Finding The Time For Staff Development

Barry Sweeny, 1999

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Here are some practical solutions and some things to think about regarding staff development's biggest challenge.

Some Advice: The only way to really "find" time for staff development is to restructure the school year and school day to make adult learning a daily priority. That this is what's needed has become evident in almost all modern countries in Europe and Asia. In the USA, however, as long as adult learning time remains "borrowed" from student learning time, we will never have the time to grow as we need, AND we will always feel guilty when we take that time for our own learning.

It is a real TRAP! Think about it. By the traditional definition of staff development, the time to improve schools is in conflict with the purpose of schools! It's a no win proposition.

Except for true restructuring to solve this conflict, the real issue is NOT finding time for staff development. We are not likely to find much more time than we already have without expanding the school year or day. The real issue is a matter of our priorities. We need to look closely and critically at how we spend the time we already have and see if there are any candidates for eliminating things we do now that are less than productive. Here is an example.

I was once meeting with a school improvement team which was preparing for our state's external team Quality Review visit. Teachers were really concerned about how they were going to find the time to do the work needed in a comprehensive SIP process. They knew, with the state visit, that they HAD to find the time. Apparently this had been discussed at previous meetings too. One of the teachers spoke up and said, "After we talked about time to do the SIP process last time, I went to our school calendar and made a list of all our school's activities this year that are not specific to one teacher and her class. Here is what I found."

At that point she passed out a list that was typed, single-spaced, and took 6 pages! There was every ice cream social, book fair, and student club listed. Wow!! The other members of the SIP team were struck silent at the enormous list! Then someone said, "No wonder I'm so tired all the time!".

Finally, the principal stated, "I bet each of us could suggest a few of these activities for elimination so we can find the time we need for our SIP process." From that moment on, the people in that school have never again said "When will we ever find the time to do that?". They just assess what their current priorities are and align their use of time with those priorities.

That is the lesson we all need to learn. We need to be able to answer the question "Is our current use of time reflective of what we say is important in our school?"

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© 1998, by Barry Sweeny, Best Practice Resources, 26 W 413 Grand Ave. Wheaton, IL 60187

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