Friday, October 31, 2014

So what do those teachers do on those days anyway?

I recollect back when I was in school, that we used to have these periodic days off that weren't listed as holidays on any calendar.  As a kid, I couldn't have cared less the reason why I got out of school early.  Now as a parent, I appreciate the disruption school inservice days can present to families.

So what do those teachers do on those days anyway?  The answer to that question varies.  However, professional inservice days are extremely valuable time for schools and teachers.

I had an opportunity a couple years back to attend a Woodridge Chamber event where (then) new Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts talked, among other topics, about how players would be coached fundamentally the exact same way from rookie ball to when they reached the major leagues. 

There’s an obviously parallel to schools here.  While each teacher maintains their own styles and strengths, there are teaching techniques, learning topics, and behavior strategies all staff need to be aligned on.  We want to make sure we use common language regardless of whether we are working with first graders or fifth graders.

Despite lots of creative scheduling which emphasizes collaboration, schools remain largely compartmentalized.  Teachers and support staff likely spend most of their time working with a small specific group of other staff.  In order to collectively implement strategies that build culture, discuss emergency procedures, or formulate common expectations for our school, we need time to meet and discuss those issues as a staff.   Inservice days give us those opportunities.  Inservice time is also occasionally when teachers from different school to share learning experiences and successes with each other. 

Sometimes teachers spend these days writing curriculum, and other days they are learning about curriculum.  We've had the luxury of having leaders from the field share their expertise with us, and on other occasions, we have our own district staff sharing their expertise.  And sometimes, teachers are provided time simply to reflect on their craft and process all new learning they've been asked to quickly apply in their classrooms.

Simply put, inservice days offer schools and teachers a forum to get better.  Demands are justifiably high for schools, and changes come quickly.  Without time to hit pause and work & learn together, consistency becomes impossible.      

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