05 December 2009

Isn't That Special?


I know it might not look like much, but this binder has a bit of magic in it. Its contents were developed about five years ago, just as my career was making a change and this blog kicked up. I was tasked with getting the secondary science program in the district more, well, program-like. As such, I needed some way to collect and organize the myriad pieces for this process. This bit of cardboard, tape, and file brads was just the thing.

This was my first time to lead this sort of project. If you're so inclined, you can peruse my archives to see how things started, what happened next, anticipating the end, and moving to the next stage. There are other miscellaneous posts that refer to this project, but in many ways, the posts are not the most important documentation or legacy. For a variety of reasons, the binder itself is.

One of the most frustrating things about developing and delivering professional development (PD) is that it is usually only done once. Now, I've sat in on enough bad PD to understand that sometimes, once is more than enough. From a planning standpoint, however, it's kind of a bummer. I typically spend anywhere from three to eight hours planning per hour of delivery. That's a huge investment for something that can only be used once---no matter how large the payoff in whatever product or outcome is created by the group.

But this binder lived on. Once the pieces for moving a group through a standards-based scope and sequence process were in place, others adapted and used it. The binder lived for awhile with the language arts group. It stayed with math and guided them. It even went to another school district for nearly a year while they hashed out the same science issues that we had. After every trip, it made its way home to my file box. From time to time, I pulled out a piece to refer to, but I could never quite bring myself to just disband the item or throw it away.

I even brought it with me to my new job. I'm not sure why I made that choice, when so many of my other tools and products are packed away in the basement. Perhaps I just needed that little bit of magic sitting on the shelf, whispering that I can do this job...and do it well. Or maybe it was a trophy of sorts. It might not mean anything to anyone but me, but it made me smile to see it there.

After more than a year of sitting on a shelf collecting dust, I am pleased to say that the binder is being called back into action for one more tour of duty. There is a new process I'm involved with, and as I started to put materials together, I realized that some of the pieces for the kickoff (e.g. roles/responsibilities, norms...) were sitting a few feet from my desk. It's like working with an old friend---it's comfortable. It's special.

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