Leading Your Staff cclicensed flickr image courtesy of Thorne Enterprises
A principal has an overwhelming amount of tasks to complete on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. From discipline, facility and student needs, staffing and who knows how many others, the job can be exhausting at the best of times. Over the past couple of years, I began to think more about teacher professional development and how I could help my staff. Since I became a principal very early in my career, I did not put this aspect of administration at the forefront of my duties. Most likely because I was overwhelmed with the overall learning curve of school administration and all the associated tasks. Then add-on a significant teaching load, where I had many new courses to deliver. Lately though, I have thought a great deal about how I could help my teachers better themselves and in turn increase learning for our students.
Two of my more recent reads include What Great Principals and Great Teachers Do Differently, both books by Todd Whitaker. One common theme denotes how principal’scannot choose their people entirely, so an administrator is left with two choices:
1. Hire great teachers (when you get the opportunity) and
2. Make the ones you have better.
The second strategy is one I feel can be ignored for a variety of reasons. It’s especially tough for younger administrators to feel comfortable helping more senior staff in the area of professional development, unless the admin. has a real comfort zone in a particular area. While an administrator cannot be knowledgeable in every subject area or strategy, they can be great support people. For this year, I have made it my admin. goal to help teachers get better.
How can an administrator then help teachers with meaningful PD? I find the use of division based PD only scratches the surface and does not translate into the classroom very often. I think our school division has taken notice of this and has really stepped up to provide meaningful PD for its teachers. The alignment of sessions that promote division initiatives and teacher choice can translate for better learning opportunities for students in a significant way.
The use of growth plans (PPGP’s) are beneficial to both teachers and school administrators. Here teacher choice (for growth) and alignment with a schools Learning Improvement Plan can translate into some wonderful learning opportunities for students.
How does one go about this? Again the use of the growth plan is key with the administrator supporting the process. This year our staff is using growth plans as stated below:
1. Teachers pick one area for growth and set their goal.
2. We have a common technology goal as a staff.
As principal, I meet with each teacher and discuss their plan, how they will achieve their goal and how I can support them. In #2, we are using a common technology goal for two reasons:
1. To increase each staff members technological literacy level.
2. To provide a framework for consistent PD in their choice area.
For #2, we started the year with teachers learning about Google Reader and Twitter. My goal was to help them get a framework (Google Reader) so they could build a network (Twitter) and obtain resources to help them achieve their goals. There is a great deal of follow-up with each staff member, but overall rewards can be significant. My hope is that technology can help each staff member with their own personal goal in the PPGP, and that tech. will help them in future years as well.
Supports for PPGP’s and technology include division consultants and our TLT teacher . I want to use them more this year in the area of teacher growth and find these people can be a valuable resource as well.
There are many other methods one can use to help teachers become better educators, this is just my plan for this school year. As administrators we encourage teachers to take risks, and we should follow suit. The plan (for PPGP’s) I have outlined here was also done in collaboration with my staff. It is my job to keep communicating and supporting my teachers in any way possible.
As always I welcome your input.