28 July 2005

The Evolution of Inservice

The last couple of days, I've been posting about the upcoming inservice days my district will be having. And since the concept and themes for these days was brought up in April, I have had a major concern about sustainability. Maybe that isn't the right term---but what I'm trying to work out is how we take this one day inservice and give it legs. If our message is so vital, how do we make it part of the classroom every day?

My district has really bought into the idea of coaches for math and literacy (reading/writing). They have primarily been assigned to the elementary schools, but my school had a literacy coach for two years. For classroom teachers, these people are a fabulous resource. They are experts at putting research into practice and are there to help design lessons with teachers, teach model lessons, help with reflective practice, and more. (You can read more about coaches here. ID: bugmenot@123.com; Password: password) I know that coaches will help with our district focus where they can.

The big emphasis these days seems to be on "job embedded staff development." This means that instead of taking a day to go to a workshop, you take a day to work with colleagues. It occurs during the work day (hence, "job embedded") instead of after school or on weekends. Preliminary research seems to show that this is the most effective way to help teachers become better practitioners. Education Week has a nice article on professional development and current thought around it. (ID: bugmenot@123.com; Password: password) Lots of us are searching for answers when it comes to helping teachers be better at helping all students achieve.

The one problem that I've run into (so far) with the job embedded model is that teachers don't like to be out of the classroom. Not that I blame them. It's a pain to prep for a sub and to have to come back and deal with things. The staff development has to be so good that you can tip the scales to make teachers feel that their effort to be there is amply rewarded. I believe that's a fair expectation. And it will be up to me in the future to make sure that I do that.

I know that my district is working to have professional development evolve to include two days per year per teacher for observing in other classrooms. I'm not sure how they'll manage that. We're talking about over 700 teachers...180 class days (not all of which are suitable for observations: first days, state testing, end of semesters)...and subs are always a premium item.

I am glad that inservice is starting to change. I'm not sure what it will look like in another ten years. My guess is that the focus will continue to be on classroom practice, but I hope by then that we will have figured out most of the "hard stuff" related to student achievement. I'm sure that there will be new challenges by then.

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