What Gordon Gekko can teach us about Professional Development

I was at a Principals meeting today discussing a new model of Professional Learning that our board is looking at adopting and the energy was good and the comments were interesting. In a time when school principals are asked to do so many different things and their ability to lead the learning is more and more compromised, it is refreshing to see a room of these leaders still interested in figuring out the best way to allow their teachers to learn. There were some great comments and questions but a few struck me as typical of the natural reflex of all educators.

One principal wondered aloud if the work that his Learning Network had taken on had had any impact on student learning. He said that he imagined it did but he could not comment for sure as he simply did not have the time to follow up properly.

I also assume it did but I think a larger statement need to be taken from here. Why do we dismiss the success of teachers simply learning and growing as learners until it is tied to measureable improvement for students? I understand that the point of all educational endeavours is to increase student achievement but I think we need to think about improving ALL student achievement. When I say ALL I mean even the ones that we don’t see yet. The learning that teachers go through now is necessary even if it cannot be captured on a standardized test or graphed in success criteria. The commitment to the ideals of professionalism and life-long learning are at the core of professional learning networks and so need to be maintained. Why do we as educators shy away from learning for the sake of learning? Why do we feel guilty or greedy if we look for pure learning possibilities without the ability to quantify them on a test of an EQAO score? I think the teaching profession as a whole needs to get more greedy and look for more and more opportunities to share and learn from others. Of course we are ultimately and immediately accountable to our students but consider all the students that you will teach throughout your career and perhaps some of those 10 years down the road will benefit from some of the work or connections you make today. Consider that and be greedy about what you look for, for yourself.

This greed can also be applied to the principals in the room today. I heard all of them talking about how they worked hard to set up networks and opportunities for their teachers to learn and thus improve the learning of their students. What I did not hear anything about was about the learning that THEY; the principals were able to do. Why not? Where was the principal’s learning in all these Professional Learning Networks? Was there not time for this, or was the structure not there or were the principals simply not greedy enough? I suspect probably a bit of all here but this is a real and dangerous shame. We need to encourage and support our leaders and they look for opportunities to grow and learn in their profession and my only hope is that central board representatives everywhere keep this in mind as they continue to download responsibilities onto the school principal.

The role of the principal is becoming so much one of manager and less one of educator and that is a road we should avoid at all costs. We need to cultivate the soul of every educator and that includes, (possibly most importantly),  the ones charged with leading them.

I just hope that we can truly learn from the words of Gordon Gekko and apply them to professional learning.  ” GREED IS GOOD”

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