Friday, August 30, 2013

A Delightful Back To School PD Experience

It's Back to School Time and professional development is on the menu with specialties, such as instructional practices, protocols, and materials to impact teaching and learning. School districts and consultants prepare for the event to inspire staff to embrace transitions and develop innovative approaches to learning. Each year the cycle of learning starts anew and every teacher and leader becomes a change agent who impacts learning (Fullan) in novel ways. With an eagerness for new beginnings and an adventuresome attitude, I accepted an opportunity to train teachers in a Long Island district that I was unaware of, Fishers Island.

You might ask, like I did when offered the consulting job, where is this 9-mile island known as the gem of the Long Island Sound? Summer home to families, like the DuPonts and year round home to approximately 250 residents, I read that Fishers Island is a place of tranquility and natural beauty. Delighted to experience an adventure working with a Long Island P-12 district of about 74 students, I traveled three hours by car to Mystic, Connecticut and then took the New London ferry early the next morning to Fishers Island. Intrigued by the concept of a ferry as a school bus, I watched carefully who embarked the transport. Workers, Fisher Island teachers, and a P-2 consultant and I boarded as a light rain drizzled. Within a short time, the light rain turned into a torrential downpour, making the disembarkment a feat unto itself. With the umbrella blowing at angles and rain pelting my right side, a very wet principal with a glowing smile greeted my colleague and me. Quickly whisked to a school vehicle, we traveled about five hundred feet to the Fisher Island School and while attempting to enter the building once again got drenched. Thankfully, the building was warm and inviting, as was the friendly staff. 

Despite the wetness of my attire and the bandwidth problems due to the rain, training started on a humorous note.  As the day progressed, a collaborative environment was fostered, the concept of all instructors as teachers of literacy established, and progress made toward meeting the learning targets set. With a twist of fate, the weather changed and Fishers Island was transformed into a glowing sight, just in time for a delightful tour of the island by one of the teachers who is an island resident. Interesting enough, we passed eight houses owned by the school and rented by staff. At 4:45 pm, the ferry boat departed for Connecticut. On board was a small group of Fisher Island School staff which made for an enjoyable ride. Fond farewells marked the end of my first back to school PD with the anticipation of additional trips to the island throughout the year. After traveling to Fishers Island, I found its charm not only visible in its terrain but in the warmth of the school community of friendly, thoughtful teachers led by principal, Karen Goodwin, a passionate advocate for learning. 

As we draw closer to the opening of school, a statement delivered by Will Richardson brings significance to the goal of all Common Core related professional development, "Make this school year one where you commit to doing something that pushes your thinking around teaching and learning." 

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