Last week, we held our annual division wide professional development day. Over the past number of years, we’ve morphed this day to be far more engaging for our staff through self-selection, the utilization of expertise within our division and a focus on professional dialogue around learning. We’ve also been able to incorporate an edcamp or open spaces format into the day to further support the professional autonomy of our staff.
This year, I was honored to be asked to provide the opening keynote address. The message requested, by the ATA PD committee who in large part organizes this day, was to remind our staff of the freedom they have given by me to break old pedagogical rules that no longer serve our students well. In other words, let’s look at how we can do things differently in the classroom and in our schools to enhance our students’ experiences and promote higher levels of learning. Although recognized as a high performing and innovative division, we must always be striving as professionals to hone our skills and increase our learning.
I usually offer an additional session during this day where staff members can sit around with me in a causal setting and just ask any question that they have. It is a great opportunity for me to further engage with staff and allows me to more fully understand what myths may need to be dispelled, issues need to addressed or simply what conversations need to be had. Although this is a scheduled session, quite often throughout the day, I’m drawn into additional conversations with staff. I relish in the opportunity to engage with our staff because I learn so much!
When I hear our teachers sharing their expertise and reflecting on their own practice in engaging dialogue, I get pretty excited. I heard about high school English teachers looking at eliminating outcomes that really don’t serve students well, junior high teachers developing cross curricular courses and elementary teachers ready to adapt their instruction the next school day based on the latest diagnostic assessments. This is what can occur, when people in my position provide a liberating environment to take a chance and go beyond one’s comfort zone.
“If you limit yourself to what’s comfortable you deny yourself what is possible.” Dan Thurman
And these conversations align perfectly with the Ministerial Order on Student Learning not an archaic movement to go back to the basics! Our students deserve engaging classrooms and real life experiences. Content heavy curriculum must be replaced by project based learning and competency attainment to ensure deep and engaging learning. Surface learning or simply covering the curriculum will not suffice!
It is music to my ears when I hear our teachers grappling with their instructional practice and dialoguing on their impact. It confirms their desire to become the best possible version of themselves. And that is what is needed to educate students who are Engaged Thinkers, Ethical Citizens with an Entrepreneurial Spirit; exactly what our world needs!!!