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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A good idea for PD presenters for RCWP/Liz Webb

10/26/06

This is Liz Webb saying “Hi” to all of my RCWP colleagues. (For those of you who know me, can you believe I am blogging?!!!!!!!)

I am thrilled to be participating in the NWP Tapped-In conversation with Troy as to how to improve the NWP offerings of professional development to our constituent districts and how to be a more efficient and effective NWP site. The conversation is extensive and informative if perhaps a little overwhelming as 50 people from the NWP network are weighing in on these matters.

I’m able to be here because I’ve recently retired from the public schools (an excruciating decision because as of June of this year I still loved being in the room with teenagers), so I now have time to do some consulting for the RCWP. I’m currently doing presentations on Writing Workshop at the HS level at Jackson and Lansing with Troy, Ninna, Joe and Marcia. I like it almost as much as I liked teaching, but now feel as though I have the time to do it without overwhelming myself. AND, I don’t have to get up at 5A.M. everyday, although on days when I do consulting I’m often up at 3A.M.

From time to time I will post some interesting ideas I’ve found that I think would be of benefit to all of us. My favorite one so far came from TanyaB, a doctoral student in Maine. She was responding to the question of how we can get teachers who are less than enthusiastic to buy into what they may consider to be “flavor of the week” in-service presentations.

“Hi Todd,
Your question raises so many conflicting thoughts for me. I noticed in a call out in Because Writing Matters (p. 66): "The NWP provides efficient and effective staff development to TEACHERS WHO WISH TO IMPROVE their students' performance in writing." I made a note of that: do we only reach teachers who want to improve? Should we be reaching other teachers? Are teachers who don't want to change reachable by any means?
A couple of years ago I was working with a teacher leader who had done a lot of very good work with peer coaching. She had us do something she called the "commitment protocol" (if I can find it, I'll post it, but I can't find it right now). She asked us first to work with a partner and just complain about the worst thing at school right now. Our partner was to just listen and respond however s/he might naturally (we each got a turn). Next we were to complain again, but this time our partner's job was to name our commitments that the complaint revealed. ie. complaining about interruptions, I see that you are committed to quality blocks of instructional time. Then the partner was to ask what we felt we had the power and energy to do to honor our own commitments. This presenter then asked us then to imagine the most sullen and cranky colleague we worked with. She reminded us that that person had commitments s/he was attached to. . . if s/he didn't CARE about school or students ! or the subject s/he taught, she wouldn't be so sullen. . . This was a powerful way of both understanding my own commitments, but also revisioning teachers I had seen as not participatory or involved.
I have always been good at asking teachers to examine the context for learning to think about WHY students might not be very motivated. I have sometimes had to work harder to think about my colleagues with as much generosity.I wonder what professional development experiences we can/do provide that help teachers to meet their own commitments/goals?” Tanya B

I (Liz) was so taken with this idea for changing negatives to positives that I thanked her for it.

“Tanya,
I hope you find the protocol you are carefully describing here as I would love to see it in full, although your description is a fine start. It reminds me of the idea that to be known is the first step in being respected. When we could have a vehicle for actually turning complaints into a positive statement of commitment, we would be well on the way to begin building a learning community of teachers no matter how harsh or negative the personal school/classroom concerns might be. In small groups I think an opening that invites teachers to voice concerns makes them feel as though someone is actually listening and it is a first step to breaking down resistance to what may be perceived as the ideas of an outsider. Turning the negatives into positives as you describe is an excellent start or extension of that idea. I think this could even be used in larger groups. Thank you for the stellar idea.” Liz


So for all of you presenters at RCWP, you might want to add this to your repertoire. I know I will.

Metaphors be with you.

Liz Webb

Friday, October 20, 2006

NWP Study Group on Inservice Design - First Post

As we prepare for an exciting year of professional development with sessions scheduled in Lansing and Jackson, our own Writing on Wednesdays, the upcoming trip to NWP/NCTE in Nashville, the Reading and Technology Initiatives and Bright Ideas in the spring, Liz Webb and I have joined an NWP study group on In-service Designs. Part of that work is to share our thinking and learning with our colleagues at our site, and we have chosen the blog to do it.

Today, the group leader, Shirley Brown, asked us to “briefly describe your local context and some of the formal and informal inservice your site has offered.” Here is my response that I would invite you to reply to so I can synthesize your ideas into our discussion with other sites.

Looking forward to hearing from you…

Troy



Many of the concerns that you all note about one-time sessions, changes in site leadership, and other competing programs ring true for us, so I won't echo them here.

When I look at Chapter 4 in Because Writing Matters, one quote stands out for me:
Most principals understand that teachers have good reason to be suspicious of the expertise of an outside professional consultant who may not have been in a classroom in years. As NWP founder James Gray says, "We believed that if school reform was to be effective, in-service programs must be conducted by the folks on the ground." pp. 64-5
Herein is our major problem. We have a fairly strong professional development program (one that generates income from sessions that we present in local schools) and a continuity program (where we offer sessions for our own TCs). However, we are struggling to find TCs -- the folks on the ground -- who can get release time from their classrooms to prepare for long-term PD commitments. If we are to have our in-services conducted by TCs who are in the classroom, then we have to find a way get them prepared to do high-quality, sustained sessions.

So, this year, we are trying a different approach to preparing TCs to do this work. We are still relying on Liz and another retired TC to do the bulk of our regular sessions in schools, but we are asking other TCs to develop just one or two 3-hour sessions over the course of the entire school year. By the time we are done, we will have coordinated series of eight 3-hour workshops for K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 ELA teachers as well as some reading and writing across the curriculum sessions. Some of these sessions will be offered after school, some at conferences, and some next summer, all with the idea that each TC will get a chance to present their session at least once and watch others.

Distributing the work has been a challenge (taking about two years to finally get going), and then coordinating what everyone has done will be a challenge, too. However, we feel like we are moving in a positive direction and engaging about 20 of our TCs in the process. Ultimately, this will create leadership at the site and sustain the work over time, but it has been a bumpy road to get here.

It sounds like distributing the workload has been a challenge for others, too. What are some of the ways that you prepare coordinated sessions that many TCs can be prepared to deliver? How much to you demand that they follow a "script" that the site has prepared and reviewed in some way as compared to letting them just repeat their demo?

Also, how do you balance the desire to get PD out there gratis, as compared to the need for covering your costs (and making money for other programs, like youth camps) and charging fees from your local schools?