Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
If you’re a working parent, then you probably dread the note from school advising of a pupil free day, especially when those days fall before or just after school holidays. In today’s world, the demands on families are much greater and it’s not surprising that these school announcements requiring parents take leave or find care arrangements can be exasperating.
Schools are changing and the model for staff development is changing too. In the old model, professional development for teachers was seen as an ‘add-on’ rather than something critical to their everyday work. It was mostly about ensuring teachers maintained a minimum level of knowledge and skill and meet the regulatory requirements for teaching in NSW. Given the demands on teachers’ time, the most appropriate way to manage this was to include pupil free days to an already crowded school year.
In contrast, the new model of teacher professional learning needs is more closely aligned with how many of us are already working and learning. Professional learning has become more targeted and personalised. There are also other ways for it to be delivered other than bringing together large groups in offsite locations. This ways can include the use of video and online platforms. Teachers themselves are finding new ways and new opportunities to maintain and extend their learning through the creation of online learning communities, particularly through social media. School systems like ours have adopted a whole-of-system approach to professional learning that allows schools to be focused on things that make the most difference to student learning.
I acknowledge that some professional learning for teachers still needs to happen in a face-to-face environment, and this will means time out of the classroom. But, increasingly, that should be the exception rather than the rule.
The game has changed. Embedding more professional learning within the school environment and through the building of learning communities not only ensures that student learning time is maximised, but it also helps to parents to see more clearly what teachers are learning and how this will be applied in classrooms and in other learning environments.
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta