Professional Development With A Side Of Pineapple

What would happen if we invited parents and students to professional development workshops? That simple yet profound question was part of a recent live chat for the Innovative Teaching Academy brought up by George Couros and A.J. Juliani in #ita17. It was one of those ideas that instantly resonated with me. Why had I never seen this? Why had I never thought this before? I’ve seen scenarios where a district brings in a specialist to talk to staff during an early release or workshop day, then have a separate event for parents or families in the evening. Sure they often suggest that teachers are welcome to come back for the parent session but do we ever suggest the opposite? And, if not then why not?

I decided this was one of those simple changes that was so easy to make it would be foolish not to try. As luck would have it, I was already set to lead two professional development sessions for support staff within the month during parent teacher conferences. Our topic focused on research tools they could use with their students inside our G Suite platform. Seriously, this was so easy it would almost be more work not to try it.

I made my sign, decided it needed to be bigger, printed it up and hung it on the doors of the library before each day of conferences. I put it up in the morning each day and kept it up through the following morning curious if I would get feedback from fellow teachers or administration. I also tweeted pictures of my sign to both the school Twitter feed and my personal feed. Then I waited…

I was super excited when someone responded on Twitter that they liked the idea. Then I realized it wasn’t a parent but a relative of a parent who lives many states away. I was momentarily disappointed that I hadn’t reached my intended audience. But then I realized what I had done- I shared an idea with someone much farther afield than I had anticipated. That’s actually pretty fabulous if you think about it.

On the second day of conferences one set of parents came in and sat down to listen in for a few minutes. It was near the end of our session and we were wrapping up something. They didn’t really get to participate and I’m not sure they got a full picture of what we had been working on. Again, momentary disappointment. Then it hit me, I’d empowered those parents to come in and sit down. I asked them and they confirmed that they came in because of my sign. What might have happened otherwise? Would they have assumed they were “interrupting” and just backed away? I think it’s pretty likely. So again, how fabulous is it that such a simple invitation opened a door and a path for those two parents. Hopefully it also changed their expectations. What would happen if parents expected to be included? I’m not sure yet but I think it’s an exciting possibility.

I can’t wait for my next opportunity.

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