The reason why my non-teaching colleagues never learn
In reality, there are probably several reasons, not just one.
The heart of the matter, I'd suggest, is that we see schools as the domain of students and their teachers. Everyone else plays a supporting role and, as such, are relegated to the back of the professional development bus, if they are lucky enough to get on the bus at all.
And what it is like, back there in the last row?
The first thing to say is that it has nothing to do with the amount of funding allocated to professional growth. It's much more subtle than that. Being at the back of the bus means that the only things we can think of offering you is another time-management workshop or, failing that, the opportunity to learn a foreign language.
And even when you do find a meaningful professional growth opportunity, we insist that you sit down quietly and wrestle with a form - a form in which you have to describe how this opportunity will impact student learning or enhance your classroom effectiveness. We insist on answers (even made up ones) in an attempt to demonstrate how learning-focused we are.
So what's the solution?
The thing is, schools are the domain of students and their teachers. But they are also learning communities in which every member of the community should be empowered to reflect, grow, inquire, try new things, fail, adapt and learn.
Over the last months, we've developed a framework for professional growth that, we believe, includes everyone - students, teachers and non-teaching colleagues. It's now an expectation for all employees, rooted in three fundamental ideas:
Professional growth occurs when it is measured against standards
Professional growth is a self-directed enterprise in which there is always some kind of written reflection or growth record
Professional growth is rooted in feedback from a range of sources.
When it comes to professional growth for staff, what's new here is the idea that all of us support the mission of the school by being connected to its story, managing a set of processes and relating to people: story, people, process. From this, we have been able to draft an initial set of standards and a continuum.
For the first time, we can locate where we are and discuss where we want to go, based on a common understanding of what good looks like. For the first time, we can sit together on the bus with our colleagues and chat meaningfully about what we learned at school today.
Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/jirsak