An Ode to Study Groups

from Educators' eZine

From the early Neolithic or late Pliocene
To just yesterday afternoon around half past four
The professional development most often seen
Had participants screaming and running for the door!

The principal would attend a workshop in July,
Buy the hottest new book or some videocassette.
He would come back to school with a twinkle in his eye
And write an S.I.P. teachers could never regret!

A Ph.D. with a huge ego and résumé
Would visit the school two or three times during the year.
And show every last teacher an enlightened way
To make A.Y.P. without even an ounce of fear.

He would stand at the podium and preach to the choir
Bout' NCLB and shared accountability.
"We must raise the bar and then jump higher and higher!
Teach from bell to bell with sense and sensitivity!"

The teachers would leave the cafetorium in glee
With reams of information packed with jargon to spare.
Lugging binders and handouts (at a nominal fee),
They would return to class both in rapture and aware...

Of research-based "best practices" that were tried and true
And lesson strategies that could not possibly fail!
The administration was sharp, knew just what to do:
They had "stood and delivered" the PD Holy Grail!

But as we all know, school change is a tricky business;
It's hard as a tack and never happens overnight.
Workshops don't work, all victims would certainly confess.
It requires blood, sweat, and tears and a terrific fight!

Faculty buy-in and active participation
Are key ingredients for real, successful reform.
To bring about such a meaningful transformation
We have to make the two an essential PD norm.

Embed them throughout the entire training process
To ensure that teachers get both what they want and need.
Create a new culture dedicated to progress
Where everyone has an opportunity to lead.

To accomplish this, there is only one thing to do:
Sound the alarm and rally the much-beleaguered troops;
Get rid of workshops and empower the in-school crew.
Change the paradigm; adopt faculty study groups!

Six to eight people working together side by side
Go explore topics and issues relevant to each.
They travel miles and miles deep and hardly an inch wide,
Until they discover a better, new way to teach.

From crunching numbers to trying a new high-tech tool,
From reading a great book to designing a lesson,
They do any number of things to improve the school.
It is always worthwhile and occasionally fun.

Study groups will increase student achievement and more.
They will earn the school district and state impunity.
But much more important than any assessment score,
You'll be a professional learning community!

Email:Folwell Dunbar