How to Make Your PD More Powerful


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 255

Hey builders. Before we begin, I have a quick question for you. Are We Connected on social media? The reason I'm asking is because as much as I love giving you the podcast episode every single week, I'd love to take our relationship deeper. So if we're not connected on on social media, let's connect. I'm on LinkedIn at Robyn, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robyn Jackson, please, let's connect so we can keep the conversation going. Now on with the show, you're listening to the school leadership reimagine podcast episode 255. How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How can you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. 

I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we're going to do a short but sweet episode, that's going to be highly practical to help you do something that's really going to support your teachers growth. And that's differentiate differentiating your professional development. So first of all, let's talk about why it's important to differentiate your professional development. We all know that PD is it's not good if it's one size fits all. But the problem is we were never trained on how to truly differentiate our PD. And so a lot of times we try to give people choices, and we try to do all these things. But that's not true differentiation, it just creates more confusion and more overwhelm. So a lot of times we have these PD days, and we say well, you can pick which session you want to go to. And then we're running around creating all these sessions. And then people pick the session that you know, seems the easiest, or it's taught by somebody they like or, and then there's no accountability for that P PD to be applied in the classroom. You don't have any control over how what sessions people need to go to people choose sessions and you're like, you're going to that session, you need to help over here. And so there's no direction and you don't get what you want. It's it's a lot of work. And there is very little to show for it. 

So today, I want to show you how to be a little bit more intentional about the professional development that you give teachers so that you can meet teachers where they are, so that they can take the PD that you are providing for them, and use it in a way that actually moves us you and your school closer to your vision, your mission and your core values. So the first thing you have to understand before you begin differentiating your PD is that no matter what you are teaching, or what you're asking teachers to do, there should be an expectation that if they do what you're asking them to do, it will either move you towards your vision, your mission or your core values. If the PD is not moving your teachers towards one of those three things, you should not be doing it. So a lot of times we go somewhere, we're like, oh, we need this, oh, we need that. And we were relying on our leadership training, which says, oh, there's stuff out there. There's best practices. And we need to be teaching our teachers that Southern world the best practice, but will that best practice get you to your vision, mission and core values. And if you have not thought through that, first, you're not ready to roll that PDL to teachers. And if you do it without thinking through it, first, you're wasting your time and you're wasting your teachers time. So the first thing is that before you do anything, you need to make sure that the professional development you are providing builds teachers ability to either achieve your vision for 100% of your students, or take the work that they're doing to achieve your vision and make sure that that work is in alignment with the mission, the bigger why get the work more closely aligned to why you're doing this work in the first place. Or that PD is going to help your teachers better embody one of your core values. 

Let me give you an example. 

Let's pretend that your vision is that 100% of your students pass algebra one by the time they leave eighth grade. Okay. Now, you might be thinking, well, that's only for math teachers. But now algebra one involves a certain kind of reasoning and thinking that can be taught in every single classroom. So Is the PD that you're providing for Teachers Helping Teachers understand the kind of reasoning and thinking that is required by algebra one, and showing them how they can apply it to other subjects? If it's not doing that, why are we doing it? Second thing is that, let's say that's your vision, but your mission is also we want to spark curiosity and a love for learning. While then you does your PD show teachers how to spark curiosity and the love for learning. If not, you don't need to be doing it. Let's say that your core values are keep it simple. And the second core value is stick with it until you find a solution. Does your PD show teachers how to simplify their work? Or give them strategies for finding solutions? So if your PD is not moving your teachers closer to your vision? If it's not directly impacting your mission, or your core values, you should not be doing it. Okay. So that's first. Now, once the PD has passed that hurdle, the next step is that whatever it is that you want teachers to learn, you have to ask yourself, Okay, we're doing this PD, what do we want teachers to do with it? So is this information that's just like, Oh, that's nice, but I'm not expecting teachers to apply it? Am I expecting every teacher to take this PD and implement it in their classroom? am I expecting teachers to take this PD and adjust it so that they can implement it in their classrooms? Like what do I want people to do with it? And I am always amazed when I talk to principals, and I say, Okay, well, why are you doing the PD? And they said, because the teachers need it and said, Well, what do you expect them to do with it? I wanted to use it. How exactly? And they don't know, because they've never been asked that question, and they haven't thought it through. 

So I want you to do that. Now, when I give this PD, what is my expectation around how teachers will use this PD, and you need to be very, very clear. And until you are clear about it, you don't need to be sharing that PD, you need to know what you want teachers to deal with it before you roll it out. So that the expectation is clear from the very beginning. Okay, so the third thing that you need to consider is that teachers no matter who they are, they're always going to fall into one of four categories. When it comes to the thing you want them to do with the PD. There's some teachers who don't understand it, who don't have the knowledge or skills necessary to implement that PD effectively. There's a second group of teachers who can take that, that PD, and they can begin to implement it, but they're going to struggle with implementation, the implementation is going to be incomplete somehow, they may try it once and fumble at it. And then they do it inconsistently going forward, they're going to struggle with the implementation themselves. There's a third group of teachers who are already implementing that PD to some degree, but the way that they're implementing it isn't serving all kids. And so it needs some refinement to in order for it to be able to serve all kids. And then there's a fourth group of teachers who could probably teach that PD and do just as good of a job at it as as whoever you hired, or whatever program you're using, they're already implementing it, they're already doing a great job. And they will not get value out of that PD, unless that PD pushes their practice for it. They're looking for ways to take what they're already doing and push their practice forward. And so you have to make that they have to have that consideration. 

All four groups of those teachers of teachers is going to be in that PD. And so as you're designing that PD session, you have to figure out what parts of the PD are going to be appropriate for the teachers who have no clue what this is, have never done it before, are lacking the will or skill to be able to do this, really don't know how to do it, and are going to need very, very structured learning, because they are starting from scratch, then what parts of this PD are going to be appropriate for the teachers who already kind of understand it a little bit, but they're going to struggle with implementation, what parts of this PD are going to be appropriate for the teachers who are already doing it and really just need refinement. And then what parts of this PD are going to be appropriate for people who are doing it very, very well, to help them begin to adapt it for the one or two kids that they may not be reaching entirely just yet. So you have to consider that Now sometimes people will decide based on what the PDE is and what they want people to do with it, that I need to break teachers into four groups. Other people will say that I can do that in the same group, but you have to consider that and differentiate the PD for the people's needs. Now here's What happens if you don't do it? If you just try to take PD and just kind of, you know, pitch it to the middle, the same thing will happen in your PD session that happens in classrooms, you're going to have the teachers, some teachers are going to be really lost, some teachers are going to be really bored. And even the teachers who are quote, unquote, in the middle, where you've pitched it, are going to find that PD incomplete, because it doesn't exactly meet their needs, everybody's going to have to take that PD and do more work in order to meet the expectations around how they implement that PD later on. 

So you need to be very, very careful. 

Now, a couple of questions. I know you're probably thinking right now, if you split it up, the teachers who have no clue are going to feel like I don't want to be in the lowest group, you can't split it up that way, what you do is you have you start out by saying having the teachers self assess, you start saying, Okay, this is what we're doing. Now, if you are, if you understand it, and you know that, then here, if you don't understand it, and you have questions about the data, then you go here, if you are already doing it to some degree, then you're going to go here, but you can have teacher self assess, you can divide teachers into groups based on their needs without making it feel like this group is for the dances, you can say that for some of you, this is a brand new thing. So for you, we're going to have a session where we really help you establish it. For others of you, you you've done some work around this to some degree. But some of that work has gotten off track, some of that work is incomplete. Here's what we're going to do to do it. You can have teachers move through the stations, you can have teachers test out of different there all kinds of things you can do.

Hey, it's Robyn here real quick, I just want to interrupt this episode for just a second. Because if you are enjoying what you're hearing, then would you mind sharing this episode with somebody else. So all you need to do is just go to your phone, if you're listening to it on your phone, or your podcast player, and then click the three dots next to this episode. And I'll give you the option to share the episode that if you do that three things are going to happen first, the person that you shared with is going to think you're a hero, especially if they're struggling with what we're talking about right now. They're going to love you. Secondly, you're going to feel good because you're going to get the word out about builder ship and start building this builder ship nation. And third, you will get my eternal gratitude because I really want to get this out to the world. And you'd be helping me out, you'd be doing me a huge favor. So please share this episode with someone right now who's who's dealing with this same issue, someone you think would really benefit. And now back to the show. Approach your PD the same way that you expect your teachers to approach their classroom, if you're expecting teachers to differentiate and use the strategies of differentiation, use those same strategies for differentiation for the professional development that you're providing for teachers so that you can give teachers what they need.

Okay, so the first step, it has to align with your vision, mission and core values. Second step, you have to have a clear expectation for how you want teachers to use the PD. Third step, you need to differentiate your approach so that it meets teachers needs, recognizing that your teachers will be somewhere in those four groups, either they don't know, they're struggling with application, they need help assimilating it into the practice that their existing practice, or they need help adapting it to their unique situation is going to be one of those four needs, make sure that there's something in the PD for all four needs, okay? Now, the fourth step is that once you have delivered that PD, you need to create a feedback loop. And it doesn't have to be you. There are opportunities for teachers to get their own feedback. And they don't need you to provide it. There are opportunities for teachers to provide each other with peer to peer feedback. And there may be times when you need to then do some walkthrough work to give teachers feedback and to assess how the implementation is going. But there needs to be some sort of feedback loop that is non evaluative that helps teachers take the PD implemented, and then get real time feedback to help them get better at it. Remember, feedback is just simply saying, here's the expectation. And here's how close or far you are away from the expectation. So that can be something that teachers assess for themselves. It doesn't have to be something you provide, but there needs to be a feedback mechanism there. And then finally, there needs to be an accountability mechanism. So you could do PD all you want, you can set expectations all you want for teachers to use it. But how do you know that teachers are actually using it? Where is the accountability? So you don't want to be draconian you don't want just come in like with your checklist? And so you had a PD on Monday, Tuesday. expect to see it in the classroom. And if not, it's going in your file. Don't do that. 

But at some point, teachers need to be accountable. 

We always think that accountability means I've got to go, and I've got to check. I've got to hold teachers accountable. But we're ignoring one of the best and biggest accountability sources we have, which is our students, you see if the PD that you're providing is connected to your vision, mission and core values, if the idea is that, by learning this, we're going to either better achieve our vision, get work that's more on mission or be more in alignment with our core values, then your vision mission and core values become the accountability mechanism. So I do a PD, I expect people to then take that PD and implement it in the classroom, I give them PD for where they are. So either they are acquiring a new skill, they're getting better at applying the new skill, they are assimilating the new skill into the practice, or they are adapting the new skill so that it serves all kids, they're doing one of those four things, then the and then I'm giving them feedback back on how well have you acquired it? How well are you applying it? How well have you assimilated it? Or how well? are you adapting it? So I'm giving them feedback on that, then the ultimate accountability is, okay, we've done all of this, do we see a difference in the movement of your students towards the vision? Do we see a difference in how aligned the work you are doing with students is to our mission, do we see a difference in whether or not the work you were doing is in alignment with the core values, that's the accountability and teachers can assess it for themselves, they can assess it for their their team or their department. And then you can provide feedback overall, as a school how how much better we are at either delivering on our mission, our vision or our core values. 

So the alignment when you do this right, is naturally a part of professional development. So if you start out by selecting PD that has a direct impact on your vision, mission or core values, if you then go through the process of making sure that you're setting clear expectations around how teachers need to engage in that PD and what you expect as a result of that PD, if you then give teachers PD that's differentiated in a way that that supports them where they are, and creates clear expectations around what they will be doing with the PD, if you then follow up by having some built in feedback loops afterwards, as teachers are implementing the PD. And then if you create that accountability piece by going back and measuring, did this PD move us closer to our vision, mission and core values, that's when you can begin to see results. So rather than rolling out professional development, that you hope will work and hope will make a difference. And spending all this time and energy trying to develop design PD that teachers are gonna love and design PD that you know, will hopefully inspire people to apply the PD, it's a lot of hope going on. Instead, if you are intentional about setting up your professional development in a way that creates that, that built in accountability that gives that built in feedback that's differentiated to teachers needs that directly aligns with their vision, mission and core values that sets clear expectations, then you can be sure that the PD that you provide actually makes a difference in the practice of teachers. So now you have a choice. Do you continue to do PT the way you've always been trained to do it and hope that it works? Or do you take the time to be more intentional about your professional development, so that you can actually see your results from your PD? Because you implemented your PD, like a builder. I'll talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside. You'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join bill to ship University. Just go to Bill Watership and get started writing your school success story today. Hey, it's Robyn here. And I want to thank you for listening to today's episode. And if you have a question about today's episode, you just want to keep the conversation going. Did you know that we had a school leadership reimagined Facebook group, all you need to do is go to Facebook, join the school leadership, reimagined Facebook group. Now they're going to be a couple of questions that we asked at the beginning, because we want to protect this group and make sure that we don't have any trolls come in, and that it really is for people who are principals, assistant principals, district administrators. So make sure you answer those questions so you won't get in but then we can keep the conversation going. Plus, we do a lot of great bonus content. I'm in there every single weekday so if you have a question or comment above the episode, let's continue the conversation.

Join us at the school leadership reimagined Facebook group, and I'll talk to you next time.

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