Why Should I Be Here? Reflections on a Successful Staff Development

Last week I shared thoughts about a staff development that I bombed. I hadn’t put forth the thoughtfulness that was needed to offer a vastly different staff development, and the results were not what I had hoped. This week I had an extremely different experience. Our department works with this amazing group of teachers called the Vanguard Fellowship (vanguard.springbranchisd.com). These educators,chosen through an application process, are committed to learning about and developing strategies to reach every child, and to sharing their journeys with their peers locally and globally. We are entering the third year of this program, and have offered an on-boarding day for each new cohort to varying success. This year was wildly (and I don’t use that lightly!) successful. While the two staff developments were different in their purpose, I feel like I can make some comparisons that will be helpful no matter what type of staff development is being planned.

Planning & Relationships

I would love to say I pulled this fabulous day off alone, and take some glory, but this was definitely a group effort. That effort shows. We met and planned and met and regrouped and met and planned and chatted asynchronously and had side meetings and texts and met and planned some more. While I almost always feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants, in hindsight we put a lot of thought into planning the day and how each piece of the day fit with the others and WHY we were including what we included. Relationships among our team, and with the leaders we invited in from Vanguard was so integral to the day. Reflection: I tried to unilaterally plan my disaster day. I asked for some cursory opinions, and took those thoughts into consideration – but I didn’t plan the day with someone. I went with my idea and the help that I asked for was to reinforce my plan, not make it better or tell me it needed to be trashed! The thoughtful planning focused on why was missing, and is necessary.

Focus & Participants

After reflecting on past on-boarding days and the success of those days, not just the day itself, but also how successfully on-boarded the participants were, we knew we needed to focus on relationships. While there were business things that had to be covered, the true focus of the day was building relationships among the Fellows. We knew that our four person department couldn’t truly coach the growing numbers of the group, and that they would need to lean on one another instead of leaning on us. That focus flowed through the day, and energized the room. We shared the focus with the participants, asking them to join in the fun and be fully present. They wanted to be there – they had applied to be part of the Fellowship! Our focus could easily become their focus. Reflection: I shared my focus, but there was a big difference in the participants. Had I spent some time before the training getting them prepped, maybe the day would have gone differently? Participants are outside of my control, but focus isn’t. If my focus was to get people comfortable with our LMS, I should have made the morning comfy. I’m actually getting some fun ideas right now! My why should have directly impacted my presentation, should have!


Music playing. Smiles and laughter. Welcoming people with hot coffee and chocolate chunk muffins. Versus a mostly dark and cold room, with a presenter focused on getting all of the moving pieces working. I know better! (Here’s a great playlist!)


Looking back the differences are so obvious. The final thought is that you get what you give. If I shrug off a training, so will the participants. #winning isn’t going to happen without #hardwork! Sometimes it takes me a while to connect the dots, but the picture is becoming clearer. Thoughts?