Well, almost anyway. This week the rest of the staff at All-American High and I are officially being professionally developed. Thanks to the infamous "ice break" back in January, we missed all of our spring professional development days, one during that week and two more that were used to make up instructional days. I'll admit that I'm not fond of this particular schedule as it makes the end of school seem very disjointed. Teachers are trying to finish up and post their grades, pack up their classrooms, and meet all the various continuing education requirements, all in four days.
The good news is that we have some truly wonderful opportunities this week, meaningful sessions that should make a difference for students when school resumes in August. Yesterday, I attended a session on improving literacy across the curriculum with Cris Tovani. She presented a wide range of strategies for improving reading comprehension. We are fortunate not to see many students at All-American High who can't read, meaning can't decode the words on a page, but we certainly see students who don't understand how to really interact with a text and gather meaning from it. Even more exciting, this morning in a departmental meeting I attended, teachers were already planning ways in which to implement Ms. Tovani's strategies next year.
Tomorrow I will attend a session with Dr. Douglas Reeves, a speaker I've been fortunate to hear previously. Dr. Reeves does a great deal of work with standards-based education and grading practices. Tomorrow's session focuses on leadership for educational change. I am always open to new ideas for successfully changing school culture and ingrained practices, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, challenge school leaders face. School is such a familiar institution that many, both inside and outside the system, resist any changes that aren't cosmetic in nature.
The event I'm looking forward to most this week, though, is our annual staff retreat on Friday. Each year we invite a representative group of staff members to attend. We've dealt with a wide variety of topics over the years, but one thing that remains constant is the format of addressing "our" issues in the morning and then hearing teachers' concerns in the afternoon. Since we began the practice four years ago, the positive impact on staff morale has been amazing. We have also been able to gain buy-in that we likely would not have had for the issues we've brought to the teachers in this manner. As a result, we've been able to implement a wide range of initiatives from small refinements to the tardy policy to the much more impacting implementation of the AVID program at All-American High. This year, we'll be focusing on clarifying the "vision" that's in place at our school, encouraging teachers to reach for what brought them into teaching in the first place and to develop plans for addressing any barriers that might stand in the way of making a meaningful difference in the lives of students.
What I've enjoyed most so far about this week is that, even amidst the hundreds of questions and little issues that come up at the end of the school year, I've had the opportunity for real reflection and for meaningful planning with the rest of the administration team. When we're talking about where we want to go and how to get there, with all of our staff in tow, I know that I'm spending time on what is important, not just urgent. I only wish I was able to prioritize in this way all year long. That will be my vision for the coming year.