May 18, 2014

The Same People

A couple weeks ago some consultants from Landmark School came in to meet with teachers (individually or in teams) to discuss lessons. This is the third year we've been working with the same consultants, which is amazing. I was willing to bring a lesson that I knew needed improvement because I knew who I'd be meeting with (the same woman from this post in 2012!). People were willing to admit things went poorly and ask for help because these weren't strangers judging us. Not only have they run PD with us on numerous occasions, they've also visited our classrooms. They've learned about the student population we are working with. They know the school. This is exactly the kind of help struggling schools need. In a district where a new initiative is announced at every PD, three years with the same people, preaching the same message, and then sticking around to help us figure out the steps to get there, is nothing short of a miracle. 

Keeping the same people around means: the language is consistent. No one is showing up with a new silver bullet that's really the same techniques we tried last year but wrapped up in different lingo. People shut down once they figure out it's the same thing we've already tried. Even if this new group does have something important to say, many have already shut them out as a passing fad.

Keeping the same people around means: we can get past the obligatory introductory PD to get everyone on the same page. Putting the whole staff in a room to talk about why your program is the best doesn't reach many people. We regularly have PD where 1-2 people from each department serve as representatives, they attend the PD with the official person then bring back what they learned to the rest of the staff. It's better because the representatives can present to people they know (and thus cater to their audience) but this is still mostly a "Here's the philosophy, if you have questions about implementation next week we'll be gone!" The folks from Landmark have gotten past this stage and spent substantial time with the 9th and 10th grade teams. Now they are setting up these lesson discussion days: "Sign up for an appointment and ask for whatever help you need." They've figured out where the staff is as a whole and are now able to meet us where we are. 

Keeping the same people around means: they can point out the changes. When you're in the middle of something and there are lesson plans to write plus a crisis to handle, it's hard to see beyond today. But when these consultants come once every few months they can walk through the building and notice the differences. I did walk throughs with one of them last month and she regularly said, "I didn't see this two years ago." And that's really important to hear. 

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