All that is Unsolved in our Hearts

It is taking some doing, but I am determined to push the conversation about professional growth at my school into the “risk zone”. Professional growth cannot be a checklist. It cannot be proven based on a single observation. And it cannot be mandated from the top. Professional growth happens from within.

Some of my colleagues wanted to know exactly what I wanted to see. I said I wanted to see them focus on something that was professionally relevant for them. They didn’t like that. They wanted to know how many pieces of data I wanted to see as evidence. I said I wanted to see as many pieces of evidence it would take to make a compelling story. Despite the sighs, I pushed on.

I spent too many years on “career ladders” focusing on topics that were easy to quantify but held little to no interest or relevence to my practice. At the end of the day, I could produce the spreadsheets, and get the thumbs up (and the bonuses) from my evaluators, but I knew that I hadn’t grown professionally at all. Not one inch.

I want things to be different at my school. I want teachers to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the year, not only because they have made it to May, but because they have learned something about teaching and learning that will change their practice as they moved forward. Something that will make the difference between reaching some of their kids and reaching most of their kids. Or even something that will make the difference for only one.

At my last CFG (Critical Friends Group) meeting, we read an article about teacher reasearch and the importance of inquiry as a central component to professional growth. We worked on framing our own questions that would drive our professional growth this year (I say “we” and”our” because I am doing it too).

By the end of the meeting, one of my colleagues arrived at a question that would assume some sharp observation on his part: what happens when my students are engaged in the revision process? He will pay attention, take notes, read articles, and come to some conclusions, on his own, about his classroom practice around revision and the writing process.

“I am excited about my question,” he declared at the end of that meeting.

I look forward to watching him wonder this year.


Eve Rifkin

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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