valuable, but there is something of equal or possibly greater value along the implementation road: APPLICATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY.
As a system, whether a school district, school site or grade level team, we have to come to the point where we review the notes that we have from professional development, remember what we’ve learned as we’ve watched videos and recall the advice from experts who have provided us specific feedback in the field and JUST DO IT. Just start. It may not be pretty, but at least we are forward moving. Sometimes professional development of the traditional kids feels like forward motion, but it’s sometimes like we are stuck in a training room and not getting to the application or actual use of all of the information and advice we have been given. The action is in the classroom not just the training room.