Better than donuts?

donutsflickrcindyfunk       I’ve probably written this post before.  But a long conversation with a teacher brought up my concerns with inservices yet again.

We know what works for inservice–prolonged coverage of a subject, a mission that people buy into,  small groups, choice, and self-directed learning.  We also know that sometimes a district needs to convey information/techniques/methods to their staff. 

So, how to reconcile those things and still have an effective, productive use of time, so that everyone isn’t just going through the motions and just hoping for a nice lunch?

One word–Inspiration.  Wouldn’t it be nice if on inservice days, that’s what we were fed with our donuts?

Real inspiration–inspiration that makes you go, I can’t wait to get back to my classroom and do this–I can’t wait to see my students–I love what I do.

How do we invite teachers into inservice in a way that lets them know–this is different–we are breaking the mold and what we want to end up with is that you feel inspired?  And is that possible on days when the inservice really is just needed to convey information?

It takes planning to break the mold; a sense of enthusiasm and mission; commitment on both the part of the presenters and buy-in on the part of attendees(buy-in which has to be earned).

It takes true love of your subject to lead/plan such an inservice.  It takes teachers who aren’t tired, sometimes.  It takes giving people a break to learn what they need to know.  It takes interaction and feedback.   It takes care.

But what if–what we wanted to accomplish most of all–was to move our mission forward with inspiration? 

First this has to start with a clear sense of mission.  Over and over I go back to my experience at Science Leadership Academy–a school where you walk in the door and you know the founding principles around which the school is organized.

Everything happens more or less around those vision questions.  And when SLA  held the first Educon conference, it was organized around core questions as well: 

1) Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members.

2) Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen

3) Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.

4) Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate

5) Learning can — and must — be networked.

What if our inservice year was oriented around core questions–questions our own schools devised?  How would that serve the purpose of inspiration?   How would that move our mission forward more effectively?  How would that improve teacher buy in?

If we make our mission the North Star of our schools–then it will guide everything we do–including our inservice and training.   It will bring that coherence of purpose that inspires, pushes us to try harder, and engages our highest imagination as educators. 

And in both the long and the short run, it’ll be better, more filling,  and more refreshing than donuts.

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2 thoughts on “Better than donuts?

  1. As I read your post, I was nodding my head the whole time, but I heard the teachers I work with in the back of my mind repeating what they always say: “But when we get back to our classrooms we need the technology to work. We need access. We need the support of our administration.”
    I’m thinking we should consider adding a 6th item to the list. Professionalism from teachers with solid leadership and follow-through from the administration. What do you think?

  2. Lisa,

    As far as the technology “working”, I do think it’s of course essential for the buy-in on all levels–the IT staff has to also understand that the mission is pedagogy, not technology, in order to really support what teachers are doing in the classroom.

    The administration needs to support open access, teaching outside the box, and really take the lead in conveying that sense of mission in everything they do. (As Chris so clearly does at SLA).

    I think latent in almost all educators is a desire to do well and to help students, but in the midst of millions of demands, that can get lost. That’s why I do think we need a North Star to really guide us, keep us aligned with our purpose and to inspire us to broaden our students’ horizons.

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