The key for success in the Kettle Moraine district is that teachers were able to access professional development specifically relevant and tailored to the kids in their classrooms, and they were able to tailor their own growth, lesson planning, and instruction to the diverse learning styles of their students. As an educator and administrator who works closely with varied student populations, an attention to differentiation and unique learning styles is of primary importance to me. As a Gifted & Talented Coordinator (and GT parent), I am attentive to the unique needs of advanced learners, including when those needs include challenges with skills such as executive functioning. To organize lessons and instruction without knowledge of specific students' strengths, challenges, and interests is to be dismissive of the entire learning process. Yet, the challenge of differentiating for varied learners can be daunting. PD opportunities that support teachers' efforts to personalize learning are a long overdue development in education. As I work with students developing advanced learning plans, I can tailor discussions of affective programming by acknowledging the emotional intelligence and mindfulness that is often a far greater indicator of potential than simple standardized grades.
I am also a coordinator for professional development around the goals of equity and pedagogy, and in that regard I know that one of the most valuable components of inclusive excellence and culturally responsive instruction is a teacher's commitment to building relationships and a positive classroom culture. As a colleague recently noted, we simply can't keep doing what we've always done and expect students to adjust. The goal of the educator is engagement in meaningful instruction, and anyone with knowledge of rhetoric knows that effective speakers pay careful attention to their audience, adjusting for who is sitting in front of them. By paying attention to specific qualities and needs of students such as I see so many opportunities in the micro-credential world that are specifically relevant to the work I am doing. From the important challenge of cultivating digital citizenship to the value of honoring unique student potential through the growthmindset, I see much potential in this new model of PD.
Ultimately, as I've grown as an educator, I've grown to understand the value of "teaching them where they are, as opposed to where I expect them to be." The value of personalized learning and individualized instruction cannot be understated, and PD that allows, encourages, and supports teachers efforts in this area is professional development worth pursuing.