Aloha

Aloha.   Not only is this the Hawaiian equivalent for the English ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’ but the embodiment of the Aloha spirit of compassion and peace. Last week I had the incredible good fortune to visit the big island of Hawaii and hike the forests and acres of volcanic rock and black sand beaches. There were many beautiful trees and flowers, notably the banyan trees that I thought only grew in India.  But there was one tree that  really stood out and that was the oheo tree.

The oheo tree is very special because it is the first tree that grows after lava has flowed.  The lovely Lehua flower is the fruit of the Ohia tree, displaying colors of orange, red, and yellow. It grows beautifully in the forest, but can also grow in an arid climate, shooting off air roots to capture moisture in the air. The ranger I walked with also said that during periods of drought the tree will take in less water through its roots, shooting off air roots,  so that a neighboring tree can survive.  We can learn a lot from an oheo tree.

The tree is also steeped in Hawaiian culture.  There is a legend that says that Pele, the goddess of the volcano,  desired a handsome man named Ohia. But, Ohia was already in love with another–the beautiful girl Lehua. Enraged, Pele transformed Ohia into  a tree on the mountain. Lehua pleaded with Pele to return Ohia to her, but Pele refused. So, Lehua went to the gods and begged that she be reunited with Ohia. The gods, having pity on her, turned Lehua into the beautiful red blossom of the Ohia tree so that they could be together forever. It said that when someone picks Lehua, still today, it rains because you have separated the lovers, and the rain is their tears.   No child in Hawaii ever picks the Lehua blossom.  Aloha.

 

Mother Moon

This is an old Indian story and one of my favorites.

Once upon a time, a long, long while ago, the Sun, the Wind, and the Moon were three sisters, and their mother was a pale, lovely Star that shone, far away, in the dark evening sky.

One day their uncle and aunt, who were no more or less than the Thunder and Lightning, asked the three sisters to have supper with them, and their mother said that they might go. She would wait for them, she said, and would not set until all three returned and told her about their visit.

So the Sun in her dress of gold, the Wind in a trailing dress that rustled as she passed, and the Moon in a wonderful gown of silver started out for the party with the Thunder and Lightning. Oh, it was a supper to remember! The table was spread with a cloth of rainbow. There were ices like the snow on the mountain tops, and cakes as soft and white as clouds, and fruits from every quarter of the earth. The three sisters ate their fill, especially the Sun and the Wind, who were very greedy, and left not so much as a crumb on their plates. But the Moon was kind and remembered her mother.  She hid a part of her supper in her long, white fingers to take home and share with her mother, the Star.

Then the three sisters said good-bye to the Thunder and Lightning and went home. When they reached there, they found their mother, the Star, waiting and shining for them as she had said she would.

“What did you bring me from the supper?” she asked.

The Sun tossed her head with all its yellow hair in disdain as she answered her mother.

“Why should I bring you anything?” she asked. “I went out for my own pleasure and not to think of you.”

It was the same with the Wind. She wrapped her flowing robes about her and turned away from her mother.

“I, too, went out for my own entertainment,” she said, “and why should I think of you, mother, when you were not with me?”

But it was very different with the Moon who was not greedy and selfish as her two sisters, the Sun and the Wind, were. She turned her pale sweet face toward her mother, the Star, and held out her slender hands.

“See, mother,” cried the Moon, “I have brought you part of everything that was on my plate. I ate only half of the feast for I wanted to share it with you.”

So the mother brought a gold plate and the food that her unselfish daughter, the Moon, had brought her heaped the plate high. She ate it, and then she turned to her three children, for she had something important to say to them. She spoke first to the Sun.

“You were thoughtless and selfish, my daughter,” she said. “You went out and enjoyed yourself with no thought of one who was left alone at home. Hereafter you shall be no longer beloved among men. Your rays shall be so hot and burning that they shall scorch everything they touch. Men shall cover their heads when you appear, and they shall run away from you.”

And that is why, to this day, the Sun is hot and blazing.

Next the mother spoke to the Wind.

“You, too, my daughter, have been unkind and greedy,” she said. “You, also, enjoyed yourself with no thought of any one else. You shall blow in the parching heat of your sister, the Sun, and wither and blast all that you touch. No one shall love you any longer, but all men will dislike and avoid you.”

And that is why, to this day, the Wind, blowing in hot weather, is so unpleasant.

But, last, the mother spoke to her kind daughter, the Moon.

“You remembered your mother, and were unselfish,” she said. “To those who are thoughtful of their mother, great blessings come. For all time your light shall be cool, and calm, and beautiful. You shall wane, but you shall wax again. You shall make the dark night bright, and all men shall call you blessed.”

And that is why, to this day, the Moon is so cool, and bright, and beautiful.

Being a mother is the hardest job in the world.  Our children don’t come with instructions.  There are no degrees in parenting.  Yet—we all need help with this important job.  Many of us have received expert help from our own mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, aunties, and sisters.  Never be afraid to reach out when you need help.  Someone, somewhere will have a way to guide you.  Thank you to all the mothers before me who helped pave my own path—–my own mother who taught me a sense of humor, my Aunt Lil who taught me about family gatherings, my friends Marsha, Darlene, Debbie, Doris,  and Anita—who told the truth about their struggles. I am especially grateful to my grandmother Mary, who spoke so lovingly to each one of her grandchildren.  She taught me the power of the spoken word.  Thanks to my babies who have now become mothers.  May your path of motherhood always be lit by the moon.

Let the Music Play

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Berthold Auerbach

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A few weeks ago my granddaughter played her violin in her first evening concert.  She is 6 years old  and her violin doesn’t even measure to my elbow.  String players from every grade, including the high school, played, and she was inspired to accomplish the sophisticated sounds of the seniors. She was struck with a bit of stage fright but managed to push through.  When it was over, she was filled with a sense of accomplishment that I had seldom seen in her.

As school districts everywhere enter into a new budget season, I worry about the status of music programs everywhere. With strict tax levy limits, increased unfunded mandates, and demanding curricula challenges, the arts can appear as an easy target to cut.  Here are some research based reasons why music is so important to our students:

1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.

2. A mastery of memorization: Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.

3. Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.

4. Increased coordination: Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.

5. A sense of achievement: Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.

6. Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.

7. Success in society: Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.

8. Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.

9. Students learn pattern recognition: Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.

10. Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.

11. Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.

12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity: Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.

13. Music can be relaxing: Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.

14. Musical instruments can teach discipline: Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.

15. Preparation for the creative economy: Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.

16. Development in creative thinking: Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.

17. Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.

18. Kids can learn teamwork: Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.

19. Responsible risk-taking: Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.

20. Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.

As budget season looms ahead, consider what is really important in the education of our children.  It is my fondest hope that my granddaughter will play on that stage as a senior and will inspire another first grader to forge ahead.

20 reasons are credited to the National Association for Music Education

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Blogging

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There is an enlarged cartoon hanging up in our main office at the high school.  It is a picture of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.  A potential resident in Heaven is approaching him. “Just one moment,” says St. Peter.  ” I need to check your Facebook account before I let you in.”

We have become very good at teaching our students about Internet safety and how not to post embarrassing pictures of ourselves on social media. What we need to do now is model for our students how to leave a digital footprint that is positive and impressive.

“One of the reasons social media has grown so fast is that it taps into what we, as human beings, naturally love and need and want to do—create, share, connect, relate” ( Jamie Notter & Maddie Grant).

We need to show our students how to create messages that persuade, entertain, and influence our audience.  Our messages must be written with intention, including an awareness of an audience we can only imagine. Facebook, WordPress, BlogSpot, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat have all had a profound effect on our schools, our families, and our cultures.  Let’s model how to drive these vehicles so that our travels are accomplished with an appropriate seat belt instead of proceeding with reckless abandon.

“Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand”( Amy Jo Martin).  Social media is not going away.

When I started my blog I had zero followers and I wasn’t following anyone.  That is how everyone starts out.  The important thing was my message.

Perhaps it is because I know we are our stories that I want people to share—to tell their stories and know that these stories are important for everyone. I think this quote sums it up…

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus   

 

Black and White BUT Mostly Grey

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Children are natural question askers.  They want to know why things happen the way they do and are trying to figure out the world. They are able to see things from multiple perspectives.  As we age, we get more rigid in our thinking.  Many of us have been raised on multiple choice tests in classrooms that covet the right answer.  But a major symptom of this style of learning combined with our natural proclivity to cling to easily digestible answers, is that we start thinking in two dimensions.  Something is either right or wrong, black or white. Opinions are formed and then held to, partly because it is easier to think in slogans.  “War is bad; democracy is good.”  These slogans become substitutes for actual understanding, and it’s not as benign as it seems. The slogan isn’t just a shorthand: It replaces thinking for many people, because it’s hard to generate real understanding.  It’s a lot easier to land somewhere simple and stay there. It requires less energy.

What I have  found is that most of reality lies in the land of grey.  When we look at those we admire, we try to find perfection.  Our heroes are flawed, but their lives are worth examining because we can learn so much from them.  Instead of trying to put a black hat or white hat on them, they need to be thoroughly examined.  People are complicated and we need to use many lenses when we consider decisions that were made and roads that were taken. Taking a point of view directly opposite from our own gives us a multidimensional view of an issue.  Putting things on a continuum, assessing the scale of their importance and quantifying their effects, understanding both the good and the bad, is the way to do it.   I think most truth lies quietly in the land of grey. For some of us this can be very challenging.  We are used to being on one side of the tracks or the other.  After all, if you don’t pick a side and stay on the tracks, the train is going to run you over. Perhaps we need a different paradigm. Rather than tracks or a boundary line on which to take sides, we need a continuum…. a line that runs in a circular pattern, giving a 3-D effect.  Understanding the other side of an argument  better than your own is the way to do it. Because truth always lies somewhere in between, and the discomfort of being uncertain is preferable to the certainty of being wrong.

It isn’t easy, but it’s not supposed to be.

 

Some of the material in this post is from a blog post titled The Value of Grey Thinking by Farnam Street Media.

Pivotal Events

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According to Merriam Webster a pivot is  “a person, thing, or factor having a major or central role, function, or effect.”  Recently I listened  once again to the Stanford commencement address given by Steve Jobs.  He tells three stories, each one a pivotal event.  I thought about what was a pivotal event  that changed me.  One of those moments was when I became a reader.

  When did I begin to read?  My earliest memory of reading was at the Brooklyn Public Library.  It was a modest brick building that was arranged like a split  level.  The downstairs housedlibrary all of the adult material, the upstairs was the children’s book section, and the central level held the librarian’s desk, periodicals  and newspapers. On Saturday mornings, my mother washed and waxed the floors in our apartment.   She systematically removed the table and chairs from the kitchen, and she would shoo me out  the door with my older  sister,  “Go and play and don’t come back until the floors are dry.”   We left the house and my sister was terribly annoyed that she was stuck with me for the morning. I had no idea how long it takes for floors to be washed or waxed and was happy to go with my sister.  My sister knew how to navigate the neighborhood.  She liked adventures.  She announced we were going to the library.  I was in second grade and she was in fifth.

The library was ten blocks away from our house, which was a long walk for me. I remember that it was hot and that my sister promised me that the library was air conditioned. The cracks in the sidewalk were filled with black tar and if I shuffled my feet a bit I could get the tar to stick to the bottom of my Keds and drag it along.  “Oh mom is going to love that on her clean floor,” my sister blew in disgust.

When we arrived at the library my sister stationed me upstairs at a table .  “Don’t’ move,” she ordered, “I’ll be back in a little while.”  She dashed downstairs to the adult section.  By  fifth grade she had read mot of the books in the children’s section and was granted special permission to take out books from the adult section.  The air conditioning was unbelievable.  It was even better than she promised.  I made myself comfortable and began to read my favorite story, The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.  I never tired of that book.  After some time, my sister found me and gasped.  “Oh my goodness,”  she exclaimed.  “You are still reading Dr. Seuss books.  You are going to grow up to be an idiot.”

She sprinted to the shelves and returned with three books:  Charlotte’s Web, a picture book of Indonesia, and An American Anthology of Poetry.  “You will finish these by next week and from now on I will pick out the books for you to read,” she commanded.  I never complained.  I was a little scared of her.   I remember sitting in my father’s great upholstered blue club chair and reading Charlotte’s Web.  Until that moment I did not know that a book could make you cry.  The day I finished that book I became a reader.

My sister was as good as her word.  Each week she picked out a selection of three books that I was to finish by Friday.  Sometimes she would ask me questions about the books.  I did not know what genre was or fluency or what level I was supposed to be on.  Sometimes the books were very hard.  Most of the time, I loved them.   Perhaps that is why I became a reading teacher —so that I could help people discover the treasure of books.

My sister still sends me book titles that she thinks I should read.  Now I know how lucky I am.

Do Report Cards Make the Grade?

report_card_color_curvyThis week I visited my grandchildren in Massachusetts.  My kindergarten granddaughter proudly showed me her wiggly tooth and then asked if I wanted to see her report card.  I wondered what this could say.

It was a simple report card that showed how she was faring in reading and number concepts.  There were a few areas that indicated if she was doing well or needed support and then there was a beautiful narrative that really told me what I wanted to know.

The summary was addressed to her, and although, this was logical, so few report cards are addressed to their students.   From reading the comments, I knew her teacher truly knew her.  She spoke about her artwork and how it calmed her and allowed her to relax.  She described her social skills and love of stories.

I thought of the elementary report cards that I worked on with some dedicated teachers.  I am not sure they achieved what we set out to do: tell our students and their parents  how they were doing in school in clear and simple language. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.”  Every student in our classrooms succeeds or fails for a multitude of reasons.  Sometimes, students aren’t interested in the topic , sometimes they have a broad background in the topic, sometimes they haven’t had breakfast or lunch or dinner the night before. But however they are doing, we as educators need to help them understand their progress with accuracy and gentleness.  Our students are as resilient as young twigs and as fragile as glass.  They remind me of eggs.  An egg  in its shell can withstand tremendous pressure, but if you don’t hold it just right it will shatter into a yolky mess.

Our report cards are an academic reckoning.  We must remember they hold us accountable just as much as our students.  We must deliver them with honesty, not jargon, with much attention to the affective side of the child.  Although many teachers hate the arduous task of the narrative, I think it is the best way to deliver a message.

One of my favorite authors is Patricia Polacco.  In one of her books a grandfather gives his granddaughter a book and pours a bit of honey on it.  The honey is to remind her of the sweetness of learning.  Perhaps if we can wrap our words with a bit of honey, our messages will be heard more clearly.  I am so glad my granddaughter’s teacher took the time to write so lovingly of her progress.  I will treasure that report card.

Cinderella and Star Wars

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A few weeks ago I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I didn’t know what to expect,  and purposely avoided watching any trailers or ads on TV.  I don’t know why I was so looking forward to this movie, but there was no denying a little thrill as I settled in with my popcorn.

I saw the first movie a lifetime ago, in a beautiful theater in Manhattan with old friends. We  had to be dragged out by the theater matron because we tried to watch it again when it was over.  As the opening crawl of giant words soared on the screen I was swept away with ,”A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  I knew I was being pulled into a story of great proportion that would stand the test  of time. It was part fairy tale Cinderella and part James Bond and part Sharper Image in space.  I loved the droids and Luke and Yoda and Princess Leia.  If only we all had Yoda to guide us through our own galaxy of troubles.

In the latest movie, one of the characters is  Maz Kanata, a bar matron who offers refuge and wisdom.  I was delighted to find out that she was based on a  teacher that the director and production designer both had in high school.

As I watched the movie, I was introduced to a new , tough character named Rey, a poor girl who is smart and scrappy.  Something about her reminded me of Cinderella.  I wondered if she was  a princess who had fallen on hard times.

Perhaps that is why I am drawn to the Star Wars movies.  I still want to dream of princesses in far off lands and mighty powers and wise sages with long cloaks and perfect advice.  I want to think of great battles between powers of light and darkness, knowing that light will always win.  Han Solo is still a smuggler, full of adventure, but he is pure of heart  and a complicated character.   The light sabers still seemed all powerful.

Despite the decades that passed from the first time I saw the lonely planet of Tatooine,  I loved the movie.  The battles between good and evil, light and dark will always continue.  I know the light will win.  “May the force be with you.”

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Happy New Year Baby

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When the phone rings in the middle of the night it is usually not a good thing.  This time it was.  “I’m in labor!” my daughter exclaimed. “I’ll be right there, ” I replied.  As I hung up the phone, I remembered I could not be right there.  My daughter was in Boston and I was in New York.  I calculated how many hours I had to drive and how far her contractions were, and then packed my suitcase.  I wondered what I would say if I was stopped for speeding as I hurtled down the highway. Would an officer understand that I had to be there for the birth of this baby?

I knew this would probably be the last grandchild born to my family.  I had to step on the gas and stay awake. I had plenty of time to let my mind wander.  I thought of all my grandchildren: bold, shy, dark, fair,  serious, and giggly.  One loves poetry, another prefers numbers.  They live in suburbs and cities, and rural communities.  Their schools are as different as they are.  One goes to a small public charter school,  one goes to a very large public school. What kinds of experiences will these schools offer?  Will my grandchildren love to learn?

As I raced north on I-95, I thought about my own early years in a NYC public school.  There were 40 students in my first grade class. We sat at tables of 5, and we learned how to read using the Dick, Jane, and Sally series.  I remembered my first word was ‘look’.  The teacher had drawn eyeballs in the circles of the letter o’s and I thought this was hilarious. How would this little baby learn how to read?  Would he like listening to stories?  Would he like writing stories?

“I hope they all play an instrument,” I mused.  I thought about the hours I had spent drawing and coloring and rolling out clay and once again considered how fragile the arts were in so many  school systems.  What would their teachers be like?  I thought it odd that I did not care so much about the curriculum.  I wanted these children safe and happy and cared for.  I wanted them to love learning and stay curious.

As I turned into the parking lot and raced upstairs, I saw my daughter, calm and steady, still talking through her contractions.  I knew I had plenty of time.  I made it.  Twelve hours later, on Sunday, January 3, Mason William was born.  He took a  very long time getting here, but I like to think he knew I was on the road, and he waited for me.  I remembered the little nursery rhyme that my mother used to recite to me:  Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace, Wednesday’s child is full of woe, Thursday’s child has far to go, Friday’s child is loving and giving, Saturday’s child has to work for a living.  But the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe and good and gay. How special that this little guy was born on Sunday. I hope the poem holds true, for his sake.

In a weary world of terror, calamity, and hardship, I am finding myself filled with hope and once again believing that miracles can happen.  May your New Year be as inspirational as mine. God bless us  all, especially Mason.

Why is Professional Development like Going to the Dentist?

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A few years ago, I told an old joke to my faculty.

A teacher had recently passed away and was greeted by Gabriel into the gates of heaven.  As he floated around, he saw a spectacular community of people, laughing and talking.  “Who are these people?” the teacher asked Gabriel.

“They are the doctors,” answered Gabriel.  Next they passed another beautiful community with lush surroundings.

Who lives in this community?”  the teacher inquired.

“This community is just for lawyers,” answered Gabriel.

Next, they passed gently rolling hills with grand buildings and pretty plazas, but no people were there. “Who lives here and where are they all?” the teacher asked.

“Oh,” replied Gabriel, “this is where the teachers all live, but they’re in hell right now getting professional development!”

My teachers laughed and applauded and shook their heads and I was dismayed at how heartily this joke resonated with them. What was wrong with our professional development?  Why weren’t they seeing any value in this?

I surveyed staff and talked to anyone who might have a dialogue.  I reconvened my professional development committee.  I continue to struggle with providing the right ingredients for great training, but I would like to share what I have discovered and uncovered.

  1. One time speakers and trainers, even if they are world renowned, don’t have any lasting effect.  My teachers refer to these trainings as drive – bys or ‘spray and pray.’  A single contact  from one of these gurus with a group of teachers may initiate a change, but is not sufficient to help teachers with long term change in their day to day practice,  and sustainability of the change. Complex models and programs demand sustained, coordinated, and job-embedded training.
  2.  Accomplished teachers are most knowledgeable about how students in their school learn and they are ideal candidates to lead professional -learning efforts (Vescio et al., 2008; Webster-Wright, 2009; Accomplished California Teachers, 2012).  I have identified a group of talented teachers who have been asked to provide specific training in technology and this model has served our district well.  Our ‘home-grown’ PD classes are always well attended.
  3. Research has emphasized the importance of developing math and science content knowledge, as well as pedagogical techniques for the content area (Blank, de las Alas, and Smith, 2008; Heller, Daehler, Wong, Shinohara, and Miratrix, 2012).  Providing sophisticated content knowledge on site for my high school teachers has been very challenging.  I have encouraged them to attend workshops at our local universities and BOCES.  We have begun using an online site called edWeb.net.  This site hosts dozens of webinars that end with a certificate for the teacher.  Unfortunately, the webinars are about 1-2 hours long, which doesn’t allow for in-depth learning.  I was hoping there would be a series of webinars  that scaffold learning so teachers could take 7-8 hours on a single topic.  I have not seen that yet, but I am sure this is coming.   We have also used some on-line services from museums such as The Prada, the Smithsonian, and the Museum of Natural History.
  4. The area of greatest struggle is not in learning a new skill but in implementing it, something referred to as the implementation dip (Fuller, 2001).  This  is true with any new skill–learning about writing isn’t as difficult as actually writing, learning about bicycling isn’t as difficult as actually riding a bike, and learning about a teaching method isn’t as difficult as actually implementing it. A teacher’s initial exposure to a concept should not be passive, but rather should engage teachers through varied approaches so they can participate actively in making sense of a new practice.
  5. Content presented to teachers should not be generic, but instead specific to the discipline.  This principle has cause me the greatest struggle.  It seems to me that some areas should be equally compelling for all teachers.  A good example of this general training approach would be learning about classroom management techniques or  learning about questioning techniques. Recently, I attended a training that was being given to teachers on how to present lessons to our growing English as a New Language or ENL students.  Teachers from all grades attended.  Their biggest complaint was that they wanted the training to be grade or discipline specific.  While there may be a few general principles that apply to all teachers I have learned that new practices are best understood and mediated with attention to how those general principles manifest within the content a teacher teaches.

Professional development is challenging to orchestrate and expensive.  However,  I believe it is the linchpin to transforming our classrooms into exciting places for students to prepare for our future.

Some of the material for this post came from the report by Allison Gulamhussein “The Effects of PD in an Era of High Stakes Accountability”