Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why Do We Have Early Dismissals?

During this time of year, we are spending quite a bit of time preparing for the next academic year.  One of our top priorities is preparing an academic calendar.  You may recall from last week's post the discussion on when to end the semester.  This week I want to talk with you a little bit about professional development and how that impacts days when we have early dismissals, or even entire days scheduled for professional development.

There is sometimes a perception that if a teacher isn't standing in front of a room of 20 or so students, they must not be working.  But the fact is there is much more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye, or is visible to the general public.  Lessons must be designed, teaching strategies researched, curriculum aligned, and reams of paperwork must be filed to ensure that everything mentioned above is being implemented with fidelity.

We have high standards for educators in Iowa, requiring what you may have come to know as a "highly qualified instructor".  First and foremost, this means that the teacher needs to have been properly certified and credentialed in the State of Iowa.  The Bachelors Degree and Teacher License is critically important, but we also recognize that teachers don't know everything they need to know the day that they walk through the door of the schoolhouse.  In fact, if you ask even our most seasoned and veteran teachers, they will tell you that they are still learning new approaches to teaching that sharpen their craft.

Now think about your own career for a moment.  How much has it changed since you began your working life?  Perhaps a new tool has been developed that required additional training; or maybe a new software has been introduced into your routine.  Maybe a new procedure or standard operating procedure has been implemented to either increase productivity, or improve upon a product.  We live in an agricultural state, just think about how much that has changed!  (Case in point:  My dad is a farmer and early this fall I called home to say hello and talked to mom for awhile.  After about 15 minutes I inquired about dad and asked if I could talk to him.  Mom told me that 'No, he isn't home right now; he is in combine school.)  You folks that run these things know what I mean!  These are massive machines that are operated and navigated by satellite.  When I grew up, I think these thing picked two or three rows of corn at a time and were manhandled through brute force!

The education profession is no different in this regard.  We are constantly doing research into best practice, discovering teaching strategies that are highly effective and more likely to produce positive outcomes and results for your children.  The growing body of evidence on teaching and learning is overwhelmingly clear.  A student will do better in school if they are exposed to an effective teachers.  What's even more interesting is that an ineffective teacher can have the opposite effect. 

Effective teaching requires continuous learning and inquiry--that my friends is why we have early dismissals for professional development.  What we have found in Hudson is that the professional development opportunities that are currently in practice are not enough.  Stay tuned, next week I will share with you why this is and how we propose to fix it!

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