As I reflect on helping teachers grow as professionals, it’s important to realize that this is a journey for all involved and that it will continue to be as such. In this series, I am looking at the process in three parts: Phase One – Reaching Out, Phase Two – Giving Support and Phase Three – Reflecting and Celebrating.
Reaching out to teachers can sometimes be difficult for administrators. In the hectic, and sometimes frantic, happenings of the school and the daily demands it is sometimes easy to put off what seem like “other” things. As Amber Teamann points out in this post, Stephen R. Covey reminds us that we need to focus on things that will help us to build our capacity as leaders and the capacity of those around us. As an administrator, it was always one of my goals to provide teachers with the supports they needed, to provide a helping hand.
Phase One – Reaching Out
In order to help teachers grow as professionals, administrators do need to be willing to reach out and listen. The key – listening. Too often the paradigm is to provide answers or solutions, to give “supports” so teachers can get on with their growth. Some will know what they want to do and quickly move forward. Many others, however, aren’t really sure of what supports they might need or where they want to focus their growth. As people, they are busy trying to meet the needs of their students through their planning, feedback and interactions. They are building communications with parents. For many, their own professional growth is keeping up with the initiatives and directives that they get.
One way to help teachers is to provide 1 to 1 PD . As an administrator, time is a diamond commodity – it precious. In order to provide 1 to 1 PD for teachers, one needs to be do some preplanning to ensure the effective use of everyone’s time.
Three Step Plan
Professional Growth Plan –
Step 1 – start with listening/Identify strengths
I would meet with each teacher to listen to their goals. In this step, asking questions and listening are so important. “I want to use more technology” might be where the conversation starts but by asking questions and listening to teacher, we were able to narrow down and decide on some specific goals. “I really don’t know what I want to do” is okay too! Changes in teaching and the classroom dynamics may have some teachers unsure what or where to begin. Again, listening and asking questions about what they are doing right now is important. Focusing on areas where they are finding success is important. These can provide insights to strengths that can then be used to redirect to an area for growth. By providing teachers with lead time before this meeting and giving them a format for the discussion – the first meeting is to identify an area for growth – the teacher isn’t feeling like they have to make this plan by themselves. You are there as a support to help them. A simple form that has the teacher identify areas of strength in their teaching, areas of interest for Professional Development and their reasons.
Be specific with the goal. This isn’t the same as creating a SMART goal but the goal needs to have a specific focus. I would highly recommend checking out Beyond the To Do List by Erik Fisher. It gives some practical ideas to helping set specific goals. The idea here is to focus on using the strengths that were identified earlier to help in creating a plan for an area of growth.
Step 2 – identify what things are within the sphere of influence of the teacher and what supports they may need from you or others. Depending on the resource people that are available, this is a good time to identify anyone who might be able to help them.
Step 3 – set a date for the next meeting where you will discuss the plan the teacher will develop. It is important that the teacher be able to visit you to discuss things. This is where you, as an administrator can organize supports – training ideas, personnel, coaching, 1 to 1 time, etc
As I worked with teachers, I realized that I couldn’t work with all of them but that, through listening to them, I could support them in their growth through support. Recently I read what George Couros has been doing with teachers. As an administrator, this is one way that you could support teachers within your building by accessing resource people. Also, the idea of sharing that time and growth with others is a great idea that, as an administrator, will help others to see possibilities.
As an educational leader, you don’t need to have all the answers. You do need to use the tools and resources at your disposal to support teachers so they can “Do what is best for Students” and, just as important, share that learning with others. This allow individuals to connect and the synergy to take over. By leading others to connect with others, a leader is helping others find their passions and grow as an individual – nothing is more powerful than that!