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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…


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?


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