Get it Done? No! Keep it Going by Ryan Bretag

Get it Done? No! Keep it Going by Ryan Bretag

It is amazing what can be done when leaders tap the shoulders of professionals in the classroom to give them a greater responsibility and a stronger voice to encourage the personalization of learning opportunities designed as a community.

On March 2nd, this very thing, this empowerment is celebrated when our learning community engages in our 2nd Annual Teachers Teaching Teachers Mini-Conference, a day designed with elements of andragogy and professional development best practices*.

  • Choice
  • Collaborative
  • Application and collective inquiry time
  • Connected to practice and pedagogy
  • Art and science of teaching
  • Teacher Driven
  • Diverse
  • Learning not training focused
  • Transparent
  • Informal and formal
  • Modeling
  • Networking
  • Intensive, Challenging, and Thought-Provoking
  • Aligned
  • Internal

As stated in Professional Learning in the Learning Profession, by the National Staff Development Council, "when well-designed, professional learning helps teachers master content, hone teaching skills, evaluate their own and their students' performance, and address changes needed in teaching and learning in their school".

I believe that is exactly what our teachers have done with this day.

However, these days are only successful if the community avoids making them fragmented moment in time and instead makes them a microcosm for a coherent, well-designed approach to sustained, ongoing learning for all in a transparent culture of innovation and change. And that really is the point of this post. What are we, as building leaders, doing to create this culture? What are we doing to avoid the "wasn't that day great" mentality that paralyzes the community, culture, and learning? How are we leveraging the wealth of information in NSDC's Professional Learning in the Learning Profession report? How are we making sure our approach is not espoused theory but theory in use?

Sadly, professional development is often too much about getting it done NOT implementing, adjusting, changing, and sustaining. When it is looked at as certain days of the year and staff developers looked at those days as things to get done, we are failing to create the type of culture that can fundamentally shift teaching and learning.

As James Hunt states, "I know of no better way to transform the outmoded factory model of school organization and the egg-crate isolation of teachers than to give teachers the tools and support they need and greater responsibility over what happens in their buildings to ensure that all students achieve". This questions drives my thinking in terms of how can I make what James Hunt said a reality for our teachers and our students because that is what they need, what they deserve.

Thus, as I look to the arrival of this day, I’m not thinking about it being done, a moment checked off my to do list. I’m thinking about the effort of so many that went into designing this day. I’m thinking about the celebration that this day represents. I’m thinking about the energy and excitment that this day hopefully brings. But, most of all,I’m thinking in terms of the next 100 days and how we will extend the learning in breadth and depth, implement the proof of concepts in a systemic way, support the collaborative investigations with just-in time movements, sustain the energy to push forward for new heights during the Dip, and adjust the sails of our learning community in order to maintain a culture of change and innovation without restriction.


Hunt, J. (2009). Professional Learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council.

Hammond-Darling, L., R. Chung Wei, et al. (2009).Professional Learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council.

Image designed by Matt C., a Glenbrook North High School student, for the mini-conference.

*okay, maybe some are my own hypotheses that I hope my doctoral research will come to be known someday as best practices.