Months ago I received and email from the resourceful and talented Donna Smith where she invited me to join her staff in October.  This past week I then joined the staff of Arrowhead Union High School for a day of professional development.  The general structure of the day was simultaneously traditional and a departure from the usual.  Professional development can be regarded as an awesome experience, but more likely it is regarded as something the likes of eating your least favorite vegetables.  To quote the thoughtful David Jakes

Professional development carries baggage, and lot’s of it.  For teachers, it’s seen as more institutional control and time-wasting on topics of little interest and meaning to them.  And for the institution, and one even with the best intentions and programs, it’s about low attendance and interest on the parts of teachers, complaints about time, and little carry-over to the classroom.

While I cannot ensure that every person was thoroughly engaged in the day, I believe that there were some incredibly intentional features of the agenda that contributed to a productive and enjoyable day.

  • Teachers were heavily involved in the process of planning and scheduling the day
  • There was fun involved – the intro of the day was a staff created video, a script that was read by multiple staff members peppered throughout the auditorium, prizes were given out at the end of the day
  • Delicious food was served – breakfast included such rare features of a school breakfast as fresh berries, muesli, yogurt, melon – there was a much anticipated snack break with caramel apples and toppings.  Lunch was delicious –  two types of chili – four types of cheese (it was Wisconsin after all).  These moments of breaking bread and shared meals really matter in maintaining community.
  • The morning sessions were short and moved quickly, lots of idea gathering.
  • The afternoon session was completely unscheduled with staff members free to work with the material from the morning and make sense of it in their own practice.

None of this is incredibly revolutionary, but it points out a few things I’ve watched schools get wrong in the past: no time given within the day to process the information learned, no sense of fun, teachers left out of the planning process.

So, this week’s installment of Getting it Right goes to the fine staff at Arrowhead Union High School in Hartland, WI led by their supportive principal Gregg Wieczorek.  Thank you for including me in your day.