Guest post by Michele Paine
An area of passion for me as a school leader involves facilitating teacher growth. One way I work on this is by hosting several professional book studies during the school year.
Our district pays teachers for two days of flexible professional development time each contract year. Teachers can choose from a variety of options, including conferences, regional training, and state-led events. With all of these choices, however, I feel it is important to foster collegial discussion and professional reading.
Each book studies session at Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana, revolves around a single professional title chosen to appeal to a wide range of subject areas and topics. Recent titles include Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn, and Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. The only requirement for book selection is its potential for conversation and connections to our own practice.
Of course, my book studies are often tied to building and district goals and initiatives, but more importantly, they give teachers the opportunity to reflect on their own practice and challenge their thinking. In Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, reflection is an integral part of effective teaching for Domain 4, Professionalism. We can’t grow as educators unless we learn something new or consider something different, connect it to our current practice, and then make adjustments to how we teach. Book studies nurture this process in a way that honors where teachers are now.
It’s easy to tell teachers what effective instruction looks like and mandate elements I wish to see in the classroom, but that doesn’t produce much change. Teachers need to process and think through new ideas before moving forward. They need to feel that their own ideas and practices are valued. Book studies allow for all of that, and by leading this type of professional development, I can model best practices in literacy. It’s a winning strategy on several fronts!
How have book studies fostered growth for your staff and school? What titles do you recommend for a professional educator book study?
Michele Paine is an assistant principal at Flathead High School in Kalispell, MT, which serves 1,450 students in grades 9–12. She is the 2016 Montana Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter @Painemichele.