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The Value of Investing in the Few

For the last two years, I have been offering professional development for my staff that I call Tech Tuesdays. One day each month, I don't permit any field trips to allow for a day where staff won't be need for additional supervision. This allows them to "drop in" on their prep time for a micro PD session that gives them practical ideas/tips/resources that they can begin to use the next day. I ask the staff to drive the focus for each day so sometimes, these days turn into clinic-like scenarios where I help them to troubleshoot some of the "blips" they have encountered along their journey towards broadening their technological skill set.

This means that one day each month, my time belongs exclusively to the staff. It's not meant to be some sort of token gesture. The intention behind it is simply to show the staff that I am committed to supported their learning as much as the kids. The staff made it clear early on that they will "entertain" PD so long as it happened in-house and it was delivered by the VPs. The reasoning behind it was simple: we understand the staff and school. We know what is needed to help meet school and department goals, which support the system initiatives. Since we do the majority of the Teacher Performance Appraisals, we have a particularly good vantage point of the areas that could stand to benefit from some professional learning.

You would think that my conference room is busting at the seems each month. It's not. On average 12-15 teachers sign up for the various sessions. This past week, I only saw 5. Initially I was completely disappointed and with one more session left for the school year, I contemplated cancelling it. Upon reflecting on the conversations I had with these 5 teachers, I concluded that each conversation, having helped to move 5 teachers forward in their practice, which I knew would ultimately benefit a lot of kids, were well worth the investment of my day. I shared my knowledge and learned a few things I didn't know from teachers who had begun tinkering- "... just like you encouraged us to, Chris..." - some of them said. What I think was even more valuable were the parts of the conversations that weren't even remotely related to technology. It gave me the chance to catch up with 5 teachers on the staff and talk about how they were doing. It was nice. Really. I never really appreciated the value of investing that sort of time in relationship-building with teachers, especially if it wasn't related to work. When I'm at work, I'm there to work and not foster personal relationships beyond the school. I think that it's important that teachers regard their administrators as fellow human beings, who are going through the same trials and tribulations in their own lives, people who aren't afraid to speak about their challenges. I think it has cultivate a lot of trust between me and a great number of teachers on staff. That is priceless.

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