to use Tools for Teaching:
A Plan for Professional Development
Organizational Change to Support Personal Change
principal is the key decision maker for training
and follow-through at the school site. Tactical
decisions that are made before training begins
often determine it's ultimate success or failure.
Here are some key tactical decisions:
The principal determines whether professional
development will be on the front burner or
the back burner. If professional development
is not on the principal's front burner, it
will not happen. Principals, therefore, must
be advocates. Giving permission is not enough.
They must provide time for training, protect
it from being cross-scheduled, and participate
so they are as knowledgeable as their teachers.
School Site Focus:
Training is best done by a team of mentor quality
teachers at each school site. Not only will
they draw colleagues into training by word-of-mouth
as they use the program in their classrooms,
but they will also be close at hand to problem
solve with trainees. If a trainee has difficulty
with a new procedure, they either get help
quickly from a friend, or they are likely to
dump it. Consequently, school site training
teams serve one of their most important functions
Build on Strength:
The most willing and able teachers should be
trained first. Often they become co-trainers,
thereby expanding the school site training
team. In addition, their success should be
shared with the faculty so that more hesitant
colleagues say, "Well, if it can help
them, I guess it can help me too." While
well intentioned, the decision to train the
most needy teachers first can reduce faculty
buy-in by stigmatizing the program as remedial.
Make Training Voluntary:
Changing habits is never easy. Teachers must want to
change. They must focus on new ways of doing
things every day, and
this requires a high degree of motivation.
Mandating that teachers participate usually
backfires. It is better to create a critical
mass of success with strong teachers, and then
wait for colleagues to be drawn to the program.
Occasionally, however, especially at a fairly
small school site, the faculty as a whole may
vote to do the program which sweeps nay-sayers
along with little resistance.
Start Slow, Go Slow:
One of the hardest things for administrators
and school board members to do once an effective
program demonstrates its merit is to slow
down. "Let's train everyone
in the district" is usually a call to
disaster with volunteerism being the first
casualty. Successful training requires patience.
Haste preempts the systematic process of training
and team building that allows a program to
gain strength as teachers achieve genuine mastery.
Train and Retrain:
Our tradition in professional development is
to train teachers in one program and then move
on to the next program never looking back.
Yet, we know that skills are built slowly and
incrementally. Teachers pass through predictable
stages on the road to mastery which might be
characterized as, 1) What is it? 2) How does
it work? and 3) How do the pieces fit together?
Genuine mastery requires that teachers be trained repeatedly.
Think of successful professional development at a
school site as being a 3-5 year process. While some
teachers succeed beautifully from the beginning,
most will need more time to internalize new skills,
break old habits and iron out wrinkles in classroom
application. Build a process of growth and change,
and let that process provide integration of new learning
over time. Structure for that process is described