Monday, November 1, 2010

Out to Sea

Now Spot, I don't want you getting any ideas or anything, but imagine what it would be like to just take off one day in a little white boat and head out to places unknown. What if the pure purpose was to plan and execute your own education, to travel somewhere else to learn. Imagine how inspired you'd be!

Well, Spot, after seven years, a teacher has that opportunity, or they did at one time, anyway. They could actually take off for half a year or even a full year and still maintain their salary. Good for the kids, great for the teacher. Sabbatical-noun: an opportunity to gain new learning; to open the mind to a new way of thought.

In today's world of education, sabbatical is a phenomena that's been phased out, mostly because of cost. Paying for a substitute teacher while maintaining the regular teacher's salary is cost prohibitive, so therefore it doesn't exist. In its place, professional development became a way of bringing the best minds in education into a district or a single school building to bring to life research-based instruction ideas right to the staff on the frontline. In my current district, I've experienced the best of the best from Columbia's Teacher College Writing Project to H. Lynne Erickson's Concept-Based Instruction.

In the past two years, my colleagues and I have begun to follow the Dufour's approach to teaming with the Professional Learning Communities. PLCs are not a new concept to me. Teachers focus on data, and purposeful goals, sharing their best teaching practices is something that works well for me. PLCs, done well, require time and conversation to really go deep into the work. The Dufour approach requires teachers to come together regularly in order to design a purposeful, united community that has the child's best interest at heart. It requires hours of trusted sharing and listening with a vested commitment to the learning outcomes of each child.

You know you belong in a PLC if:

1. You believe the fundamental purpose of your school or district is to ensure all students learn at high levels, and you are committed to become a lifelong learner to make this a reality.

2. You think collaborative teamwork and interdependence among teachers and administrators is a great way to continuously improve your school or district.

3. You are hungry for evidence that students are learning and are ready to respond immediately when timely feedback tells you otherwise.

The greater community is clamoring for results. They're pointing all their energies at putting our schools under the microscope. But often, Spot, public criticism mounts before an idea is understood. Right now, we have a wonderful dig deep, to use the cost-free talent of our professional educators, the ones that shine inside our ranks.

Right now, more than ever before, teachers need support and understanding in order to accomplish some pretty high level goals. We have an enormous initiative in place called RtI which requires us to identify, assess, frequently monitor and intervene to insure proper outcomes for students at risk. We all want to see that happen Spot, but we need those in the know to spread a positive word, to support our work and to restore public respect to the art of teaching.

So Spot, spread the word...the learning never ends for you or for me. And that my friend, is a very good thing! I can't take off in a boat, but I can knuckle down and refresh my practice just like others out there in the professional world. And that is a very good thing for you!


  1. What an outstanding post, Mrs. Lynch!!

  2. Thanks, Donna! What a great day we had...filled with lots of great accomplishments for kids.

  3. This piece exemplifies exactly the kind of message the superintendent and BOE should be putting out there for the public. If they were, there wouldn't be the controversy that is currently brewing over professional development days for teachers. Instead the superintendent makes absurd statements like in-servicing teachers on the distinction between 'Your' and 'you're'. Unbelievable! With your permission, I would love to use some of the content of this post for an upcoming Newtown patch article.

  4. No problem, George! I have to say an old dog like me loves all this inspiration in the form of professional development. I am taking a wonderful course online with one of my colleagues after school from the University of Michigan too...Teachers as Leaders...of writing that is, particularly because that is our district's goal. It's all good. Lots of great minds at Reed, despite what might be out there floating around in the wind!