This comment rings across kitchen tables, through grocery store aisles, on the sidelines at soccer games. Parents expect their children to be in school and rely on schools, not only for educating them, but also for providing a safe and dependable place for students to be each day. Families, and even employers, are inconvenienced on inservice days, or when the school day starts late or ends early to provide time for teacher professional development.
For business and community leaders, the quality of a community’s education system relates directly to the economic success of the community. School success translates into tax revenues, real estate values, and community satisfaction. When asked what they want for their children, parents and community members overwhelmingly agree that they want the best teacher possible in every classroom. Research confirms the most important factor contributing to a student’s success in school is the quality of teaching. Professional development is the most effective strategy schools and school districts have to meet this expectation.
Professional development is the strategy schools and school districts use to ensure that educators continue to strengthen their practice throughout their career. The most effective professional development engages teams of teachers to focus on the needs of their students. They learn and problem solve together in order to ensure all students achieve success. School systems use a variety of schedules to provide this collaborative learning and work time for teachers. When time set aside for professional development is used effectively, the benefits to teachers and their students far outweigh the scheduling inconvenience (Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director Learning Forward, 2010).
During the last week of April, I attended the “Leadership Now” institute. I have attended many professional development activities in my career and can share that the institute was simply the best professional development I have taken part in. The institute expanded my capacity for leadership, inspired me to clarify the work that must be done to create conditions that allow others in our schools to stay on track and anticipate what lies ahead.
The presenters were among the most influential educational thinkers in North America. I worked closely with authors of books on lead educational reform that included DeFour, Eller, Hayes Jacobs, Muhammad, Reeves, Whitaker, and Cruz. They shared strategies for building consensus, developing vision, and increasing results in our schools. I walked away with concrete tools, tips, and templates that were proven successful in improving team effectiveness and student learning. I participated in open and honest conversations with experts and built shared knowledge and skills to create high standards of achievement for all students.
When it comes to professional development, John Dewey reminds us about the importance of this role, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that is what the community must want for all of its children.”