I left the campus principal role a few years ago and moved into central office to lead curriculum and instruction at the district level. One of the things I still try to keep as a priority is to attend PD sessions with district teachers and leaders. I do this to monitor the quality of the PD I am sending district staff to but I also do it to build my own knowledge and skills while also connecting with the teachers in my district. I want my teachers to know I’m approachable, I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to learn new things and I want to stay in tune with what is happening in the classroom.
I believe most campus principals share my thoughts. Campus principals are always thinking about professional development for their staff and looking for ways to improve student learning through better teaching. Campus principals know an effective professional development (PD) plan can be one of the best ways to improve student learning and develop a cohesive campus culture. All too often the campus principal is the one providing the professional development to the staff or is responsible for authorizing and sending staff members to various PD opportunities. However, I suggest one aspect of PD that principals should consider more carefully is the process of learning alongside their staff. Yeah, that’s right! Principals should attend PD with their teachers and learn with them.
There are 4 good reasons why principals should attend PD sessions with their teachers. I hope the 4 reasons I’m going to share with you inspire you to join your staff in learning at an upcoming PD opportunity.
- It’s Fun!
- It’s easy for principals to get caught up in the day to day administrivia. There are many days where principals can feel far removed from the teaching and learning that goes on each day at the campus because of the administrative duties that come with the position. Principals should be the instructional leader for the campus and while most principals love the challenge of leading a campus, they also know that it comes with a price that often times removes them from being directly involved with student learning like when they were still teaching. By going to PD with their teachers, principals get the opportunity to reconnect with the skills and experiences that attracted them to education in the first place.
- Getting out to a PD workshop with teachers can make the process of staying current on best practices and researched-based instruction much more interesting, engaging, and relevant. Don’t just read an article or a book but rather jump in with your teachers and learn in an authentic and meaningful way! That is much more fun!
- Learn about and relate to your staff!
- Much like sitting down at a meal builds fellowship and helps one get to know someone, attending PD with your staff and learning beside them is a bonding experience. By participating in PD, you get to engage with your staff in a way that is different than the typical supervisory roles and duties principals take on. By learning with your teachers you get to see their thinking and understand what they value and how they reflect on their practices. Opportunities for deeper discussions about learning and the teaching craft can occur in an authentic setting like a PD workshop.
- Also, don’t bail out at the lunch break to go answer emails and return calls. Take the lunch break and go eat with your staff. Again, this provides wonderful opportunities to learn more about the personal side of your teachers and you can share similar stories and happenings as well.
- Show them you are a learner too!
- When you attend PD sessions with your teachers you let them know that you are a lifelong learner and are willing to acquire new skills and understandings as well. It shows them that you are vulnerable and interested in the things they do day in and day out with their students all year. It will also provide you a natural connection to deeper conversations later in the year as you and your teachers reflect on what was learned at the PD and how they are implementing it in their classroom. You will also have a better understanding of how the PD fits with the initiatives and goals of the campus from firsthand experience.
- Identify potential leaders!
- Another aspect of attending PD with your teachers that can pay off in the long run is the opportunity to identify potential leaders on your campus. By engaging with teachers in PD you will begin to see which teachers are natural leaders in those kinds of settings but you will also be able to see your thinkers, dreamers, and even your pioneers who are willing to lead the charge!
- By having a deeper and more authentic understanding of the skills and personalities of your teachers, you can better match leadership opportunities with teachers on your campus. You don’t have to leave it to chance or to those who always tend to lead but instead can tap into the experiences you had with your teachers during the PD and connect the traits you saw in your teachers with the opportunities on the campus.
So this is a call to all principals (and even central office leaders), go find some PD opportunities for your teachers and be an active participant with them! You just might find you enjoy the opportunity to learn with your staff while at the same time building trust, competence, and a culture of collaboration!