Friday, July 31, 2009

Building Capacity from Within (Part 4) - Professional Habitudes

Several months ago, Angela Maiers published a book called Classroom Habitudes.  In it, she describes the Habits and Attitudes that students need to be not only 21st century learners, but critical thinkers, and effective leaders and collaborators--not just observers in their education.

The ideas in this book empower both teachers and students to go the extra mile and I personally thought that it would be a unique frame for Professional Development as well.

While all six of the Habitudes have application beyond the classroom, there are several that I feel really fit into developing the talent in school districts and ultimately having a huge effect on professional work that will help to sustain district efforts.  Our overall goal is to have an impact on student achievement, but all efforts to that end must be through an aligned process.

Habitude: Perseverance

In the past, as a teacher, I would likely be one of the first people to tune out a staff developer who either wasn't engaging me, wasn't teaching anything that related to what my classroom needs were, or who patronized me with a "sage on the stage" presentation.  Even at the beginning of my career, I recognized that a lot of the professional development I participated in would never impact my teaching.  I had no connection to the presenter or the information they were presenting or was angry because I was made to feel inferior for not knowing what "Everybody should have known already."

This is why district initiatives die.

If there is no buy-in, if there is no vested interest in what is being offered to teachers, then there will be no sustainability, no long-run measures of impact for teachers or students.  That is wasteful - in both time and money.

Like the frame in the Habitudes book, I want teachers, through their professional development, to commit to excellence, to have clear goals, to have courageous conviction, and to let their passion and imagination fuel their directions, dreams, goals and reflections.

What better way to address perseverance than by developing the talent that already exists around you?  Familiar faces with a known expertise and demonstrated success go a long way in building sustainable initiatives.  When teachers know that they are going into professional development that already has built-in support and is specific to their needs, they find it easier to commit to incorporating ideas into their own instruction.  They find it easier to set and achieve realistic goals and to develop a passion for bettering themselves within a group.

Think about the last time you learned to do something new.  Are you more likely to be a great learner if the frame is familiar to you and there is sustained support, or are you more likely to learn in isolation with information that may not be specific to your needs?

I think that I should clarify that this particular Habitude is not necessarily about the perseverance of an individual, it's about the perseverance that districts need to sustain an initiative in a productive way.  In order for professional development to be effective, to make it persevere, it needs to be specific, focused, familiar, and engaging, as that will be what ultimately makes the biggest difference for impacting student achievement.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Mike. Another reflection on perseverance is stumbles *will* happen as we learn and try new things (Fullen calls this the "implementation dip"). Leaders must set the tone that it's OK to fail, as long as you monitor and adjust--and keep on trying. Focus on the desired outcome-improved student achievement-and remember: dip happens!