It’s 8:00 AM on a snow day and my phone lights up with a message. A friend, and colleague, has sent a link to an article through a group text. Within minutes, my phone begins a non-stop buzz as the message recipients and I respond to the article. Other articles are referenced, we make connections, point out challenges, and propose solutions. The conversation grows and transitions to related topics. Thirty minutes later, and I am left inspired and motivated. I generated no less than four actionable items during our impromptu chat. Five educators, on their day off, having a heated professional conversation. I was excited and rejuvenated (I am sure the day off helped). I learned a ton and 30 minutes flew by. It left me wondering, why isn’t all professional learning this effective? What did this conversation have, that typical PD lacks?
Three concepts stood out:
Any good comedian, improv actor, or teacher can tell you – timing is everything. I believe I am best first thing in the morning. I have a friend who will argue that we come up with great ideas when we are deliriously worn out, but I feel I get the most out of my experiences when they happen before lunch. Which is probably why I thrive during #satchat (Saturday, 7:30 AM EST) and struggle during PD from 4:00-7:00 PM. How can we ensure we are reaching our teachers during a time that works for them? How can we provide a common message and still differentiate the timeframe?
The second I started reading the article, my brain began making connections to my daily practice. My thoughts defended some elements and refuted others. Either way, I was invested. How do we differentiate relevant topics for our teachers?
I wasn’t afraid to say exactly what I was thinking. I wasn’t worried about someone disagreeing or judging my thoughts. I knew if someone had another viewpoint, they would respect my comments and provide justification to support their opinion. Some of this was on me – choosing to be OK with not feeling “correct” all the time. A lot of it had to do with the group. While we have never written out norms for our group text, after a quick skim a few things would be evident (we might also be mortified, because we do occasionally get off topic): kids come first and happy teachers have happy students. It is impossible to force people to feel trustworthy and comfortable in a professional development session. We also cannot control the mood of everyone in the room. However, as leaders our attitudes go a long way in shaping an atmosphere. What other measures impact a teacher’s comfort level during a professional development experience? How can we help teachers find their voice?