PDQ: professional development, quickly

My definition of flexible in the Library Media Center changes each week. Sometimes, in the course of a day. In December, my Principal approached me asking if I would go to a literacy training. Flexible this time meant going for training.

I had no clue what I was in for- but, well let's say I wished every Media Specialist in the county had been there. You see, I attended a session by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris regarding Reading Wellness and walked away empowered and armed to better help my teachers!

A few weeks later, 4 more teachers from my school went to an additional session by these experts- and came back also feeling empowered as teachers. We talked for a bit, and the idea arose to do a book study together. Just like that! And then it happened: our school's copy of Reading Wellness arrived in the courier. Yes, the 4 of us fought over it- and it was settled: I'd start the plan for a staff development/book study group and make it happen.

Because I'd only done book groups with students, I wondered how to do it with staff. I called in an expert: Barbara Sorensen. If you don't know her, you should. She's a gift. Barbara has a way of posing questions that leave you thinking. She has a way of presenting ideas that are practical and relevant. And, I have to say, that was the best way to start a work week: meeting with her!

I listened, and drafted a plan. Barbara's big advice: savor the book. Take one piece at a time- marinate on it. Let it change you. She affirmed my thought~ that 's what all teachers want their students to do. Read, engage, act and be changed by the text.

So Valentine's morning my son wanted to go the the library. Having more books in my to read pile than I think I will ever get through, I broke out Reading Wellness  and started on the Foreword.  And I was stopped in my tracks by this statement by Christopher Lehman:

Our best work happens when we align our instructional decisions to their strength and next steps--when our children become our curriculum, their actions our data, their potential our standards.

Speechless, I tell you. I had no words to write. No thoughts to bring. I could only "marinate" as Barbara had told me. Until this past Friday...when a teacher shared she needed some ideas for her kids. 

Last Friday, we had a staff development session from 2-4pm. After the session was over, a third grade teacher approached me. She indicated that she needed something to push her kids with. They were just doing the minimum, not stretching. She was beginning biographies, and wanted a way for them to connect and go deeper with them than the typical biography assignment. I had just the thing.... the Heart/Head/Hands/Feet (HHHF) lesson from the workshop I went to in December! 

So, impromptu PDQ staff development: pull a few books, grab a HHHF chart, talk her through an example. Give her a copy of Reading Wellness  which details out the HHHF to read over the weekend. 

Enter Monday: we come to school knowing we are leaving 2.5 hours early for an impending Winter Storm. But guess what she did in that morning? She modeled her very own HHHF chart with her students. 

Here's her response to the lesson:
  The lesson was SO great!  It really helped the kids.  I modeled, they followed and did one on their own and then they made a graphic organizer for their journals.  It was a great intro to biographies and many of the kids used it again that day with other bios.

You may wonder how all of this relates to flexibility? Flexibility is also a mindset. You never know what door might open- what you might learn- and how that might impact others. Being flexible allowed me to say "I'll go." Being flexible brought me a great new lesson to use with teachers. Being flexible allowed me to be armed and ready for this teacher to have a great experience- and for kids to learn. 

Professional development, quickly-well sometimes, that's all we need to get jumpstarted. Thank you so much Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, Barbara Sorensen, for great PD. Thanks to Christopher Lehman for words that are still resonating with me: driving me to help teachers make a difference for their kids. 


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