As principal of a middle school, I meet weekly with teachers and school counselors to discuss team and department progress of our students. I know that teachers—tasked with helping students achieve and dealing with adolescents—can quickly become energy depleted, even disenfranchised, seeing slow progress for the most at-risk and time-consuming among our students.

At the beginning of the year, when we are euphoric and well-rested and looking forward to helping all children, we establish SMART goals and meeting protocols.

The middle of the year is cold, the holidays are over, and we are looking at the high-pressure demands of preparing students for standardized testing. This can feel overwhelming and make the most positive teacher feel less enthusiastic. Against this seemingly insurmountable backdrop, we’ve come up with a way to revitalize teachers: MicroPD!

It’s fairly standard belief that professional development (PD) must go deeper than the one-and-done workshop; it must be more sustained, more relevant, and offer tangible takeaways. That’s why we conduct monthly PD meetings. These 25-minute PD sessions tend to be informative, offer takeaways, and elicit teacher input. Therefore, teachers generally enjoy them. However, as the midyear approached, we seemed to need more.

I decided to try something based on some research I had done on the impact of short bursts of rejuvenating practices. Here’s the premise: Offer a five- to eight-minute invigorating opportunity for teachers to benefit from a practice that helps them bond. Think of this like an infusion to help teachers through the hard parts.

I wasn’t sure how the teachers would respond, but I had to try. If it didn’t work, we would bury it in the worst failures of the Mike Gaskell Graveyard.

The 5-Minute MicroPD
Here’s how it works

  1. Introduce the concept: “Today, we’re going to try something reenergizing, since it’s mid-year and we’re all struggling with ongoing student problems, difficult parents, etc.
  2. Read a team-building quote and have teachers reflect on it for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Next, ask each team member to share how the quote applies to his or her team.
  4. Last, I share my own contribution.

How our teachers responded
Not only did the teachers love this concept, but it truly uplifted them, empowering them through bonding. They jumped right into the rest of the meeting with energy, humor, and creativity!

This simple, easy-to-replicate concept now occurs weekly, and we are adding in some fun ideas, such as a teacher offering their own creativity to their colleagues or other inspiring concepts. Additionally, we end the meeting with something interesting and/or positive that we experienced. It doesn’t have to be related to school—just something worthy of sharing. I shared that I got a new wifi-enabled crock pot, determined to help my family eat healthier meals during the week. Five faculty emailed me recipes and inspiration. We all learn something new about each other, and a pair of teachers realized they were running in the same marathon this spring.

MicroPD is here to stay at my school. It’s quick, re-energizing, and bonds faculty right before they go back into their classrooms and teach their students. What better ingredient can we infuse into their focus on instruction and learning? There is nothing more powerful than teachers sharing with their colleagues.

Here’s a video of a recent MicroPD session.

About the Author:

Dr. Michael Gaskell has been principal of Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick, N.J. since 2006, following experience as a special educator and assistant principal in Paramus, NJ. Gaskell achieved his doctorate in educational leadership in 2014 and continues to model the pursuit of lifelong learning as he serves as a mentor to new principals in other schools through the NJEA Leaders to Leaders program. In his work as a principal, he works tirelessly to support instructional excellence, his faculty, the district, and, most important, the children as benefactors of idea sharing.