When PD Becomes Crisis Management

#SOL16 Day 12Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 5.11.16 PM

Yesterday sign ups opened for a workshop day next week. I love that our district is adopting an EdCamp-ish model of offering voice and choice in our professional development opportunities. I’ll be presenting at one of the sessions, and so I had two others in which to choose my own PD.  As I looked down the list of offerings I was struck by how many were not related to academics at all.

  • Active Shooter
  • Homelessness
  • Marijuana/Vaping/E-Cigarettes
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Substance Abuse
  • Pain Based Behavior

Schools have clearly had to become more than institutions of learning. We’ve had to Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 8.12.28 AMbecome caregivers. That is not to say we hadn’t always been to some degree. Most of us are here to teach the child and not just the curriculum, and so we have always looked for ways to support the needs of our learners; whether they were academic, emotional, social, or physical.

Our schools offer food, clothing, counseling, behavioral support, health care clinics, dental cleanings and screenings, vaccinations, homeless liaisons… Teachers are expected to become highly qualified in our area of instruction and ensure that ALL students become highly proficient in achieving the standards. In essence, we are expected to become everything for everyone.  And we try! I don’t know how many conversations I have each week with teachers stressing over their struggle to meet the needs of a child (or children) in their classrooms because their needs are greater than we can address.

And so I applaud our school district for recognizing that teachers need support to help these students, and that these students may have nowhere else to turn for that help. I am proud that our teachers are putting the most basic of our students’ needs first and learning about ways to address them.   But I am sad that we don’t have more sessions for sharing amazing book titles, implementing genius hour,  sharing successful strategies and practices, etc. I am sad that our students need us to focus our energy and professional development on dealing with societal issues that are causing them such trauma and grief. And I am incredibly sad for so many of our students.

I will balance my day by offering a session on Close Writing to help foster greater purpose and passion for our students in writing, and then taking sessions to help me better understand the non-academic needs of my students. I will focus my professional development on supporting the whole learners…the human beings who are counting on me to make a difference in their lives.


Oh, and our high stakes standardized testing starts the next Monday.  Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 8.13.57 AM‘Nuff said.

8 thoughts on “When PD Becomes Crisis Management

  1. As I read the part about you teaching about Close Writing, I thought how through writing our stories and sharing them, a community forms and with community, we belong and feel safe and maybe less of the other kinds of PD would even be needed. The same goes for reading books with the lens to know how to live. But for now, it sounds like your school district is offering a balance. Good luck presenting!!

  2. Should we mention the artificial PD that focuses on the TEST? Thank you for your candid reflection filled with compassion. Thank you for your encouragement to “balance the day.”

  3. Our district faces the same challenges. We know teachers need PD in curriculum, but there are so many other issues facing our students. How to deal with it all without burning out our teachers? It’s an ongoing problem. I hope we can find some balance.

  4. This is such a real struggle. We want to see rich sessions on love and joy of reading, deep thinking, connection building, wondering, and exploring…but first we need to find out how to reach our students, provide them with a safe place to learn, build relationships with and between them, and meet their most basic needs. Thank you for writing this piece.

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