Sunday, September 9, 2012

Developing the Whole Teacher

Several Twitter #chats of late have focused on professional development… usually surrounding the idea of how to engage teachers (or more cynically – devolving into how to get teachers to show up for PD trainings and why teachers won’t try anything new).   Many a tweet bemoaning the lack of teacher interest in after school lectures on using social media in the classroom, Stage Two intervention strategies, setting Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) for the Indiana RISE Evaluation program… Topics which advocates claim increase student learning and student engagement because students will achieve if only we meet them where they are and engaging them in the mediums they prefer.  Ok - I buy that "meet them where they are" argument.  But I seldom hear the same thing about engaging TEACHERS as LEARNERS where they are and through the mediums they prefer.   

I’ve written before about shifting from Professional Development to Faculty Formation.  Last January, a small team of faculty/administrators (myself included) began a journey with the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA) model of faculty formation.  First we inventoried our formation offerings within three areas – Professional, Personal and Spiritual.  Try this exercise… make a 3 column spreadsheet, graph, drawing, 3D model out of clay (BYOT baby…).  Then fill in all the development opportunities your school offers under each category…. It’s okay, I’ll wait…..

I will share our experience… by far our fullest column was the Professional.  We offer travel/registration funds, webinars, newsletters, after school/brown bag lunch/just in time workshops… and collaborative professional development locally (Indianapolis private schools), state associations, regional (Independent Schools of the Central States), national (Jesuit Secondary Education Association) memberships/workshops/conferences/materials.  Our second column was Spiritual (we are a Catholic school after all so we hope we have this one covered) full of new teacher monthly formation meetings, prayer groups, Spiritual Exercises, retreats, spiritual directors.  Our distant 3rd was personal… (we do have an awesome Wellness Committee working toward making us healthier and Wellness Center to sweat in).  But how many PD types really address formation on all these levels? (Not me for one) How many of us administrators are just focused on “professional” opportunities to beat the test (AP Workshops), meet the mandated evaluation requirement (RISE Indiana), or integrate technology (but we bought all those iPads, Jen….).  How many of us are actively planning growth opportunities for the whole teacher?

We talk a lot about educating the whole child.  And that’s great!  I and a lot really, really smart Jesuits concur… but what about the whole teacher?  Even the business world understands the importance of care for the whole employee… why else does Fortune Magazine rate the “Best 100 Companies” every year? (On the list of amenities for 2012 are cafes, bocce courts and other fitness facilities, flexible work schedules, telecommuting, eye brow shaping… and educators are spoiled?).

So let’s start 2012-13 with this challenge… look at the whole teacher and try some formation focused on professional, spiritual (you can insert “mind” here o’public school friends) and personal growth.  Try developing the whole teacher - I bet you find a few more people darkening your door.

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and may your development sessions be full.

PS – remember your administrators too!  We are people too… really, we are… and we like non-fat vanilla latte’s on bad days (thanks @msmooreenglish)!

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