April 3, 2000
Several times a year, in every school district, teachers and other certificated staff members have scheduled inservice or professional days. Community members and parents alike may wonder what teachers really do on those days. They may wonder if the work accomplished justifies the parents' need to arrange for daycare or plan suitable activities. They may wonder why these days aren't scheduled during the summer months when the students are already on vacation.
All professionals, regardless of their fields, must continually update their skills if they expect to be successful. Educators are no exception. Professional days allow educators to be lifelong learners, just as we hope our students will be. With the new demands of educational reform, higher standards, new curriculum, and the increasing range of student needs, educators must keep learning. It's tough to do that if they are with students all day, every day.
In the business world, employees are given "just-in-time training," training that is delivered right at the time it is necessary and when it can be put to immediate use. In education, it's important that teachers, for example, have an opportunity to look at students' work, discuss it with colleagues, and return to the classroom, where they can implement what they've learned right away. Teachers have an opportunity to adjust their teaching strategies while training information is fresh in their mind. This can't happen in the summer when the students are not around, and many teachers are working second jobs and/or taking required university-level classes.
So what did educators do on March 27?
Most of our elementary school staffs worked on their school goals and action plans in the morning--analyzing data, checking progress on goals set last spring, and setting new goals for next year. In the afternoon, they attended workshops related to the new math curriculum. Examples of some of the other activities follow:
Crystal Springs: Teachers spent their afternoon focused on Everyday Math curriculum, discussing pacing, assessments, and instructional strategies. They also reviewed their plans for the all-school-directed writing sample scheduled for this spring.
Eastridge: K-3 teachers learned, practiced, and discussed the use of guided reading as part of a balanced literacy program.
Maywood: Teachers met in grade-level teams to plan strategies for implementing the accelerated math and reading curriculums that Maywood is using to create individualized lessons for students. Teachers learned to read the teachers' reports and plan classroom management strategies for letting students work at their own ability level.
Moorlands: Teachers analyzed the writing section of the WASL and practiced scoring various writing samples. They also worked on Accelerated Reader, a supplemental program for individual leisure reading.
All schools participated in some inservice activity. Examples of some of these are cited below:
Canyon Park: Staff continued their work on helping teachers design and teach lessons that use Writing Process in various content areas and evaluating student writing produced by that process.
Northshore: Teachers worked in departments to further align curriculum with state standards. For example, those in physical education worked on integrating the health curriculum; 9th and 10th grade science teachers worked together to coordinate their curriculums.
Skyview: Teachers assessed and prioritized their students' main learning deficits, shared strategies to meet identified needs, and set the school action plan for next year. In the afternoon, departments met to continue alignment of curriculum with standards and design ways to help students that are below standard.
Bothell: Staff worked on their registration process and students placement, finalized preparations for their accreditation visit on May 24, and approved their action plan with specific goals for the year 2000-2001 school year.
Inglemoor: Teachers continued their focused workshops with Phyllus Kieley-Tyler on reading skills with each content area. This has been a major focus, with multiple strategies identified in the Inglemoor action plan all year. All staff members have participated in 30 hours of training on how to increase reading skills within their content area.
Home School: The home school staff reviewed their progress toward improving writing skills and planned for program improvements in 2000-2001.
Librarians participated in training on how to use the Internet for research.
Speech and language pathologists learned to use a rating scale to determine the severity of various communication disorders with the goal of determining an expected and consistent service delivery time. They also reviewed new state codes specifying eligibility criteria for speech and language impairment.
What does this mean for students?
While students may see education inservice days as vacation, the students are the ones who will experience direct benefits. Gone are they days of teachers shutting their doors and teaching their subject in isolation.
Education is a job for everyone. Each of us plays a role in helping students achieve and become contributors to our community. Professional days allow educators to learn new concepts, share ideas and problems, and design creative and effective strategies to help all kids become the best they can be.
Gail Robbins is director of Staff Development, Strategic Plannng, and Grants for the Northshore School District.