When Teachers Want Professional Development Hours


A few weeks ago I was notified that a couple of teachers were looking to engage in a book study as part of their required yearly professional development hours. These teachers wanted a book recommendation…

Yes, some argue there are several problems with an hours-based approach to professional development. However, in this instance, I believe we were able to transform the need for hours into an opportunity.

Now, a couple of weeks and an Amazon purchase later, six primary level teachers will be partaking in a Reading with Meaning book study, while four intermediate level educators will be reading and discussing Notice & Note. Also, the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and both building principals have agreed to get involved, and I offered to read both books (almost done) and facilitate the professional learning.

Along with the fact that diving into these books (which both focus on close reading) can undeniably benefit our teachers and students, here are a few others reasons why these book studies are of significance for our District:

  • Close reading (and perhaps these same exact books) could easily serve as the focus for future professional development sessions, and it’s a topic for which several teachers have requested. So, these studies are possibly “planting seeds” for upcoming learning and blurring the lines between when an initiative does and doesn’t exist. In other words, I recommended books that wouldn’t be looked at as an add-on or “just one more thing,” and I made sure to communicate this intention with teachers.
  • Books are powerful (and I am lucky to be working in a small district in which it is easier to blanket an entire level of teachers with the same reading). While books alone do not create change, I have always thought that buying everyone the same book is a solid starting point for moving forward as this approach encourages common language and messages while giving teachers the courtesy to “make it their own” (as opposed to following a program with fidelity). By the way, the “right book” for professional learning should be research-based but user-friendly, practical, actionable, and thorough but not too long.
  • Both building level and central office administrators will be involved, to some extent. As I have experienced throughout my career, “If the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen.” Repeatedly, I have seen ambitions crumble when principals are not on the same page as central office, and vice versa. Consensus is a must.

Although education’s hours-based approach to professional development may still need some reimagining, we are proud of our book studies and being able to turn a need into opportunities…Rather than simply looking to fulfill required hours, we will be engaged in quality, sustainable learning, which wouldn’t have happened had a group of teachers not reached out for a book recommendation. So, kudos to them! About a year from now, I am hopeful we will be able to look back and pinpoint these studies as a pivotal point for the elementary level’s teaching and learning of reading comprehension.

How has your district grappled with the hours-based approach to professional development? Also, what are your overall thoughts on our book studies? What experiences have you had with Reading with Meaning, Notice & Note, or any other close reading resources?

Connect with Ross on his blog and on Twitter.

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