The Power of Empowering (Part II): Planning Professional Development

The DFHS teacher leaders recently came in during their summer vacation to discuss the instructional agenda for the upcoming school year and to plan next week’s professional development for 9th and 10th grade teachers (see post on 7/15/14). After receiving a brief overview of the instructional program at DFHS along with a review of our ongoing initiatives, the team had an initial discussion of the desired student outcomes for our school. In doing so, we focused on the vision of the district and some of the professional development initiatives that must be in place during our weekly “early dismissal” Wednesdays in 2014-15. In considering our goals, we determined that time needs to be allotted for work in the following areas:

  • Professional Development for Staff: It is important to never lose sight of the fact that all teachers, regardless of experience, need to keep learning and growing. This is especially true at DFHS as we move forward with our 1:1 Chromebook initiative and instructional approaches such as differentiation, inquiry-based learning, and best practice as it relates to the CCSS. We have many professional development formats that we can draw from to accomplish these goals, including workshop models, the Ignite format (see post on 6/29/14), MOOCs, collaborative periods, and inter-visitations. It’s exciting to think of the endless possibilities in this area.
  • Subject Specific Curriculum Work: This is especially critical as we make the shift to the MYP. In addition to alignment that needs to occur in grades 6-12 (and below), MYP will require that all departments collaborate on the development of one unit for authorization. The teachers will lead this work in their departments under the guidance of a teacher leader who possesses expertise in the respective subject area.
  • Interdisciplinary Curriculum Work: The larger goal as it relates to MYP is to have teachers thinking outside of the box by planning learning experiences for students across the disciplines. DFHS is already set up for this pursuit as grade level teams have been created and teachers have already begun to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects and units.

Following our discussion of the areas above, the team was left with the task of fully planning next week’s two-day PD session for our teachers. The only direction given was that the PD needed to be in-line with our established instructional goals and the respective needs of the teachers who would be attending. Admittedly, I had no idea who would “step up” once I left or how it would go. However, what I did know is that I was leaving the task with a room full of smart and dedicated professionals who collectively know the pulse of the school and a have good sense of how teachers think with regard to professional development. I also knew that the group would not only run with this task, but would own it…and that’s what is most important. After about two hours, the group called me back to the room so that they could share their plan:




I was thrilled to find that the plan was not only well-designed and differentiated based on teacher need, but it also provided teachers a great deal of time to both apply the skills that they learned and to make independent decisions specific to their curricular needs. In this sense, the teacher leaders were choosing the empower the teachers just as they had been empowered. A powerful concept, and one that is necessary if true change is to occur within an organization.

The next step is for the group to meet next week. Be sure to check back…!


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