By Stephanie Patton
My first professional development experience was listening to the principal of my school reading a four-hour-long memo to the staff. She read each bullet point out loud, and then discussed it at length. Looking around the room, it was clear that no one was paying attention. Staff members were slouched in their seats – some were talking with those around them, others were staring at the wall. One staff member was asleep and began to audibly snore. All of this was occurring on the eve of the first day of school, with students due to arrive bright and early the next morning. This day of professional development seemed to drag on, feeling long and unimportant. So you can imagine my reaction when I learned that at my new school, a high-performing charter school, we would have three weeks of professional development before students began school. What could we possibly need three weeks for?
Turns out, a lot. The three weeks of strong summer training I experienced that year fully changed my view on the amount of time necessary to execute effective PD. When we were done in mid-August, I was craving more.
Summer PD is the most important training you will plan and execute all year. If executed well, it allows you to build your team so that everyone is driving towards the mission and vision of your school. If executed well, it helps you build a team that understands the goals of the year; A team equipped to successfully execute on those goals. If executed well, summer PD flies by, leaving teachers wanting more – which is exactly how I felt at the end of my first true summer PD experience.
So how do you use summer PD to set the year up for success? How do you ensure that every precious minute is well spent? While sessions and goals will vary slightly school by school, these best practices should inform any successful approach at planning this lengthy training:
1. Set priorities and goals for the school year
Whether you are in your founding year or your 10th year of operation, you will have annual goals and priorities for your school. Ensure that these are set and articulated before you begin planning PD, as they will be a key component of the training. If you haven’t set a goal, your staff has nothing to drive toward during summer PD.
2. Articulate the purpose and key components of goals
The overall goal of summer professional development is to set your team up to successfully execute on the school’s goals and priorities for the year. If your priority for this coming year is rigorous questioning, devote time to make this happen. Generally speaking, summer PD often includes onboarding new team members, refreshing core classroom management techniques, reviewing schoolwide systems, building and revising curriculum, setting up physical space, sharing goals and metrics for the year, and inspiring/energizing the team for the school year.
3. Set clear smaller objectives for each category of PD
Once you have the larger purpose and end goal(s) figured out, begin mapping out the smaller objectives for each category. For example, if you are onboarding new team members, you will have a number of objectives in that category:
- New team members will be able to execute delivery of consequences to drive positive classroom culture aligned with [School Name]’s approach to consequence delivery
- New team members will understand norms related to communication at [School Name] including e-mail response time and…
- New team members will be inspired to be a part of the broader team and understand the general history of the organization
- New team members will be able to plan a strong lesson using [School Name]’s lesson planning template
Once created, you can determine how to sequence these objectives and how much time to allocate for each one. Map the sessions out on your calendar, and then ensure that the time allocation is indicative of your stated priorities. If your priority is pushing student culture, ensure that the time you have allocated to this reflects that it is a priority. One hourlong session on culture doesn’t really scream “priority.”
4. Plan and practice individual sessions
You have your purpose, goals for the year, objectives, and calendar – now it’s time to plan and practice the individual sessions. Paul delves deeper into this section next week, in his blog post: “Planning a Strong Summer PD Session.” Stay tuned!