Don't Wish for More Effective Learning, Choose It
"I wish I could (exercise more/read more/devote more time to learning), but I just don't have time for that."
How many times do we say something like that? And how many times do we hear it? No one has enough time to do everything he or she wants to do. Even when we know there are certain actions we should make a regular part of our lives - for our long- and short-term health, for our careers, for the people we care about - making a choice to change how we spend time isn't easy. Many of us can't see a pathway to make a different choice; some don't recognize that there's a choice at all.
That same holds true for how we spend money. "I can't afford it" is a common refrain, both in times of economic strain and in rosier conditions.
When we do ultimately find a way to change how we spend our time and money, we've either had a dramatic shift in circumstances or we've followed a more difficult route. We've carefully examined exactly what our resources are, outlined our highest priorities, and determined how the resources can best be used to support our priorities.
According to the Resources standard, professional learning that achieves its intended outcomes requires educators to follow that more difficult route. The examination of how resources are spent isn't just internal to the school or system; communities and policymakers are intensely interested in that discussion as well.
Making the case to shift resources to prioritize professional learning isn't easy when the stakeholders involved in such a shift don't recognize the value of professional learning, or worse yet, have experienced examples of professional development that would make them believe it should never be a priority. It's difficult to counter the idea of an educator's time with students might be less important than something else, if that other use of time can't be directly connected to a better learning experience for students.
Fortunately, there are many examples of schools and systems that have undertaken the difficult task of examining how resources are spent relative to priorities and found it worthwhile to devote both time and money to professional learning.
- A school in Texas, recognizing its dwindling funds for professional learning, envisions a technology solution that embeds external expertise into internal processes for educator support.
- A burgeoning teacher leader propels his mathematics professional learning community forward through leadership and skilled facilitation.
- A district in Washington state examines each priority for the district and devotes time and money to building educator capacity to support those priorities.
- A network of schools creates or finds time in the work week for collaborative learning.
Director of Publications, Learning Forward