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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's Staff Development Anyway??

We had a half day of school for our learners today so we could schedule and hold a staff development opportunity for our staff members. What is that about? What do they do at school when the kids aren't there? Why don't they do that stuff during the summer? Well, simply put, if our staff is not growing and expanding their skills and knowledge base, then our learners will not likely grow either. These days include experiences which are designed to promote the potential of staff members by updating their understanding of any recently adopted local, state, or federal guidelines; practice new techniques; initiate programs; and collaborate on continuous improvement efforts of the district; and much more. Most businesses, big and small, whether it is GE, Momentive, or National Grid, conduct training to keep up with the latest procedures and technology impacting their bottom line. Those training sessions usually take place during the normal work day on company time. So it is with schools.

The activities today were varied and far reaching. I'd like to focus on one event in particular that was on today's menu of training sessions. We are introducing a mentoring program in which every one of the over three hundred learners will be divided into groups of five or six and are scheduled to meet every two weeks with an assigned staff member for twenty minutes. The primary objective of the mentoring program - which emerged from a proposal generated by the District Leadership Team (a committee consisting of staff members, administrators, and parent representatives) - is to strengthen the relationship between staff members and children of all ages. Effective, trusting relationships within a climate of dignity, care, and compassion are essential if we expect to demonstrate progress in achievement. This message follows the core of my previous blog on the value of greeting people with a welcoming and accommodating attitude.

All of the staff have been informed of their group members and have prepared introductory cards for each member that identify themselves and indicate where the group will meet. I have a group comprised of six children in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades that will meet in my office. Expectations and boundaries have been created so no one feels uncomfortable. Our district has specially trained staff (counselor, social worker, school psychologist) who can provide specific support and valuable resources to assist on an individual level in unique and challenging situations. Topics have been selected for discussion during their sessions so group members can have a forum to get to know one another through the dialogue. Topics will be adjusted to meet the ages and developmental levels of group members. Examples of the topics include - getting to know each other; what is good and bad stress; study skills and habits; nutrition; appreciating diversity; respect; bullying; Internet safety; and others. The skills we hope to develop among the group members include - goal setting; communication; decision making processes; self-management; time management; safety; stress management and others.

I consider this program to be a great investment in the future of our children, and a great reflection of the dedication and commitment of all staff members to meet the needs and interests of children of all ages, at all stages. I'm excited to meet and get to know the six members of the group that will meet on Tuesday, September 28th in the superintendent's office.

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