HOUSTON – Nov. 9, 2018 – As part of its strategic push this year to enhance and expand professional development offerings for teachers and staff, Spring ISD sponsored a districtwide day of courses and workshops on Friday. With students off for the day, teachers, campus administrators, central support staff and other employees were able to focus on a variety of development opportunities.
“Providing growth opportunities for our teachers and staff is extremely important to us,” said Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson. “We know that it’s their ability to perform consistently at a high level, every day, that allows us as a district to deliver on our promise to reach and educate every child.”
In addition to a keynote speaker, sessions ranged from leadership and management workshops to technical courses on district software applications, special education trainings for paraprofessionals, arts integration workshops for performing and visual arts teachers, and sessions related to cultural sensitivity and school safety.
The day also featured a series of “make-and-take” sessions for district parents, offering them the chance to strengthen their own skills and add to their parenting toolbox.
“Today is our districtwide Parental Involvement Day,” said Assistant Superintendent of Workforce Development Pamela Farinas. “Each of our campuses is offering literacy and math make-and-take sessions just for parents, so that parents know how to support their children at home as the children are learning.”
Jameica Washington, who along with her three children attended a workshop offered at Beneke Elementary School, said she was glad for the opportunity to come to the campus and work with the teachers.
“For me,” said Washington, “I try to think of things for my kids to do – fun learning. But when they bring these type of activities to my attention, it helps so much more, and it makes it fun. That’s what I really like.”
Two large sessions held at Fallbrook Church – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – featured keynote speaker Anthony Colannino, a senior fellow with the International Center for Leadership Education (ICLE), who spoke on the topic of developing a growth mindset and learning how to instill that mindset in students. A former teacher and campus principal who lives in the Boston area, Colannino emphasized that his presentation is first and foremost about getting teachers and other school employees to re-evaluate their own mindsets.
“Professional development provides a way for people to think differently about what they do,” Colannino said beforehand. “I want them to internalize what it means to have a growth mindset for themselves first so they can help their students have a better understanding of growth mindset – so they can learn and grow.”
Spring ISD teachers and administrators attending the keynote address came away with practical suggestions for ways to encourage themselves and their students to take on new challenges and push themselves to grow. Many of those in attendance were also grateful for the chance to come together as a group for the day’s event.
“It’s great for us to be able to get together as a campus family, and as a district,” said Basil Morris, an assistant principal at Spring High School. “Day to day, everybody is so busy. To have some time to just be with each other and communicate with each other, I think it’s good.”
Crystal Williams, a fourth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Northgate Crossing Elementary School, agreed, saying that Colannino’s emphasis on spurring dialogue between campus staff members was a welcome part of the day’s presentation.
“I appreciate that he brought a lot of energy to his presentation,” said Williams, “and that he gave us time to speak with our colleagues, because that’s where those conversations really come alive. And he modeled for us how we can work on creating a culture in our classroom where students know it’s okay to make mistakes.”
Farinas said that understanding that it’s okay to make mistakes is an important part of what administrators hope teachers will take away from the day and bring back into their classrooms, where students regularly have to be challenged to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.
“We are constantly telling students, ‘Don’t give up. Show your effort. Effort counts for something,’” Farinas said. “We should be role models for what we expect from our scholars.”
Other sessions across the district kept both trainers and attendees busy.
While the Special Education (SPED) department held learning sessions for district paraprofessionals, the department also hosted its first series of parent meetings for the 2018-19 school year.
“The Parent Connection is a meeting that we have with SPED parents for them to come and talk to us about concerns, ideas and suggestions for the department,” said Special Education Technology Coordinator Liebe Garrison. “Our purpose is to increase parent participation in the decision-making for the department, to empower and enrich parents and caregivers and to promote scholar engagement in academics.”
As part of the districtwide professional development day, campuses also hosted parent-teacher conferences and parent workshops. One workshop session, “Bullying and Reporting,” gave parents tips and tools on how to identify and put an end to bullying on campuses.
“This presentation defines what bullying is and what it isn’t, because a lot of times, parents can get confused on bullying and conflict,” said Meyer Elementary School Counselor Nakia Jackson.
Jackson said that parents can help by knowing the difference between bullying and other forms of conflict, and by working toward positive relationships at their child’s school.
“Our school district has a bullying report tool, so we’re walking parents through the tool in the presentation to show them how to report bullying,” said Jackson. “For parents to understand what it is, what it looks like and what it’s not, I think that is powerful.”
When classes resume on Monday, parents, teachers and others across the district will have new tools to implement in their work with one another and with students. According to Chief of School Leadership and Student Support Services Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, those new tools and new ideas will enable employees to grow and strengthen in their roles.
“Growing as educators is extremely important,” Hinojosa told the crowd gathered at Fallbrook for Friday morning’s keynote address. “As we grow and develop and become better, we are able to positively impact our students.”
Near the end of his talk, Colannino struck a similar theme, asking those in the audience not to be afraid to see things – and people – in new ways.
“If you take one thing away today,” Colannino said, “take the idea that you can change and grow, and everyone around you can. And you’re responsible for yourself to do that, but also when you start to do that, the culture around you changes as well.”