Reflections on PD & Choice & Hope

I am not, as I recently heard a colleague say in reference to herself, a “Positive Polly”.  At least not lately.  The confluence of broken contract negotiations, laws and media that attack my profession, the retirement of a beloved boss, and a new teaching assignment (in addition to personal life stuff) has left me feeling…lost and afraid, I suppose.  But in the midst of winter, I found, if not an “invincible summer” (sorry Ralph Waldo), something to inspire hope.  I want to share.

District teachers and administrators met for a day of professional development on MLK day last week.  I have a rocky history with district-sponsored PD.  This time was different.  In advance of the day, our new assistant superintendent for instruction organized several folks from both within and outside the district, to offer conference-style workshops.  Even better, staff were given the opportunity to select the sessions that most interested them.  There were nearly a couple of dozen choices, and I found myself in the wonderful position of having to choose between multiple learning opportunities of interest to me.  I also  had a chance to present, which was a great learning experience.  This probably doesn’t sound all that groundbreaking to the larger world, but it was a big deal to me and many of my colleagues.

Being given choice is something that every learner, and most educators these days, know the power of.  The opportunity to choose confers an unspoken respect on the chooser.  The message I got was, “Hey, you are trusted and competent, and we’d like to offer you some opportunities to continue to evolve your practice in ways you deem most appropriate as a reflective educator.”  And it just felt really good.  Like a little ray of light in the dark.

dark candle by Wim Vandenbussche

And I’m going to try and hang onto that.  The professional development I signed up for challenged my thinking, and that is important.  And the way the PD was planned and implemented is also challenging me to re-frame how I see my circumstances.  For me, at this moment, that is of greater importance.

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