It’s late. My house is quiet. Even the teenagers are asleep. But I’m not. My mind is spinning too much to let me rest.
I could use the rest. It has been a busy month/week/day. But tomorrow (I guess it is actually today now) is a big day. It is our first Professional Learning Day of the school year.
I love PA days. I’m enough of a teacher-geek that, while there are lots of interesting things to do as a principal, getting to spend some time teaching and learning with staff is a highlight of the job.
This PA day, however, has me thinking a little too much. I’m not sure why. That’s why my head is spinning.
The topic isn’t that strange. It is a variation on a PD session that I have participated in many, many times. We’re looking at system goals, deconstructing student learning, analyzing evidence and setting school goals. It’s a pretty typical beginning-of-the-year session.
But for some reason, the session tomorrow (um, today) has me thinking about Friday night movies. You know those Friday nights when you want to celebrate the fact you made it through another long week but you are so exhausted that all you can manage is to curl up on your couch and find an entertaining movie to enjoy? I was thinking that those movies tend to fall into two categories. You’ve got your quirky or surprising or shocking flicks that blow your mind because they are full of surprises and shift your understanding of film entirely. Can you think of what some of those have been for you? You probably can, because when you experience a mind shifting kind of movie it becomes unforgettable. But then there is the other type of movie. That’s the old familiar: you choose it because it is a comfortable genre, with a predictable (but enjoyable) story line and maybe even featuring some well known actors that have often been with you in your living room on Friday movie nights. How often do we turn to these kind of comfortable type of movies? For me, it’s pretty often.
So what do Friday night movies have to do with PD? I’m glad you asked.
The session we’re working through tomorrow (right. Today), has the makings of an old familiar movie. We know what the story line will be as we follow through on our predictable steps of reflection, deconstruction, analysis, construction and plan for future analysis. We’ll fondly recall the actors to get us through the movie; those strategies we’ll plan to use (the need for ongoing feedback and assessment, small group and differentiated instruction, meaningful tasks, learning revolving around critical skills). We even have a familiar setting in the system goals we’re aiming for: getting kids to read, write, engage in mathematical thinking and do so with enhanced personal and social well being.
But. The teacher-geek in me knows that all of that can lay the groundwork for a pretty mind-blowing second act. If we do our job right tomorrow and develop a common understanding of our goals, their purpose and the means to help us reach them, we’re setting ourselves up for some exciting times. Because that’s when it happens, right? When innovation or creativity or some mind shifting unforgettable-ness (I’m making up words now. It’s that late) can occur because we have all focused in on what needs to be done and why we have to do it.
Educators are all about routine and structure and familiarity except when they’re not. And when they’re not, they are all about finding new ways to get our students to learn even better than they have before. That is, essentially, our two movie mash-up; the best of both Friday night movie night worlds.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense to you. I’m not even sure if any of this will make sense to me once I’ve had a chance to rest and reflect. But for those who find themselves engaging in a familiar pattern of professional learning tomorrow (I know. I know. Today) or in the next little while, I wonder how you will approach it. Will you roll your eyes and say “here we go again”? Will you settle back to just comfortably absorb an old familiar story? Or will you find your popcorn and get lost in it all from the opening credits knowing that you might just experience something unforgettable if you keep with it?