Professional Development Experience

Dan Carstens, AASSP President

When I first became an administrator, I was presented with an awesome opportunity: district sponsored PD from a topic and conference of my choosing.  As you can imagine my first thought was to see what warm climate I could get myself to and try to make the topic fit my interest and need.  Even though I learned more than I thought I would, my goal was not to make as many connections as I possibly could.  I would attend my sessions, take my notes, enjoy the sun and return to my school, try not to make too many waves with my new learning and get back into my groove at school.

After a while of having the same procedure at these conferences, things needed to change.  How could I make this learning more impactful to the community I was leading?  When I made the transition from AP to Principal, my responsibilities changed a bit and I needed to make sure more people were exposed to the high quality learning that I was.  We ended up having a group of teachers attend a national level conference together, but just as important, we were able to make a few connections with these presenters and worked it out to have one of the presenters come back to our school to present what we all felt was the most important component of the workshops we attended.  We all had a united front that we brought back which in turn made it easier for the entire staff to support these ideas.

With this most previous experience at a conference, my thoughts and expectations of myself began to drastically change.  My goal turned into making the most connections with people at these conferences in order to best share these ideas with colleagues.  This worked especially well as I transitioned into the president-elect position for AASSP.  One of my primary tasks was to secure high-level speakers to come to our annual principals’ conference and share the passion, knowledge and skills of successful educators.  But more than that, to also show our Alaskan administrators that we have that same capability.

This year as I transitioned out of that responsibility of securing speakers for our conference, I embraced the total personalization of my conference experience.  Since my district, the KPBSD, has a strong focus on personalization, I wanted to model that for my own learning as well.  I ended up using a previous relationship to set up a school visit with a colleague in Massachusetts to focus on school culture and to finish with an ed tech conference to address my knowledge base in that area.  It turned out to be one of the most powerful PD experiences I’ve had.

The bottom line is that as I grew in my experiences and responsibilities my goals and expectations morphed into the different expectations that others had on me and I had on myself.  One thing that is for certain, the relationships I have been able to build at home and state and nation-wide have been incredibly valuable as I navigate the work of a school principal.