Surviving The Change

The underlying narrative for educational professionals in my district, around the state, and I’m sure the nation is how overwhelming all of the change in education feels.

As the person in my District responsible for implementing the change, I find myself often feeling like I am pushing the stone of change up the hill.  A standard line in my stump speech is that the professional development activities the district is implementing are designed to equip teachers to survive the change and end up in a better place when (OTES begins, the Common Core arrives, the PARCC assessments begin, the new report card comes, etc.).

While the professional development I work on is necessary, good, and designed to be helpful, I still can’t escape the feeling that teachers feel like it is one more thing (in a long line of things) that is being ‘done’ to them.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no way that districts can provide enough professional development to effectively prepare teachers for the shifts in mindset and professional practice that must occur in order to be successful in 2014-2015 and beyond.  The teachers that will not only survive but also thrive are those who take ownership for their own professional learning.

To that end, a project on my part is to re-design professional development in my District and create individualized learner pathways, tied to Mozilla’s Open Badge Initiative @openbadges http://openbadges.org/en-US/.  While I would like to have this done yesterday, the reality is that it’s going to take a ton of preparation, research, development time, and a change in the mindset for how professional development occurs in my district.  In order to truly be effective, professional development must meet teachers at the intersection of readiness/capacity to learn and willingness.  Personalized learning pathways that account for where individual teachers are as learners, as well as give credit for knowledge they have already acquired, will not only be more meaningful, but will also reinforce the types of learning experiences we want our teachers to create for students.

In the interim, while this idea builds itself out, I am making a full court press to get teachers to create Personal Learning Networks and to get engaged with Twitter.  These two actions are guaranteed to help teachers take control and ownership of their own professional growth and learning.

To get to where they need to go, there is no other way.

For example, today every teacher in my District worked through an SLO approval calibration activity.  While I think it was worthwhile, it was still a whole group sit and get activity that only furthered their understanding of the whole process incrementally.  Worst of all, it once again reinforced the notion of the District as the sole provider of professional development experiences.

It could be so much better……if only all teachers would own the fact that they have to invest, outside of contracted professional development time, in the learning that will help them survive the change.

This change in mindset is empowering, if teachers will only take the leap of faith to make personal professional development a DAILY PRIORITY.

There is just too much to learn about using data, personalizing instruction, close reading, common core implementation, CCR standards for remediation free learning, changing assessments, educational technology……..

Those that survive will be those that become professional learners….ones who don’t wait for districts to provide PD, or wait for the summer to read a professional development article/book, or put off PD activities until just before a license renewal is due.

Those that survive will be relentless in their pursuit of understanding the changes, and will continue to read up on the very latest in all of the areas that are shifting simultaneously.

Those that survive will act in spite of, will always look at the glass as half full, and will continue to have faith in the goodness of what educators do on a daily basis, despite the narrative of failure that many want to tell about our schools.

Those that survive will own the data on their kids, and will double down on practices that are designed to promote growth for all students.  (@ChristinaHank, who’s blog was part of the inspiration for this post, wrote an excellent blog on this point: http://turnonyourbrain.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/when-the-system-strikes-refute/)

Those that survive will refuse to act like victims, and they will shun those who do.

Never in the history of this planet have there been more tools at educators disposal that allow for meaningful, impactful change for student growth and development.

Making the choice to embrace these tools, to collaborate widely, to share and share alike…these are choices that will equip educators to survive the change.

Will you survive?