Category Archives: teach a man to fish

Connecting Professional Learning and Leadership

Years ago I heard about a great program from a school district that wanted to work with their teachers on deepening their understanding about using technology for learning.  They created 50 spots for teachers that would have to attend 12 sessions,  on their own time, to further their learning in this initiative.  As incentive, at the end of the 12 sessions, they would be given their own laptop to use at their discretion.  The district explaining the process was very excited about these 50 teachers that had developed these new skills, but something stuck with me.  What about all of the other teachers in the division?  How would they develop these skills? Would the program run with 50 teachers at a time, or would it only be for these 50 teachers?

As an adaptation of this program, I developed a program that was similar, but with less sessions, and more focus not only understanding what learning can look like, but also how to spread these ideas with their colleagues.  Instead of teaching 50 that would simply gain knowledge, we would work with 50 (actually turned out to be more), that would share their knowledge and help develop others.

As the proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But what if you adopt the idea that if you teach someone to fish you could also teach them to lead others to fish as well?  The possibilities the become endless.

Joel McLean shared the following image below and it sparked this idea:


As many professional learning opportunities tend to have little impact division wide, how often do we ask the question, “how will this learning spread to their colleagues?”  Simply sharing a YouTube video that shares the ideas learned to others, is not enough.  Time should be spent on working with leadership strategies. How do you work with others that may be reluctant?  How do you deal with what has already been done, and replace it with this?

That being said, if you want ideas to spread, we must take time developing ideas together.  It is not only about getting people to “buy in”, but it is about creating a vision together and moving forward.  The more advocates there are for any initiative, the quicker it can spread, yet for people to become advocates, many of them need to feel (and should feel) ownership over the process. It is much easier to spread “our ideas” than it is to spread “your idea”.  Empowerment needs ownership.

So instead of simply asking or identifying, “What will be learned?”, you should also ask, “How will we support others to lead this initiative?”

We should not only focus on developing professional learning opportunities, but leadership opportunities as well.  Teaching others to lead will ensure that ideas worth spreading will flourish, not die.