Permission Granted

Today my home district kicked off its year-long, job-embedded, professional development opportunity with Powerful Learning Practice, founded by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  The 45 teachers from SAU 16 who will be a part of the TristatePLP cohort began the process of thinking about and challenging the way they think about teaching and learning.  It was a spectacularly tiring day, as teachers were both overwhelmed and excited about the opportunity with which they were presented.  In their respective Keynote addresses, both Will and Sheryl stressed the need for our teachers to be selfish about their learning – to take time to learn for them, not necessarily their practice.  It struck me that Will and Sheryl had to stress this point, but as I thought more about this I realized teachers need permission to learn and as I reflected more about this throughout the day, I realized that this isn’t a phenomenon unique to my home school district – in every school I have ever worked in, teachers have needed permission to take the time needed to learn.  Further, as I reflected upon my experience as a teacher participating in professional development, I can recall either thinking about the “final” project that I had to produce or how I was going to translate what I was learning into my classroom.  There was always a feeling that if I did not apply what I learned in my training to my practice immediately that my training was not worthwhile.   That came in part from the pressure of administrators and school boards to justify the expense of professional development and also by presenters to justify their costs by having teachers develop action plans or receive “take homes”.  As a result, teachers feel pressure to turn their professional development into immediate lesson plans whether they are high quality or not.

My point here is not to begrudge professional development.  By and large we spend too little time developing our craft.  But, how often do we – do I – grant permission to teachers to learn, to grow, and to develop their craft with the appropriate time needed to apply what they learn to what they do?  As I evolve and  grow professionally as a learning leader, I have to remember that professional development needs to be structured at a pace that is consistent with teachers’ ability to develop high quality practices and if that means that they need to be given time to learn without the pressure of immediate return, consider permission to be granted.

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4 Responses to Permission Granted

  1. Allison Bzdafka says:

    I am one of those “overwhelmed” but “excited” teachers from SAU 16 and want to share how lucky I feel to be part of a group that has permission to learn! A huge thank you to Tony for helping to facilitate this opportunity! YOU ROCK!

    • tbaldasaro says:

      Allison, I am glad that you were able to join the group. This is going to be an amazing experience for us. I think it is important to note that this blog post wasn’t about our group specifically. But through several conversations yesterday I began to think about this idea that teachers (and I consider myself a teacher) need permission to take time learn for themselves. I think we will do that here with tristateplp, but all PD needs to provide the time needed to build high quality experiences for our students.

  2. Angela Bellantone says:

    I think that most often the pressure to apply what we learn immediately comes from ourselves as teachers, not necessarily from administrators or school boards. I think most teachers have a natural tendency to think of their students before themselves, and so we immediately think, “How can I use this in the classroom?” Sometimes, though, we might better serve our students in the long run by putting ourselves–our learning–first. But it’s a hard shift to make.

  3. RobD says:

    Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google your post looks very interesting for me. I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work! :)

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