What did you do in school today? With Dr. Adam D. Fried

In response to our question, “What did you do in school today?”, Dr. Adam D. Fried, a superintendent in northern New Jersey shares with us the work he and his teachers are doing to ensure growth — for both students and educators. In addition to Dr. Fried’s response below, several members of his teaching staff have shared their thoughts on this work as well. Some of these responses from teachers can be found herehere, and here.

This series of blog posts includes contributions from educators from all over the world, of all content areas, in all grade levels, and in various teaching assignments so that together, we will have a better understanding of what is happening TODAY IN SCHOOL. For more information about this series or to write your own response to the question, please visit this page.

In 2008, Harrington Park started down a path of re-evaluation and self-reflection. Based upon the belief that some of the most powerful comtumblr_lpn871ZLSz1qjax21o1_500ponents of teacher evaluation and teacher effectiveness are best approached through self-reflection and active learning, we set in motion the development of a model that would allow staff the ability to grow professionally, enhance their knowledge base, refine skill sets, and impact student learning and teacher practice.

A key part of this new model was the Self-Directed Growth Plan, which we have asked our teachers to embrace as professional educators. The Self-Directed Growth Plan, or SDGP, is the apex of professional growth and development. Research has confirmed that adult learners generally want to work together, and yet they also prefer to be self-directed learners (Zemke and Zemke 1981). The balance between these two concepts can be seen in the development of professional learning communities, grade-level teams, and vertical teams on the one hand (Dufour and Eaker 1998), while recognizing that self-directed learning is an attitude of mind in terms of how to approach learning rather than any particular technique or activity (Dickinson 1987).

A successful SDGP allows staff the ability to “see from the balcony” while allowing them the ability to both direct their own learning and receive support through their own growth stages. This type of learning calls for long-term implementation occurring consistently and continually over a period of time (Fullan & Stiegelbauer 1991). A notable belogonefit of this type of professional learning is the presence of both accountability and support. By means of regularly scheduled meetings with the senior team as well as a multitude of different team and grade-level meetings, the staff is afforded a multitude of opportunities to share and grow together. It should also be noted that throughout this initiative our ability to set aside time for staff has enabled them to be flexible with their Common Planning Time as well as with other varied time options.

The concept of a Self-Directed Growth Plan in our current teaching model is by no means intended to suggest a deficiency on the part of our professional educators. Rather, the SDGP has been developed as an ideal model and instrument through which we as a district express our expectations for both personal and professional growth.

Today we spoke about our model of the growth, where failure is simply a part of the path toward our evolution.

Today we encouraged our teachers and students to try new things, and encourage community members to view failure as an opportunity for learning and growth.

Today we believe in the sense of ownership that educators feel, that they’re invested in the vision, and the sense of family.

Adam D. Fried, Ed.D. is an effective and dynamic school leader with an expertise in the development of Digital Education and Curriculum, with a focus on community involvement. During his tenure as Superintendent of the Harrington Park District (NJ) he has overseen the succAAEAAQAAAAAAAAJQAAAAJDczYThhMGU4LTRkZWQtNGU1NC1iMWQ0LTRhNjQ1ZDVjYjc2MQessful implementation of numerous sustainable change initiatives that radically transformed the learning culture of the district while increasing student achievement and staff engagement. Adam has received numerous awards and acknowledgments for his work as a professional educator. He is a Jefferson award winner, Educational Technology Panelist, Member of NJASA and BCASA Executive Boards, Professor of Educational Leadership and national presenter on multiple educational topics. Currently, Adam is a pedagogical leader of staff through a research based evaluation model, which has been recognized as a best practice for the NJ Department of Education. Currently, Adam is also mentoring three Ed-Tech start ups to support them in the build, measure, learn cycle. He is also husband to Dr. Nicole Fried and Daddy to Ella and Amelia.

You can connect with Dr. Fried on Twitter: @AdamDFried


Today’s educators are busy, so we “take time to make time” for professional development.

This article is about how to keep time management from being the thing that gets in the way of the work you truly want to do.

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There is no question that teachers today have a lot to do. Our lives outside of school are already busy, and educators face new responsibilities and challenges each new school day.  Anyone and everyone in the field knows this.  A common concern these days, among many educators, is that there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to accomplish all that has to be done.

A strong caution to both new and veteran teachers alike, is letting this get in the way of your own professional development.  We can’t ever be too busy for our own growth or to help our colleagues grow. The good news is that there are some time management strategies we can employ that will help us accomplish the things we want to do.

The first thing is to catch and stop yourself the next time you are about to say, “I’m too busy for…”


The problem with saying we are “too busy” for something that will help us grow as a professional is that what we are really saying is that the thing we are being asked to do is not valuable or important to us. We’re saying that in the long list of things we need to take care of, this thing we are saying no to is at the bottom.  That’s the clear message we convey when we say we are “too busy.”

Is that really the situation?  If it is, then that is a different story, entirely.  A better response, that case, would involve explaining honestly why you aren’t interested in doing the thing you are asked to do.  There’s no sense in bogging ourselves down with nonessential work.  (And that’s a whole other conversation — or blog post — about learning how to determine what is most essential.)

If that’s not the situation and the task we feel like we are too busy for is actually meaningful or essential work, however, then there are ways to find the time.

Just think about the expression, “If you want something to get done, ask a busy person.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement because the better we get at managing our time, prioritizing tasks, and focusing on what is essential, the more we can and do get done. Being busy is not an excuse for impeding growth (it’s actually a catalyst for growth!).

timeTime management, therefore, is an important component of professional development. It’s one that often gets overlooked or taken for granted. Making time management an intentional aspect of professional development makes other learning and growth possible.

It is not a sign of weakness to say (to ourselves or to others) that we need more time to adjust to new initiatives, manage our workflow more efficiently, or various other aspects of our work into our day.  It is really a sign of strength and dedication to the profession.

The following lists are ideas and suggestions for for teachers (and administrators) to intentionally incorporate elements of time management into self-guided professional development and growth.  I call them the #busybusters.  There will be follow up blog posts on the individual #busybusters mentioned below.

Taking Time to Make Time:

  • Dedicate a prep period for your own learning each week (don’t grade, don’t plan, don’t email anyone, just learn!). Schedule it on your calendar now.   (After a month, that’s 2 hours of learning.  After a full school year, that’s 20 hours of learning!)
  • Find a mentor and schedule regular meetings to work on the topics you want to at your own pace.  Once a week, every other week, once a month, etc. The mentor can be a fellow colleague, a specialist, a supervisor, or an administrator.
  • Choose a time (or request release time) so that you can visit other teachers’ classrooms. Pair up with another teacher and plan to visit each other’s classes.
  • Speak with your department supervisor and suggest or request topics you would like to see covered at department meetings.
  • Speak with you building administration and suggest or request topics you would like to see covered at faculty meetings.
  • Use a calendar or planner to schedule regular meetings with your department or grade level colleagues to talk about and share resources.
  • Use Twitter to build your PLN.
  • Follow blogs and regularly read professional journals and magazines.  Start a discussion group in your school or department to further explore the ideas that you find.
  • Seek out a teacher leadership opportunity in your school or department that is meaningful to your own career goals:  become a mentor, lead a share session, invite colleagues into your classroom, etc.

Finding the Value in Professional Development:

  • Be mindful of your work and your well-being.  If you are stressed (spending more time on a task than you would like or are very frustrated with it), talk to your supervisor, or building admin to work on a plan to alleviate some of the stressors.
  • Make intentional connections between what you enjoy and what you are doing in your classroom by bringing outside interests into the classroom.  If you are impassioned by art or music, you travel, or you play sports, think of ways that these interests can enhance the lessons you teach.
  • Reach out a colleague who seems to be stressed and offer to help them and work together to alleviate the concern.
  • Let others know when they’ve given you an idea or helped you in some way.  Showing that efforts are appreciated will lead to even more collaboration.
  • Journal. Take note when something is going well so it can be repeated, and take note when something is not going well so it can be revised.

We may all get the same 24 hours in each day, but it is what we choose to do with that time that make the difference. It is easy for any of us to get caught up in nonessential tasks or get stuck in unproductive ruts. Reflecting regularly and taking control of how we manage our time each day makes it possible to do a lot more and to do it better.

~What did YOU do in school today?